Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; online

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Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 39 of 91)
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whole thing is done. This being true, and this being the way, as I
think, that slavery is to be made national, let us consider what
Judge Douglas is doing every day to that end. In the first place,
let us see what influence he is exerting on public sentiment. In this
and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public
sentiment, nothing can fail ; without it, nothing can succeed. Con-
sequently he who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who
enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and de-
cisions possible or impossible to be executed. This must be borne
in mind, as also the additional fact that Judge Douglas is a man of
vast influence, so great that it is enough for many men to profess to
believe anything when they once find out that Judge Douglas pro-
fesses to believe it. Consider also the attitude he occupies at the
head of a large party — a party which he claims has a majority of
all the voters in the country.

This man sticks to a decision which forbids the people of a Ter-
ritory to exclude slavery, and he does so not because he says it
is right in itself, — he does not give any opinion on that, — but
because it has been decided by the court, and, being decided by
the court, he is, and you are, bound to take it in your political
action as law — not that he judges at all of its merits, but "because
a decision of the court is to him a " Thus saith the Lord." He
places it on that ground alone, and you will bear in mind that
thus committing himself unreservedly to this decision, commits
him to the next one just as firmly as to this. He did not commit
himself on account of the merit or demerit of the decision, but it is a
" Thus saith the Lord." The next decision, as much as this, will be a
" Thus saith the Lord." There is nothing that can divert or turn him
away from this decision. It is nothing that I point out to him that
his great prototype. General Jackson, did not believe in the bind-
ing force of decisions. It is nothing to him that Jefferson did not
so believe. I have said that I have often heard him approve of


Jackson's course in disregarding the decision of the Supreme Court
pronouncing a national bank constitutionah He says I did not
near him say so. He denies the accuracy of my recollection. I say
he ought to know better than I, but I will make no question about
this thing, thouefh it still seems to me that I heard him say it twenty
times. I will tell him though, that he now claims to stand on the
Cincinnati platform, which afBrms that Congress cannot charter a
national bank, in the teeth of that old standing decision that Con-
gress can charter a bank. And I remind him of another piece of
history on the question of respect for judicial decisions, and it is a
piece of Illinois history, belonging to a time when a large party to
■which Judge Douglas belonged were displeased with a decision of
the Supreme Court of Illinois, because they had decided that a gov-
ernor could not remove a secretary of state. You will find the whole
story in Ford's " History of Illinois," and I know that Judge Douglas
will not deny that he was then in favor of overslaughing that decision
by the mode of adding five new judges, so as to vote down the four
old ones. Not only so, but it ended in the judge's sitting down on
the very bench as one of the five new judges to break down the four
old ones. It was in this way precisely that he got his title of judge.
Now, when the judge tells me that men appointed conditionally to
sit as members of a court will have to be catechised beforehand
upon some subject, I say, "You know, judge; you have tried it."
When he says a court of this kind will lose the confidence of all men,
wiU be prostituted and disgraced by such a proceeding, I say, " You
know best, judge ; you have been through the mill."

But I cannot shake Judge Douglas's teeth loose from the Dred
Scott decision. Like some obstinate animal (I mean no disrespect)
that will hang on when he has once got his teeth fixed, — you may
cut off a leg, or you may tear away an arm, still he will not relax his
hold. And so I may point out to the judge, and say that he is be-
spattered aU over, from the beginning of his political life to the pres-
ent time, with attacks upon judicial decisions, — I may cut off limb
after limb of his public record, and strive to wrench from him a sin-
gle dictum of the court, yet I cannot divert him from it. He hangs
to the last to the Dred Scott decision. These things show there is a
purpose strong as death and eternity for which he adheres to this de-
cision, and for which he will adhere to all other decisions of the same
court. [A Hibernian: "Give us something besides Drid Scott."]
Yes ; no doubt you want to hear something that don't hurt. Now,
having spoken of the Dred Scott decision, one more word and I am
done. Henry Clay, my beau ideal of a statesman, the man for whom
I fought all my humble life — Henry Clay once said of a class of men
who would repress all tendencies to liberty and ultimate emancipa-
tion, that they must, if they would do this, go back to the era of our
independence, and muzzle the cannon which thunders its annual joy-
ous return ; they must blow out the moral lights around us ; they
must penetrate the human soul, and eradicate there the love of lib-
erty; and then, and not till then, could they perpetuate slavery in
this country ! To my thinking. Judge Douglas is, by his example
and vast influence, doing that very thing in this community when he


says that the negro has nothing in the Declaration of Independence.
Henry Clay plainly understood the contrary. Judge Douglas is going
back to the era of our Revolution, and to the extent of his ability
muzzling the cannon which thunders its annual joyous return.
When he invites any people, willing to have slavery, to establish it,
he is bio wing out the moral lights around us. When he says he " cares
not whether slavery is voted down or voted up" — that it is a sacred
right of self-government — he is, in my judgment, penetrating the
human soul and eradicating the light of reason and the love of liberty
in this American people. And now I will only say that when, byall
these means and appliances, Judge Douglas shall succeed in bringing
public sentiment to an exact accordance with his own views — when
these vast assemblages shall echo back all these sentiments — when
they shall come to repeat his views and to avow his principles, and
to say aU that he says on these mighty questions — then it needs only
the formality of the second Dred Scott decision, which he indorses in
advance, to make slavery alike lawful in all the States — old as well
as new. North as well as South.

My friends, that ends the chapter. The judge can take his half

Mr. Douglases Rejoinder in the Ottawa Joint Debate.

Fellow-citizens : I will now occupy the half hour allotted to me in
replying to Mr. Lincoln. The first point to which I will call your
attention is, as to what I said about the organization of the Repub-
lican pai'ty in 1854, and the platform that was formed on the 5th
of Octoljer of that year, and I will then put the question to Mr.
Lincoln, whether or not he approves of each article in that plat-
form, and ask for a specific answer. I did not charge him with be-
ing a member of the committee which reported that platform. I
charged that that platform was the platform of the Republican party
adopted by them. The fact that it was the platform of the Re-
publican party is not denied, but Mr. Lincoln now says that although
his name was on the committee which reported it, he does not think
he was there, but thinks he was in Tazewell, holding court. Now,
I want to remind Mi". Lincoln that he was at Springfield when that
convention was held and those resolutions adopted.

The point I am going to remind Mr. Lincoln of is this : that after
I had made my speech in 1854, during the fair, he gave me notice
that he was going to reply to me the next day. I was sick at the
time, but I stayed over in Springfield to hear his reply and to reply to
him. On that day this very convention, the resolutions adopted by
which I have read, was to meet in the Senate chamber. He spoke
in the hall of the House ; and when he got through his speech — my
recollection is distinct, and I shall never forget it — Mr. Codding
walked in as I took the stand to reply, and gave notice that the Re-
publican State convention would meet instantly in the Senate cham-
ber, and called upon the Republicans to retire there and go into this
very convention, instead of remaining and listening to me.

In the first place, Mr. Lincoln was selected by the very men who


made the Republican organization on that day, to reply to me. He
spoke for them and for that party, and he was the leader of the
party; and on the very day he made his speech in reply to me,
preaching up this same doctrine of negro equality under the Decla-
ration of Independence, this Republican party met in convention.
Another evidence that he was acting in concert with them is to
be found in the fact that that convention waited an hour after its
time of meeting to hear Lincoln's speech, and Codding, one of their
leading men, marched in the moment Lincoln got through, and gave
notice that they did not want to hear me, and would proceed with
the business of the convention. Still another fact. I have here a
newspaper printed at Springfield — Mr. Lincoln's own town — in Octo-
ber, 1854, a few days afterward, publishing these resolutions charg-
ing Mr. Lincoln with entertaining these sentiments, and trying to
prove that they were also the sentiments of Mr. Yates, then candi-
date for Congress. This has been published on Mr. Lincoln over
and over again, and never before has he denied it.

But, my friends, this denial of his that he did not act on the com-
mittee, is a miserable quibble to avoid the main issue, which is, that
this Republican platform declares in favor of the unconditional re-
peal of the fugitive-slave law. Has Lincoln answered whether he
indorsed that or not? I called his attention to it when I first ad-
dressed you, and asked him for an answer, and I then predicted that
he would not answer. How does he answer 1 Why, that he was not
on the committee that wrote the resolutions. I then repeated the
next proposition contained in the resolutions, which was to restrict
slavery in those States in which it exists, and asked him whether he
indorsed it. Does he answer yes or no ? He says in reply, " I was
not on the committee at the time ; I was up in Tazewell." The next
question I put to him was, whether he was in favor of prohibiting
the admission of any more slave States into the Union. I put the
question to him distinctly, whether, if the people of the Territory,
when they had sufficient population to make a State, should form
their constitution recognizing slavery, he would vote for or against
its admission. He is a candidate for the United States Senate, and
it is possible, if he should be elected, that he would have to vote
direcuy on that question. I asked him to answer me and you,
whether he would vote to admit a" State into the Union, with slavery
or without it, as its own people might choose. He did not answer
that question. He dodges that question also, under cover that he
was not on the committee at the time, that he was not present when
the platform was made. I want to know, if he should happen to be
in the Senate when a State applied for admission with a constitution
acceptable to her own people, whether he would vote to admit that
State if slavery was one of its institutions. He avoids the answer.

It is true he gives the Abolitionists to understand by a hint that
he would not vote to admit such a State. And why ? He goes on
to say that the man who would talk about giving each State the right
to have slavery or not, as it pleased, was akin to the man who would
muzzle the guns which thundered forth the annual joyous return of
the day of our independence. He says that that kind of talk Is casting


a blight on the glory of this country. What is the meaning of that ?
That he is not in favor of each State to have the right of doing as
it pleases on the slavery question ? I will put the question to him
again and again, and I intend to force it out of him. _

Then again, this platform which was made at Springfield by his
own party, when he was its acknowledged head, provides that Ee-
publieans will insist on the abolition of slaveiy in the District of
Columbia, and I asked Lincoln specifically whether he agreed with
them in that. [" Did you get an answer 1 "] He is afraid to answer
it. He knows I will trot him down to Egypt. I intend to make
him answer there, or I will show the people of Illinois that he does
not intend to answer these questions. The convention to which I
have been alluding goes a little further, and pledges itself to exclude
slavery from all the Territories over which the General Govern-
ment has exclusive jurisdiction north of 36° 30', as weU as south.
Now I want to know whether he approves that provision. I want
him to answer, and when he does, I want to know his opinion on
another point, which is, whether he will redeem the pledge of this
platform and resist the acquirement of any more territory unless
slavery therein shall be forever prohibited. I want him to answer
this last question. All of the questions I have put to him are
practical questions — questions based upon the fundamental princi-
ples of the Black Republican party; and I want to know whether
he is the first, last, and only choice of a party with whom he does
not agree in principle. He does not deny that that principle was
unanimously adopted by the Republican party ; he does not deny
that the whole Republican party is pledged to it ; he does not deny
that a man who is not faithful to it is faithless to the Republican
party ; and now I want to know whether that party is unanimously
in favor of a man who does not adopt that creed and agi-ee with
them in their principles : I want to know whether the man who does
not agree with them, and who is afraid to avow his differences, and
who dodges the issue, is the first, last, and only choice of the Re-
publican party. [A voice: " How about the conspiracy ? "] Never
mind, I will come to that soon enough. But the platform which I
have read to you not only lays down these principles, but it adds :

Besohed : That in furtherance of these principles we wiU use such con-
stitutional and lawful means as shall seem best adapted to their accomplish-
ment, and that we will support no man for of&ce, under the General or State
Government, who is not positively and fully committed to the support of
these principles, and whose personal character and conduct are not a guar-
anty that he is reliable, and who shall not have abjured old party allegiance
and ties.

The Black Republican party stands pledged that they wUl never
support Lincoln until he has pledged himself to that platform, but
he cannot devise his answer; he has not made up his mind whether
he will or not. He talked about everything else he could think of to
occupy his hour and a half, and when he could not think of anything
more to say, without an excuse for refusing to answer these ques-
tions, he sat down long before his time was out.


In relation to Mr. Lincoln's charge of conspiracy against me, I
have a word to say. In his speech to-day he quotes a playful part
of his speech at Springfield, about Stephen, and James, and Franklin,
and Roger, and says that I did not take exception to it. I did not
answer it, and he repeats it again. I did not take exception to this
figure of his. He has a right to be as playful as he pleases in throw-
ing his arguments together, and I will not object; but I did take
objection to his second Springfield speech, in which he stated that he
intended his first speech as a charge of corruption or conspiracy
against the Supreme Court of the United States, President Pierce,
President Buchanan, and myself. That gave the offensive character
to the charge. He then said that when he made it he did not know
whether it was true or not, but inasmuch as Judge Douglas had not
denied it, although he had replied to the other parts of his speech
three times, he repeated it as a charge of conspiracy against me, thus
charging me with moral turpitude. Wlien he put it in that form, I
did say, that inasmuch as he repeated the charge simply because I
had not denied it, I would deprive him of the opportunity of ever re-
peating it again by declaring that it was in all its bearings an in-
famous lie. He says he will repeat it until I answer his folly and
nonsense about Stephen, and Franklin, and Roger, and Bob, and

He studied that out — prepared that one sentence with the ^eatest
care, committed it to memory, and put it in his first Springfield
speech, and now he carries that speech around and reads that sen-
tence to show how pretty it is. His vanity is wounded because I wUl
not go into that beautifm figure of his about the building of a house.
All I have to say is that I am not green enough to let him make a
charge which he acknowledges he does not know to be true, and then
take up my time in answering it, when I know it to be false and no-
body else knows it to be true.

I have not brought a charge of moral turpitude against him.
When he, or any other man, brings one against me, instead of dis-
proving it, I will say that it is a lie, and let him prove it if he can.

I have lived twenty-five years in Illinois. I have served you with
all the fidelity and ability which I possess, and Mr. Lincoln is at lib-
erty to attack my public action, my votes, and my conduct ; but when
he dares to attack my moral integrity, by a charge of conspiracy be-
tween myself. Chief Justice Tan^^ and the Supreme Court, and two
Presidents of the United States, I will repel it.

Mr. Lincoln has not character enough for integrity and truth,
merely on his own ipse dixit, to arraign President Buchanan, Presi-
dent Pierce, and nine judges of the Supreme Court, not one of whom
would be complimented by being put on an equality with him. There
is an unpardonable presumption in a man putting himself up before
thousands of people, and pretending that his ipse dixit, without proof,
without fact, and without trath, is enough to bring down and destroy
the purest and best of living_ men.

Fellow-citizens, my time is fast expiring: I must pass on. Mr.
Lincoln wants to know why I voted against Mr. Chase's amendment
to the Nebraska bill. I will tell him. In the first place, the bill


already conferred all the power which Congress had, by giviDg the
people the whole power over the subject. Chase offered a proviso
that they might abolish slavery, which by implication would convey
the idea that they could prohibit by not introducing that institution.
General Cass asked him to modify his amendment, so as to provide
that the people might either prohibit or introduce slavery, and thus
make it fair and equal. Chase refused to so modify his proviso, and
then General Cass and all the rest of us voted it down. Those facts
appear on the journals and debates of Congress, where Mr. Lincoln
found the charge, and if he had told the whole truth, there would
have been no necessity for me to occupy your time in explaining the

Mr. Lincoln wants to know why the word "State," as well as
" Territory," was put into the Nebraska bill ? I will tell him. It
was put there to meet just such false arguments as he has been ad-
ducing. That first, not only the people of the Territories should do
as thej' pleased, but that when they come to be admitted as States,
they should come into the Union with or without slavery, as the
people determined. I meant to knock in the head this Abolition
doctrine of Mr. Lincoln's, that there shall be no more slave States,
even if the people want them. And it does not do for him to say,
or for any other Black Republican to say, that there is nobody in
favor of the doctrine of no more slave States, and that nobody wants
to interfere with the right of the people to do as they please. What
was the origin of the Missouri difficulty and the Missouri Com-
promise? The people of Missouri formed a constitution as a slave
State, and asked admission into the Union, but the Free-soil party of
the North, being in a majority, refused to admit her because she had
slavery as one of her institutions. Hence this first slavery agitation
arose upon a State and not upon a Territory, and yet Mr. Lincoln
does not know why the word State was placed in the Kansas-Ne-
braska bill. The whole Abolition agitation arose on that doctrine
of prohibiting a State from coming in with slavery or not, as it
pleased, and that same doctrine is here in this Republican platform
of 1854 ; it has never been repealed ; and every Black Republican
stands pledged by that platform never to vote for any man who is
not in favor of it. Yet Mr. Lincoln does not know that there is a
man in the world who is in favor of preventing a State from coming
in as it pleases, notwithstanding the Springfield platform says that
they, the Republican party, wiU not allow a State to come in under
such circumstances. He is an ignorant man.

Now you see that upon these very points I am as far from bringing
Mr. Lincoln up to the line as I ever was before. He does not want
to avow his principles. I do want to avow mine, as clear as sun-
light in midday. Democracy is founded upon the eternal principles
of right. The j)lainer these principles are avowed before the people,
the stronger will be the support which they wiU receive. I only
wish I had the power to make them so clear that they would shine
in the heavens for every man, woman, and child to read. The first
of those principles that I would proclaim would be in opposition to
Mr. Lincoln's doctrine of uniformity between the dififerent States,


and I would declare instead the sovereign right of each State to
decide the slavery question as well as all other domestic questions
for themselves, without interference from any other State or power

When that principle is recognized you will have peace and har-
mony and fraternal feeling between all the States of this Union ;
until you do recognize that doctrine there will be sectional warfare
agitating and distracting the country. "What does Mr. Lincoln pro-
pose? He says that the Union cannot exist divided into free and
slave States. If it cannot endure thus divided, then he must strive to
make them all free or aU slave, which will inevitably bring about a
dissolution of the Union.

Gentlemen, I am told that my time is out, and I am obliged to

August 22, 1858.— Letter to J. 0. Cunningham.

Ottawa, August 22, 1858.
J. O. Cunningham, Esq.

My dear Sir : Yours of the 18th, signed as secretary of the Repub-
lican club, is received. In the matter of making speeches I am a
good deal pressed by invitations from almost aU quarters, and while
I hope to be at Urbana some time during the canvass, I cannot yet
say when. Can you not see me at Monticello on the 6th of SeptemTier ?

Douglas and I, for the first time this canvass, crossed swords here
yesterday ; the fire flew some, and I am glad to know I am yet alive.
There was a vast concourse of people — more than could get near
enough to hear. Yours as ever,

A. Lincoln.

Angnst 27, 1858. — Second Joint Debate at Freeport, Illinois.

2L: lAncoMs Opening Speech.

Ladies and Gentlemen : On Saturday last. Judge Douglas and my-
self first met in public discussion. He spoke one hour, I an hour
and a half, and he replied for half an hour. The order is now re-
versed. I am to speak an hour, he an hour and a half, and then I
am to reply for half an hour. 1 propose to devote myself during
the first hour to the scope of what was brought within the range of
his half- hour speech at Ottawa. Of course there was brought within
the scope of that half -hour's speech something of his own opening
speech. In the course of that opening argument Judge Douglas
proposed to me seven distinct interrogatories. In my speech of an
hour and a half, I attended to some other parts of his speech, and
incidentally, as I thought, answered one of the interrogatories then.

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 39 of 91)