Abraham Lincoln.

Political debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in the celebrated campaign of 1858 in Illinois : including the preceding speeches of each at Chicago, Springfield, etc., also the two great speeches of Abraham Lincoln in Ohio in 1859 online

. (page 41 of 50)
Online LibraryAbraham LincolnPolitical debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in the celebrated campaign of 1858 in Illinois : including the preceding speeches of each at Chicago, Springfield, etc., also the two great speeches of Abraham Lincoln in Ohio in 1859 → online text (page 41 of 50)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

had 93,420 inhabitants. I then said, and I now repeat to you,
that whenever Kansas has people enough for a Slave State she
has people enough for a Free State. I was and am willing to
adopt the rule that no State shall ever come into the Union until
she has the full ratio of population for a member of Congress,
provided that rule is made uniform. I made that proposition in
the Senate last winter, but a majority of the senators would not
agree to it; and I then said to them, if you will not adopt the
general rule, I will not consent to make an exception of Kansas.

I hold that it is a violation of the fundamental principles of
this Government to throw the weight of Federal power into the
scale, either in favor of the Free or the Slave States. Equality
among all the States of this Union is a fundamental principle
in our political system. We have no more right to throw the
weight of the Federal Government into the scale in favor of the
slaveholding than the Free States, and last of all should our
friends in the South consent for a moment that Congress should
withhold its powers either way when they know that there is a
majority against them in both Houses of Congress.

Fellow-citizens, how have the supporters of the English bill
stood up to their pledges not to admit Kansas until she obtained
a population of 93,420 in the event she rejected the Lecompton
Constitution? How? The newspapers inform us that English
himself, whilst conducting his canvass for re-election, and in
order to secure it, pledged himself to his constituents that if
returned he would disregard his own bill and vote to admit
Kansas into the Union with such population as she might have
when she made application. We are informed that every Demo-
cratic candidate for Congress in all the States where elections
have recently been held was pledged against the English bill, with
perhaps one or two exceptions. Now, if I had only done as
these anti-Lecompton men who voted for the English bill in Con-
gress, pledging themselves to refuse to admit Kansas if she
refused to become a Slave State until she had a population of
93,420, and then returned to their people, forfeited their pledge,
and made a new pledge to admit Kansas at any time she applied,
without regard to population, I would have had no trouble.
You saw the whole power and patronage of the Federal Govern-


ment wielded in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to re-elect anti-
Lecompton men to Congress who voted against Lecompton, then
voted for the English bill, and then denounced the English bill,
and pledged themselves to their people to disregard it. My sin
consists in not having given a pledge, and then in not having
afterward forfeited it. For that reason, in this State, every post-
master, every route agent, every collector of the ports, and every
Federal office-holder, forfeits his head the moment he expresses
a preference for the Democratic candidates against Lincoln and
his Abolition associates. A Democratic Administration which we
helped to bring into power deems it consistent with its fidelity
to principle and its regard to duty to wield its power in this
State in behalf of the Republican Abolition candidates in every
county and every Congressional District against the Democratic
party. All I have to say in reference to the matter is, that if that
Administration have not regard enough for principle, if they are
not sufficiently attached to the creed of the Democratic party, to
bury forever their personal hostilities in order to succeed in
carrying out our glorious principles, I have. I have no personal
difficulty with Mr. Buchanan or his Cabinet. He chose to make
certain recommendations to Congress, as he had a right to do, .
on the Lecompton question. I could not vote in favor of them.
I had as much right to judge for myself how I should vote as
he had how he should recommend. He undertook to say to me, "If
you do not vote as I tell you, I will take off the heads of your
friends." I replied to him, "You did not elect me, I represent
Illinois, and I am accountable to Illinois, as my constituency, and
to God ; but not to the President or to any other power on earth."

And now this warfare is made on me because I would not
surrender my convictions of duty, because I would not abandon
my constituency, and receive the orders of the executive authori-
ties how I should vote in the Senate of the United States. I hold
that an attempt to control the Senate on the part of the Executive
is subversive of the principles of our CoVistitution. The Execu-
tive department is independent of the Senate, and the Senate is
independent of the President. In maters of legislation the Presi-
dent has a veto on the action of the Senate, and in appointments
and treaties the Senate has a veto on the President. He has no
more right to tell me how I shall vote on his appointments than


I have to tell him whether he shall veto or approve a bill that
the Senate has passed. Whenever you recognize the right of
the Executive to say to a Senator, "Do this, or I will take off the
heads of your friends," you convert this Government from a
republic into a despotism. Whenever you recognize the right of
a President to say to a member of Congress, "Vote as I tell you,
or I will bring a power to bear against you at home which will
crush you," you destroy the independence of the representative,
and convert him into a tool of Executive power. I resisted this
invasion of the constitutional rights of a Senator, and I intend
to resist it as long as I have a voice to speak or a vote to give.
Yet, Mr. Buchanan cannot provoke me to abandon one iota ot
Democratic principles out of revenge or hostility to his course.
I stand by the platform of the Democratic party, and by its organ-
ization, and support its nominees. If there are any who choose
to bolt, the fact only shows that they are not as good Democrats
as I am.

My friends, there never was a time when it was as important
for the Democratic party, for all national men, to rally and stand
together, as it is to-day. We find all sectional men giving up past
differences and continuing the one question of slavery; and when
we find sectional men thus uniting, we should unite to resist them
and their treasonable designs. Such was the case in 1850, when
Clay left the quiet and peace of his home, and again entered upon
public life to quell agitation and restore peace to a distracted
Union. Then we Democrats, with Cass at our head, welcomed
Henry Clay, whom the whole nation regarded as having been
preserved by God for the times. He became our leader in that
great fight, and we rallied around him the same as the Whigs
rallied around Old Hickory in 1832 to put down nullification.
Thus you see that whilst Whigs and Democrats fought fearlessly
in old times about banks, the tariff, distribution, the specie circu-
lar, and the sub-treasury, all united as a band of brothers when
the peace, harmony, or integrity of the Union was imperilled. It
was so in 1850, when Abolitionism had even so far divided this
country, North and South, as to endanger the peace of the Union ;
Whigs and Democrats united in establishing the Compromise
measures of that year, and restoring tranquillity and good feeling.
These measures passed on the joint action of the two parties.


They rested on the great principle that the people of each State
and each Territory should be left perfectly free to form and regu-
late their domestic institutions to suit themselves. You Whigs
and we Democrats justified them in that principle. In 1854,
when it became necessary to organize the Territories of Kansas
and Nebraska, I brought forward the bill on the same principle.
In the Kansas-Nebraska bill you find it declared to be the true
intent and meaning of the Act not to legislate slavery into any
State or Territory, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave
the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their
domestic institutions in their own way. I stand on that same
platform in 1858 that I did in 1850, 1854, and 1856. The Wash-
ington Union, pretending to be the organ of the Administration,
in the number of the 5th of this month devotes three columns
and a half to establish these propositions : First, that Douglas,
in his Freeport speech, held the same doctrine that he did in his
Nebraska bill in 1854; second, that in 1854 Douglas justified the
Nebraska bill upon the ground that it was based upon the same
principle as Clay's Compromise measures of 1850. The Union
thus proved that Douglas was the same in 1858 that he was in
1856, 1854, and 1850, and consequently argued that he was never
a Democrat. Is it not funny that I was never a Democrat?
There is no pretense that I have changed a hair's breadth. The
Union proves by my speeches that I explained the Compromise
measures of 1850 just as I do now, and that I explained the
Kansas and Nebraska bill in 1854 just as I did in my Freeport
speech, and yet says that I am not a Democrat, and cannot be
trusted, because I have not changed during the whole of that
time. It has occurred to me that in 1854 the author of the Kansas
and Nebraska bill was considered a pretty good Democrat. It
has occurred to me that in 1856, when I was exerting every nerve
and every energy for James Buchanan, standing on the same plat-
form then that I do now, that I was a pretty good Democrat.
They now tell me that I am not a Democrat, because I assert
that the people of a Territory, as well as those of a State, have
the right to decide for themselves whether slavery can or cannot
exist in such Territory. Let me read what James Buchanan said
on that point when he accepted the Democratic nomination for the


Presidency in 1856. In his letter of acceptance, he used the
following language : —

The recent legislation of Congress respecting domestic slav-
ery, derived as it has been from the original and pure fountain
of legitimate political power, the will of the majority, promises
ere long to allay the dangerous excitement. This legislation is
founded upon principles as ancient as free government itself, and,
in accordance with them, has simply declared that the people of
a Territory, like those of a State, shall decide for themselves
whether slavery shall or shall not exist within their limits.

Dr. Hope will there find my answer to the question he pro-
pounded to me before I commenced speaking. Of course, no man
will consider it an answer who is outside of the Democratic
organization, bolts Democratic nominations, and indirectly aids
to put Abolitionists into power over Democrats. But whether
Dr. Hope considers it an answer or not, every fair-minded man
will see that James Buchanan has answered the question, and has
asserted that the people of a Territory, like those of a State,
shall decide for themselves whether slavery shall or shall not
exist within their limits. I answer specifically if you want a
further answer, and say that while under the decision of the
Supreme Court, as recorded in the opinion of Chief Justice
Taney, slaves are property like all other property, and can be
carried into any Territory of the United States the same as any
other description of property, yet when you get them there they
are subject to the local law of the Territory just like all other
property. You will find in a recent speech delivered by that able
and eloquent statesman, Hon. Jefferson Davis, at Bangor, Maine,
that he took the same view of this subject that I did in my
Freeport speech. He there said : —

If the inhabitants of any Territory should refuse to enact
such laws and police regulations as would give security to their
property or to his, it would be rendered more or less valueless
in proportion to the difficulties of holding it without such pro-
tection. In the case of property in the labor of man, or what
is usually called slave property, the insecurity would be so great
that the owner could not ordinarily retain it. Therefore, though
the right would remain, the remedy being withheld, it would
follow that the owner would be practically debarred, by the
circumstances of the case, from taking slave property into a


Territory where the sense of the inhabitants was opposed to its
introduction. So much for the oft-repeated fallacy of forcing
slavery upon any community.

You will also find that the distinguished Speaker of the
present House of Representatives, Hon. Jas. L. Orr, construed
the Kansas and Nebraska bill in this same way in 1856, and also
that great intellect of the South, Alex. H. Stephens, put the same
construction upon it in Congress that I did in my Freeport
speech. The whole South are rallying to the support of the
doctrine that if the people of a Territory want slavery, they
have a right to have it, and if they do not want it, that no power
on earth can force it upon them. I hold that there is no principle
on earth more sacred to all the friends of freedom than that
which says that no institution, no law, no constitution, should
be forced on an unwilling people contrary to their wishes ; and
I assert that the Kansas and Nebraska bill contains that principle.
It is the great principle contained in that bill. It is the principle
on which James Buchanan was made President. Without that
principle he never would have been made President of the United
States. I will never violate or abandon that doctrine, if I have
to stand alone. I have resisted the blandishments and threats
of power on the one side, and seduction on the other, and have
stood immovably for that principle, fighting for it when assailed
by Northern mobs, or threatened by Southern hostility. I have
defended it against the North and the South, and I will defend
it against whoever assails it, and I will follow it wherever its
logical conclusions lead me. I say to you that there is but one
hope, one safety for this country, and that is to stand immovably
by that principle which declares the right of each State and each
Territory to decide these questions for themselves. This Govern-
ment was founded on that principle, and must be administered
in the same sense in which it was founded.

But the Abolition party really think that under the Declara-
tion of Independence the negro is equal to the white man, and
that negro equality is an inalienable right conferred by the
Almighty, and hence that all human laws in violation of it are
null and void. With such men it is no use for me to argue. I
hold that the signers of the Declaration of Independence had no
reference to negroes at all when they declared all men to be


created equal. They did not mean negro, nor the savage Indians,
nor the Fejee Islanders, nor any other barbarous race. They
were speaking of white men. They alluded to men of European
birth and European descent, — to white men, and to none others, —
when they declared that doctrine. I hold that this Government
was established on the white basis. It was established by white
men for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and
should be administered by white men, and none others. But it
does not follow, by any means, that merely because the negro is
not a citizen, and merely because he is not our equal, that, there-
fore, he should be a slave. On the contrary it does follow that
we ought to extend to the negro race, and to all other dependent
races, all the rights, all the privileges, and all the immunities which
they can exercise consistently with the safety of society. Hu-
manity requires that we should give them all these privileges;
Christianity commands that we should extend those privileges to
them. The question then arises, what are those privileges, and
what is the nature and extent of them. My answer is, that that
is a question which each State must answer for itself. We in
Illinois have decided it for ourselves. We tried slavery, kept
it up for twelve years, and finding that it was not profitable, we
abolished it for that reason, and became a Free State. We
adopted in its stead the policy that a negro in this State shall
not be a slave and shall not be a citizen. We have a right to
adopt that policy. For my part, I think it is a wise and sound
policy for us. You in Missouri must judge for yourselves
whether it is a wise policy for you. If you choose to follow
our example, very good; if you reject it, still well, — it is your bus-
iness, not ours. So with Kentucky. Let Kentucky adopt a policy
to suit-herself. If we do not like it we will keep away from it;
and if she does not like ours, let her stay at home, mind her own
business, and let us alone. If the people of all the States will
act on that great principle, and each State mind its own business,
attend to its own affairs, take care of its own negroes, and not
meddle with its neighbors, then there will be peace between the
North and the South, the East and the West, throughout the
whole Union.

Why can we not thus have peace? Why should we thus
allow a sectional party to agitate this country, to array the


North against the South, and convert us into enemies instead
of friends, merely that a few ambitious men may ride into power
on a sectional hobby? How long is it since these ambitious
Northern men wished for a sectional organization? Did any
one of them dream of a sectional party as long as the North
was the weaker section and the South the stronger? Then all
were opposed to sectional parties ; but the moment the North
obtained the majority in the House and Senate by the admission
of California, and could elect a President without the aid of
Southern votes, that moment ambitious Northern men formed
a scheme to excite the North against the South, and make the
people be governed in their votes by geographical lines, thinking
that the North, being the stronger section, would outvote the
South, and consequently they, the leaders, would ride into office
on a sectional hobby. I am told that my hour is out. It was
very short.


Ladies and Gentlemen : I have been somewhat, in my own
mind, complimented by a large portion of Judge Douglas's speech,
— I mean that portion which he devotes to the controversy be-
tween himself and the present Administration. This is the
seventh time Judge Douglas and myself have met in these joint
discussions, and he has been gradually improving in regard to
his war with the Administration. At Quincy, day before yester-
day, he was a little more severe upon the Administration than
I had heard him upon any occasion, and I took pains to compli-
ment him for it. I then told him to "Give it to them with all
the power he had;" and as some of them were present, I told
them I would be very much obliged if they would give it to him
in about the same way. I take it he has now vastly improved
upon the attack he made then upon the Administration. I flatter
myself he has really taken my advice on this subject. All I can
say now is to re-commend to him and to them what I then
commended, — to prosecute the war against one another in the
most vigorous manner. I say to them again : "Go it, husband ! —
Go it, bear !"


There is one other thing I will mention before I leave this
branch of the discussion, — although I do not consider it much
of my business, anyway. I refer to that part of the Judge's
remarks where he understakes to involve Mr. Buchanan in an
inconsistency. He reads something from Mr. Buchanan, from
which he undertakes to involve him in an inconsistency ; and he
gets something of a cheer for having done so. T would only
remind the Judge that while he is very valiantly fighting for the
Nebraska bill and the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, it has
been but a little while since he was the valiant advocate of the
Missouri Compromise. I want to know if Buchanan has not as
much right to be inconsistent as Douglas has. Has Douglas the
exclusive right, in this country, of being on all sides of all ques-
tions? Is nobody allowed that high privilege but himself? Is
he to have an entire monopoly on that subject?

So far as Judge Douglas addressed his speech to me, or so
far as it was about me, it is my business to pay some attention
to it., I have heard the Judge state two or three times what he
has stated to-day, — that in a speech which I made at Springfield,
Illinois, I had in a very especial manner complained that the
Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case had decided that a negro
could never be a citizen of the United States. I have omitted
by some accident heretofore to analyze this statement, and it is
required of me to notice it now. In point of fact it is untrue.
I never have complained especially of the Dred Scott decision
because it held that a negro could not be a citizen, and the Judge
is always wrong when he says I ever did so complain of it. I have
the speech here, and I will thank him or any of his friends to
show where I said that a negro should be a citizen, and com-
plained especially of the Dred Scott decision because it declared
he could not be one. I have done no such thing; and Judge
Douglas, so persistently insisting that I have done so, has strongly
impressed me with the belief of a predetermination on his part
to misrepresent me. He could not get his foundation for insist-
ing that I was in favor of this negro equality anywhere else
as well he could by assuming that untrue proposition. Let me
tell this audience what is true in regard to that matter ; and the
means by which they may correct me if I do not tell them truly
is by a recurrence to the speech itself. I spoke of the Dred


Scott decision in my Springfield speech, and I was then endeav-
oring to prove that the Dred Scott decision was a portion of a
system or scheme to make slavery national in this country. I
pointed out what things had been decided by the court. I men-
tioned as a fact that they had decided that a negro could not be
a citizen ; that they had done so, as I supposed, to deprive the
negro, under all circumstances, of the remotest possibility of ever
becoming a citizen and claiming the rights of a citizen of the
United States under a certain clause of the Constitution. I stated
that, without making any complaint of it at all. I then went
on and stated the other points decided in the case; namely: that
the bringing of a negro into the State of Illinois and holding him
in slavery for two years here was a matter in regard to which
they would not decide whether it would make him free or not ;
that they decided the further point that taking him into a United
States Territory where slavery was prohibited by Act of Con-
gress did not make him free, because that Act of Congress, as
they held, was unconstitutional. I mentioned these three things
as making up the points decided in that case. I mentioned them
in a lump, taken in connection with the introduction of the Ne-
braska bill, and the amendment of Chase, offered at the time,
declaratory of the right of the people of the Territories to
exclude slavery, which was voted down by the friends of the
bill. I mentioned all these things together, as evidence tending
to prove a combination and conspiracy to make the institution of
slavery national. In that connection and in that way I mentioned
the decision on the point that a negro could not be a citizen, and
in no other connection.

Out of this, Judge Douglas builds up his beautiful fabrica-
tion of my purpose to introduce a perfect social and political
equality between the white and black races. His assertion that
I made an '"especial objection" (that is his exact language) to the
decision on this account, is untrue in point of fact.

Now, while I am upon this subject, and as Henry Clay has
been alluded to, I desire to place myself, in connection with Mr.
Clay, as nearly right before this people as may be. I am quite
aware what the Judge's object is here by all these allusions. He
knows that we are before an audience having strong sympathies
southward, by relationship, place of birth, and so on. He desires


to place me in an extremely Abolition attitude. He read upon
a former occasion, and alludes, without reading, to-day to a por-
tion of a speech which I delivered in Chicago. In his quotations
from that speech, as he has made them upon former occasions,
the extracts were taken in such a way as, I suppose, brings them

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnPolitical debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in the celebrated campaign of 1858 in Illinois : including the preceding speeches of each at Chicago, Springfield, etc., also the two great speeches of Abraham Lincoln in Ohio in 1859 → online text (page 41 of 50)