Abraham Lincoln.

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

. (page 83 of 91)
Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 83 of 91)
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You are ready to say it cannot ; but be not too fast. Remember
what a long stride has been taken since the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise! Do you know of any Democrat, of either branch of
the party — do you know one who declares that he believes that
the Declaration of Independence has any application to the negro?
Judge Taney declares that it has not, and Judge Douglas even vili-
fies me personally and scolds me roundly for saying that the Decla-
ration applies to all men, and that negroes are men. Is there a
Democrat here who does not deny that the Declaration applies to
a negro? Do any of you know of one? Well, I have tried before
perhaps fifty audiences, some larger and some smaller than this, to
find one such Democrat, and never yet have I found one who said
I did not place him right in that. I must assume that Democrats
hold that; and now not one of these Democrats can show that he
said that five years ago ! I venture to defy the whole party to pro-
duce one man that ever uttered the belief that the Declaration did
not apply to negroes before the repeal of the Missouri Compromise!
Four or five years ago we all thought negroes were men, and that
when "all men" were named, negroes were included. But the whole
Democratic party has deliberately taken negroes from the class of
men and put them in the class of brutes. Turn it as you wUl, it is
simply the truth! Don't be too hasty then in saying that the people
cannot be brought to this new doctrine, but note that long stride.
One more as long completes the journey from where negroes are
estimated as men to where they are estimated as mere brutes — as
rightful property!

That saying, "In the struggle between the white man and the
negro," etc., which, I know, came from the same source as this pol-
icy — that saying marks another step. There is a falsehood wrapped
up in that statement. " In the struggle between the white man and
the negro," assumes that there is a struggle, in which either the
white man must enslave the negro or the negro must enslave the
white. There is no such struggle. It is merely an ingenious false-


hood to degrade and brutalize the negro. Let each let the other
alone, and there is no struggle about it. If it was like two wrecked
seamen on a narrow plank, where each must push the other off or
drown himself, I would push the negro off — or a white man either;
but it is not : the plank is large enough for both. This good earth is
plenty broad enough for white man and negro both, and there is no
need of either pushing the other off.

So that saying, " In the struggle between the negro and the croco-
dile," etc., is made up from the idea that down where the crocodile
inhabits, a white man can't labor ; it must be nothing else but croco-
dile or negro ; if the negro does not, the crocodile must possess the
earth ; in that ease he declares for the negro. The meaning of the
whole is just this : As a white man is to a negro, so is a negro to a
crocodile; and as the negro may rightfully treat the crocodile, so
may the white man rightfully treat the negro. This very dear
phrase coined by its author, and so dear that he deliberately repeats
it in many speeches, has a tendency to still further brutalize the
negro, and to bring public opinion to the point of utter indifference
whether men so brutalized are enslaved or not. When that time
shall come, if ever, I think that policy to which I refer may prevail.
But I hope the good free men of this country will never allow it to
come, and until then the policy can never be maintained.

Now, consider the effect of this policy. We in the States are not
to care whether freedom or slavery gets the better, but the people in
the Territories may care. They are to decide, and they may think
what they please; it is a matter of dollars and cents! But are not
the people of the Territories detailed from the States? If this feeling
of indifference — this absence of moral sense about the question —
prevails in the States, wiU it not be carried into the Territories?
Will not every man say,"I don't care; it is nothing to me"? If any
one comes that wants slavery, must they not say, "I don't care
whether freedom or slavery be voted up or voted down "'] It results
at last in nationalizing the institution of slavery. Even if fairly car-
ried out, that policy is just as certain to nationalize slavery as the
doctrine of Jeff Davis himself. These are only two roads to the
same goal, and " popular sovereignty" is just as sure, and almost as
short, as the other.

What we want, and all we want, is to have with us the men who
think slavery wrong. But those who say they hate slavery, and are
opposed to it, but yet act with the Democratic party — where are
they ? Let us apply a few tests. You say that you think slavery a
wrong, but you renounce all attempts to restrain it. Is there any-
thing else that you think wrong, that you are not willing to deal with
as a wrong? Why are you so careful, so tender of this one wrong
and no other? You will not let us do a single thing as if it was
wrong; there is no place where you will allow it to be even called
wrong. We must not call it wrong in the free States, because it is
not there, and we must not call it wrong in the slave States, because
it is there ; we must not call it wrong in politics, because that is
bringing morality into politics, and we must not call it wrong in the
pulpit, because that is bringing politics into religion ; we must not


bring it into the tract society, or other societies, because those are
such unsuitable places, and there is no single place, according to
you, where this wrong thing can properly be called wrong.

Perhaps you will plead that if the people of slave States should of
themselves set on foot an effort for emancipation, you would wish
them success and bid them God-speed. Let us test that ! In 1858
the emancipation party of Missouri, with Frank Blair at their head,
tried to get up a movement for that purpose; and, having started a
party, contested the State. Blair was beaten, apparently if not
truly, and when the news came to Connecticut, you, who knew that
Frank Blair was taking hold of this thing by the right end, and
doing the only thing that you say can properly be done to remove
this wrong — did you bow your heads in sorrow because of that de-
feat? Do you, any of you, know one single Democrat that showed
sorrow over that result? Not one! On the contrary, every man
threw up his hat, and haUooed at the top of his lungs, " Hooray for
Democracy ! "

Now, gentleman, the Republicans desire to place this great ques-
tion of slavery on the very basis on which our fathers placed it, and
no other. It is easy to demonstrate that "our fathers who framed
this government under which we live" looked on slavery as wrong,
and so framed it and everything about it as to square with the idea
that it was wrong, so far as the necessities arising from its existence
permitted. In forming the Constitution they found the slave-trade
existing, capital invested in it, fields depending upon it for labor,
and the whole system resting upon the importation of slave labor.
They therefore did not prohibit the slave-trade at once, but they
gave the power to prohibit it after twenty years. Why was this ?
What other foreign trade did they treat in that way ? Would they
have done this if they had not thought slavery wrong?

Another thing was done by some of the same men who framed
the Constitution, and afterward adopted as their own act by the first
Congress held under that Constitution, of which many of the framers
were members — they prohibited the spread of slavery in the Terri-
tories. Thus the same men, the framers of the Constitution, cut ofE
the supply and prohibited the spread of slavery; and both acts show
conclusively that they considered that the thing was wrong.

If additional proof is wanting, it can be found in the phraseology
of the Constitution. When men are framing a supreme law and
chart of government to secure blessings and prosperity to untold
generations yet to come, they use language as short and direct and
plain as can be found to express their meaning. In all matters but
this of slavery the framers of the Constitution used the very clearest,
shortest, and most direct language. But the Constitution alludes
to slavery three times without mentioning it once ! The language
used becomes ambiguous, roundabout, and mystical. They speak
of the "immigration of persons," and mean the importation of
slaves, but do not say so. In establishing a basis of representation
they say " all other persons," when they mean to say slaves. Why
did they not use the shortest phrase? In providing for the return
of fugitives they say "persons held to service or labor." If they had


said " slaves," it would have been plainer and less liable to miscon-
struction. Why did n't they do it ? We cannot doubt that it was
done on purpose. Only one reason is possible, and that is supplied
us by one of the framers of the Constitution — and it is not possible
for man to conceive of any other. They expected and desired that
the system would come to an end, and meant that when it did the
Constitution should not show that there ever had been a slave in
this good free country of ours.

I win dwell on that no longer. I see the signs of the approach-
ing triumph of the Republicans in the bearing of their political
adversaries. A great deal of this war with us nowadays is mere
bushwhacking. At the battle of Waterloo, when Napoleon's cav-
alry had charged again and again upon the unbroken squares of
British infantry, at last they were giving up the attempt, and going
off in disorder, when some of the officers, in mere vexation and com-
plete despair, fired their pistols at those solid squares. The Demo-
crats are in that sort of extreme desperation; it is nothing else. I
will take up a few of these arguments.

There is " the irrepressible conflict." How they rail at Seward
for that saying ! They repeat it constantly ; and although the proof
has been thrust under their noses again and again that almost
every good man since the formation of our government has uttered
that same sentiment, from General Washington, who "trusted that
we should yet have a confederacy of free States," with Jefferson,
Jay, Monroe, down to the latest days, yet they refuse to notice that
at all, and persist in railing at Seward for saying it. Even Roger
A. Pryor, editor of the Richmond " Enquirer," uttered the same
sentiment in almost the same language, and yet so little offense did
it give the Democrats that he was sent for to Washington to edit
the "States" — the Douglas organ there, while Douglas goes into
hydrophobia and spasms of rage because Seward dared to repeat it.
That is what I call bushwhacking — a sort of argument that they
must know any child can see through.

Another is John Brown ! You stir up insurrections ; you invade
the South ! John Brown ! Harper's Perry ! Why, John Brown
was not a Republican ! You have never implicated a single Repub-
lican in that Harper's Ferry enterprise. We tell you if any member
of the Republican party is guilty in that matter, you know it or you
do not know it. If you do know it, you are inexcusable not to des-
ignate the man and prove the fact. If you do not know it, you are
inexcusable to assert it, and especially to persist in the assertion
after you have tried and failed to make the proof. You need not be
told that persisting in a charge which one does not know to be true
is simply malicious slander. Some of you admit that no Republican
designedly aided or encouraged the Harper's Ferry affair ; but still
insist that our doctrines and declarations necessarily lead to such
results. We do not believe it. We know we hold to no doctrines
and make no declarations which were not held to and made by our
fathers who framed the government under which we live, and we
cannot see how declarations that were patriotic when they made
them are villainous when we make them. You never dealt fairly by


as in. relation to that affair — and I wUl say frankly that I know of
aothiag in your character that should lead us to suppose that you
ivould. You had just been soundly thrashed in elections in several
States, and others were soon to come. You rejoiced at the occasion,
ind only were troubled that there were not three times as many
Idlled in the affair. You were in evident glee ; there was no sorrow
for the killed nor for the peace of Virginia disturbed ; you were re-
joicing that by charging Republicans with this thing you might get
an advantage of us in New York and the other States. You pulled
that string as tightly as you could, but your very generous and
worthy expectations were not quite fulfilled. Each Republican knew
that the charge was a slander as to himself at least, and was not
inclined by it to cast his vote in your favor. It was mere bush-
whacking, because you had nothing else to do. You are still on that
track, and I say, Go on ! If you think you can slander a woman' into
loving you, or a man into voting for you, try it till you are satisfied.
Another specimen of this bushwhacking — that "shoe strike."
Now be it understood that I do not pretend to know all about the
matter. I am merely going to speculate a little about some of its
phases, and at the outset I am glad to see that a system of labor pre-
vails in New England under which laborers can strike when they
want to, where they are not obliged to work under aU circumstances,
and are not tied down and obliged to labor whether you pay them or
not ! I like the system which lets a man quit when he wants to, and
wish it might prevail everywhere. One of the reasons why I am op-
posed to slavery is just here. What is the true condition of the
laborer ? I take it that it is best for all to leave each man free to
acquire property as fast as he can. Some will get wealthy. I don't
believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich ; it would do
more harm than good. So while we do not propose any war upon
capital, we do wish to allow the hiimblest man an equal chance to
get rich with everybody else. When on,e starts poor, as most do in
the race of life, free society is such that he knows he can better his
condition ; he knows that there is no fixed condition of labor for his
whole life. I am not ashamed to confess that twenty-five years ago
I was a hired laborer, mauling rails, at work on a flatboat — just
what might happen to any poor man's son. I want every man to
have the chance — and I believe a black man is entitled to it — in
which he can better his condition — when he may look forward and
hope to be a hired laborer this year and the next, work for himself
afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him. That is the
true system. Up here in New England you have a soil that scarcely
sprouts black-eyed beans, and yet where wiU you find wealthy men
so wealthy, and poverty so rarely in extremity ? There is not an-
other such place on earth ! I desire that if you get too thick here,
and find it hard to better your condition on this soil, you may have
a chance to strike and go somewhere else, where you may not be de-
graded, nor have your f amUy corrupted by forced rivalry with negro
slaves. I want you to have a clean bed and no snakes in it ! Then
you can better your condition, and so it may go on and on in one
ceaseless round so long as man exists on the face of the earth.
Vol. I.— 40.


Now to come back to this shoe strike. If, as the senator from Il-
linois asserts, this is caused by withdrawal of Southern votes, con-
sider briefly how you will meet the difficulty. You have done
nothing, and have protested that you have done nothing, to injure
the South; and yet to get back the shoe trade, you must leave
off doing something that you are now doing. What is it? Ton
must stop thinking slavery wrong. Let your institutions be wholly
changed ; let your State constitutions be subverted; glorify slavery;
and so you will get back the shoe trade — for what? You have
brought owned labor with it to compete with your own labor, to
underwork you, and degrade you. Are you ready to get back the
trade on these terms ?

But the statement is not correct. You have not lost that trade ;
orders were never better than now. Senator Mason, a Democrat,
comes into the Senate in homespun, a proof that the dissolution
of the Union has actually begun. But orders are the same. Your
factories have not struck work, neither those where they make
anything for coats, nor for pants, nor for shirts, nor for ladies'
dresses. Mr. Mason has not reached the manufacturers who ought
to have made him a coat and pants. To make his proof good for
anything, he should have come into the Senate barefoot.

Another bushwhacking contrivance — simply that, nothing else !
I find a good many people who are very much concerned about the
loss of Southern trade. Now, either these people are sincere, or they
are not. I will speculate a little about that. If they are sincere,
and are moved by any real danger of the loss of the Southern trade,
they will simply get their names on the white list, and then instead
of persuading Republicans to do likewise, they will be glad to keep
you away. Don't you see they thus shut off competition ? They
would not be whispering around to Republicans to come in and share
the profits with them. But if they are not sincere, and are merely
trying to fool Republicans out of their votes, they will grow very
anxious about your pecuniary prospects ; they are afraid you are
going to get broken up and ruined; they did not care about Demo-
cratic votes — oh, no, no, no! You must judge which class those
belong to whom you meet. I leave it to you to determine from
the facts.

Let us notice some more of the stale charges against Republicans.
You say we are sectional. We deny it. That makes an issue ; and
the burden of proof is upon you. You produce your proof; and what
is it! Why, that our party has no existence in your section — gets
no votes in your section. The fact is substantially true : but does it
prove the issue ? If it does, then in case we should, without change
of principle, begin to get votes in your section, we should thereby
cease to be sectional. You cannot escape this conclusion ; and yet,
are you willing to abide by it? If you are, you will probably soon
find that we have ceased to be sectional, for we shall get votes in
your section this very year. The fact that we get no votes in your
section is a fact of your making, and not of ours. And if there be
fault in that fact, that fault is primarily yours, and remains so until
you show that we repel you by some wrong principle or practice. If


■we do repel you by any wrong principle or practice, the fault is ours;
but this brings you to where you ought to have started — to a discus-
sion of the right or wrong of our principle. If our priaciple, put in
practice, would wrong your section for the benefit of ours, or for any
other object, then our principle and we with it, are sectional, and are
justly opposed and denounced as such. Meet us, then, on the ques-
tion of whether our principle, put in practice, would wrong your sec-
tion; and so meet it as if it were possible that something may be said
on our side. Do you accept the challenge? No? Then you really
believe that the principle which our fathers who framed the govern-
ment under which we live thought so clearly right as to adopt it, and
indorse it again and again, upon their ofBciaf oaths, is, in fact, so
clearly wrong as to demand your condemnation without a moment's

Some of you delight to flaunt in our faces the warning against sec-
tional parties given by Washington in his Farewell Address. Less than
eight years before Washington gave that warning, he had, as Pres-
ident of the United States, approved and signed an act of Congress
enforcing the prohibition of slavery in the Northwestern Territory,
which act embodied the policy of government upon that subject up
to and at the very moment he penned that warning ; and about one
year after he penned it, he wrote Lafayette that he considered that
prohibition a wise measure, expressing in the same connection his
hope that we should some time have a confederacy of free States.

Bearing this in mind, and seeing that sectionalism has since arisen
upon this same subject, is that warning a weapon in your hands
against us, or in our hands against you? Could Washington him-
self speat, would he cast the blame of that sectionalism upon us
who sustain his policy, or upon you who repudiate it ? We respect
that warning of Washington, and we commend it to you, together
with his example pointing to the right application of it.

But you say you are conservative — eminently conservative —
while we are revolutionary, destructive, or something of that sort.
What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried
against the new and untried? We stick to, contend for, the identi-
cal old policy on the point in controversy which was adopted by our
fathers who framed the government under which we live ; while you
with one accord reject, and scout, and spit upon that old policy, and
insist upon substituting something new. True, you disagree among
yourselves as to what that substitute shall be ; you have consider-
able variety of new propositions and plans, but you are unanimous
in rejecting and denouncing the old policy of the fathers. Some of
you are for reviving the foreign slave-trade ; some for a congres-
sional slave code for the Territories ; some for Congress forbidding
the Territories to prohibit slavery within their limits; some for
maintaining slavery in the Territories through the judiciary ; some
for the "great principle" that if one man would enslave another,
no third man should object, fantastically called "popular sover-
eignty "; but never a man among you in favor of Federal prohibition
of slavery in Federal Territories according to the practice of our
fathers who framed the government under which we live. Not one


of all your various plans can show a precedent or an advocate in the
century within which our government originated. And yet you draw
yourselves up and say, " We are eminently conservative."

It is exceedingly desirable that all parts of this great Confederacy
shall be at peace and in harmony one with another. Let us Repub-
licans do our part to have it so. Even though much provoked, let
us do nothing through passion and iU temper. Even though the
Southern people will not so much as listen to us, let us calmly con-
sider their demands, aud yield to them if, in our deliberate view of
our duty, we possibly can. Judging by all they say and do, and by
the subject and nature of their controversy with us, let us determine,
if we can, what will satisfy them.

Will they be satisfied if the Territories be unconditionally surren-
dered to them ? We know they will not. In all their present com-
plaints against us the Territories are scarcely mentioned. Invasions
and insurrections are the rage now. WiU it satisfy them if in the
future we have nothing to do with invasions and insurrections ? We
know it will not. We so know because we know we never have had
anything to do with invasions and insurrections ; and yet this total
abstaining does not exempt us from the charge and the denunciation.

The question recurs, What will satisfy them ? Simply this : we
must not only let them alone, but we must somehow convince them
that we do let them alone. This we know by experience is no
easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very
beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our plat-
forms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to
let them alone ; but this has had no tendency to convince them.
Alike unavailing to convince them is the fact that they have never
detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

These natural and apparently adequate means all failing, what
will convince them ? This, and this only : cease to call slavery wrong,
and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly
— done in acts as well as in words. SUenee will not be tolerated —
we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Douglas's new sedi-

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 83 of 91)