Abraham Lincoln.

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

. (page 68 of 91)
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our new Territories being in such a condition that white men may
find a home — may find some spot where they can better their condi-
tion — where they can settle upon new soil, and better their condition
in life. I am in favor of this not merely (I must say it here as I
have elsewhere) for our own people who are born amongst us, but
as an outlet for free white people everywhere, the world over — in
which Hans, and Baptiste, and Patrick, and all other men from all
the world, may find new homes and better their condition in life._

I have stated upon former occasions, and I may as well state again,
what I understand to be the real issue of this controversy between
Judge Douglas and myself. On the point of my wanting to make
war between the free and the slave States, there has been no issue
between us. So, too, when he assumes that I am in favor of intro-
ducing a perfect social and political equality between the white and
black races. These are false issues, upon which Judge Douglas has
tried to force the controversy. There is no foundation in truth for
the charge that I maintain either of these propositions. The real
issue in this controversy— the one pressing upon every mind— is the
sentiment on the part of one class that looks upon the institution of
slavery as a wrong, and of another class that does not look upon it
as a wrong. The sentiment that contemplates the institution of
slavery in this country as a wrong is the sentiment of the Republi-
can paity. It is the sentiment around which all their actions, all
their arguments, circle; from which all their propositions radiate.
They look upon it as being a moral, social, and political wrong; and
while they contemplate it as such, they nevertheless have due regard


for its actual existence among us, and the difficulties of getting rid
of it in any satisfactory way, and to all the constitutional obligations
thrown about it. Yet having a due regard for these, they desire a
policy in regard to it that looks to its not creating any more danger.
They insist that it, as far as maybe, be treated as a wrong, and one
of the methods of treating it as a wrong is to make provision that it
shall grow no larger. They also desire a policy that looks to a
peaceful end of slavery some time, as being a wrong. These are the
views they entertain in regard to it, as I understand them ; and all
their sentiments, all their arguments and propositions, are brought
within this range. I have said, and I repeat it here, that if there be
a man amongst us who does not think that the institution of slavery
is wrong in any one of the aspects of which I have spoken, he is mis-
placed, and ought not to be with us. And if there be a man amongst
us who is so impatient of it as a wrong as to disregard its actual
presence among us and the difficulty of getting rid of it suddenly in
a satisfactory way, and to disregard the constitutional obligations
thrown about it, that man is misplaced if he is on our platform.
We disclaim sympathy with him in practical action. He is not
placed properly with us.

On this subject of treating it as a wrong, and limiting its spread,
let me say a word. Has anything ever threatened the existence of
this Union save and except this very institution of slavery? What
is it that we hold most dear amongst us? Our own liberty and pros-
perity. What has ever threatened our liberty and prosperity save
and except this institution of slavery? If this is true, how do you
propose to improve the condition of things by enlarging slavery —
by spreading it out and making it bigger? You may have a wen or
cancer upon your person, and not be able to cut it out lest you bleed
to death; but surelj"^ it is no way to cure it, to engraft it and spread
it over your whole body. That is no proper way of treating what
you regard as a wrong. You see this peaceful way of dealing with it
as a wrong — restricting the spread of it, and not allowing it to go
into new countries where it has not already existed. That is the
peaceful way, the old-fashioned way, the way in which the fathers
themselves set us the example.

On the other hand, I have said there is a sentiment which treats
it as not being wrong. That is the Democratic sentiment of this
day. I do not mean to say that every man who stands within that
range positively asserts that it is right. That class will include all
who positively assert that it is right, and all who, like Judge Douglas,
treat it as indifferent, and do not say it is either right or wrong.
These two classes of men fall within the general class of those who
do not look upon it as a wrong. And if there be among you any-
body who supposes that he, as a Democrat, can consider himself " as
much opposed to slavery as anybody," I would Uke to reason with
him. You never treat it as a wrong. What other thing that you
consider as a wrong, do you deal with as you deal with that ? Per-
haps you say it is wrong, but your leader never does, and you
quarrel with anybody who says it is wrong. Although you pretend
to say so yourself, you can find no fit place to deal with it as a wrong.


You must not say anything about it in the free States, because it is
not here. You must not say anything about it in the slave States,
because it is there. You must not say anything about it in the
pulpit, because that is religion, and has nothing to do with it. You
must not say anything about it in politics, because that will disturb
the security of " my place." There is no place to talk about it as
being a wrong, although you say yourself it is a wrong. But finally
you will screw yourself 'up to'^the belief that if the people of the,
slave States should adopt a system of gradual emancipation on the
slavery question, you would be in favor of it. You would be in
favor of it ! You say that is getting it in the right place, and you
would be glad to see it succeed. But you are deceiving yourself.
You all know that Frank Blair and Gi-atz Brown, down there in St.
Louis, undertook to introduce that system in Missouri. They fought
as valiantly as they could for the system of gradual emancipation
which you pretend you would be glad to see succeed. Now I will
bring you to the test. After a hard fight, they were beaten; and
when the news came over here, you threw up your hats and hurrahed
for Democracy." More than that, take all the argument made in
favor of the system you have proposed, and it carefully excludes
the idea that there is anything wrong in the institution of slavery.
The arguments to sustain that policy carefully exclude it. Even
here to-day you heard Judge Douglas quarrel with me because I
uttered a wish that it might some time come to an end. Although
Henry Clay could say he wished every slave in the United States
was in the country of his ancestors, I am denounced by those pre-
tending to respect Henry Clay, for uttering a wish that it might
some time, in some peaceful way, come to an end.

The Democratic policy in regard to that institution will not
tolerate the merest breath, the slightest hint, of the least degree of
wrong about it. Try it by some of Judge Douglas's arguments.
He says he "don't care whether it is voted up or voted down" in
the Territories. I do not care myself, in dealing with that expres-
sion, whether it is intended to be expressive of his individual senti-
ments on the subject, or only of the national policy he desires to
have established. It is alike valuable for my purpose. Any man
can say that who does not see anything wrong in slavery, but no man
can logically say it who does see a wrong in it ; because no man can
logically say he don't care whether a wrong is voted up or voted
down. He may say he don't care whether an indifferent thing is
voted up or down, but he must logically have a choice between a
right thing and a wrong thing. He contends that whatever com-
munity wants slaves has a right to have them. So they have if it is
not a wrong. But if it is a wrong, he cannot say people have a right
to do wrong. He says that, upon the score of equality, slaves should
be allowed to go into a new Territory like other j)roperty. This is
strictly logical if there is no difference between it and other pro-
erty. If it and other property are equal, his argument is entirely
ogical. But if you insist that one is wrong and the other right,
there is no use to institute a comparison between ri^ht and wrong.
You may turn over everything in the Democratic pohcy from begin-



ning to end, whether in the shape it takes on the statute-book, in
the shape it takes in the Dred Scott decision, in the shape it takes
in conversation, or the shape it takes in short maxim-like arguments
— it everywhere carefully excludes the idea that there is anything
wrong in it.

That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this
country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall
be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles
— right and wrong — throughout the world. They are the two
principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time;
and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right
of humanity, and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same
principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit
that says, " You toil and work and earn bread, and I '11 eat it." No
matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king
who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit
of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving
another race, it is the same tyrannical principle. I was glad to
express my gratitude at Quincy, and I reexpress it here to Judge
Douglas — that he looks to no end of the institution of slavery.
That will help the people to see where the struggle really is. It wUl
hereafter place with us all men who really do wish the wrong may
have an end. And whenever we can get rid of the fog which ob-
scures the real question, — when we can get Judge Douglas and his
friends to avow a policy looking to its perpetuation, — we can get out
from among them that class of men and bring them to the side of
those who treat it as a wrong. Then there wiU soon be an end of it,
and that end will be its " ultimate extinction." Whenever the issue can
be distinct^ made, and all extraneous matter thrown out, so that men
can fairly see the real difference between the parties, this controversy
will soon be settled, and it will be done peaceably too. There will
be no war, no violence. It will be placed again where the wisest and
best men of the world placed it. Brooks of South Carolina once
declared that when this Constitution was framed, its framers did not
look to the institution existing until this day. When he said this, I
think he stated a fact that is fully borne out by the history of the
times. But he also said they were better and wiser men than the
men of these days; yet the men of these days had experience which
they had not, and by the invention of the cotton-gin it became a
necessity in this country that slavery should be perpetual. I now
say that, willingly or unwillingly, purposely or without purpose.
Judge Douglas has been the most prominent instrument in chang-
ing the position of the institution of slavery, — which the fathers of
the government expected to come to an end ere this, — and putting
it upon Brooks's cotton-gin basis — placing it where he openly con-
fesses he has no desire there shall ever be an end of it.

I understand I have ten minutes yet. I will employ it in saying
something about this argument Judge Douglas uses, while he sus-
tains the Dred Scott decision, that the people of the Territories can
still somehow exclude slavery. The first thing I ask attention to is
the fact that Judge Douglas constantly said, before the decision,


tliat whether they could or not, was a question for the Supreme
Court. But after the court has made the decision, he virtually says
it is not a question for the Supreme Court, but for the people.
And how is it he teUs us they can exclude it? He says it needs
"police regulations," and that admits of "unfriendly legislation."
Although it is a right established by the Constitution of the United
States to take a slave into a Territory of the United States and
hold him as property, yet unless the territorial legislature will give
friendly legislation, and, more especially, if they adopt unfriendly
legislation, they can practically exclude him. Now, without meeting
this proposition as a matter of fact, I pass to consider the real con-
stitutional obligation. Let me take the gentleman who looks me in
the face before me, and let us suppose that he is a member of the
territorial legislature. The first thing he will do will be to swear
that he wiU support the Constitution of the United States. His
neighbor by his side in the Territory has slaves and needs ter-
ritorial legislation to enable him to enjoy that constitutional right.
Can he withhold the legislation which his neighbor needs for the
enjoyment of a right which is fixed in his favor in the Constitution
of the United States which he has sworn to support? Can he with-
hold it without violating his oath? And more especially, can he pass
unfriendly legislation to violate his oath? Why, this is a monstrous
sort of talk about the Constitution of the United States ! There has
never been as outlandish or lawless a doctrine from the mouth of
any respectable man on earth. I do not believe it is a constitutional
right to hold slaves in a Territory of the United States. I believe
the decision was improperly made, and I go for reversing it. Judge
Douglas is furious against those who go for reversing a decision.
But he is for legislating it out of all force while the law itself stands.
I repeat that there has never been so monstrous a doctrine uttered
from the mouth of a respectable man.

I suppose most of us (I know it of myself) believe that the people
of the Southern States are entitled to a congressional fugitive-slave
law; that is a right fixed in the Constitution. But it cannot be
made available to them without congressional legislation. In the
judge's language, it is a "barren right" which needs legislation
before it can become efiieient and valuable to the persons to whom
it is guaranteed. And, as the right is constitutional, I agree that
the legislation shall be granted to it. Not that we like the insti-
tution of slavery; we profess to have no taste for running and
catching negroes — at least, I profess no taste for that job at all.
Why then do I yield support to a fugitive-slave law ? Because I do
not understand that the Constitution, which guarantees that right,
can be supported without it. And if I believed that the right to
hold a slave in a Territory was equally fixed in the Constitution
with the right to reclaim fugitives, I should be bound to give it the
legislation necessary to support it. I say that no man can deny his
obligation to give the necessary legislation to support slavery in a
Territory, who believes it is a constitutional right to have it there.
No man can, who does not give the Abolitionists an argument to
deny the obUgation enjoined by the Constitution to enact a fugitive-


slave law. Try it now. It is the strongest Abolition argument ever
made. I say, if that Dred Scott decision is correct, then the ri^ht
to hold slaves in a Territory is equally a constitutional right with
the right of a slaveholder to have his runaway returned. No one
can show the distinction between them. The one is express, so that
we cannot deny it; the other is construed to be in the Constitution,
so that he who believes the decision to be correct believes in the
right. And the man who argues that by unfriendly legislation, in
spite of that constitutional right, slavery may be driven from the
Territories, cannot avoid furnishing an argument by which Aboli-
tionists may deny the obligation to return fugitives, and claim the
power to pass laws unfriendly to the right of the slaveholder to
reclaim his fugitive. I do not know how such an argument may
strike a popular assembly like this, but I defy anybody to go before
a body of men whose minds are educated to estimating evidence and
reasoning, and show that there is an iota of difference between the
constitutional right to reclaim a fugitive, and the constitutional
right to hold a slave, in a Territory, provided this Dred Scott deci-
sion is correct. I defy any man to make an argument that will
justify unfriendly legislation to deprive a slaveholder of his rigfht
to hold his slave in a Territory, that will not equally, in all its
length, breadth, and thickness, furnish an argument for nullifying
the fugitive-slave law. Why, there is not such an Abolitionist in
the nation as Douglas, after all.

Mr. Douglas's Rejoinder in the Alton Joint Delate.

Mr. Lincoln has concluded his remarks by saying that there is not
such an Abolitionist as I am in all America. If he could make the
Abolitionists of Illinois believe that, he would not have much show
for the Senate. Let him make the Abolitionists believe the truth of
that statement, and his political back is broken.

His first criticism upon me is the expression of his hope that the
war of the administration will be prosecuted against me and the
Democratic party of this State with vigor. He wants that war
prosecuted with vigor; I have no doubt of it. His hopes of success,
and the hopes of his party, depend solely upon it. They have no
chance of destroying the Democracy of this State except by the aid
of federal patronage. He has all the federal office-holders here as
his allies, running separate tickets against the Democracy to divide
the party, although the leaders all intend to vote directly the Aboli-
tion ticket, and only leave the greenhorns to vote this separate ticket
who refuse to go into the Abolition camp. There is something really
refreshing in the thought that Mr. Lincoln is in favor of prosecuting
one war vigorously. It is the first war I ever knew him to be in favor
of prosecuting. It is the first war that I ever knew him to believe to
be just or constitutional. Wlien the Mexican war was being waged,
and the American army was surrounded by the enemy in Mexico, he
thought the war was unconstitutional, unnecessary, and unjust. He
thought it was not commenced on the right spot.
Vol. I.— 33.


"When I made an incidental allusion of that kind in the joint dis-
cussion over at Charleston, some weeks ago, Lincoln, in replying,
said that I, Douglas, had charged him with voting against supplies
for the Mexican war, and then he reared up, full length, and swore
that he never voted against the supplies, — that it was a slander, —
and caught hold of Ficklin, who sat on the stand, and said, " Here,
Fieklin, tell the people that it is a lie." Well, Ficklin, who had
served in Congress with him, stood up and told them all he recol-
lected about it. It was that when George Ashmun, of Massachusetts,
brought forward a resolution declaring the war unconstitutional,
unnecessary, and unjust, Lincoln had voted for it. "Yes," said Lin-
coln, " I did." Thus he confessed that he voted that the war was
wrong, that our country was in the wrong, and consequently that
the Mexicans were in the right ; but charged that 1 had slandered
him by saying that he voted against the supplies. 1 never charged
him with voting against the supplies in my life, because I knew that
he was not in Congress when they were voted. The war was com-
menced on the 13th day of May, 1846, and on that day we appro-
priated in Congress ten millions of dollars and fifty thousand men to
prosecute it. During the same session we voted more men and more
money, and at the next session we voted more men and more money,
so that by the time Mr. Lincoln entered Congress we had enough
men and enough money to carry on the war, and had no occasion to
vote for any more. When he got into the House, being opposed to
the war, and not being able to stop the supplies, because they had all
gone forward, aU he could do was to follow the lead of Corwin, and
prove that the war was not begun on the right spot, and that it was
unconstitutional, unnecessary, and wron g. Remember, too, that this
he did after the war had been begun. It is one thing to be opposed
to the declaration of a war, another and very different thing to take
sides with the enemy against your own country after the war has
been commenced. Our army was in Mexico at the time, many battles
had been fought ; our citizens, who were defending the honor of their
country's flag, were surrounded by the daggers, the guns, and the
poison of the enemy. Then it was that Corwin made his speech in
whicli he declared that the American soldiers ought to be welcomed
by the Mexicans with bloody hands and hospitable graves ; then it
was that Ashmun and Lincoln voted in the House of Representa-
tives that the war was unconstitutional and unjust ; and Ashmun's
resolution, Corwin's speech, and Lincoln's vote were sent to Mexico
and read at the head of the Mexican army, to prove to them that
there was a Mexican party in tlie Congress of the United States who
were doing all in their power to aid them. That a man who takes
sides with the common enemj^ against his own country in time of
war should rejoice in a war being made on me now, is very natural.
And, in my opinion, no other kind of a man would rejoice in it.

Mr. Lincoln has told you a great deal to-day about his being an
old-line Clay Whig. Bear in mind that there are a great many old
Clay Whigs down in this region. It is more agreeable, therefore,
for him to talk about the old Clay Whig party than it is for him to
talk Abolitionism. We did not hear much about the old Clay Whig


party up in the Abolition districts. How much of an old-line Henry
Clay Whig was he? Have you read General Singleton's speech at
Jacksonville? You know that General Singleton was, for twenty-
five years, the confidential friend of Henry Clay in Illinois, and he
testified that in 1847, when the constitutional convention of this
State was in session, the Whig members were invited to a Whig
caucus at the house of Mr. Lincoln's brother-in-law, where Mr,
Lincoln proposed to throw Henry Clay overboard and take up Gen-
eral Taylor in his place, giving, as his reason, that if the Whigs did
not take up General Taylor, the Democrats would. Singleton testi-
fies that Lincoln, in that speech, urged, as another reason for throw-
ing Henry Clay overboard, that the Whigs had fought long enough
for principle, and ought to begin to fight for success. Singleton
also testifies that Lincoln's speech did have the effect of cutting
Clay's throat, and that he (Singleton) and others withdrew from the
caucus in indignation. He further states that when they got to
Philadelphia to attend the national convention of the Whig party,
that Lincoln was there, the bitter and deadly enemy of Clay, and
that he tried to keep him (Singleton) out of the convention because
he insisted on voting for Clay, and Lincoln was determined to have
Taylor. Singleton says that Lincoln rejoiced with very great joy
when he found the mangled remains of the murdered Whig states-
man lying cold before him. Now Mr. Lincoln tells you that he is
an old-line Clay Whig ! General Singleton testifies to the facts I
have narrated, in a public speech which has been printed and cir-
culated broadcast over the State for weeks, yet not a lisp have we
heard from Mr. Lincoln on the subject, except that he is an old
Clay Whig.

What part of Henry Clay's policy did Lincoln ever advocate ? He
was in Congress in 1848-49, when the Wilmot proviso warfare dis-
turbed the peace and harmony of the country, until it shook the
foundation of the republic from its center to its circumference. It
was that agitation that brought Clay forth from his retirement at
Ashland again to occupy his seat in the Senate of the United States,
to see if he could not, by his great wisdom and experience, and the
renown of his name, do something to restore peace and quiet to a
disturbed country. Who got up that sectional strife that Clay had
to be called upon to quell ? I have heard Lincoln boast that he voted
forty-two times for the Wilmot proviso, and that he would have

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 68 of 91)