Abraham Lincoln.

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

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more abundant blessings than have ever been conferred upon any

Mr. Lincoln's Rejoinder in the Charleston Joint Debate.

Fellow-citizens : It follows as a matter of course that a half -hour
answer to a speech of an hour and a half can be but a very hurried
one. I shall only be able to touch upon a few of the points sug-
gested by Judge Douglas, and give them a brief attention, while I
shall have to totally omit others for the want of time.

Judge Douglas has said to you that he has not been able to get
from me an answer to the question whether I am in favor of negro
citizenship. So far as I know, the judge never asked me the question
before. He shall have no occasion to ever ask it again, for I tell
him very frankly that I am not in favor of negro citizenship. This
furnishes me an occasion for saying a few words upon the subject.
I mentioned in a certain speech of mine, which has been printed, that
the Supreme Court had decided that a negro could not possibly be
made a citizen, and without saying what was my ground of com-
plaint in regard to that, or whether I had any ground of complaint.
Judge Douglas has from that thing manufactured nearly every-


thing that he ever says about mj disposition to produce an equality
between the negroes and the white people. If any one will read my
speech, he will find I mentioned that as one of the points decided in
the course of the Supreme Court opinions, but I did not state what
objection I had to it. But Judge Douiilas tells the people what my
objection was when I did not tell them myself. Now my opinion is
that the different States have the power to make a negro a citizen
under the Constitution of the United States, if they choose. The
Dred Scott decision decides that they have not that power. If the
State of Illinois had that power, I should be opposed to the exercise
of it. That is all I have to say about it.

Judge Douglas has told me that he heard my speeches north and
my speeches south — that he had heard me at Ottawa and at Free-
port in the north, and recently at Jonesboro in the south, and there
was a very different cast of sentiment in the speeches made at the
different points. I will not charge upon Judge Douglas that he
wilfully misrepresents me, but I call upon every fair-minded man
to take these speeches and read them, and I dare him to point out
any difference between my speeches north and south. While I am
here perhaps I ought to say a word, if I have the time, in regard to
the latter portion of the judge's speech, which was a sort of decla-
mation in reference to my having said I entertained the belief that
this government would not endure half slave and half free. I have
said so, and I did not say it without what seemed to me to be good
reasons. It perhaps would require more time than I have now to set
forth these reasons in detail ; but let me ask you a few questions.
Have we ever had any peace on this slavery question ? When are we
to have peace upon it if it is kept in the position it now occupies ?
How are we ever to have peace upon it f That is an important ques-
tion. To be sure, if we will all stop and allow Judge Douglas and his
friends to march on in their present career until they plant the insti-
tution all over the nation, here and wherever else our flag waves, and
we acquiesce in it, there will be peace. But let me ask Judge Doug-
las how he is going to get the people to do that? The>' have been
wrangling over this question for at least forty years. This was the
cause of the agitation resulting in the Missouri compromise; this
produced the troubles at the annexation of Texas, in the at'ciuisition
of the territory acquired in the Mexican war. Again, this was the
trouble which was quieted by the compromise of 1850, when it was
settled "forever," as both the great political parties declared in their
national conventions. That "forever" turned out to be just four
years, when Judge Douglas himself reopened it.

When is it likely to come to an end ? He introduced the Nebraska
bill in 1854 to put another end to the slavery agitation. He promised
that it would finish it all up immediately, and he has never made a
speech since until he got into a quarrel with the President about the
Leeompton constitution, in which he has not declared that we are
just at the end of the slavery agitation. But in one speech, I think
last winter, he did say that he did n't quite see when the end of the
slavery agitation would come. Now he tells us again that it is all
over, and the people of Kansas have voted down the Leeompton


constitution. How is it over? That was only one of the attempts
at putting an end to the slavery agitation — one of these "final set-
tlements." Is Kansas in the Union? Has she formed a constitu-
tion that she is likely to come in under 1 Is not the slavery agitar
tion still an open question in that Territory ? Has the voting down
of that constitution put an end to all the trouble? Is that more hkely
to settle it than every one of these previous attempts to settle the
slavery agitation ? Now, at this day in the history of the world we
can no more foretell where the end of this slavery agitation will he
than we can see the end of the world itself. The Nebraska-Kansas
bill was introduced four years and a half ago, and if the agitation is
ever to come to an end, we may say we are four years and a half nearer
the end. So, too, we can say we are four years and a half nearer the
end of the world; and we can just as clearly see the end of the world
as we can see the end of this agitation. The Kansas settlement did
not conclude it. If Kansas should sink to-day, and leave a great
vacant space in the earth's surface, this vexed question would still
be among us. I say, then, there is no way of putting an end to the
slavery agitation amongst us but to put it back upon the basis where
our fathers placed it, no way but to keep it out of our new Terri-
tories — to restrict it forever to the old States where it now exists.
Then the public mind will rest in the belief that it is in the course
of ultimate extinction. That is one way of putting an end to the
slavery agitation.

The other way is for us to surrender and let Judge Douglas and
his friends have theirway and plant slavery over all the States — cease
speaking of it as in any way a wrong — regard slavery as one of the
common matters of property, and speak of negroes as we do of our
horses and cattle. But while it drives on in its state of progress as
it is now driving, and as it has driven for the last five years, I have
ventured the opinion, and I say to-day, that we will have no end to
the slavery agitation until it takes one turn or the other. I do not
mean that when it takes a turn toward ultimate extinction it will he
in a day, nor in a year, nor in two years. I do not suppose that in
the most peaceful way ultimate extinction would occur m less than a
hundred years at least ; but that it will occur in the best way for both
races, in God's own good time, I have no doubt. But, my friends, I
have used up more of my time than I intended on this poini

Now, in regard to this matter about Trumbull and myself having
made a bargain to sell out the entire Whig and Democratic parties in
1854, Judge Douglas brings forward no evidence to sustain his
charge, except the speech Matheny is said to have made in 185C, in
which he told a cock-and-bull story of that sort, upon the same moral
principles that Judge Douglas tells it here to-day. This is the simple
truth. I do not care greatly for the story, but this is the truth of it,
and I have twice told Judge'Douglas to his face, that from beginning
to end there is not one word of truth in it. I have called upon him
for the proof, and he does not at all meet me as Trumbull met him
^on that of which we were just talking, by producing the record.
He did n't bring the record, because there was no record for him to
bring. When he asks if I am ready to indorse Trumbull's veracity


after he has broken a bargain with me, I reply that if Tnimbull had
broken a bargain with me, I would not be likely to indorse his \ e-
racity; but I am ready to indorse his veracity because neitlier in that
thing, nor in any other, in all the years that I have known Lyman
Trumbull, have I known him to fail of his word or tell a falsehood,
large or small. It is for that reason that I indorse Lyman Trumbull.

Mr. James Brown [Douglas postmaster] : What does Ford's his-
tory say about him ? *

Mr. Lincoln : Some gentleman asks me what Ford's history says
about him. My own recoUeetion is, that Ford speaks of Trumbull
in very disrespectful terms in several portions of his book, and that
he talks a great deal worse of Judge Douglas. I refer you, sir, to
the history for examination.

Judge Douglas complains at considerable length about a disposi-
tion on the part of Trumbull and myself to attack him personally.
I want to attend to that suggestion a moment. I don't want to be
unjustly accused of dealing illiberally or unfairly with an adversary,
either in court, or in a political canvass, or anywhere else. I would
despise myself if I supposed myself ready to deal less liberally with
an adversary than I was willing to be treated myself. Judge Doug-
las, in a general way, without putting it in a direct shape, revives
the old charge against me in reference to the Mexican war. He does
not take the responsibility of putting it in a very definite form, but
makes a general reference to it. That charge is more than ten years
old. He complains of Trumbull and myself, because he says we bring
charges against him one or two years old. He knows, too, that in
regard to the Mexican war story, the more respectable papers of his
own party throughout the State have been'compelled to take it back
and acknowledge that it was a lie.

[Here Mr. Lincoln turned to the crowd on the platform, and select-
ing Hon. Orlando B. Ficklin, led him forward and said:]

I do not mean to do anything with Mr. Ficklin, except to present
his face and teU you that he personally knows it to be a lie ! He
was a member of Congress at the only time I was in Congress, and
he knows that whenever there was an attempt to procure a vote
of mine which would indorse the origin and justice of the war, I
refused to give such indorsement, and voted against it; but I ne\'er
voted against the supplies for the army, and he knows, as well as
Judge Douglas, that whenever a dollar was asked by way of com-
pensation or otherwise, for the benefit of the soldiers, I gave all the
votes that Ficklin or Douglas did, and perhaps more.

Mr. Ficklin : My friends, I wish to say this in reference to the
matter. Mr. Lincoln and myself are just as good personal friends
as Judge Douglas and myself. In reference to this Mexican war,
my recollection is that when Ashmun's resolution [amendment] was
offered by Mr. Ashmun of Massachusetts, in which he declared that
the Mexican war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally com-
menced by the President, — my recollection is that Mr. Lincoln voted
for that resolution.

Mr. Lincoln : That is the truth. Now you all remember that was
a resolution censuring the President for the manner in which the


war was begun. You know they have charged that I voted against
the supplies, by which I starved the soldiers who were out fighting
the battles of their country. I say that Ficklin knows it is false.
When that charge was brought forward by the Chicago "Times,"
the Springfield " Register" [Douglas organ] reminded the "Times"
that the charge really applied to John Henry ; and I do know that
John Henry is now making speeches and fiercely battling for Judge
Douglas.* If the judge now says that he offers this as a sort of a set-
off to what I said to-day in reference to Trumbull's charge, then I
remind him that he made this charge before I said a word about
Trumbull's. He brought this forward at Ottawa, the first time we
met face to face ; and in the opening speech that Judge Douglas
made, he attacked me in regard to a matter ten years old. Is n't he
a pretty man to be whining about people making charges against
him only two years old !

The judge thinks it is altogether wrong that I should have dwelt
upon this charge of Trumbull's at all. I gave the apology for doing
so in my opening speech. Perhaps it did n't fix your attention. I
said that when Judge Douglas was speaking at places where I spoke
on the succeeding day, he used very harsh language about this
charge. Two or three times afterward I said I had confidence in
Judge Trumbull's veracity and intelligence; and my own opinion
was, from what I knew of the character of Judge Trumbull, that he
would vindicate his position, and prove whatever he had stated to
be true. This I repeated two or three times ; and then I dropped it,
without saying anything more on the subject for weeks — perhaps
a month. I passed it by without noticing it at all till I found at
Jacksonville that Judge Douglas, in the plenitude of his power, is not
willing to answer Trumbull and let me alone; but he comes out there
and uses this language: "He should not hereafter occupy his time
in refuting such charges made by Trumbull, but that Lincoln hav-
ing indorsed the character of TrumbuU for veracity, he should hold
him [Lincoln] responsible for the slanders." What was Lincoln to
do? Did he not do right, when he had the fit opportunity of meet-
ing Judge Douglas here, to tell him he was ready for the responsi-
bility ? I ask a candid audience whether in doing thus Judge Douglas
was not the assailant rather than I? Here I meet him face to face,
and say I am ready to take the responsibility so far as it rests on me.

Having done so, I ask the attention of this audience to the ques-
tion whether I have succeeded in sustaining the charge, and whether
Judge Doiiglas has at all succeeded in rebutting it. You all heard
me call upon him to say which of these pieces of evidence was a for-
gery. Does he say that what I present here as a copy of the origi-
nal Toombs bill is a forgery ? Does he say that what I present as a
copy of the bill reported by himself is a forgery? Or what is pre-
sented as a transcript from the " Globe," of the quotations from Big-
ler's speech, is a forgery? Does he say the quotations from his own
speech are forgeries ? Does he say this transcript from Trumbull's
speech is a forgery ? [" He did n't deny one of them." ] I would then
like to know how it comes about that when each piece of a story is
true, the whole story turns out false 1 I take it these people have


some sense ; they see plainly that Judge Douglas is playiug cuttle-
fish, a sraall species of fish that has no mode of defending itself when
pursued except by throwing out a black fluid, which makes the water
so dark the enemy cannot see it, and thus it escapes. Is not the j udge
playing the cuttlefish 1

Now I would ask very special attention to the consideration of
Judge Douglas's speech at Jacksonville ; and when you shall read his
speech of to-day, I ask you to watch closely and see which of these
pieces of testimony, every one of which he says is a forgery, he has
shown to be such. Not one of them has he shown to be a forgery.
Then I ask the original question, if each of the pieces of testimony
is true, how is it possible that the whole is a falsehood ?

In regard to TrumbuU's charge that he [Douglas] inserted a provi-
sion into the bill to prevent the constitution being submitted to the
people, what was his answer ? He comes here and reads from the
" Congressional Globe " to show that on his motion that provision
was struck out of the biU. Why, Trumbull has not said it was not
stricken out, but Trumbull says he [Douglas] put it in, and it is no
answer to the charge to say he afterward took it out. Both are per-
haps true. It was m regard to that thing precisely that I told him
he had dropped the cub. Trumbull shows you by his introdu-
cing the bill that it was his cub. It is no answer to that assertion to
call Trumbull a liar merely because he did not specially say that
Douglas struck it out. Suppose that were the case, dous it answer
Trumbull ? I assert that you [pointing to an individual] are here to-
day, and you undertake to prove me a liar by showing that you were
in Mattoon yesterday. I say that you took your hat off your head,
and you prove me a liar by putting it on your head. That is the
whole force of Douglas's argument.

Now, I want to come back to my original question. Trumbull says
that Judge Douglas had a bill with a provision in it for submitting
a constitution to be made to a vote of the people of Kansas. Does
Judge Douglas deny that fact ? Does he deny that the provision
which TrumbuU reads was put in that bill ? Then Trumbull says he
struck it out. Does he dare to deny that ? He does not, and I have
the right to repeat the question — why Judge Douglas took it
out? Bigler has said there was a combination of certain senators,
among whom he did not include Judge Douglas, by which it was
agreed that the Kansas bill should have a clause in it not to have
the constitution formed under it submitted to a vote of the people.
He did not say that Douglas was among them, but we prove by
another source that about the same time Douglas comes into the
Senate with that provision stricken out of the bill. Although Bigler
cannot say they were aU working in concert, yet it looks very much
as if the thing was agreed upon and done with a mutual understand-
ing after the conference; and while we do not know that it was
absolutely so, yet it looks so probable that we have a right to call
upon the man who knows the true reason why it was done, to tell
what the true reason was. When he will not tell what the true
reason was, he stands in the attitude of an accused thief who has
stolen goods in his possession, and when called to account refuses to


tell where he got. them. Not only is this the evidence, but when he
conies in with the bill having the provision stricken ont, he tells us
in a speech, not then, but since, that these alterations and modifica-
tions in the bill had been made by him, in consultation with Toombs,
the originator of the bill. He tells us the same to-day. He says there
were certain modifications made in the bill in committee that he did
not vote for. I ask you to remember while certain amendments were
made which he disapproved of, but which a majority of the commit-
tee voted in, he has himself told us that in this particular the altera-
tions and modifications were made by him upon consultation with
Toombs. We have his own word that these alterations were made
by him and not by the committee.

Now, I ask what is the reason Judge Douglas is so chary about
coming to the exact question? "What is the reason he will not tell
you anything about how it was made, by whom it was made, or that
he remembers it being made at all 1 Why does he stand playing upon
the meaning of words, and quibbling around the edges of the evi-
dence 1 If he can explain all this, but leaves it unexplained, I have
a right to infer that Judge Douglas understood it was the purpose of
his party, in engineering that bill through, to make a constitution,
and have Kansas come into the Union with that constitution, without
its being submitted to a vote of the people. If he will explain his
action on this question, by giving a better reason for the facts that
happened than he has done, it will be satisfactory. But until he does
that — until he gives a better or more plausible reason than he has
offered against the evidence in the case — I suggest to him it will not
avail him at all that he swells himself up, takes on dignity, and calls
people liars. Why, sir, there is not a word in Trumbull's speech
that depends on Trumbull's veracity at all. He has only arrayed
the evidence and told you what follows as a matter of reasoning.
There is not a statement in the whole speech that depends on Trum-
bull's word. If you have ever studied geometry, you remember that
by a course of reasoning Euclid proves that all the angles in a tri-
angle are equal to two right angles. Euclid has shown you how to
work it out. Now, if you undertake to disprove that proposition, and
to show that it is erroneous, would you prove it to be false by calling
Euclid a liar ? They tell me that my time is out, and therefore I close.

September 25, 1858. — Order for Furniture.

My old friend Henry Chew, the bearer of this, is in a strait for
some furniture to commence housekeeping. If any person will fur-
nish him twenty-five dollars' worth, and he does not pay for it by the
1st of January next, I will.

September 25, 1858. A. Lincoln.

Urbana, February 16, 1859.
Hon. a. Lincoln, SPEiNGriELD, Illinois.

My dear Friend: I herewith inclose your order which you gave your
friend Henry Chew. You will please send ine a draft for the same and
obUge yours,

S. Little.


[October 1, 1858?] — Fragment. Notes fob Speeches.

But there is a larger issue than the mere qnostiou of whether
the spread of negro slaverj^ shall or shall not be prohibited by Con-
gress. That larger issue is stated by the Richmond " Enquirer," a
Buchanan paper in the South, in the language I now read. It is also
stated by the New York "Day-book," a Buchanan paper in the North,
in this language. — And in relation to indigent white children, the
same Northern paper says. — In support of the Nebraska bill, on its
first discussion in the Senate, Senator Pettit of Indiana declared the
equality of men, as asserted in our Declaration of Independence, to
be a " self-evident lie." In his numerous speeches now being made
in Illinois, Senator Douglas regularly argues against the doctrine of
the equality of men ; and while he does not draw the conclusion that
the superiors ought to enslave the inferiors, he evidently wishes his
hearers to draw that conclusion. He shirks the responsibility of
pulling the house down, but he digs under it that it may fall of its
own weight. Now, it is impossible to not see that these newspapers
and senators are laboring at a common object, and in so doing are
truljr representing the controlling sentiment of their party.

It is equally impossible to not see that that common object is to sub-
vert, in the public mind, and in practical administration, our old and
only standard of free government, that " all men are created equal,"
and to substitute for it some different standard. What that substi-
tute is to be is not difficult to perceive. It is to deny the equality I
of men, and to assert the natural, moral, and religious right of one
class to enslave another.

[October 1, 1858 ?] — Fragment. Notes for Speeches.

Suppose it is true that the negro is inferior to the white in the
gifts of nature; is it not the exact reverse of justice that the white
should for that reason take from the negro any part of the little
which he has had given him? "Give to him that is needy" is the
Christian rule of charity; but "Take from him that is needy" is
the rule of slavery.

Pro-slavery Theology.

The sum of pro-slavery theology seems to be this: "Slavery is not
universally right, nor yet universally wrong; it is better for some
people to be slaves; and, in such cases, it is the will of God that
they be such."

Certainly there is no contending against the wiU of God; but still
there is some difficulty in ascertaining and applying it to particular
cases. For instance, we will suppose the Rev. Dr. Ross has a slave
named Sambo, and the question is, "Is it the will of God that Sambo
shall remain a slave, or be set free ? " The Almighty gives no audible

answer to the question, and his revelation, the Bible, gives none

or at most none but such as admits of a squabble as to its mean-
ing; no one thinks of asking Sambo's opinion on it. So at last it


comes to this, that Dr. Ross is to decide the question ; and while he
considers it, he sits in the shade, with gloves on his hands, and sub-
sists on the bread that Sambo is earning in the burning sun. If he
decides that G-od wills Sambo to continue a slave, he thereby retains
his own comfortable position; but if he decides that God wills
Sambo to be free, he thereby has to walk out of the shade, throw
off his gloves, and delve for his own bread. Will Dr. Eoss be

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 54 of 91)