Abraham Lincoln.

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

. (page 84 of 91)
Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 84 of 91)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tion law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations
that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pul-
pits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves
with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our free-State constitu-
tions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected of all taint of op-
position to. slavery before they wiU cease to believe that all their
troubles proceed from us. So long as we call slavery wrong, when-
ever a slave runs away they will overlook the obvious fact that he
ran because he was oppressed, and declare that he was stolen off.
Whenever a master cuts his slaves with the lash, and they cry out
under it, he will overlook the obvious fact that the negroes cry out
because they are hurt, and insist that they were put up to it by some
rascally Abolitionist.

I am quite aware that they do not state their case precisely in this
way. Most of them would probably say to us: "Let us alone; do
nothing to us, and say what you please about slavery."' But we do
let them alone, — have never disturbed them, — so that, after aU, it is


what we say which dissatisfies them. They will contiuue to accuse
us of doing, until we cease saying.

I am also aware that they have not as yet in terms demanded the
overthrow of our free-State constitutions. Yet those constitutions
declare the wrong of slavery with more solemn emphasis than do
all other sayings against it; and when all these other sayings shall
have been silenced, the overthrow of these constitutions will be de-
manded, and nothing be left to resist the demand. It is nothing to
the contrary that they do not demand the whole of this just now.
Demanding what they do, and for the reason they do, they can vol-
untarily stop nowhere short of this consummation. Holding as they
do that slavery is morally right and socially elevating, they cannot
cease to demand a full national recognition of it, as a legal right and
a social blessing.

Nor can we justifiably withhold this on any ground save our con-
viction that slavery is wrong. If slavery is right, aU words, acts,
laws, and constitutions against it are themselves wrong, and should
be silenced and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly object
to its nationality — its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot
justly insist upon its extension — its enlargement. All they ask we
could readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask they
could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking
it right, and our thinking it wrong, is the precise fact upon which
depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they
are not to blame for desiring its full recognition as being right ; but
thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them 1 Can we cast
our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our
moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this 1

Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone
where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from
its actual presence in the nation ; but can we, while our votes will
prevent it, allow it to spread into the national Territories and to over-
run us here in these free States ?

If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty fear-
lessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophisti-
cal contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and be-
labored — contrivances such as groping for some middle ground
between the right and the wrong; vain as the search for a man who
should be neither a living man nor a dead man; such as a policy of
" don't care" on a question about which all true men do care; such
as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists,
reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the right-
eous to repentance; such as invocations to Washington, imploring
men to unsay what Washington did.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations
against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the
government, nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that
right makes might ; and in that faith let us to the end dare to do
our duty as we understand it.


March 9, I860.— Abstract of Speech at Norwich, Connecticut.

Whether we will or not, the question of slavery is the question, the
all-absorbing topic, of the day. It is true that all of us — and by that
I mean, not the Republican party alone, but the whole American peo-
ple, here and elsewhere — all of us wish the question settled — wish it
out of the way.

It stands in the way and prevents the adjustment and the giving
of necessary attention to other questions of national housekeeping.
The people of the whole nation agree that this question ought to be
settled, and yet it is not settled. And the reason is that they are not
yet agreed how it shaU be settled.

Again and again it has been fondly hoped that it was settled, but
every time it breaks out afresh and more violently than ever. It was
settled, our fathers hoped, by the Missouri Compromise, but it did not
stay settled. Then the compromise of 1850 was declared to be a full
and final settlement of the question. The two great parties, each in
national convention, adopted resolutions declaring that the settlement
made by the compromises of 1850 was a finality — that it would last
forever. Yet how long before it was unsettled again? It broke out
again in 1854, and blazed higher and raged more furiotisly than ever
before, and the agitation has not rested since.

These repeated settlements must have some fault about them.
There must be some inadequacy in their very nature to the purpose
for which they were designed. We can only speculate as to where
that fault — that inadequacy is, but we may perhaps profit by past

I think that one of the causes of these repeated failures is that our
best and greatest men have greatly underestimated the size of this
question. They have constantly brought forward small cures for
great sores — plasters too small to cover the wound. This is one reason
that all settlements have proved so temporary, so evanescent.

Look at the magnitude of this subject. About one sixth of the
whole population of the United States are slaves. The owners of
the slaves consider them property. The effect upon the minds of the
owners is that of property, and nothing else — it induces them to
insist upon all that will favorably affect its value as property, to de-
mand laws and institutions and a public policy that shall increase
and secure its value, and make it durable, lasting, and universal. The
effect on the minds of the owners is to persuade them that there is no
wrong in it.

But here in Connecticut and at the North slavery does not exist,
and we see it through no such medium. To us it appears natural to
think that slaves are human beings ; men, not property _; that some
of the things, at least, stated about men in the Declaration of Inde-
pendence apply to them as weU as to us. We think slavery a great
moral wrong ; and while we do not claim the right to touch it where
it exists, we wish to treat it as a wrong in the Territories where
our votes will reach it. Now these two ideas, the propertj^ idea that
slavery is right, and the idea that it is wrong, come into collision, and


do actually produce that irrepressible conflict which Mr. Seward has
been so roundly abused for mentioning. The two ideas conflict, and
must conflict.

There are but two policies in regard to slavery that can be at all
maintained. The first, based upon the property view that slavery
is right, conforms to the idea throughout, and demands that we shall
do everything for it that we ought to do if it were right. The other
policy is one that squares with the idea that slavery is wrong, and it
consists in doing everything that we ought to do if it is wrong. I
don't mean that we ought to attack it where it exists. To me it
seems that if we were to form a government anew, in view of the
actual presence of slavery we should find it necessary to frame just
such a government as our fathers did — giving to the slaveholder
the entire control where the system was established, while we pos-
sessed the power to restrain it from going outside those limits.

Now I have spoken of a policy based upon the idea that slavery is
wrong, and a policy based upon the idea that it is right. But an
effort has been made for a policy that shall treat it as neither right
nor wrong. Its central idea is indifference. It holds that it makes
no more difference to me whether the Territories become free or
slave States than whether my neighbor stocks his farm with horned
cattle or puts it into tobacco. All recognize this policy, the plausible,
sugar-coated name of which is " popular sovereignty."

Mr. Lincoln showed up the fallacy of this policy at length, and
then made a manly vindication of the principles of the Republican
party, urging the necessity of the union of all elements to free our
country from its present rule, and closed with an eloquent exhorta-
tion for each and every one to do his duty without regard to the
sneers and slanders of our political opponents.

March 16, 1860. — Letter to .

As to your kind wishes for myself, allow me to say I cannot enter
the ring on the money basis — first, because in the main it is wrong ;
and secondly, I have not and cannot get the money.

I say, in the main, the use of money is wrong ; but for certain ob-
jects in a political contest, the use of some is both right and indis-
pensable. With me, as with yourself, the long struggle has been one
of great pecuniary loss.

I now distinctly say this — if you shall be appointed a delegate to
Chicago, I will furnish one hundred dollars to bear the expenses of
the trip. Your friend, as ever,

A. Lincoln.

March 17, I860.— Letter to J. W. Sombrs.

Springfield, March 17, 1860.
James W. Somehs, Esq.

My dear Sir: Reaching home three days ago, I found your letter
of February 26th.


Considering your difficulty of hearing, I think you Lad better
settle in Chicago, if, as you say, a good man already in fair practice
there will take you into partnership. If you had not that difficulty,
I still should think it an even balance whether you would not better
remain in Chicago, with such a chance for a copartnership.

If I went West, I think I would go to Kansas, — to Leavenworth
or Atchison. Both of them are, and will continue to be, fine growing

I believe I have said all I can, and I have said it with the deepest
interest for your welfare. Tours truly,

A. Lincoln.

March 17, 1860. — Letter to E. Stafford.

Springfield, Illinois, March 17, 1860.
E. Stafford, Esq.

Dear Sir : Reaching home on the 14th instant, I found yours of the
1st. Thanking you very sincerely for your kind purposes toward me,
I am compelled to say the money part of the arrangement you pro-
pose is, with me, an impossibility. I could not raise ten thousand
dollars if it would save me from the fate of John Brown. Nor have
my friends, so far as I know, j^et reached the point of staking any
money on my chances of success. I wish I could tell you better
things, but it is even so. Tours very truly,

A. Lincoln.

March 24, 1860. — Letter to Samuel Galloway.

Chicago, March 24, 1860.
Hon. Samuel Galloway.

My dear Sir : I am here attending a trial in court. Before leaving
home I received your kind letter of the 15th. Of course I am grati-
fied to know I have friends in Ohio who are disposed to give me the
highest evidence of their friendship and confidence. Mr. Parrott, of
the legislature, had written me to the same effect. If I have any
chance, it consists mainly in the fact that the whole opposition would
vote for me, if nominated. (I don't mean to include the pro-slavery
opposition of the South, of course.) My name is new in the field,
and I suppose I am not the first choice of a very great many. Our
policy, then, is to give no offense to others — leave them in a mood
to come to us if they shall be compelled to give up their first love.
This, too, is dealing justly with all, and leaving us in a mood to sup-
port heartily whoever shall be nominated. I beheve I have once
before told you that I especially wish to do no ungenerous thing to-
ward Governor Chase, because he gave us his sympathy in 1858
when scarcely any other distinguished man did. Whatever you may
do for me, consistently with these suggestions, will be appreciated
and gratefully rememtjered. Please write me again.

Tours very truly, A. Lincoln.


April 6, I860.— Letter to C. P. McNeil.

Springfield, April 6, 1860.
C. F. McNeil, Esq.

Bear Sir : Reaching home yesterday, I found yours of the 23d
March, inclosing a slip from "The Middleport fress." It is not
true that I ever charged anything for a political speech in my life ;
but this much is true : Last October I was requested by letter to
deliver some sort of speech in Mr. Beecher's church, in Brooklyn —
two hundred dollars being offered in the first letter. I wrote that
I could do it in February, provided they would take a political
speech if I could find time to get up no other. They agreed; and
subsequently I informed them the speech would have to be a polit-
ical one. When I reached New Tork, I for the first time learned
that the place was changed to "Cooper Institute." I made the
speech, and left for New Hampshire, where I have a son at school,
neither asking for pay, nor having any offered me. Three days
after a check for two hundred dollars was sent to me at New Hamp-
shire; and I took it, and did not know it was wrong. My under-
standing now is — though I knew nothing of it at the time — that
they did charge for admittance to the Cooper Institute, and that they
took in more than twice two hundred dollars.

I have made this explanation to you as a friend ; but I wish no
explanation made to our enemies. What they want is a squabble
and a fuss, and that they can have if we explain; and they cannot
have it if we don't.

When I returned through New Tork from New England, I was
told by the gentlemen who sent me the check that a drunken vaga-
bond in the club, having learned something about the two hundred
dollars, made the exhibition out of which "The Herald"' manufac-
tured the article quoted by " The Press " of your town.

My judgment is, and therefore my request is, that you give no
denial and no explanation.

Thanking you for your kind interest in the matter, I remain,

Yours truly, A. LmcOLN.

April 14, 1860. — Letter to .

Springpield, Illinois, April 14, 1860.
My dear Sir: Reaching home last night, I found your letter of the
7th. You know I was in New England. Some of the acquaintances
I made while there write to me since the election that the close vote
in Connecticut and the quasi defeat in Rhode Island are a drawback
upon the prospects of Governor Seward; and Trumbull writes
Dubois to the same effect. Do not mention this as coming from me.
Both those States are safe enough for us in the fall. I see by the
despatches that since you wrote Kansas has appointed delegates and
instructed them for Seward. Do not stir them up to anger, but
come along to the convention, and I will do as I said about expenses.

Yours as ever, A. Lincoln.


May 12, 1860. — Letter to Edwaed Wallace.

Springfield, Illinois, May 12, 1860,
Dr. Edward Wallace.

My dear Sir: Your brother, Dr. W. S. Wallace, shows me a letter
of yours in which you request him to inquire if you may use a letter
of mine to you in which something is said upon the tariff question.
I do not precisely remember what I did say in that letter, but I
presume I said nothing substantially different from what I shall
say now.

In the days of Henry Clay, I was a Henry-Clay-tariff man, and
my views have undergone no material change upon that subject. I
now think the tariff question ought not to be agitated in the Chicago
convention, but that all should be satisfied on that point with a
presidential candidate whose antecedents give assurance that he
would neither seek to force a tariff law by executive influence, nor
yet to arrest a reasonable one by a veto or otherwise. Just such a
candidate I desire shall be put in nomination. I really have no ob-
jection to these views being publicly known, but I do wish to thrust
no letter before the public now upon any subject. Save me from
the appearance of obtrusion, and I do not care who sees this or my
former letter. Yours very truly,

A. Lincoln.

May 19, 1860. — Reply to the Committee sent by the Chicago
Convention to inform Mr. Lincoln of his Nomination for

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Committee : I tender to you,
and through you to the Republican National Convention, and all the
people represented in it, my profoundest thanks for the high honor
done me, which you now formally announce. Deeply and even pain-
fully sensible of the great responsibility which is inseparable from
this high honor — a responsibility which I could almost wish had
fallen upon some one of the far more eminent men and experienced
statesmen whose distinguished names were before the convention —
I shall, by your leave, consider more fully the resolutions of the con-
vention, denominated the platform, and without any unnecessary or
unreasonable delay respond to you, Mr. Chairman, in writing, not
doubting that the platform will be found satisfactory, and the nom-
ination gratefully accepted.

And now I will not longer defer the pleasure of taking you, and
each of you, by the hand.

May 21, 1860. — Letter to J. R. Giddengs.

Springfield, Illinois, May 21, 1860.
Hon. J. R. Giddings.

My good Friend : Your very kind and acceptable letter of the 19th
was duly handed me by Mr. Tuck. It is indeed most grateful to my


feelings that the responsible position assigned me comes without con-
ditions, save only such honorable ones as are fairly implied. I am not
wanting in the purpose, though I may fail in the strength, to main-
tain my freedom from bad influences. Your letter comes to my aid in
this point most opportunely. May the Almighty grant that the cause
of truth, justice, and humanity shall in no wise suffer at my hands.
Mrs. Lincoln joins me in sincere wishes for your health, happi-
ness, and long life.

A. Lincoln.

May 23, 1860. — Letter to George Ashmun and Others.

Springfield, Illinois, May 23, 1860.
Hon. George Ashmun,

President of the Republican National Convention.

Sir: I accept the nomination tendered me by the convention over
which you presided, and of which I am formally apprised in the
letter of yourself and others, acting as a committee of the conven-
tion for that purpose.

The declaration of principles and sentiments which accompanies
your letter meets my approval; and it shall be my care not to vio-
late or disregard it in any part.

Imploring the assistance of Divine Providence, and with due re-
gard to the views and feelings of aU who were represented in the
convention — to the rights of all the States and Territories and
people of the nation ; to the inviolability of the Constitution ; and
the perpetual union, harmony, and prosperity of all — I am most
happy to cooperate for the practical success of the principles de-
clared by the convention.

Your obliged friend and fellow-citizen, A. Lincoln.

Platform op the Republican National Convention held in
Chicago, Illinois, May 16-18, 1860.

Resolved, That we, the delegated representatives of the Republican electors
of the United States, in convention assembled, in the discharge of the
duty we owe to our constituents and our country, unite in the following
declarations :

1. That the history of the nation during the last four years has fully es-
tablished the propriety and necessity of the organization and perpetuation
of the Republican party ; and that the causes which called it into existence
are permanent in their nature, and now, more than ever before, demand its
peaceful and constitutional triumph.

2. That the maintenance of the principles promulgated ia the Declara-
tion of Independence and embodied in the Federal Constitution is essen-
tial to the preservation of our Repubhean institutions, and that the Federal
Constitution, the rights of the States, and the union of the States, must and
shall be preserved.

3. That to the union of the States this nation owes its unprecedented
increase in population, its surprising development of material resources,
its rapid augmentation of wealth, its happiness at home, and its honor
abroad; and we hold in abhorrence aU schemes for disunion, come from


whatever source they may. And we congratulate the country that no
Repubhcan member of Congress has uttered or countenanced the threats
of disunion so often made by Democratic members without rebuke and
"with applause from their political associates; and we denounce those threats
of disunion, in case of a popular overthrow of their ascendancy, as deny-
ing the vital principles of a free government, and as an avowal of contem-
plated treason, which it is the imperative duty of an indignant people sternly
to rebuke and forever silence.

4. That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and
especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic
institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that
balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political
fabric depends ; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of
the soil of any Stale or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among
the gravest of crimes.

5. That the present Democratic administration has far exceeded our
worst apprehensions in its measureless subserviency to the exactions of a
sectional interest, as especially evinced in its desperate exertions to force
the infamous Lecompton constitution upon the protesting people of Kan-
sas; in construing the personal relation between master and servant to
involve an unqualified property in persons ; in its attempted enforcement
everywhere, on land and sea, through the intervention of Congress and of
the Federal courts, of the extreme pretensions of a purely local interest;
and in its general and unvarying abuse of the power intrusted to it by a
confiding people.

6. That the people justly view with alarm the reckless extravagance
which pervades every department of the Federal Government ; that a return
to rigid economy and accountability is indispensable to arrest the syste-
matic plunder of the public treasury by favored partizans ; while the recent
starthng developments of frauds and corruptions at the Federal metropolis
show that an entire change of administration is imperatively demanded.

7. That the new dogma that the Constitution, of its own force, carries
slavery into any or all of the Territories of the United States, is a dangerous
political heresy, at variance with the expHcit provisions of that instrument
itself, with contemporaneous exposition, and with legislative and judicial
precedent; is revolutionary in its tendency, and subversive of the peace
and harmony of the country.

8. That the normal condition of aU the territory of the United States is
that of freedom ; that as our Eepubhcan fathers, when they had abolished
slavery in all our national territory, ordained that "no person should be
deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law," it be-
comes our duty, by legislation, whenever such legislation is necessary, to
maintain this pro wsion of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it ;
and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any .
individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of the
United States.

9. That we brand the recent reopening of the African slave-trade, un-
der the cover of our national flag, aided by perversions of judicial power,
as a crime against humanity and a burning shame to our country and age;
and we call upon Congress to take prompt and efficient measures for the
total and final suppression of that execrable traffic.

10. That in the recent vetoes, by their Federal governors, of the acts of
the legislatures of Kansas and Nebraska prohibiting slavery in those Terri-

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 84 of 91)