Abraham Lincoln.

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

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a-nd espwiallyl)y;adopting unfriendly legislation to it. For the sake



ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OE ABRAHAM LINCOLN 357

of clearness, I state it again : that they ean exclude slavery from the
Territory — first, by withholding what he assumes to be an indispen-
sable assistance to it in the way of legislation; and, second, by un-
friendly legislation. If I rightly understand him, I wish to ask your
attention for a while to his position.

In the first place, the Supreme Court of the United States has de-
cided that any congressional prohibition of slavery in the Territories
is unconstitutional — they have reached this proposition as a con-
clusion from their former proposition, that the Constitution of the
United States expressly recognizes property in slaves; and from that
other constitutional provision, that no person shall be deprived of
property without due process of law. Hence they reach the conclu-
sion that as the Constitution of the United States expressly recognizes
property in slaves, and pi'ohibits any person from being deprived
of property without due process of law, to pass an act of Congress
by which a man who owned a slave on one side of a line would be
deprived of him if he took him on the other side is depriving him of
that property without due process of law. That I understand to
be the decision of the Supreme Court. I understand also that Judge
Douglas adheres most firmly to that decision ; and the diflBculty is,
how is it possible for any power to exclude slavery from the Territory
unless in violation of that decision ? That is the difficulty.

In the Senate of the United States, in 1856, Judge Trumbull, in a
speech, substantially, if not directly, put the same interrogatory to
Judge Douglas, as to whether the people of a Territory had the
lawful power to exclude slavery prior to the formation of a consti-
tution? Judge Douglas then answered at considerable length, and
his answer will be found in the " Congressional Globe," under the
date of June 9, 1856. The judge said that whether the people could
exclude slavery prior to the formation of a constitution or not was
a question to be decided by the Supreme Court. He put that propo-
sition, as will be seen by the " Congressional Globe," in a variety of
forms, aU running to the same thing in substance — that it was a
question for the Supreme Court. I maintain that when he says,
after the Supreme Court has decided the question, that the people
may yet exclude slavery by any means whatever, he does virtually
say that it is not a question for the Supreme Court. He shifts his
ground. I appeal to you whether he did not say it was a question
for the Supreme Court? Has not the Supreme Court decided that
question ? When he now says that the people may exclude slavery,
does he not make it a question for the people '? Does he not virtu-
ally shift his ground and say that it is not a question for the court,
but for the people ? This is a very simple proposition — a very plain
and naked one. It seems to me that there is no difficulty in decid-
ing it. In a variety of ways he said that it was a question for the
Supreme Court. He did not stop then to tell us that, whatever
the Supreme Court decides, the people ean by withholding necessary
" police regulations " keep slavery out. He" did not make any such
answer. I submit to you now, whether the new state of the ease has
not induced the judge to sheer away from his original ground.
Would not this be the impression of every fair-minded man ?



358 ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

I hold that the proposition that slavery cannot enter a new conntry
without police regulations is historically false. It is not true at all.
I hold that the history of this country shows that the institution
of slavery was originally planted upon this continent without these
-'police regulations" which the judge now thinks necessary for
the actual establishment of it. Not only so, but is there not another
fact — how came this Dred Scott decision to be made ? It was made
upon the case of a negro being taken and actually held in slavery in
Minnesota Territory, claiming his freedom because the act of Con-
gress prohibited his being so held there. Will the judge pretend
that Dred Scott was not held there without police regulations ? There
is at least one matter of record as to his having been held in slavery
in the Territory, not only without police regulations, but in the teeti
of congressional legislation supposed to be valid at the time. This
shows that there is vigor enough in slavery to plant itseK in a new
country even agaiast unfriendly legislation. It takes not only law
but the enforcement of law to keep it out. That is the history of
this country upon the subject.

I wish to ask one other question. It being understood that the
Constitution of the United States guarantees property in slaves in
the Territories, if there is any infringement of the right of that
property, would not the United States courts, organized for the gov-
ernment of the Territory, apply such remedy as might be necessary
in that case ? It is a maxim held by the courts, that there is no
wrong without its remedy ; and the courts have a remedy for what-
ever is acknowledged and treated as a wrong.

Again : I wiU ask you, my friends, if you were elected members of
the legislature, what would be the first thing you would have to do
before entering upon your duties ? Swear to support the Constitu-
tion of the United States. Suppose you believe, as Judge Douglas
does, that the Constitution of the United States guarantees to your
neighbor the right to hold slaves in that Territory, — that they are
his property, — how can you clear your oaths unless you give him
such legislation as is necessary to enable him to enjoy that property !
"What do you understand by supporting the Constitution of a State,
or of the United States ? Is it not to give such constitutional helps
to the rights established by that Constitution as may be practically
needed? Can you, if you swear to support the Constitution, and
believe that the Constitution establishes a right, clear your oath, with-
out giving it support 1 Do you support the Constitution if, knowing
or believing there is a right established under it which needs specific
legislation, you withhold that legislation ? Do you not violate and
disregard your oath ? I can conceive of nothing plainer in the world.
There can be nothing in the words " support the Constitution," if you
may run counter to it by refusing support to any right established
under the Constitution. And what I say here will hold with still
more force against the judge's doctrine of " unfriendly legislation."
How could you, having sworn to support the Constitution, and believ-
ing that it guaranteed the right to hold slaves in the Territories, assist
in legislation intended to defeat that right ? That would be violat-
ing your own view of the Constitution. Not only so, but if you were



ADDEESSES AND LETTEES OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN 359

to do SO, how long would it take the courts to hold your votes un-
constitutional and void ? Not a moment.

Lastly I would ask — Is not Congress itself under obligation to
give legislative support to any right that is established under the
UnitedStates Constitution? I repeat the question — Is not Coii^'res«
itself bound to give legislative support to any right that is estab-
lished in the United States Constitution ? A member of Congress
swears to support the Constitution of the United States, and if he
sees a right established by that Constitution which needs specific
legislative protection, can he clear his oath without giving that pro-
tection ? Let me ask you why many of us who are opposed to sla-
very upon principle give our acquiescence to a fugitive-slave law .'
Why do we hold ourselves under obligations to pass such a law, and
abide by it when it is passed 'l Because the Constitution makes pro-
vision that the owners of slaves shall have the right to reclaim them.
It gives the right to reclaim slaves, and that right is, as Judge Doug-
las says, a barren right, unless there is legislation that will enforce it.

The mere declaration, " No person held to service or labor in one
State under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in conse-
quence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such
service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to
whom such service or labor may be due," is powerless witht)ut spe-
cific legislation to enforce it. Now, on what ground would amember
of Congress who is opposed to slavery in the abstract vote for a fu-
gitive law, as I would deem it my duty to do 1 Because there is a
constitutional right which needs legislation to enforce it. And al-
though it is distasteful to me, I have sworn to support the Constitu-
tion, and having so sworn, I cannot conceive that I do support it if
I withhold from that right any necessary legislation to make it
practical. And if that is true in regard to a fugitive-slave law, is
the right to have fugitive-slaves reclaimed any better fixed in the
Constitution than the right to hold slaves in the Territories ? For
this decision is a just exjjosition of the Constitution, as Judge Doug-
las thinks. Is the one right any better than the other? Is there
any man who, while a member of Congress, would give support to
the one any more than the other ? If I wished to refuse to give
legislative support to slave property in the Territories, if a member
of Congress, I could not do it, holding the view that the Constitution
establishes that right. If I did it at all, it would be because I deny
that this decision properly construes the Constitution. But if I ac-
knowledge, with Judge Douglas, that this decision properly construes
the Constitution, I cannot conceive that I would be less than a per-
jured man if I should refuse in Congress to give such protection to
that property as in its nature it needed.

At the end of what I have said here I propose to give the judge
my fifth interrogatory, which he may take and answer at his leisure.
My fifth interrogatory is this :

If the slaveholding citizens of a United States Territory should need
and demand congressional legislation for the protection of their slave
property in such Territory, would you, as a member of Congress,
vote for or against such legislation ?



360 ADDEESSES JLND LETTERS OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN

Judge Douglas: Will you repeat that? I want to answer that
question.

Mr. Lincoln: If the slaveholding citizens of a United States Ter-
ritory should need and demand congressional legislation for the
protection of their slave property in such Territory, would you, as
a member of Congress, vote for or against such legislation ?

I am aware that in some of the speeches Judge Douglas has made,
he has spoken as if he did not know or think that the Supreme Court
had decided that a territorial legislature cannot exclude slavery.
Precisely what the judge would say upon the subject — whether he
would say definitely that he does not understand they have so de-
cided, or whether he would say he does understand that the court
have so decided, I do not know ; but I know that in his speech at
Springfield he spoke of it as a thing they had not decided yet; and
in his answer to me at Freeport, he spoke of it again, so far as I
can comprehend it, as a thing that had not yet been decided. Now
I hold that if the judge does entertain that view, I think that he is
not mistaken in so far as it can be said that the court has not decided
anything save the mere question of jurisdiction. I know the legal
arguments that can be made — that after a court has decided that it
cannot take jurisdiction in a case, it then has decided all that is be-
fore it, and that is the end of it. A plausible argument can be made
in favor of that proposition, but I know that Judge Douglas has said
in one of his speeches that the court went forward, like honest men
as they were, and decided all the points in the case. If any points
are really extra-judicially decided because not necessarily before them,
then this one as to the power of the territorial legislature to exclude
slavery is one of them, as also the one that the Missouri Compromise
was null and void. They are both extra-judicial, or neither is, ac-
cording as the court held that they had no jurisdiction in the case
between the parties, because of want of capacity of one party to
maintain a suit in that court. I want, if I have sufftcient time, to
show that the court did pass its opinion, but that is the only thing
actually done in the case. If they did not decide, they showed what
they were ready to decide whenever the matter was before them.
"What is that opinion? After having argued that Confess had no
power to pass a law excluding slavery from a United States Terri-
tory, they then used language to this effect : That inasmuch as Con-
gress itself could not exercise such a power, it followed as a matter
of course that it could not authorize a territorial government to
exercise it, for the territorial legislature can do no more than Con-
gress could do. Thus it expressed its opinion emphatically against
the power of a territorial legislature to exclude slavery, leaving us
in just as little doubt on that point as upor any other point they
really decided.

Now, fellow-citizens, my time is nearly out. I find a report of a
speech made by Judge Douglas at Joliet, since we last met at Free-
port, — published, I believe, in the Missouri "Republican," — on the
9th of this month, in which Judge Douglas says:

You know at Ottawa I read this platform, and asked him if he concurred
in each and all of the principles set forth in it. He would not answer these



ADDEESSES AND LETTEES OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN 361

questions. At last I said frankly, " I wish you to answer them, because when
I get them up here where the color of your principles is a little darker
than in Egypt, I intend to trot you down to Joncsboro." The very notice that
I was going to take him down to Eijypt made him tremble in the knees so
that he had to be carried fi-om the platform. He laid up seven days, and
in the mean time held a consultation with his political physicians; they had
Lovejoy and Farnsworth and all the leaders of the Abolition party. They
consulted it all over, and at last Lincoln came to the conclusion that he
'would answer ; so he came to Fi-eeport last Friday.

Now that statement altogether furnishes a subject for philosophical
coutemplatiou. I have been treating it in that way, and I have really
come to the conclusion that I can explain it in no other way than by
believing the judge is crazy. If he was in his right mind, I cannot
conceive how he would have risked disgusting the four or five thou-
sand of his own friends who stood there and Knew, as to my having
been carried from the platform, that there was not a word of truth
in it.

Judge Douglas: Did n't they carry you off?

Mr. Lincoln: There; that question illustrates the character of
this man Douglas, exactly. He smiles now and says, " Did n't they
carry you off? " But he said then, " He had to be carried off'' ; and
he said it to convince the country that he had so completely broken
me down by his speech that I had to be carried away. Now he
seeks to dodge it, and asks, "Did n't they carry you off?" Yes,
they did. But, Judge Douglas, why did n't you teU the truth? 1
would like to know why you did n't tell the truth about it. And
then again, " He laid up seven days." He puts this in print for the
people of the country to read as a serious document. I think if he
had been in his sober senses he would not have risked that bare-
.facedness in the presence of thousands of his own friends, who
knew that I made speeches within six of the seven days at Henry,
Marshall County; Augusta, Hancock County; and Macomb, Mc-
Donough County, including aU the necessary travel to meet him
again at Freeport at the end of the six days. Now, I say, there is
no charitable way to look at that statement, except to conclude that
he is actually crazy. There is another thing in that statement that
alarmed me very greatly as he states it — that he was going to " trot
me do wn to Egypt." Thereby he would have you to infer that I would
not come to Egypt unless he forced me — that I could not be got
here, unless he, giant-like, had hauled me down here. That state-
ment he makes, too, in the teeth of the knowledge that I made the
stipulation to come down here, and that he himself had been very
reluctant to enter into the stipulation. More than all this, Judge
Douglas, when he made that statement, must have been crazy, and
wholly out of his sober senses, or else he would have known that,
when he got me down here, that promise — that windy promise —
of his powers to annihilate me would n't amount to anything. Now,
how little do I look like being carried away trembling? Let the
judge go on, and after he is done with his half hour, I want you all,
if I can't go home myself, to let me stay and rot here ; and if any-
thing happens to the judge, if I cannot carry him to the hotel and



362 ADDEESSES AifD LETTERS OF ABKAHAM LINCOLN

put him to bed, let me stay here and rot. I say, then, there is some-
thing extraordinary in this statement. I ask you if you know any
other living man who would make such a statement ? I will ask my
friend Casey, over there, if he would do such a thing? Would he
send that onl and have his men take it as the truth ? Did the judge
talk of trotting me down to Egypt to scare me to death ? Why, I
know this people better than he does. I was raised just a little east
of here. I am a part of this people. But the judge was raised"
further north, and perhaps he has some horrid idea of what this
people might be induced to do. But really I have talked about
this matter perhaps longer than I ought, for it is no great thing,
and yet the smallest are often the most difiBcult things to deal with.
The judge has set about seriously trying to make the impression
that when we meet at different places I am literally in his clutches —
that I am a poor, helpless, decrepit mouse, and that I can do nothing
at aU. This is one of the ways he has taken to create that im-
pression. I don't know any other way to meet it, except this. I
don't want to quarrel with him, — to caU him a Uar, — but when I
come square up to him I don't know what else to eaU him, if I must
tell the truth out. I want to be at peace, and reserve all my fight-
ing powers for necessary occasions. My time, now, is very nearly
out, and I give up the trifle that is left to the judge to let hinn set
my knees trembling again — if he can.

3Ir. Douglas's Rejoinder in the Jonesioro Joint Debate.

My friends, while I am very grateful to you for the enthusiasm
which you show for me, I wiU say in all candor, that your quietness
will be much more agreeable than your applause, inasmuch as you
deprive me of some part of my time whenever you cheer.

I will commence where Mr. Lincoln left off, and make a remark
upon this serious complaint of his about my speech at Joliet. I did
say there in a playful manner that when I put these questions to Mr.
Lincoln at Ottawa, he failed to answer, and that he trembled, and had
to be carried off the stand, and required seven days to get up his
reply. That he did not walk off from that stand he will not deny.
That when the crowd went away from the stand with me, a few per-
sons carried him home on their shoulders and laid him down, he will
admit. I wish to say to you that whenever I degrade my friends and
myself by allowing them to carry me on their backs along through
the public streets, when I am able to walk, I am willing to be deemed
crazy. I did not say whether I beat him or he beat me in the argu-
ment. It is true I put these questions to him, and I put them not
as mere idle questions, but showed that I based them upon the creed
of the Black Republican party, as declared by their conventions in
that portion of the State which he depends upon to elect him, and
desired to know whether he indorsed that creed. He would not
answer. When I reminded him that I intended bringing him into
Egypt and renewing my questions if he refused to answer, he then
consulted, and did get up his answers one week after — answers which
I may refer to in a few minutes, and show you how equivocal they



ADDEESSES AND LETTERS OP ABRAELAM LINCOLN 363

are. My object was to make him avow whether or not he stood by
the platform of his party; the resolutions I then read, and upon
which I based my questions, had been adopted by his party in the
Galena congressional district, and the Chicago and Bloomington
congressional districts, composing a large majority of- the counties
in this State that give Republican or Abolition majorities.

Mr. Lincoln cannot and will not deny that the doctrines laid down
in these resolutions were in substance put forth in Lovejoy's resolu-
tions, which were voted for by a majority of his party, some of them,
if not all, receiving the support of every man of his party. Hence
I laid a foundation for my questions to him before I asked him
whether that was or was not the platform of his party. He says that
he answered my questions. One of them was whether he would vote
to admit any more slave States into the Union. The creed of the
Republican party, as set forth in the resolutions of their various
conventions, was that they would under no circumstances vote
to admit another slave State. It was put forth in the Lovejoy
resolutions in the legislature ; it was put forth and passed in a major-
ity of all the counties of this State which give Abolition or Repub-
lican majorities, or elect members to the legislature of that school of
politics. I had a right to know whether he would vote for or against
the admission of another slave State in the event the people wanted
it. He first answered that he was not pledged on the subject, and
then said:

In regard to the other question, of whether I am pledged to the admission
of any more slave States into the Union, I state to you very frankly that I
would be exceedingly sorry ever to be put in the position of having to pass
on that question. I should be exceedingly glad to know that there would
never be another slave State admitted into the Union ; but I must add that
if slavery shall be kept out of the Territories during the territorial existence
of any one given Territory, and then the people, having a fair chance and
clear field when they come to adopt a constitution, do such an extraordinaiy
thing as adopt a slave constitution, uninfluenced by the actual presence of
the institution among them, I see no alternative, if we own the country, but
to admit them into the Union.

Now analyze that answer. In the first place he says he would be
exceedingly sorry to be put in a position where he would have to vote
on the question of the admission of a slave State. Why is he a can-
didate for the Senate if he would be sorry to be put in that position 1
I trust the people of Illinois will not put him in a position which he
would be so sorry to occupy. The next position he takes is that he
would be glad to know that there would never be another slave State,
yet, in certain contingencies, he might have to vote for one. What
is that contingency? " If Congress keeps slavery out by law while
it is a Territory, and then the people should have a fair chance and
should adopt slavery, uninfluenced by the presence of the institution,"
he supposed he would have to admit the State. Suppose Congress
should not keep slavery out during their territorial existence, then
how would he vote when the people applied for admission into the
Union with a slave constitution? That he does not answer, and that
is the condition of every Territory we have now got. Slavery is not



364 ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OP ABRAHAM LINCOLN

kept out of Kansas by act of Congress, and when I put the question
to Mr. Lincoln, whether he will vote for the admission with or without
slavery, as her people may desire, he will not answer, and you have
not got an answer from him. In Nebraska slavery is not prohibited
by act of Congress, but the people are allowed, under the Nebraska
bill, to do as they please on the subject; and when I ask him whether
he will vote to admit Nebraska with a slave constitution if her peo-
ple desire it, he will not answer. So with New Mexico, Washington
Territory, Arizona, and the four new States to be admitted from
Texas. You cannot get an answer from him to these questions. His
answer only applies to a given case, to a condition — things which he



Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 47 of 91)