Abraham Lincoln.

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

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That same Roger A. Pryor was brought to Washington City and
made the editor of the par excellence Douglas paper after making use
of that expression which, in us, is so unpatriotic and heretical. From
all this my Kentucky friends may see that this opinion is heretical
in his view only when it is expressed by men suspected of a desire that
the country shall all become free, and not when expressed by those
fairly known to entertain the desire that the whole country shall be-
come slave. When expressed by that class of men, it is in no wise
offensive to him. In this again, my friends of Kentucky, you have
Judge Douglas with you.

There is another reason why you Southern people ought to nomi-

, nate Douglas at your convention at Charleston. That reason is the

^^ wonderful capacity of the man ; the power he has of doing what

>/ would seem to be impossible. Let me call your attention to one of

these apparently impossible things.

Douglas had three or four very distinguished men, of the most
extreme antislavery views. of any men in the Republican party, ex-
pressing their desire for his reelection to the Senate last year. That
would, of itself, have seemed to be a little wonderful, but that won-
der is heightened when we see that Wise, of Virginia, a man exactly
opposed to them, a man who believes in the divine right of slavery,
was also expressing his desire that Douglas should be reelected; that
another man that may be said to be kindred to Wise, Mr. Breckin-
ridge, the Vice-President, and of your own State, was also agreeing
with the antislavery men in the North that Douglas ought to be
reelected. Still, to heighten the wonder, a senator from Kentucky,
whom I have always loved with an affection as tender and endearing
as I have ever loved any man, who was opposed to the antislavery
men for reasons which seemed sufficient to him, and equally opposed
to Wise and Breckinridge, was writing letters into Illinois to secure
the reelection of Douglas. Now that all these conflicting elements
should be brought, while at daggers' points with one another, to
support him, is a feat that is worthy for you to note and consider. It
is quite probable that each of these classes of men thought, by the
reelection of Douglas, their peculiar views would gain something:
it is probable that the antislavery men thought their views would
gain something; that Wise and Breckinridge thought so too, as re-
gards their opinions; that Mr. Crittenden thought that liis views
would gain something, although he was opposed to both these other
men. It is probable that each and all of theui thought that they were
using Douglas, and it is yet an unsolved problem whether he was not


using them all. If he was, then it is for you to consider whether that
power to perform wonders is one for you lightly to throw away.

There is one other thing that I will say to you in this relation. It
is but my opinion ; I give it to you without a fee. It is my opinion
that it is for you to take him or be defeated; and that if you do take
him you may be beaten. You will surely be beaten if you do not
take him. We, the Republicans and others forming the opposition
of the country, intend to " stand by our guns," to be patient and firm,
and in the long run to beat you whether you take him or not. We
know that before we fairly beat you, we have to beat you both to-
gether. We know that " you are all of a feather," and that we have
to beat you aU together, and we expect to do it. We don't intend to
be very impatient about it. We mean to be as deliberate and calm
about it as it is possible to be, but as firm and resolved as it is possi-
ble for men to be. When we do as we say, beat you, you perhaps
want to know what we wUl do with you.

I will tell you, so far as I am authorized to speak for the opposi-
tion, what we mean to do with you. We mean to treat you, as near
as we possibly can, as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison treated
you. We mean to leave you alone, and in no way to interfere with
your institution ; to abide by all and every compromise of the Con-
stitution, and, in a word, coming back to the original proposition, to
treat you, so far as degenerated men (if we have degenerated) may,
according to the example of those noble fathers — Washington,
Jefferson, and Madison. We mean to remember that you are as
good as we; that there is no difference between us other than the
difference of circumstances. We mean to recognize and bear in
mind always that you have as good hearts in your bosoms as other
people, or as we claim to have, and treat you accordingly. We
mean to marry your girls when we have a chance— the white ones,
I mean, and I have the honor to inform you that I once did have a
chance in that way.

I have told you what we mean to do. I want to know, now, when
that thing takes place, what do you mean to dof I often hear it in-
timated that you mean to divide the Union whenever a Republican
or anything like it is elected President of the United States. [A
voice: " That is so. "J "That is so," one of them says ; I wonder if
he is a Kentuckian 1 [A voice : " He is a Douglas man."] Well,
then, I want to know what you are going to do with your half of it?
I Are you going to split the Ohio down through, and push your half
off a piece? Or are you going to keep it right alongside of us out-
rageous fellows ? Or are you going to build up a wall some way
between your country and ours, by which that movable property of
yours can't come over here any more, to the danger of your losing it?
Do you think you can better yourselves on that subject by leaving
us here under no obligation whatever to return those specimens of
your movable property that come hither? You have divided the
Union because we would not do right with you, as you think, upon
that subject ; when we cease to be imder obligations to do anything
for you, how much better off do you think you will be ? Will you
make war upon us and kill us aU ? Why, gentlemen, I think you are


as gallant and as brave men as live ; that you can fight as bravely
in a good cause, man for man, as any other people living ; that you
have shown yourselves capable of this upon various occasions ; but
man for man, you are not better than we are, and there are not so
many of you as there are of us. You will never make much of a
hand at whipping us. If we were fewer in numbers than you, I think
that you could whip us ; if we were equal it would likely be a drawn
battle ; but being inferior in numbers, you will make nothing by
attempting to master us.

But perhaps I have addressed myself as long, or longer, to the
Kentuckians than I ought to have done, inasmuch as I have said
that whatever course you take, we intend in the end to beat you. I
propose to address a few remarks to our friends, by way of discussing
with them the best means of keeping that promise that I have in
good faith made.

It may appear a little episodical for me to mention the topic of
which I shall speak now. It is a favorite proposition of Douglas's
that the interference of the General Government, through the ordi-
nance of '87, or through any other act of the General Government,
never has made, nor ever can make, a free State; that the ordinance
of '87 did not make free States of Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois ; that
these States are free upon his " great principle " of popular sover-
eignty, because the people of those several States have chosen to
make them so. At Columbus, and probably here, he undertook to
compliment the people that they themselves had made the State of
Ohio free, and that the ordinance of '87 was not entitled in any de-
gree to divide the honor with him. I have no doubt that the people
of the State of Ohio did make her free according to their own will
and judgment; but let the facts be remembered.

In 1802, I believe, it was you who made your first constitution,
with the clause prohibiting slavery, and you did it, I suppose, very
nearly unanimously; but you should bear in mind that you — speak-
ing of you as one people — that you did so unembarrassed by the
actual presence of the institution amongst you; that you made it
a free State, not with the embarrassment upon you of already having
among you many slaves, which, if they had been here, and you had
sought to make a free State, you would not know what to do with.
If they had been among you, embarrassing difiicidties, most prob-
ably, w.puld have induced you to tolerate a slave Constitution instead
of a free one ; as, indeed, these very difficulties have constrained every
people on this continent who have adopted slavery.

Pray, what was it that made you free? What kept you free? Did
you not find your country free when you came to decide that Ohio
"should be a free State? It is important to inquire by what reason
you found it so. Let us take an illustration between the States of
Ohio and Kentucky. Kentucky is separated by this river Ohio, not
a mile wide. A portion of Kentucky, by reason of the course of the
Ohio, is further north than this portion of Ohio in which we now
stand. Kentucky is entirely covered with slavery — Ohio is entirely
free from it. What made that difference ? Was it climate ? No!
A portion of Kentucky was further north than this portion of Ohio.


Was it soil ? No ! There is nothing ta the soil of the one more
favorable to slave-labor than the other. It was not climate or soil
that caused one side of the line to be entirely covered with slavery
and the other side free of it. What was it ? Study over it. Tell us, if
you can, in all the range of conjecture, if there be anything you can
conceive of that made that difference, other than that there was no
law of any sort keeping it out of Kentucky, while the ordinance of '87
kept it out of Ohio. If there is any other reason than this, I con-
fess that it is wholly beyond my power to conceive of it. This, then,
I offer to combat the idea that that ordinance has never made any
State free.

I don't stop at this illustration. I come to the State of Indiana;
and what I have said as between Kentucky and Ohio, I repeat as
between Indiana and Kentucky; it is equally applicable. One addi-
tional argument is applicable also to Indiana. In her territorial
condition she more than once petitioned Congress to abrogate the
ordinance entirely, or at least so far as to suspend its operation for a
time, in order that they should exercise the "popular sovereignty"
of having slaves if they wanted them. The men then controlling the
General Government, imitating the men of the Revolution, refused
Indiana that privilege. And so we have the evidence that Indiana
supposed she could have slaves, if it were not for that ordinance ;
that she besought Congress to put that barrier out of the way; that
Congress refused to do so, and it all ended at last in Indiana being a
free State. Tell me not then that the ordinance of '87 had nothing
to do with making Indiana a free State, when we find some men
chafing against and only restrained by that barrier.

Come down again to our State of Illinois. The great Northwest
Territory, including Ohio, Indiana, Hhnois, Michigan, and Wiscon-
sin, was acquired first, I believe, by the Britisb government, in part,
at least, from the French. Before the establishment of our inde-
pendence, it became a part of Virginia, enabling Virginia afterward
to transfer it to the General Government. There were French settle-
ments in what is now Illinois, and at the same time there were
French settlements in what is now Missouri — in the tract of country
that was not purchased till about 1803. In these French settlements
negro slavery had existed for many years — perhaps more than a
hundred, if not as much as two hundred, years — at Kaskaskia, in
Illinois, and at St. Genevieve, or Cape Girardeau, perhaps, in Mis-
souri. The number of slaves was not very great, biit there was about
the same number in each place. They were there when we acquired
the Territory. There was no effort made to break up the relation
of master and slave, and even the ordinance of '87 was not so en-
forced as to destroy that slavery in Illinois ; nor did the ordinance
apply to Missouri at all.

What I want to ask your attention to, at this point, is that Illinois
and Missouri came into the Union about the same time, Illinois in
the latter part of 1818, and Missouri, after a struggle, I believe,
some time in 1820. They had been filling up with American people
about the same period of time, their progress enabling them to
come into the Union about the same. At the end of that ten years,


in which they had been so preparing (for it was aboiit that period of
time), the niimber of slaves in Illinois had actually decreased; while
in Missouri, beginning with very few, at the end of that ten years
there were about ten thousand. This being so, and it being remem-
bered that Missouri and Illinois are, to a certain extent, in the same
parallel of latitude, — that the northern half of Missouri and the
southern half of Illinois are in the same parallel of latitude, — so
that climate would have the same effect upon one as upon the other ;
and that in the soil there is no material difference so far as bears
upon the question of slavery being settled upon one or the other;
there being none of those natural causes to produce a difference in
filling them, and yet there being a broad difference in their fill-
ing up, we are led again to inquire what was the cause of that

It is most natural to say that in Missouri there was no law to keep
that country from filling up with slaves, while in Illinois there was
the ordinance of '87. The ordinance being there, slavery decreased
during that ten years — the ordinance not being in the other, it in-
creased from a few to ten thousand. Can anybody doubt the reason
of the difference ?

I think all these facts most abundantly prove that my friend
Judge Douglas's proposition, that the ordinance of '87, or the na-
tional restriction of slavery, never had a tendency to make a free
State, is a fallacy — a proposition without the shadow or substance
of truth about it.

Douglas sometimes says that all the States (and it is part of that
same proposition I have been discussing) that have become free, have
become so upon his "great principle"; that the State of Illinois it-
self came into the Union as a slave State^ and that the people, upon
the "great principle" of popular sovereignty, have since made it a
free State. Allow me but a little while to state to you what facts
there are to justify him in saying that Illinois came into the Union
as a slave State.

I have mentioned to you that there were a few old French slaves
there. They numbered, I think, one or two hundred. Besides that,
there had been a territorial law for indenturing black persons.
Under that law, in violation of the ordinance of '87, but without
any enforcement of the ordinance to overthrow the system, there
had been a small number of slaves introduced as indentured per-
sons. Owing to this, the clause for the prohibition of slavery was
slightly modified. Instead of running like yours, that neither sla-
very nor involuntary servitude, except for crime, of which the party
shall have been duly convicted, should exist in the State, they said
that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude should thereafter be
introduced, and that the children of indentured servants should be
born free ; and nothing was said about the few old French slaves.
Out of this fact, that the clause for prohibiting slavery was modified
because of the actual presence of it, Douglas asserts again and again
that Illinois came into the Union as a slave State. How far the facts
sustain the conclusion that he draws, it is for intelligent and impar-
tial men to decide. I leave it with you, with these remarks, worthy


of being remembered, that that little thing, those few indentured
servants being there, was of itself sufficient to modify a constitu-
tion made by a people ardently desiring to have a free constitution;
showing the power of the actual presence of the institution of
slavery to prevent any people, however anxious to make a free State,
from making it perfectly so. I have been detaining you longer per-
haps than I ought to do.

I am in some doubt whether to introduce another topic upon which
I could talk awhile. [Cries of " Go on," and " Give us it."] It is
this then — Douglas's popular sovereignty, as a principle, is simply
this : If one man chooses to make a slave of another man, neither
that man nor anybody else has a right to object. Apply it to govern-
ment, as he seeks to apply it, and it is this : If, in a new Territory,
into which a few people are beginning to enter for the purpose of
making their homes, they choose to either exclude slavery from their
limits, or to establish it there, however one or the other may affect
the persons to be enslaved, or the infinitely greater number of per-
sons who are afterward to inhabit that Territory, or the other mem-
bers of the family of communities, of which they are but an incipient
member, or the general head of the family of States as parent of all —
however their action may affect one or the other of these, there is no
power or right to interfere. That is Douglas's popular sovereignty
applied. Now I think that there is a real popular sovereignty in the
world. I think a definition of popular sovereignty, in the abstract,
would be about this — that each man shall do precisely as he pleases
with himself, and with all those things which exclusively concern
him. Applied in government, this principle would be, that a general
government shall do aU those things which pertain to it, and all the
local governments shall do precisely as they please in respect to those
matters which exclusively concern them.

Douglas looks upon slavery as so insignificant that the people must
decide that question for themselves, and yet they are not fit to decide
who shall be their governor, judge, or secretary, or who shall be any
of their oflcers. These are vast national matters, in his estimation ;
but the little matter in his estimation is that of planting slavery there.
That is purely of local interest, which nobody should be allowed to
say a word about.

Labor is the great source from which nearly all, if not all, human
comforts and necessities are drawn. There is a difference in opinion
about the elements of labor in society. Some men assume that there
is a necessary connection between capital and labor, and that con-
nection draws within it the whole of the labor of the community.
They assume that nobody works unless capital excites them to work.
They begin next to consider what is the best way. They say there
are but two ways — one is to hire men and to allure them to labor by
their consent; the other is to buy the men and drive them to it, and
that is slavery. Having assumed that, they proceed to discuss the
question of whether the laborers themselves are better off in the con-
dition of slaves or of hired laborers, and they usually decide that
they are better off in the condition of slaves.

In the first place, I say that the whole thing is a mistake. That


there is a certain relation between capital and labor, I admit. That
it does exist, and rightfully exists, I think is true. That men who
are industrious and sober and honest in the pursuit of their own in-
terests should after a while accumulate capital, and after that should
be allowed to enjoy it in peace, and also if they should choose, when
they have accumulated it, to use it to save themselves from actual
labor, and hire other people to labor for them, is right. In doing so,
they do not wrong the man they employ, for they find men who have
not their own land to work upon, or shops to work in, and who are
benefited by working for others — hired laborers, receiving their cap-
ital for it. Thus a few men that own capital hire a few others, and
these establish the relation of capital and labor rightfully — a rela-
tion of which I make no complaint. But I insist that that relation,
after all, does not embrace more than one eighth of the labor of the
country. •

[ The speaker proceeded to argue that the hired laborer, with his
ability to become an employer, must have every precedence over him
who labors under the inducement of force. He continued :]

I have taken upon myself, in the name of some of you, to say that
we expect upon these principles to iiltimately beat them. In order
to do so, I think we want and must have a national policy in regard
to the institution of slavery that acknowledges and deals with that
institution as being wrong. Whoever desires the prevention of the
spread of slavery and the nationalization of that institution, yields
all when he yields to any policy that either recognizes slavery as
being right, or as being an iudifEerent thing. Nothing will make
you successful but setting up a policy which shall treat the thing as
being wi'ong. When I say this, I do not mean to say that this Gen-
eral Grovernment is charged with the duty of redressing or prevent-
ing all the wrongs in the world; but I do think that it is charged
with preventing and redressing all wrongs which are wrongs to it-
self. This government is expressly charged with the duty of pro-
viding for the general welfare. We believe that the spreading out
and perpetuity of the institution of slavery impairs the general wel-
fare. We believe — nay, we know — that that is the only thing that
has ever threatened the perpetuity of the Union itself. The only
thing which has ever menaced the destruction of the government
under which we live, is this very thing. To repress this thing, we
think, is providing for the general wdfare. Our friends in Ken-
tucky differ from us. • We need not make our argument for them ;
but we who think it is wrong in all its relations, or in some of them
at least, must decide as to our own actions, and our own course, upon
our own judgment.

I say that we must not interfere with the institution of slavery in
the States where it exists, because the Constitution forbids it, and the
general welfare does not require us to do so. We must not withhold
an efficient fugitive-slave law, because the Constitution requires us,
as I understand it, not to withhold such a law. But we must pre-
vent the outspreading of the institution, because neither the Consti-
tution nor general welfare requires us to extend it. We must prevent
the revival of the African slave-trade, and the enacting by Congress


of a territorial slave-code. We must prevent each of these things be-
ing done by either congresses or courts. The people of these United
States are the rightful masters of both congresses and courts, not to
overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert
the Constitution.

To do these things we must employ instrumentalities. We must
hold conventions; we must adopt platforms, if we conform to ordi-
nary custom ; we must nominate candidates; and we must carry elec-
tions. In all these things, I think that we ought to keep in view our
real purpose, and in none do anything that stands adverse to our
purpose. If we shall adopt a platform that fails to recognize or ex-
press our purpose, or elect a man that declares himself inimical to
our purpose, we not only take nothing by our success, but we tacitly
admit that we act upon no other principle than a desire to have " the
loaves and fishes," by which, in the end, our apparent success is really
an injury to us.

I know that it is very desirable with me, as with everybody else,
that all the elements of the Opposition shall unite in the next presi-
dential election, and in all future time. I am anxious that that should
be, but there are things seriously to be considered in relation to that .
matter. If the terms can be arranged, I am in favor of the union.
But suppose we shall take up some man, and put him upon one end
or the other of the ticket, who declares himself against us in regard
to the prevention of the spread of slavery, who turns up his nose
and says he is tired of hearing anything more about it, who is more
against us than against the enemy — what will be the issue ? Why,
he will get no slave States after all — he has tried that already until

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 76 of 91)