Abraham Lincoln.

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

. (page 65 of 91)
Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 65 of 91)
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at that time that these propositions constituted a distinct issue be-
tween us, and that the opposite positions we had taken upon them
we would be willing to be held to in every part of the State. I never
intended to waver one hair's breadth from that issue either in the

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nois. I hold that when the time arrives that I cannot proclaim my
political creed in the same terms not only in the northern but the
southern part of Illinois, not only in the Northern but the Southern
States, and wherever the American flag waves over American soil,
that then there must be something wrong in that creed — so long as
we live under a common Constitution, so long as we live in a con-
federacy of sovereign and equal States, joined together as one for
certain purposes, that any political creed is radically wrong which
cannot be proclaimed in every State and every section of that Union,
alike. I took up Mr. Lincoln's three propositions in my several
speeches, analyzed them, and pointed out what I believed to be the
radical errors contained in them. First, in regard to his doctrine
that this government was in violation of the law of God, which says
that a house divided against itself cannot stand ; I repudiated it as
a slander upon the immortal framers of our Constitution. I then
said, I have often repeated, and now again assert, that in my opinion
our government can endure forever, divided into free and slave
States as our fathers made it — each State having the right to pro-
hibit, abolish, or sustain slavery, just as it pleases. This government
was made upon the great basis of the sovereignty of the States, the
right of each State to regulate its own domestic institutions to suit
itself, and that right was conferred with the understanding and ex-
pectation that inasmuch as each locality had separate interests, each
locality must have dififerent aud distinct local and domestic institu-
tions, corresponding to its wants and interests. Our fathers knew,
when they made the government, that the laws and institutions
which were well adapted to the green mountains of Vermont were
unsuited to the rice plantations of South Carolina. They knew then,
as well as we know now, that the laws and institutions which would
be well adapted to the beautiful prairies of Illinois would not be
suited to the mining regions of California. They knew that in a
republic as broad as this, having such a variety of soil, climate, and
interest, there must necessarily be a corresponding variety of local
laws — the policy and institutions of each State adapted to its condi-
tion and wants. For this reason this Union was established on the
right of each State to do as it pleased on the question of slavery,
and every other question, and the various States were not allowed to
complain of, much less interfere with, the policy of their neighbors.
Suppose the doctrine advocated by Mr. Lincoln and the Aboli-
tionists of this day had prevailed when the Constitution was made,
what would have been the result? Imagine for a moment that Mr.
Lincoln had been a member of the convention that framed the Con-
stitution of the United States, and that when its members were about
to sign that wonderful document, he had arisen in that convention,
as he did at Springfleld this summer, and addressing himself to the
President, had said : " A house divided against itself cannot stand ;
this government, divided into free and slave States cannot endure;
they must all be free or all be slave, they must all be one thing or all
the other; otherwise, it is a violation of the law of God, and cannot
continue to exist" — suppose Mr. Lincoln had convinced that body
of sages that that doctrine was sound, what would have been the


result? Remem"ber that the Union was then composed of thirteen
States, twelve of which were slave-holding and one free. Do you
think that the one free State would have out-voted the twelve slave-
holding States, and thus have secured the abolition of slavery? On
the other hand, would not the twelve slave-holding States have out-
voted the one free State, and thus have fastened slavery, by a consti-
tutional provision, on ev^ry foot of the American republic forever?
You see that if this Abolition doctrine of Mr. Lincoln had prevailed
when the government was made, it would have established slavery
as a permanent institution, in all the States, whether they wanted
it or not ; and the question for us to determine in Illinois now, as one
of the free States, is whether or not we are willing, having become
the majority section, to enforce a doctrine on the minority which we
would have resisted with our hearts' blood had it been attempted on
us when we were in a minority. How has the South lost her power
as the majority section in this Union, and how have the free States
gained it, except under the operation of that principle which declares
the right of the people of each State and each Territory to form and
regulate their domestic institutions in their own way ? It was under
that principle that slavery was abolished in New Hampshire, Rhode
Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; it
was under that principle that one half of the slave-holding States
became free; it was under that principle that the number of free
States increased until, from being one out of twelve States, we have
grown to be the majority of States of the whole Union, with the
power to control the House of Representatives and Senate, and the
power, consequently, to elect a President by Northern votes with-
out the aid of a Southern State. Having obtained this power under
the operation of that great principle, are you now prepared to aban-
don the principle, and declare that merely because we have the power
you will wage a war against the Southern States and their institu-
tions until you force them to abolish slavery everywhere?

After having pressed these arguments home on Mr. Lincoln for
seven weeks, publishing a niimber of my speeches, we met at Ot-
tawa in joint discussion, and he then began to crawfish a little, and
let himself down. I there propounded certain questions to him.
Amongst others, I asked him whether he would vote for the admis-
sion of any more slave States in the event the people wanted them.
He would not answer. I then told him that if he did not answer
the question there I would renew it at Freeport, and would then
trot him down into Egypt and again put it to him. Well, at Free-
port, knowing that the next joint discussion took place in Egypt,
and being in dread of it, he did answer my question in regard to
no more slave States in a mode which he hoped would be satisfac-
tory to me, and accomplish the object he had in view. I will show
you what his answer was. After saying that he was not pledged to
the Republican doctrine of " no more slave States," he declared :

I state to you freely, frankly, that I should be exceedingly sorry to ever be
put in the position of having to pass upon that question. I should be ex-
ceedingly glad to know that there, never would be another slave State
admitted into this Union.


Here permit me to remark that I do not thiuk the people will ever
force him into a position against his wlII. He went on to say :

But I must add, in regard to this, that if slavery shall be kept out of the
Territory during the territorial existence of any one given Territory, and
then the people should — having a fair chance and a clear field when they
come to adopt a constitution — if they should do the extraordinary thing of
adopting a slave constitution, uninfluenced by the actual presence of the
institution among them, I see no alternative, if we own the country, but we
must admit it into this Union.

That answer Mr. Lincoln supposed would satisfy the old-line
Whigs, composed of Kentuckians and Virginians, down in the
southern part of the State. Now, what does it amount to ? I de-
sired to know whether he would vote to allow Kansas to come into
the Union with slavery or not, as her people desired. He would not
answer, but in a roundabout way said that if slavery should be kept
out of a Territory during the whole of its territorial existence, and
then the people, when they adopted a State constitution, asked ad-
mission as a slave State, he supposed he would have to let the State
come in. The case I put to him was an entirely diiferent one. I
desired to know whether he would vote to admit a State if Congress
had not prohibited slavery in it during its territorial existence, as
Congress never pretended to do under Clay's compromise measures
of 1850. He would not answer, and I have not yet been able to get
an answer from him. I have asked him whether he would vote to
admit Nebraska if her people asked to come in as a State with a
constitution recognizing slavery, and he refused to answer. I have
put the question to him with reference to New Mexico, and he has
not uttered a word in answer. I have enumerated the Territories,
one after another, putting the same question to him with reference
to each, and he has not said, and will not say, whether, if elected to
Congress, he will vote to admit any Territory now in existence with
such a constitution as her people may adopt. He invents a case
which does not exist, and cannot exist, under this government, and
answers it ; but he will not answer the question I put to him in con-
nection with any of the Territories now in existence. The contract
we entered into with Texas when she entered the Union obliges us
to allow four States to be formed out of the old State, and admitted
with or without slavery, as the respective inhabitants of each may
determine. I have asked Mr. Lincoln three times in our joint dis-
cussions whether he would vote to redeem that pledge, and he has
never yet answered. He is as silent as the grave on the subject.
He would rather answer as to a state of the case which will never
arise than commit himself by telling what he would do in a case
which would come up for his action soon after his election to Con-
gress. Why can he not say whether he is willing to allow the peo-
ple of each State to have slavery or not, as they please, and to come
into the Union when they have the requisite population as a slave
or a free State, as they decide 1 I have no trouble in answering the
question. I have said everywhere, and now repeat it to you, that if
the people of Kansas want a slave State they have a right, under
the Constitution of the United States, to form such a State, and I


will let them come into the Union with slavery or without it, as
they determine. If the people of any other Territory desire slavery,
let them have it. If they do not want it, let them prohibit it. It
is their business, not mine. It is none of our business in Illinois
whether Kansas is a free State or a sl&.ve State. It is none of your
business in Missoui'i whether Kansas shall adopt slavery or reject
it. It is the business of her people, and none of yours. The people
of Kansas have as much right to decide that question for themselves
as you have in Missouri to decide it for yourselves, or we in lUinois
to decide it for ourselves.

And here I may repeat what I have said in every speech I have
made in Illinois, that I fought the Lecompton constitution to its
death, not because of the slavery clause in it, but because it was not
the act and deed of the people of Kansas. I said then in Congress,
and I say now, that if the people of Kansas want a slave State, they
have a right to have it. If they wanted the Lecompton constitution,
they had a right to have it. I was opposed to that constitution be-
cause I did not believe that it was the act and deed of the people,
but, on the contrary, the act of a small, pitiful minority, acting in the
name of the majority. When at last it was determined to send that
constitution back to the people, and accordingly, in August last, the
question of admission under it was submitted to a popular vote, the
citizens rejected it by nearly ten to one, thus showing conclusively
that I was right when I said that the Lecompton constitution was
not the act and deed of the people of Kansas, and did not embody
their will.

I hold that there is no power on earth, under our system of gov-
ernment, which has the right to force a constitution upon an un-
willing people. Suppose that there had been a majority of ten to one
in favor of slavery in Kansas, and suppose there had been an Aboli-
tion President, and an Abolition administration, and by some means
the Abolitionists succeeded in forcing an AboUtion constitution on
those slaveholding people, would the people of the South have sub-
mitted to that act for one instant ? Well, if you of the South would
not have submitted to it a day, how can you, as fair, honorable, and
honest men, insist on putting a slave constitution on a people who
desire a free State? Your safety and ours depend upon both of us
acting in good faith, and living up to that great principle which as-
serts the right of every people to form and regulate their domestic
institutions to suit themselves, subject only to the Constitution of
the United States.

Most of the men who denounced my course on the Lecompton
question objected to it not because I was not right, but because they
thought it expedient at that time, for the sake of keeping the party
together, to do wrong. I never knew the Democratic party to violate
any one of its principles out of policy or expediency, that it did not
pay the debt with sorrow. There is n o safety or success for our party
unless we always do right, and trust the consequences to God and
the people. I chose not to depart from principle for the sake of ex-
pediency in the Lecompton question, and I never intend to do it on
that or any other question.


But I am told that I would have been all right if I had only voted
for the English bill after Lecompton was killed. You know a gen-
eral pardon was granted to all political offenders on the Lecompton
question, provided they would only vote for the English bill. I did
not accept the benefits of that pardon, for the reason that I had been
right in the course I had pursued, and hence did not require any
forgiveness. Let us see how the result has been worked out. Eng-
lish brought in his bill referring the Lecompton constitution back
to the people, with the provision that if it was rejected Kansas
should be kept out of the Union until she had the full ratio of pop-
ulation required for a member of Congress, thus in effect declaring
that if the people of Kansas would only consent to come into the
Union under the Lecompton constitution, and have a slave State
when they did not want it, they should be admitted with a population
of 35,000; but that if they were so obstinate as to insist upon having
just such a constitution as they thought best, and to desire admis-
sion as a free State, then they should be kept out until they had
93,420 inhabitants. I then said, audi now repeat to you, that when-
ever Kansas has people enough for a slave State she has people
enough for a free State. I was, and am, willing to adopt the rule that
no State shall ever come into the Union until she has the full ratio
of population for a member of Congress, provided that rule is made
uniform. I made that proposition in the Senate last winter, but a
majority of the senators would not agree to it ; and I then said to
them, " If you will not adopt the general rule, I will not consent to
make an exception of Kansas."

I hold that it is a violation of the fundamental principles of this
government to throw the weight of federal power into the scale,
either in favor of the free or the slave States. Equality among all
the States of this Union is a fundamental principle in our political
system. We have no more right to throw the weight of the Federal
Government into the scale in favor of the slaveholding than of the
free States, and, least of all, should our friends in the South consent
for a moment that Congress should withhold its powers either way
when they know that there is a majority against them in both
houses of Congress.

Fellow-citizens, how have the supporters of the English bill stood
up to their pledges not to admit Kansas until she obtained a popu-
lation of 93,420 in the event she rejected the Lecompton constitu-
tion ? How ? The newspapers inform us that English himself, whilst
conducting his canvass for reelection, and in order to secure it,
pledged himself to his constituents that if returned he would dis-
regard his own bill and vote to admit Kansas into the Union with
such population as she might have when she made application. We
are informed that every Democratic candidate for Congress in all
the States where elections have recently been held was pledged
against the English bill, with perhaps one or two exceptions. Now,
if I had only done as these anti-Leeompton men who voted for the
English bUl in Congress, pledging themselves to refuse to admit
Kansas if she refused to become a slave State until she had a popu-
lation of 93,420, and then returned to their people, forfeited their


pledge, and made a new pledge to admit Kansas any time she applied,
without regard to population, I would have had no trouble. You saw
the whole power and patronage of the Federal Government wielded in
Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to elect anti-Lecompton men to Con-
gress, who voted against Lecompton, then voted for the English bill,
and then denounced the English bill, and pledged themselves to their
people to disregard it. My sin consists in not having given a pledge,
and then in not having afterward forfeited it. For that reason, in
this State, every postmaster, every route agent, every collector of the
ports, and every federal office-holder, forfeits his head the moment
he expresses a preference for the Democratic candidates against
Lincoln and his Abolition associates. A Democratic administration,
which we helped to bring into power, deems it consistent with its
fidelity to principle, and its regard to duty, to wield its power in this
State iu behalf of the Republican Abolition candidates in every
county and every congressional district against the Democratic
party. All I have to say in reference to the matter is that if that
administration have not regard enough for principle, if they are not
sufficiently attached to the creed of the Democratic party to bury
forever their personal hostilities in order to succeed in carrying out
our glorious principles, I have. I have no personal difficulty with
Mr. Buchanan or his cabinet. He chose to make certain recom-
mendations to Congress, as he had a right to do, on the Lecompton
question. I could not vote in favor of them. I had as much right to
judge for myself how I should vote as he had how he should recom-
mend. He undertook to say to me, "If you do not vote as I tell you,
I will take off the heads of your friends." I replied to him, "Tou
did not elect me; I represent Illinois, and I am accountable to Illinois,
as my constituency, and to God, but not to the President or to any
other power on earth."

And now this warfare is made on me because I would not sur-
render my convictions of duty, because I would not abandon my
constituency, and receive the orders of the executive authorities how
I should vote in the Senate of the United States. I hold that an
attempt to control the Senate on the part of the executive is subver-
sive of the principles of our Constitution. The executive depart-
ment is independent of the Senate, and the Senate is independent of
the President. In matters of legislation the President has a veto on
the action of the Senate, and in appointments and treaties the Senate
has a veto on the President. He has no more right to tell me how I
shall vote on his appointments than I have to tell him whether he
shall veto or approve a bill that the Senate has passed. Whenever
you recognize the right of the executive to say to a senator, "Do
this, or I will take off the heads of your friends," you convert this
government from a republic into a despotism. Whenever you recog-
nize the right of a President to say to a member of Congress, " Vote
as I tell you, or I will bring a power to bear against you at home
which will crush ,you," you destroy the independence of the repre-
sentative, and convert him into a tool of executive power. I re-
sisted this invasion of the constitutional rights of a senator, and I
intend to resist it as long as I have a voice to speak, or a vote to give.


Yet Mr. Buchanan cannot provoke me to al)andon one iota of Demo-
cratic principles out of revenge or hostility to his course. I stand
by the platform of the Democratic party, and by its organization,
and support its nominees. If there are any who choose to bolt, the
fact only shows that they are not as good Democrats as I am.

My friends, there never was a time when it was as important for
the Democratic party, for all national men, to rally and stand toge-
ther as it is to-day. We find aU sectional men giving up past dif-
ferences and uniting on the one question of slavery, and when we
find sectional men thus uniting, we should unite to resist them and
their treasonable designs. Such was the case in 1850, when Clay
left the quiet and peace of his home, and again entered upon public
life to quell agitation and restore peace to a distracted Union. Then
we Democrats, with Cass at our head, welcomed Henry Clay, whom
the whole nation regarded as having been preserved by God for the
times. He became our leader in that great fight, and we rallied around
him the same as the Whigs rallied around Old Hickory in 1832 to
put down nullification. Thus you see that while Whigs and Demo-
crats fought fearlessly in old times about banks, the tariff, distribu-
tion, the specie circular, and the subtreasury, all united as a band of
brothers when the peace, harmony, or integrity of the Union was im-
periled. It was so in 1850, when Abolitionism had even so far di-
vided this country. North and South, as to endanger the peace of the
Union. Whigs and Democrats united in establishing the compromise
measures of that year, and restoring tranquillity and good feeling.
These measures passed on the joint action of the two parties. They
rested on the great principle that the people of each State and each
Territory should be left perfectly free to form and regulate their do-
mestic institutions to suit themselves. You Whigs and we Democrats
justified them in that principle. In 1854, when it became necessary
to organize the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska, I brought for-
ward the bill on the same principle. In the Kansas-Nebraska bill
you find it declared to be the true intent and meaning of the act
not to legislate slavery into any State or Territory, nor to exclude
it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form
and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way.

I stand on that same platform in 1858 that I did in 1850, 1854,
and 1856. The Washington " Union," pretending to be the organ
of the administration, in the number of the 5th of this month,
devotes three columns and a half to establish these propositions :
first, that Douglas i.n his Freeport speech held the same doctrine
that he did in his Nebraska bill in 1854 ; second, that in 1854 Doug-
las justified the Nebraska bill upon the ground that it was based
upon the same principle as Clay's compromise measures of 1850.
The "Union" thus proved that Douglas was the same in 1858 that
he was in 1856, 1854, and 1850, and consequently argued that he was
never a Democrat. Is it not funny that I was never a Democrat?
There is no pretense that I have changed a hair's-breadth. The
" Union " proves by my speeches that I explained the compromise
measures of. 1850 just as I do now, and that I explained the Kansas
and Nebraska bill in 1854 just as I did in my Freeport speech, and


yet says that I am not a Democrat, and cannot be trusted, because
I have not changed during the whole of that time. It has occurred
to me that in 1854 the author of the Kansas and Nebraska bill was
considered a pretty good Democrat. It has occurred to me that in
1856, when I was exerting every nerve and every energy for James

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 65 of 91)