Abraham Lincoln.

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

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tion — a fraud upon the union of those States whose constitution not oidy
recognized the lawfulness of slavery, but permitted the importation of
slaves from Africa until the year 1808.

This is the entire quotation brought forward to prove that some-
body previous to three years ago had said the negro was not in-
cluded in the term " all men " in the Declaration. How does it do
so ? In what way has it a tendency to prove that 1 Mr. Clay says
it is true as an abstract piinciple that all men are created equal, but
that we cannot practically apply it in all cases. He illustrates this
by bringing forward the cases of females, minors, and insane per-
sons, with whom it cannot be enforced ; but he says that it is true
as an abstract principle in the organization of society as well as in
organized society, and it should be kept in view as a fundamental
principle. Let me read a few words more before I add some ccJm-
ments of my own. Mr. Clay says a little further on :

I desire no concealment of my opinions in regard to the institution of
slavery. I look upon it as a great evil, and deeply lament that we have de-
rived it from the parent government, and from our ancestors. I wish
every slave in the United States was in the country of his ancestors. But
here they are, and the question is, how can they be best dealt with 1 J£ a,
state of nature existed, and we were about to lay the foundations of society,
no man would be more strongly opposed than I should be, to incorporating
the institution of slavery among its elements.

Now, here in this same book — in this same speech — in this same
extract brought forward to prove that Mr. Clay held that the negro
was not included in the Declaration of Independence — we find no
such statement on his part, but instead the declaration that it is a
great fundamental truth, which should be constantly kept in view in
the organization of society and in societies already organized. But
]£ I say a word about it ; if I attempt, as Mr. Clay said all good men
ought to do, to keep it in view; if, in this " organized society," I ask
to have the public eye turned upon it ; if I ask, in relation to the or-
ganization of new Territories, that the public eye should be turned
upon it, — forthwith I am vilified as you hear me to-day. What
have I done that I have not the license of Henry Clay's illustrious
example here in doing ? Have I done aught that I have not his au-
thority for, while maintaining that in organizing new Territories



502 ADDRESSES AJfD LETTERS OP ABRAHAM LINCOLN

and societies, this fundamental principle should be regarded, and in
organized society holding it up to the public view and recognizing
what he recognized as the great principle of free government ?

And when this new principle — this new proposition that no
human being ever thought of three years ago — is brought forward,
I combat it as having an evil tendency, if not an evfl design. I
combat it as having a tendency to dehumanize the negro — to take
away from him the right of ever striving to be a man. I combat it
as being one of the thousand things constantly done in these days
to prepare the public mind to make property, and nothing but
property, of the negro in all the States in this Union.

But there is a point that I wish, before leaving this part of the
discussion, to ask attention to. I have read, and I repeat, the words
of Henry Clay :

I desire no concealment of my opinions in regard to the institution of
slavery. I look upon it as a great evU, and deeply lament that we have de-
rived it from the parent government, and from our ancestors. I wish
every slave in the United States was in the country of his ancestors. But
here they are, and the question is, how can they best be dealt with ? If a
state of nature existed, and we were about to lay the foundations of society,
no man would be more strongly opposed than I should be, to iacorporatiag
the institution of slavery among its elements.

The principle upon which I have insisted in this canvass, is in re-
lation to laying the foundations of new societies. I have never
sought to apply these principles to the old States for the purpose of
abolishing slavery in those States. It is nothing but a miserable
perversion of what I have said, to assume that I have declared Mis-
souri, or any other slave State, shall emancipate her slaves. I have
proposed no such thing. But when Mr. Clay says that in laying the
foundations of societies in our Territories where it does not exist, he
would be opposed to the introduction of slavery as an element, I in-
sist that we have his warrant — his license for insisting upon the ex-
clusion of that element which he declared in such strong and emphatic
language was most hateful to him.

Judge Douglas has again referred to a Springfield speech in which
I said, " A house divided against itself cannot stand." The judge has
so often made the entire quotation from that speech that I can make
it from memory. I used this language:

We are now far into the fifth year since a pohcy was initiated with the
avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to the slavery agi-
tation. Under the operation of this policy, that agitation has not only not
ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion it wiU not cease un-
til a crisis shall have been reached and passed. "A house divided against
itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure permanently
half slave and haK free. I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect
it will cease to be divided. It will become aU one thing, or all the other.
Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place
it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of
ultimate extinction, or its advocates wiU push it forward tiU it shall become
alike lawful in all the States^ old as well as new. North as well as South.



ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN 503

That extract, and the sentiments expressed in it, have been ex-
tremely offensive to Judge Douglas. He has warred upon them as
Satan wars upon the Bible. His perversions upon it are endless.
Here now are my views upon it in brief.

I said we were now far into the fifth year since a policy was
initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an
end to the slavery agitation. Is it not so 1 When that Nebraska bill
was brought forward four years ago last January, was it not for the
"avowed object" of putting an end to the slavery agitation? "We
were to have no more agitation in Congress; it was all to be ban-
ished to the Territories. By the way, I wUl remark here that, as
Judge Douglas is very fond of complimenting Mr. Crittenden in
these days, Mr. Crittenden has said there was a falsehood in that
whole business, for there was no slavery agitation at that time to
allay. We were for a little while quiet on the troublesome thing,
and that very allaying-plaster of Judge Douglas's stirred it up again.
But was it not undertaken or initiated with the " confident promise"
of putting an end to the slavery agitation ? Surely it was. In every
speech you heard Judge Douglas make, until he got into this "im-
broglio," as they call it, with the administration about the Lecompton
constitution, every speech on that Nebraska bill was full of his felici-
tations that we were just at the end of the slavery agitation. The
last tip of the last joint of the old serpent's tail was just drawing out
of view. But has it proved so? I have asserted that under that
policy that agitation " has not only ceased, but has constantly aug-
mented." When was there ever a greater agitation in Congress than
last winter ? When was it as great in the country as to-day 1

There was a collateral object in the introduction of that Nebraska
policy which was to clothe the people of the Territories with a supe-
rior degree of self-government, beyond what they had ever had before.
The first object and the main one of conferring upon .the people a
higher degree of " self-government," is a question of fact to be de-
termined by you in answer to a single question. Have you ever
heard or known of a people anywhere on earth who had as little to
do as, in the first instance of its \ise, the people of Kansas had with
this same right of " self-government"? In its main policy and in
its collateral object, it has been nothing but a living, creeping lie
from the time of its introduction till to-day.

I have intimated that I thought the agitation would not cease
until a crisis should have been reached and passed. I have stated
in what way I thought it would be reached and passed. I have said
that it might go one way or the other. We might, by arresting the
further spread of it, and placing it where the fathers originally
placed it, put it where the public mind should rest in the belief that
it was in the course of ultimate extinction. Thus the agitation may
cease. It may be pushed forward until it shall become aKke lawful in
all the States, old as well as new. North as well as South. I have said,
and I repeat, my wish is that the further spread of it may be arrested,
and that it may be placed where the public mind shaU rest in the
belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction. I have ex-
pressed that as my wish. I entertain the opinion, upon evidence



504 ADDEESSES AND LETTEES OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN

sufficient to my mind, that the fathers of this government placed
that institution where the public mind did rest in the belief that it
was in the course of ultimate extinction. Let me ask why they made
provision that the source of slavery — the African slave-trade —
should be cut off at the end of twenty years? Why did tbey make
pi'ovision that in all the new territory we owned at that time, slavery
should be forever inhibited? Why stop its spread in one direction
and cut off its source in another, if they did not look to its being
placed in the course of ultimate extinction?

Again, the institution of slavery is only mentioned in the Consti-
tution of the United States two or three times, and in neither of
these cases does the word " slavery " or " negro race " occur ; but
covert language is used each time, and for a purpose full of signifi-
cance. What is the language in regard to the prohibition of the
African slave-trade 1 It runs in about this way : " The migration or
importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall
think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior
to the year 1808."

The next allusion in the Constitution to the question of slavery and
the black race, is on the subject of the basis of representation, and
there the language used is : "Eepresentatives and direct taxes shall
be apportioned among the several States which may be included
within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which
shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons,
including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding
Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons."

It says " persons," not slaves, not negroes ; but this " three fifths"
can be applied to no other class among us than the negroes.

Lastly, in the provision for the reclamation of fugitive slaves, it
is said: "No person held to service or labor in one State, under the
laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence 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." There, again, there is no mention of the word
"negro," or of slavery. In all three of these places, being the only
allusion to slavery in the instrument, covert language is used. Lan-
guage is used not suggesting that slavery existed or that the black
race were among us. And I understand the contemporaneous history
of those times to be that covert language was used with a purpose,
and that purpose was that in our Constitution, which it was hoped,
and is still hoped, will endure forever, — when it should be read by
intelligent and patriotic men, after the institution of slavery had
passed from among us, — there should be nothing on the face of the
great charter of liberty suggesting that such a thing as negro slavery
had ever existed among us. This is part of the evidence that the
fathers of the government expected and intended the institution
of slavery to come to an end. They expected and intended that it
should be in the course of ultimate extinction. And when I say
that I desire to see the further spread of it arrested, I only say I
desire to see that done which the fathers have first done. When I say
I desire to see it placed where the public mind will rest iu the belief



ADDRESSES AND LETTEES OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN 505

that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, I only say I desire to
see it placed where they placed it. It is not true that our fathers, as
J^idge Douglas assumes, made this government part slave and part
free. Understand the sense in which he puts it. He assumes that
slavery is a rightful thing within itself — was introduced by the
framers of the Constitution. The exact truth is that they found the
institution existing among us, and they left it as they found it. But
in making the government they left this institution with many clear
marks of disapprobation upon it. They found slavery among them,
and they left it among them because of the difficulty — the absolute
impossibility — of its immediate removal. And when Judge Douglas
asks me why we cannot let it remain part slave and part free, as the
fathers of the government made it, he asks a question based iipon
an assumption which is itself a falsehood; and I turn upon him
and ask him the question, when the policy that the fathers of the
government had adopted in relation to this element among us was
the best policy in the world, — the only wise policy, the only policy
that we can ever safely continue iipon, that will ever give us peace,
unless this dangerous element masters us all and becomes a national
institution, — I turn upon him and ask him why he could not leave
it alone. I turn and ask him why he was driven to the necessity of
introducing a new policy in regard to it. He has himself said he
introduced a new policy. He said so in his speech on the 22d of
March of the present year, 1858. I ask him why he coiild not let it
remain where our fathers placed it. I ask, too, of Judge Douglas
and his friends, why we shall not again place this institution upon
the basis on which the fathers left it? I ask you, when he infers
that I am in favor of setting the free and the slave States at war,
when the institution was placed in that attitude by those who made
the Constitution, did they make any war ? If we had no war out of
it when thus placed, wherein is' the ground of belief that we shall
have war out of it if we rettirn to that policy ? Have we had any
peace upon this matter springing from any other basis! I maintain
that we have not. I have proposed nothing more than a return to
the policy of the fathers.

I confess, when I propose a certain measure of policy, it is not
enough for me that I do not intend anything evil in the result, but
it is incumbent on me to show that it has not a tendency to that
result. I have met Judge Douglas in that point of view. I have
not only made the declaration that I do not mean to produce a con-
flict between the States, but I have tried to show by fair reasoning,
and I think I have shown to the minds of fair men, that I propose
nothing but what has a most peaceful tendency. The quotation
that I happened to make in that Springfield speech, that "a house
divided against itself cannot stand," and which has proved so offen-
sive to the judge, was part and parcel of the same thing. He tries
to show that variety in the domestic institutions of the different
States is necessary and indispensable. I do not dispute it. I have
no controversy with Judge Douglas about that. I shall very readily
agree with him that it would be foolish for us to insist upon hav-
ing a cranberry law here, in Illinois, where we have no cranberries.



536 ADDEESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

because they have a cranberry law in Indiana, where they have
cranberries. I should insist that it would be exceedingly wrong in
us to deny to Virginia the right to enact oyster laws, where they
have oysters, because we want no such laws here. I understand,
I hope, quite as well as Judge Douglas, or anybody else, that the
variety in the soil and climate and face of the country, and eon-
sequent variety in the industrial pursuits and productions of a
country, require systems of laws conforming to this variety in the
natural features of the country. I understand quite as well as
Judge Douglas, that if we here raise a barrel of flour more than
we want, and the Louisianians raise a barrel of sugar more than
they want, it is of mutual advantage to exchange. That produces
commerce, brings us together, and makes us better friends. We
like one another the more for it. And I understand as well as
Judge Douglas, or anybody else, that these mutual accommodations
are the cements which bind together the different parts of this
Union; that instead of being a thing to "divide the house" — fig-
uratively expressing the Union — they tend to sustain it; they are
the props of the house tending always to hold it up.

But when I have admitted all this, I ask if there is any parallel
between these things and this institution of slavery ? I do not see
that there is any parallel at all between them. Consider it. When
have we had any difficulty or quarrel amongst ourselves about the
cranberry laws of Indiana, or the oyster laws of Virginia, or the
pine-lumber laws of Maine, or the fact that Louisiana produces
sugar, and Illinois flour? When have we had any quarrels over
these things'? When have we had perfect peace in regard to this
thing which I say is an element of discord in this Union 1 We
have sometimes had peace, but when was it? It was when the in-
stitution of slavery remained quiet where it was. We have had
difficulty and turmoil whenever it has made a struggle to spread
itself where it was not. I ask, then, if experience does not speak
in thunder-tones, telling us that the policy which has given peace to
the country heretofore, being returned to, gives the greatest prom-
ise of peace again. Tou may say, and Judge Douglas has intimated
the same thing, that all this difficulty in regard to the institution
of slavery is the mere agitation of office-seekers and ambitious
northern politicians. He thinks we want to get " his place," I sup-
pose. I agree that there are ofdce-seekers amongst us. The Bible
says somewhere that we are desperately selfish. I think we would
have discovered that fact without the Bible. I do not claim that I
am any less so than the average of men, but I do claim that I am
not more selfish than Judge Douglas.

But is it true that all the difiiculty and agitation we have in re-
gard to this institution of slavery springs from office-seeking — from
the mere ambition of pohticians? Is that the truth? How many
times have we had danger from this question ? Go back to the day
of the Missouri Compromise. Go back to the nullification question,
at the bottom of which lay this same slavery question. Go back to
the time of the annexation of Texas. Go back to the troubles that
led to the compromise of 1850. You will find that every time, with



ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN 507

the single exception of the nullification question, they sprang frona
an endeavor to spread this institution. There never was a party in
the history of this country, and there probably never will be, of
suflcient strength to disturb the general peace of the country.
Parties themselves may be divided and quarrel on minor questions,
yet it extends not beyond the parties themselves. But does not this
question make a disturbance outside of political circles? Does it
not enter into the churches and rend them asunder ? What divided
the great Methodist Church into two parts. North and South? What
has raised this constant disturbance in every Presbyterian general
assembly that meets? What disturbed the Unitarian Church in
this very city two years ago? What has jarred and shaken the
great American Tract Society recently — not yet splitting it, but
sure to divide it in the end? Is it not this same mighty, deep-
seated power that somehow operates on the minds of men, exciting
and stirring them up in every avenue of society — in politics, in
religion, in literature, in morals, in all the manifold relations of
life ? Is this the work of politicians ? Is that irresistible power,
which for fifty years has shaken the government and agitated the
people, to be stilled and subdued by pretending that it is an exceed-
ingly simple thing, and we ought not to talk about it? If you will
get everybody else to stop talking about it, I assure you I will quit
before they have half done so. But where is the philosophy or
statesmanship which assumes that you can quiet that disturbing
element in our society which has disturbed us for more than half a
century, which has been the only serious danger that has threat-
ened our institutions — I say, where is the philosophy or the states-
manship based on the assumption that we are to quit talking about
it, and that the public mind is all at once to cease being agitated by
it ? Yet this is the policy here in the North that Douglas is advo-
cating — that we are to care nothing about it ! I ask you if it is not
a false philosophy ? Is it not a false statesmanship that undertakes
to build up a system of policy upon the basis of caring nothing
about the very thing that everybody does care the most about — a
thing which all experience has shown we care a very great deal
about ?

The judge alludes very often in the course of his remarks to the
exclusive right which the States have to decide the whole thing for
themselves. I agree with him very readily that the different States
have that right. He is but fighting a man of straw when he assumes
that I am contending against the right of the States to do as they
please about it. Our controversy with him is in regard to the new
Territories. We agree that when the States come in as States they
have the right and the power to do as they please. We have no power
as citizens of the free States, or in our federal capacity as members of
the Federal Union through the General G-overnment, to disturb
slavery in the States where it exists. We profess constantly that we
have no more inclination than belief in the power of the government
to disturb it; yet we are driven constantly to defend ourselves from
the assumption that we are warring upon the rights of the States.
What I insist upon is, that the new Territories shall be kept free from



508 ADDEESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

it while in the territorial condition. Judge Douglas assumes that
we have no interest in them — that we have no right whatever to in-
terfere. I think we have some interest. I think that as white men
we have. Do we not wish for an outlet for our surplus population,
if I may so express myself 1 Do we not feel an interest iu getting to
that outlet with such institutions as we would like to have prevail
there 1 If you go to the Territoi-y opposed to slavery, and another man
comes upon the same ground with his slave, upon the assumption
that the things are equal, it turns out that he has the equal right all
his way, and you have no part of it your way. If he goes in and
makes "it a slave Territory, and by consequence a slave State, is it
not time that those who desire to have it a free State were on equal
ground ? Let me suggest it in a different way. How mauy Demo-
crats are thereabout here ["A thousand"] who have left slave States
and come into the free State of Illinois to get rid of the institution
of slavery? [Another voice : "A thousand and one."] I reckon there
are a thousand and one. I will ask you, if the policy you are now
advocating had prevailed when this country was in a territorial con-
dition, where would you have gone to get rid of it? Where would
you have found your free State or Territory to go to? And when
hereafter, for any cause, the people in this place shall desire to find
new homes, if they wish to be rid of the institution, where will they
find the place to go to?

Now, irrespective of the moral aspect of this question as to whether
there is a right or wrong in enslaving a negro, I am still in favor of



Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 67 of 91)