Abraham Lincoln.

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

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substantially, enters into the administration of the government, what
lies at the bottom of all of it is public opinion. I lay down the propo-
sition that Judge Douglas is not only the man that promises you in
advance a hold upon the North, and support in the North, but that he
constantly molds public opinion to your ends; that in every possible


way he can, he molds the public opinion of the North to your ends;
and if there are a few things in which he seems to be against you, —
a few things which he says that appear to be against you, and a few
that he forbears to say which you would like to have him say, — you
ought to remember that the saying of the one, or the forbearing
to say the other, would lose his hold upon the North, and, by con-
sequence, would lose his capacity to serve you.

Upon this subject of molding public opinion, I call your atten-
tion to the fact — for a well-established fact it is — that the judge
never says your institution of slavery is wrong : he never says it is
right, to be sure, but he never says it is wrong. There is not a
public man in the United States, I believe, with the exception of
benator Douglas, who has not, at some time in his life, declared his
opinion whether the thing is right or wrong ; but Senator Douglas
never declares it is wrong. He leaves himself at perfect liberty to
do aU in your favor which he would be hindered from doing if he
were to declare the thing to be wrong. On the contrary, he takes
all the chances that he has for inveigling the sentiment of the North,
opposed to slavery, into your support, by never saying it is right.
This you ought to set down to his credit. You ought to give him
full credit for this much, little though it be in comparison to the
whole which he does for you.

Some other things I will ask your attention to. He said upon the
floor of the United States Senate, and he has repeated it, as I under-
stand, a great many times, that he does not care whether slavery is
" voted up or voted down." This again shows you, or ought to show
you, if you would reason upon it, that he does not believe it to be
wrong ;' for a man may say, when he sees nothing wrong in a thing,
that he does not care whether it be voted up or voted down ; but no
man can logically say that he cares not whether a thing goes up or
goes down which appears to him to be wrong. You therefore have
a demonstration in this, that to Judge Douglas's mind your favorite
institution, which you desire to have spread out and made per-
petual, is no wrong.

Another thing he tells you, in a speech made at Memphis, in Ten-
nessee, shortly after the canvass in Illinois, last year. He there
distinctly told the people that there was a " line drawn by the Al-
mighty across this continent, on the one side of which the soil must
always be cultivated by slaves " ; that he did not pretend to know
exactly where that line was, but that there was such a line. I want
to ask your attention to that proposition again — that there is one
portion of this continent where the Almighty has designed the soil
shall always be cultivated by slaves ; that its being cultivated by
slaves at that place is right ; that it has the direct sympathy and au-
thority of the Almighty. Whenever you can get these Northern audi-
ences to adopt the opinion that slavery is right on the other side of
the Ohio ; whenever you can get them, in pursuance of Douglas's
views, to adopt that sentiment, they will very readily make the other
argument, which is perfectly logical, that that which is right on that
side of the Ohio cannot be wrong on this, and that if you have that
property on that side of the Ohio, under the seal and stamp of the
Vol. I.— 36.


Almighty, when by any means it escajoes over here, it is wrcng to
have constitutions and laws "to devil" you about it. So Douglas
is molding the public opinion of the North, first to say that the
thing is right in your State over the Ohio River, and hence to say
that that which is right there is not wrong here, and that all laws
and constitutions here, recognizing it as being wrong, are themselves
wrong, and ought to be repealed and abrogated. He will teU you,
men of Ohio, that if you choose here to have laws against slavery, it
is in conformity to the idea that your climate is not suited to it; that
your climate is not suited to slave labor, and therefore you have
constitutions and laws against it.

Let us attend to that argument for a little while, and see if it be
sound. You do not raise sugar-cane (except the new-fashioned sugar-
cane, and you won't raise that long), but they do raise it in Louisi-
ana. You don't raise it in Ohio because you can't raise it profitably,
because the climate don't suit it. They do raise it in Louisiana be-
cause there it is profitable. Now Douglas will tell you that is pre-
cisely the slavery question : that they do have slaves there because
they are profitable, and you don't have them here because they are
not profitable. If that is so, then it leads to dealing with the one
precisely as with the other. Is there, then, anything in the constitu-
tion or laws of Ohio against raising sugar-cane? Have you found it
necessary to put any such provision in your law? Surely not ! No
man desires to raise sugar-cane in Ohio ; but if any man did desire
to do so, you would say it was a tyrannical law that forbids his
doing so; and whenever you shall agree with Douglas, whenever
your minds are brought to adopt his argument, as surely you will
have reached the conclusion that although slavery is not profitable
in Ohio, if any man want it, it is wrong to him not to let him have it.

In this matter Judge Douglas is preparing the pubHe mind for
you of Kentucky, to make perpetual that good thing in your estima-
tion, about which you and I differ.

In this connection let me ask your attention to another thing.
I believe it is safe to assert that, five years ago, no living man had
expressed the opinion that the negro had no share in the Declara-
tion of Independence. Let me state that again : Five years ago no
living man had expressed the opinion that the negro had no share
in the Declaration of Independence. If there is in this large audi-
ence any man who ever knew of that opinion being put upon paper
as much as five years ago, I will be obliged to him now, or at a sub-
sequent time, to show it.

If that be true, I wish you then to note the next fact — that within
the space of five years Senator Douglas, in the argument of this
question, has got his entire party, so far as I know, without excep-
tion, to join in saying that the negro has no share in the Declaration
of Independence. If there be now in all these United States one
Douglas man that does not say this, I have been unable upon any
occasion to scare him up. Now, if none of you said this five years
ago, and all of you say it now, that is a matter that you Kentuckians
ought to note. That is a vast change in the Northern public senti-
ment upon that question.


Of what tendency is that change ? The tendency of that change
s to bring the public mind to the conclusion that when men are
spoken of, the negro is not meant ; that when ne^oes are spoken of,
jrutes alone are contemplated. That change in public sentiment
las already degraded the black man, in the estimation of Douglas
md his followers, from the condition of a man of some sort, and
issigned him to the condition of a brute. Now you Kentuckians
Dught to give Douglas credit for this. That is the largest possible
stride that can be made in regard to the perpetuation of your good
;hing of slavery.

In Kentucky, perhaps, — in many of the slave States certainly, —
^ou are trying to establish the rightfulness of slavery by reference to
the Bible. You are trying to show that slavery existed in the Bible
times by divine ordinance. Now Douglas is wiser than you for
fOUT own benefit, upon that subject. Douglas knows that whenever
jrou establish that slavery was right by the Bible, it will occur that
that slavery was the slavery of the white man, — of men without ref-
3rence to color, — and he knows very well that you may entertain that
idea in Kentucky as much as you please, but you will never win any
Northern support upon it. He makes a wiser argument for you ; he
makes the argument that the slavery of the black man, the slavery
ot the man who has a skin of a different color from your own, is
right. He thereby brings to your support Northern voters who could
not for a moment be brought by your own argument of the Bible-
right of slavery. Will you not give him credit for that? Will you
not say that in this matter he is more wisely for you than you are
for yourselves 1

Now, having established with his entire party this doctrine, — hav-
ing been entirely successful in that branch of his efforts in your
behalf, — he is ready for another.

At this same meeting at Memphis, he declared that in all con-
tests between the negro and the white man, he was for the white
man, but that in all questions between the negro and the crocodile
tie was for the negro. He did not make that declaration accidentally
at Memphis. He made it a great many times in the canvass in Illi-
nois last year (though I don't know that it was reported in any of his
speeches there; but he frequently made it). I believe he repeated it
at Columbus, and I should not wonder if he repeated it here. It is,
then, a deliberate way of expressing himself upon that subject. It
is a matter of mature deliberation with him thus to express himself
upon that point of his case. It therefore requires some deliberate

The first inference seems to be that if you do not enslave the negro
you are wronging the white man in some way or other; and that
whoever is opposed to the negro being enslaved is, in some way or
ather, against the white man. Is not that a falsehood? If there
was a necessary conflict between the white man and the negro, I
should be for the white man as much as Judge Douglas; but I say
there is no such necessary conflict. I say that there is room enough
for us all to be free, and that it not only does not wrong the white
man that the negro should be free, but it positively wrongs the


mass of the white men that the negro should be enslaved; that the
mass of white men are really injured by the effects of slave-labor in
the vicinity of the fields of their own labor.

But I do not desire to dwell upon this branch of the question more
than to say that this assumption of his is false, and I do hope that
that fallacy will not long prevail in the minds of intelligent white
men. At all events, you ought to thank Judge Douglas for it. It is
for your benefit it is made.

The other branch of it is, that in a struggle between the negro and
the crocodile, he is for the negro. Well, I don't know that there is
any struggle between the negro and the crocodile, either. I suppose
that if a crocodile (or, as we old Ohio River boatmen used to call
them, alligators) should come across a white man, he would kill him
if he could, and so he would a negro. But what, at last, is this pro-
position ? I believe that it is a sort of proposition in proportion,
which may be stated thus: "As the negro is to the white man, so is
the crocodile to the negro; and as the negro may rightfully treat the
crocodile as a beast or reptile, so the white man may rightfully treat
the negro as a beast or reptile. " That is really the point of sill that
argument of his.

Now, my brother Kentiickians, who believe in this, you ought to
thank Judge Douglas for having put that in a much more taking
way than any of yourselves have done.

Again, Douglas's great principle, "popular sovereignty," as he
calls it, gives you by natural consequence the revival of the slave-
trade whenever you want it. If you are disposed to question this,
listen awhile, consider awhile, what I shall advance in support of
that proposition.

He says that it is the sacred right of the man who goes into the
Territories to have slavery if he wants it. Grant that for argu-
ment's sake. Is it not the sacred right of the man who don't go
there, equally to buy slaves in Africa, if he wants them ? Can you
point out the difference 1 The man who goes into the Territories of
Kansas and Nebraska, or any other new Territory, with the sacred
right of taking a slave there which belongs to him, would certainly
have no more right to take one there than I would who own no slave,
but who would desire to buy one and take him there. You will not
say — you, the friends of Judge Douglas — but that the man" who
does not own a slave, has an equal right to buy one and take him to
the Territory as the other does ?

I say that Douglas's popular sovereignty, establishing his sacred
right in the people, if you please, if carried to its logical conclusion,
gives equally the sacred right to the people of the States or the
Territories themselves to buy slaves, wherever they can buy them
cheapest; and if any man can show a distinction, I should like to
bear him try it. If any man can show how the people of Kansas
have a better right to slaves because they want themj than the peo-
ple of G-eorgia have to buy them in Africa, I want him to do it. I
think it cannot be done. If it is "popular sovereignty" for the
people to have slaves because they want them, it is popular sover-
eignty for them to buy them in Africa, because they desire to do so.


I know tliat Douglas has recently made a little effort — not seem-
igto notice that he had a different theory — has made an effort to
et rid of that. He has written a letter, addressed to somebody, I
elieve, who resides in Iowa, declaring his opposition to the repeal of
he laws that prohibit the African slave-trade. H^ bases his oppo-
ition to such repeal upon the ground that these laws are themselves
ne of the compromises of the Constitution of the United States,
fow it would be very interesting to see Judge Douglas, or any of
lis friends, turn to the Constitution of the United States and point
ut that compromise, to show where there is any compromise in the
)onstitution, or provision in the Constitution, expressed or implied,
)y which the administrators of that Constitution are under any
bligation to repeal the African slave-trade. I know, or at least I
hink I know, that the framers of that Constitution did expect that
he African slave-trade would be abolished at the end of twenty
ears, to which time their prohibition against its being abolished
xtended. I think there is abundant contemporaneous history to
how that the framers of the Constitution expected it to be abolished.
Jut while they so expected, they gave nothing for that expectation,
,nd they put no provision in the Constitution requiring it should be
abolished. The migration or importation of such persons as the
States shall see fit to admit shall not be prohibited, but a certain tax
aight be levied upon such importation. But what was to be done
f ter that time ? The Constitution is as sUent about that as it is
Uent, personally, about myself. There is absolutely nothing in it
,bout that subject — there is only the expectation of the framers of
he Constitution that the slave-trade would be abolished at the end
f that time, and they expected it would be abolished, owing to
lublic sentiment, before that time, and they put that pro\ision in,
a order that it should not be abolished before that time, for reasons
rhich I suppose they thought to be sound ones, but which I will not
LOW try to enumerate before you.

But while they expected the slave-trade would be abolished at
hat time, they expected that the spread of slavery into the new
territories should also be restricted. It is as easy to prove that
he framers of the Constitution of the United States expected that
lavery should be prohibited from extending into the new Terri-
ories, as it is to prove that it was expected that the slave-trade
hould be abolished. Both these things were expected. One was
10 more expected than the other, and one was no more a compro-
Qise of the Constitution than the other. There was nothing said in
he Constitution in regard to the spread of slavery into the Ter-
itories. I grant that, but there was something very important said
ibout it by the same generation of men in the adoption of the old
•rdinance of '87, through the influence of which you here in Ohio,
lur neighbors in Indiana, we in Illinois, our neighbors in Michigan
md Wisconsin, are happy, prosperous, teeming millions of free men.
[hat generation of men, though not to the full extent members of
he convention that framed the Constitution, were to some extent
aembers of that convention, holding seats at the same time in one
)ody and the other, so that if there was any compromise on either


of these subjects, the strong evidence is that that compromise was in
favor of the restriction of slavery from the new Territories.

But Douglas says that he is unalterably opposed to the repeal of
those laws ; because, in his view, it is a compromise of the Constitu-
tion. You Kentuekians, no doubt, are somewhat oflEended with
that ! Tou ought not to be ! You ought to be patient ! You ought
to know that if he said less than that, he would lose the power of
" higging " the Northern States to your support. Eeally, what you
would push him to do would take from him his entire power to serve
you. And you ought to remember how long, by precedent, Judge
Douglas holds himself obliged to stick by compromises. You ought
to remember that by the time you yourselves think you are ready to
inaugurate measures for the revival of the African slave-trade, that
sufficient time will have arrived, by precedent, for Judge Douglas
to break through that compromise. He says now nothing more
strong than he said in 1849 when he declared in favor of the Mis-
souri Compromise — that precisely four years and a quarter after he
declared that compromise to be a sacred thing, which " no ruthless
hand would ever dared to touch," he, himself, broiight forward the
measure ruthlessly to destroy it. By a mere calculation of time it
will only be four years more until he is ready to take back his pro-
fession about the sacredness of the compromise abolishing the slave-
trade. Precisely as soon as you are ready to have his services in
that direction, by fair calculation, you may be sure of having them.

But you remember and set down to Judge Douglas's debt, or dis-
credit, that he, last year, said the people of Territories can, in spite
of the Dred Scott decision, exclude your slaves from those Territo-
ries ; that he declared by " unfriendly legislation" the extension of
your property into the new Territories may be cut off in the teeth of
that decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.

He assumed that position at Freeport, on the 27th of August, 1858.
He said that the people of the Territories can exclude slavery, in so
many words. You ought, however, to bear in mind that he has
never said it since. You may hunt in every speech that he has since
made, and he has never used that expression once. He has never
seemed to notice that he is stating his views differently from what he
did then ; but by some sort of accident, he has always really stated it
differently. He has always since then declared that ''the Consti-
tution does not carry slavery into the Territories of the United
States beyond the power of the people legally to control it, as other
property." Now there is a difference in the language used upon that
former occasion and in this latter day. There may or may not be a
difference in the meaning, but it is worth while considering whether
there is not also a difference in meaning.

What is it to exclude? Why, it is to drive it out. It is in some
way to put it out of the Territory. It is to force it across the line, or
change its character, so that as property it is out of existence. But
what is the controlling of it " as other property" ? Is controlling it
as other property the same thing as destroying it, or driving it away ?
I should think not. I should think the controlling of it as other
property would be just about what you in Kentucky should want.


I undei'stand the controlling of property means the controlling of it
for the benefit of the owner of it. While I have no doubt the Su-
preme Court of the United States would say " God speed" to any of
the territorial legislatures that should thus control slave xjroperty,
they would sing quite a different tune if by the pretense of control-
ling it they were to undertake to pass laws which virtually excluded
it, and that upon a very well known principle to all lawyers, that
what a legislature cannot directly do, it cannot do by indirection ;
that as the legislature has not the power to drive slaves out, they
have no power by indirection, by tax, or by imposing burdens in any
way on that property, to effect the same end, and that any attempt to
do so would be held by the Dred Scott court unconstitutional.

Douglas is not willing to stand by his first proposition that they
can exclude it, because we have seen that that proposition amounts
to nothing more nor less than the naked absurdity that you may law-
fully drive out that which has a lawful right to remain. He admitted
at first that the slave might be lawfully taken into the Territories
under the Constitution of the United States, and yet asserted that he
might be lawfully driven out. That being the proposition, it is the
absurdity I have stated. He is not willing to stand in the face of
that direct, naked, and impudent absurdity; he has, therefore, modi-
fied his language into that of being " controlled as other property."

The Kentuckians don't like this in Douglas ! I will tell you where
it will go. He now swears by the court. He was once a leading
man in Illinois to break down a court because it had made a deci-
sion he did not like. But he now not only swears by the court, the
courts having got to working for you, but he denounces all men that
do not swear by the courts as unpatriotic, as bad citizens. When one
of these acts of unfriendly legislation shall impose such heavy bur-
dens as to, in effect, destroy property in slaves in a Territory, and
show plainly enough that there can be no mistake in the purpose of
the legislature to make them so burdensome, this same Supreme
Court will decide that law to be unconstitutional, and he will be
ready to say for your benefit, " I swear by the court ; I give it up " ;
and while that is going on he has been getting all his men to swear
by the courts, and to give it up with him. In this again he serves
you faithfully, and, as I say, more wisely than you serve yourselves.

Again, I have alluded in the beginning of these remarks to the fact
that Judge Douglas has made great complaint of my having expressed
the opinion that this government " cannot endure permanently half
slave and half free." He has complained of Seward for using different
language, and declaring that there is an "irrepressible conflict" be-
tween the principles of free and slave labor. [A voice : " He says
it is not original with Seward. That is original with Lincoln."] I
wiU attend to that immediately, sir. Since that time, Hickman, of
Pennsylvania, expressed the same sentiment. He has never de-
nounced Mr. Hickman. Why? There is a little chance, notwith-
standing that opinion in the mouth of Hickman, that he may yet be
a Douglas man. That is the difference. It is not unpatriotic to hold
that opinion, if a man is a Douglas man.

But neither I, nor Seward; nor Hickman is entitled to the enviable


or unenviable distinction of having first expressed that idea. That
same idea was expressed by the Richmond " Enquirer" in Virginia,
in 1856, quite two years before it was expressed by the first of us.
And while Douglas was pluming himself that in his conflict with my
humble self, last year, he had " squelched out " that fatal heresy, as he
delighted to call it, and had suggested that if he only had had a chance
to be in New York and meet Seward he would have " squelched " it
there also, it never occurred to him to breathe a word against Pryor.
I don't think that you can discover that Douglas ever talked of going
to Virginia to " squelch " out that idea there. No. More than that.

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 75 of 91)