Abraham Lincoln.

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

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your own business, but you must invade Illinois and all the other
Northern States, establish slavery in them, and make it universal" ;
and in the same language he says to the North, "You must not be
content with regulating your own affairs, and minding your own
business, but if you desire to maintain your freedom, you must in-
vade the Southern States, abolish slavery there and everywhere, in
order to have the States all one thing or all the other." I say that
this is the inevitable and irresistible result of Mr. Lincoln's argu-
ment, inviting a warfare between the North and the South, to
be carried on with ruthless vengeance, until the one section or the
other shall be driven to the wall, and become the victim of the ra-
pacity of the other. What good would follow such a system of war-
fare"? Suppose the North should succeed in conquering the South,
how much would she be the gainer ? or suppose the South should
conquer the North, could the Union be preserved in that way ? Is
this sectional warfare to be waged between Northern States and
Southern States until they all shall become uniform in their local
and domestic institutions merely because Mr. Lincoln says that a
house divided against itself cannot stand, and pretends that this
scriptural quotation, this language of our Lord and Master, is ap-
plicable to the American Union and the American Constitution?
"Washington and his compeers, in the convention that framed the
Constitution, made this government divided into free and slave
States. It was composed then of thirteen sovereign and indepen-
dent States, each having sovereign authority over its local and
domestic institutions, and all bound together by the Federal Consti-
tution. Mr. Lincoln likens that bond of the Federal Constitution,
joining free and slave States together, to a house divided against
itself, and says that it is contrary to the law of G-od and cannot
stand. "When did he learn, and by what authority does he proclaim,
that this government is contrary to the law of God and cannot
stand? It has stood thus divided into free and slave States from
its organization up to this day.

During that period we have increased from four millions to thirty
millions of people ; we have extended our territory from the Missis-
sippi to the Pacific ocean J we have acquired the Floridas and Texas,
and other territory sufficient to double our geographical extent; we
have increased in population, in wealth, and in power beyond any
example on earth; we have risen from a weak and feeble power to
become the terror and admiration of the civilized world; and all this
has been done under a Constitution which Mr. Lincoln, in substance,


says is in violation of the law of God, and under a Union divided
into free and slave States, which Mr. Lincobi thinks, because of such
division, cannot stand. Surely, Mr. Lincoln is a wiser man than
those who framed the government. Washington did not believe,
nor did his compatriots, that the local laws and domestic institutions
that were well adapted to the Green Mountains of Vermont were
suited to the rice plantations of South Carolina ; they did not believe
at that day that in a republic so broad and expanded as this^ con-
taining such a variety of climate, soil, and interest, uniformity in
the local laws and domestic institutions was either desirable or pos-
sible. They believed then, as our experience has proved to us now,
that each locality, having different interests, a different climate, and
different surroundings, required different local laws, local policy, and
local institutions, adapted to the wants of that locality. Thus our
government was formed on the principle of diversity in the local in-
stitutions and laws, and not on that of uniformity.

As my time flies, I can only glance at these points and not present
them as fully as I would wish, because I desire to bring all the points
in controversy between the two parties before you in order to have
Mr. Lincoln's reply. He makes war on the decision of the Supreme
Court, in the case known as the Dred Scott case. I wish to say to
you, fellow-citizens, that I have no war to make on that decision, or
any other ever rendered by the Supreme Court. I am content to
take that decision as it stands delivered by the highest judicial tri-
bunal on earth, a tribunal established by the Constitution of the
United States for that purpose, and hence that decision becomes the
law of the land, binding on you, on me, and on every other good citi-
zen, whether we like it or not. Henee I do not choose to ^o into an
argument to prove, before this audience, whether or not Chief Justice
Taney understood the law better than Abraham Lincoln.

Mr. Lincoln objects to that decision, first and mainly because it
deprives the negro of the rights of citizenship. I am as much op-

?osed to his reason for that objection as I am to the objection itself,
hold that a negi'o is not and never ought to be a citizen of the
United States. I hold that this government was made on the white
basis, by white men for the benefit of white men and their posterity
forever, and should be administered by white men, and none others.
I do not believe that the Almighty made the negro capable of self-
government. I am aware that all the Abolition lecturers that you
find traveling about through the country, are in the habit of reading
the Declaration of Independence to prove that all men were created
equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,
among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Mr.
Lincoln is very much in the habit of following in the track of Love-
joy in this particular, by reading that part of the Declaration of In-
dependence to prove that the negro was endowed by the Almighty
with the inalienable right of equality with white men. Now, Isay
to you, my fellow-citizens, that in my opinion the signers of the
Declaration had no reference to the negro whatever, when they de-
clared all men to be created equal. They desired to express by that
phrase white men, men of European birth and European descent,


and had no reference either to the negro, the savage Indians, the
Feejee, the Malay, or any other inferior and degraded race, when
they spoke of the equality of men. One great evidence that such
was their understanding, is to be found in the fact that at that time
every one of the thirteen colonies was a slaveholding colony, every
signer of the Declaration represented a slaveholding constituency,
and we know that no one of them emancipated his slaves, much less
offered citizenship to them, when they signed the Declaration ; and
yet, if they intended to declare that the negro was the equal of the
white man, and entitled by divine right to an equality with him,
they were bound, as honest men, that day and hour to have put
their negroes on an equality with themselves. Instead of doing so,
with uplifted eyes to heaven they implored the divine blessing upon
them, during the seven years' bloody war they had to fight to main-
tain that Declaration, never dreaming that they were violating di-
vine law by still holding the negroes in bondage and depriving them
of equality.

My friends, I am in favor of preserving this government as our
fathers made it. It does not follow by any means that because a
negro is not your equal or mine, that hence he must necessarily be a
slave. On the contrary, it does foUow that we ought to extend to
the negro every right, every privilege, every immunity which he is
capable of enjoying, consistent with the good of society. When
you ask me what these rights are, what their nature and extent is,
I tell you that that is a question which each State of this Union must
decide for itself. Illinois has already decided the question. We
have decided that the negro must not be a slave within our limits ;
b\it we have also decided that the negro shall not be a citizen within
our limits ; that he shall not vote, hold office, or exercise any political
rights. I maintain that Illinois, as a sovereign State, has a right thus
to fix her policy with reference to the relation between the white
man and the negro ; but while we had that right to decide the ques-
tion for ourselves, we must recognize the same right in. Kentucky
and in every other State to make the same decision, or a different
one. Having decided our own policy with reference to the black
race, we must leave Kentucky and Missouri and every other State
perfectly free to make just such a decision as they see proper on that

Kentucky has decided that question for herself. She has said that
within her limits a negro shall not exercise any political rights, and
she has also said that a portion of the negroes under the laws of that
State shall be slaves. She had as much right to adopt that as her
policy as we had to adopt the contrary for our policy. New york
has decided that in that State a negro may vote if he has two hundred
and fifty dollars' worth of property, and u he owns that much he may
vote upon an equality with the white man. I, for one, am utterly
opposed to negro suffrage anywhere and under anjr circumstances ;
yet, inasmuch as the Supreme Court has decided m the celebrated
Dred Scott case that a State has a right to confer the privilege of
voting upon free negroes, I am not going to make war upon New
York because she has adopted a policy repugnant to my feelings.


But New York must mind her own business, and keep hei* negro
suffrage to herself, and not attempt to force it upon us.

In the State of Maine they have decided that a negro may vote and
hold office on an equality with a white man. I had occasion to say
to the senators from Maine, in a discussion last session, that if they
thought that the white people within the limits of their State were
no better than negroes, I would not quarrel with them for it, but
they must not say that my white constituents of Illinois were no
better than negroes, or we would be sure to quarrel.

The Dred Scott decision covers the whole question, and declares
that each State has the right to settle this question of suffrage for
itself, and all questions as to the relations between the white man
and the negro. Judge Taney expressly lays down the doctrine. I
receive it as law, and I say that while those States are adopting regu-
lations on that subject disgusting and abhorrent, according to my
\iews, I will not make war on them if they will mind their own busi-
ness and let us alone.

I now come back to the question, why cannot this Union exist for-
ever divided into free and slave States, as our fathers made it ? It
can thus exist if each State will carry out the principles upon which
our institutions were founded — to wit, the right of each' State to do
as it pleases, without meddling with its neighbors. Just act upon
that great principle, and this Union will not only live forever, but
it wiQ extend and expand until it covers the whole continent, and
makes this confederacy one grand, ocean-bound republic. "We must
bear in mind that we are yet a young nation, growing with a rapidity
unequaled in the history of the world, that our national increase is
great, and that the emigration from the Old World is increasing, re-
quiring us to expand and acquire new territory from time to time,
in order to give our people land to live upon.

If we live up to the principle of State rights and State sovereignty,
each State regulating its own affairs and minding its own business,
we can go on and extend indefinitely, just as fast and as far as we
need the territory. The time may come, indeed has now come, when
our interests would be advanced by the acquisition of the island of
Cuba. When we get Cuba we must take it as we find it, leaving the
people to decide the question of slavery for themselves, without in-
terference on the part of the Federal Government, or of any State of
this Union. So when it becomes necessary to acquire any portion
of Mexico or Canada, or of this continent or the adjoining islands,
we must take them as we find them, leaving the people free to do as
they please — to have slavery or not, as they choose. I never have
inquired, and never will inquire, whether a new State applying for
admission has slavery or not for one of her institutions. If the con-
stitution that is presented be the act and deed of the people, and
embodies their will, and they have the requisite population, I will
admit them with slavery or without it, just as that people shall de-
termine. My objection to the Lecompton constitution did not con-
sist in the fact that it made Kansas a slave State. I would have
been as much opposed to its admission under such a constitution as
a free State as T was opposed to its admission under it as a slave


State. I hold that that was a question which that people had a right
to decide for themselves, and that no power on earth ought to have
interfered with that decision. In my opinion, the Lecompton con-
stitution was not the act and deed of the people of Kansas, and did not
embody their will, and the recent election in that Territory, at which
it was voted down by nearly ten to one, shows conclusively that I
was right in saying, when the constitution was presented, that it was
not the act and deed of the people, and did not embody their will.

If we wish to preserve our institutions in their purity and trans-
mit them unimpaired to onr latest posterity, we must preserve with
religious good faith that great principle of self-government which
guarantees to each and every State, old and new^ the right to make
just such constitutions as they desire, and come into the Union with
their own constitution, and not one palmed upon them, 'Wheneyer
you sanction the doctrine that Congress may crowd a constitution
down the throats of an unwilling people, against their consent, you
will subvert the great fundamental principle upon which all our free
institutions rest. In the future I have no fear that the attempt wiU
ever be made. President Buchanan declared in his annual message,
that hereafter the rule adopted in the Minnesota case, requiring a
constitution to be submitted to the people, should be followed in all
future cases, and if he stands by that recommendation there wiU be
no division in the Democratic party on that principle in the future.
Hence the great mission of the Democracy is to unite the fraternal
feeling of the whole country, restore peace and quiet by teaching
each State to mind its own business and regulate its own domestic
affairs, and all to unite in carrying out the Constitution as our fathers
made it, and thus to preserve the Union and render it perpetual in
all time to come. Why should we not act as our fathers who made
the government? There was no sectional strife in "Washington's
army. They were all brethren of a common confederacy ; they fought
under a common flag that they might bestow upon their posterity a
common destiny, and to this end they poured out their blood in com-
mon streams, and shared, in some instances, a common grave.

Mr. Lincoln's Beply in the Joneshoro Joint Debate.

Ladies and Gentlemen : There is very much in the principles that
Judge Douglas has here enunciated that I most cordially approve,
and over which I shall have no controversy with him. In so far
as he has insisted that all the States have the right to do exactly as
they please about all their domestic relations, including that of
slavery, I agree entirely with him. He places me wrong in spite of
all I can tell him, though I repeat it again and again, insisting that
I have made no difference with him upon this subject. I have made
a great many speeches, some of which have been printed, and it will
be utterly impossible tor him to find anything that I have ever put
in print contrary to what I now say upon this subject. I hold myself
under constitutional obligations to allow the people in all the States,
without interference, direct or indirect, to do exactly as they please,


and I deny that I have any inclination to interfere with them, even
if there were no such constitutional obligation. I can only say again
that I am placed improperly — altogether improperly, in spite of all I
can say — when it is insisted that I entertain any other view or pur-
pose in regard to that mattm-.

While I am upon this subject, I will make some answers brieflv to
certain propositions that Judge Douglas has put. He says, " Why
can't this Union endure permanently, half slave and half free 1" I
have said that I supposed it could not, and I will try, before this new
audience, to give briefly some of the reasons for entertaining that
opinion. Another form of his question is, " Why can't we let it stand
as our fathers placed it ? " That is the exact difficulty between us.
I say that Judge Douglas and his friends have changed it from
the position in which our fathers originally placed it. I say, in the
way our fathers originally left the slavery question, the institution
was in the course of ultimate extinction, and the public mind rested
in the belief that it was in the course of ultimate extinction. I say
when this government was first established, it was the policy of its
founders to prohibit the spread of slavery into the new Territories of
the United States, where it had not existed. But Judge Douglas and
his friends have broken up that policy, and placed it upon a new basis
by which it is to become national and perpetual. All I have asked or
desired anywhere is that it should be placed back again upon the
basis that the fathers of our government originally placed it upon.
I have no doubt that it would become extinct, for all time to come,
if we but readopted the policy of the fathers by restricting it to the
limits it has already covered — restricting it from the new Territories.

I do not wish to dwell at great length on this branch of the sub-
ject at this time, but allow me to repeat one thing that I have stated
before. Brooks, the man who assaulted Senator Sumner on the floor
of the Senate, and who was complimented with dinners, and silver
pitchers, and gold-headed canes, and a good many other things for
that feat, in one of his speeches declared that when this government
was originally established, nobody expected that the institution of
slavery would last until this day. That was but the opinion of one
man, but it was such an opinion as we can never get from Judge
Douglas, or anybody in favor of slavery in the North at all. You
can sometimes get it from a Southern man. He said at the same
time that the framers of our government did not have the know-
ledge that experience has taught us — that experience and the inven-
tion of the cotton-gin have taught us that the perpetuation of slavery
is a necessity. He insisted, therefore, upon its being changed from
the basis iipon which the fathers of the government left it to the
basis of its perpetuation and nationalization.

I insist that this is the difference between Judge Douglas and my-
self — that Judge Douglas is helping that change along. I insist
upon this government being placed where our fathers originally
placed it.

I remember Judge Douglas once said that he saw the evidences on
the statute-books of Congress of a policy in the origin of govern-
ment to divide slavery and freedom by a geographical line — that he


saw an indisposition to maintain that policy, and therefore he set
about studying np a way to settle the institution on the right basis —
the basis which he thought it ought to have* been placed upon at
first ; and in that speech he confesses that he seeks to place it, not
upon the basis that the fathers placed it npon, but upon one gotten
up on " original principles." When he asks me why we cannot get
along with it in the attitude where our fathers placed it, he had
better clear up the evidences that he has himself changed it from
that basis : that he has himself been chiefly instrumental in chang-
ing the policy of the fathers. Any one who will read his speech of
the 22d of last March will see that he there makes an open confes-
sion, showing that he set about fixing the institution upon an alto-
gether different set of principles. I think I have fully answered him
when he asks me why we cannot let it alone upon the basis where
our fathers left it, by showing that he has himself changed the whole
policy of the government in that regard.

Now, fellow-citizens, in regard to this matter about a contract that
was made between Judge Trumbull and myself, and all that long
portion of Judge Douglas's speech on this subject, I wish simply
to say what I have said to him before, that he cannot know whether
it is true or not, and 1 do know that there is not a word of truth in it.
And I have told him so before. I don't want any harsh language in-
dulged in, but I do not know how to deal with this persistent insist-
ing on a story that I know to be utterly without truth. It used to be a
fashion amongst men thatwhen a charge was made,'some sort of
proof was brought forward to establish it, and if no proof was found
to exist, the charge was dropped. I don't know how to meet this
kind of an argument. I don't want to have a fight with Judge Doug-
las, and I have no way of making an argument up into the consis-
tency of a corn-cob and stopping his mouth with it. All I can do is,
good-humoredly, to say that from the beginning to the end of all
that story about a bargain between Judge Trumbull and myself,
there is not a word of truth in it. I can only ask him to show some
sort of evidence of the truth of his story. He brings forward here
and reads from what he contends is a speech by James H. Matheny,
charging such a bargain between Trumbull and myself. My own
opinion is that Matheny did do some such immoral thing as to tell a
story that he knew nothing about. I believe he did. I contradicted it
instantly, and it has been contradicted by Judge Trumbull, while no-
' body has produced any proof, because there is none. Now, whether
the speech which the judge brings forward here is really the one
Matheny made, I do not know, and I hope the judge will pardon me
for doubting the genuineness of this document, since his production
of those Springfield resolutions at Ottawa. I do not wish to dwell
at any great length upon this matter. I can say nothing when a long
story hke this is told, except that it is not true, and demand that he
who insists upon it shall produce some proof. That is all any man
can do, and I leave it in that way, for I know of no other way of deal-
ing with it.

The judge has gone over a long account of the Old "Whig and
Democratic parties, and it connects itself with this charge against


Trumbull and myself. He says that they agreed upon a compromise
in regard to the slavery question in 1850: that in a national Demo-
cratic convention resolutions were passed to abide by that compro-
mise as a finality upon the slavery question. He also says that the
Whig party in national convention agreed to abide by and regard as
a finality the compromise of 1850. I understand the judge to be al-
together right about that: I understand that part of the history of
the country as stated by nim to be correct. I recollect that I, as a
member of that party, acquiesced in that compromise. I recollect in
the presidential election which followed, when we had General Scott
up for the presidency^ Judge Douglas was around berating us Whigs
as Abolitionists, precisely as he does to-day — not a bit of difference.
I have often heard him. We could do nothing when the Old Whig
party was alive that was not Abolitionism, but it has got an extremely
good name since it has passed away.

When that compromise was made, it did not repeal the old Mis-
souri Compromise. It left a region of United States territory half
as large as the present territory of the United States, north of the
line of 36° 30', in which slavery was prohibited by act of Congress.
This compromise did not repeal that one. It did not affect or pro-
pose to repeal it. But at last it became Judge Douglas's duty, as
he thought (and I find no fault with him), as chairman of the Com-
mittee on Territories, to bring in a bill for the organization of a
territorial government — first of one, then of two Territories north
of that line. When he did so it ended in his inserting a provision

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 45 of 91)