George Washington Smith.

A history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) online

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means compatible with the obligations of the constitution, and with good faith
to our sister states; that these principles were recognized by the Ordinance of
1787, which received the sanction of Thomas Jefferson, who is acknowledged by
all to be the great oracle and expounder of our faith.

Subsequently the same interrogatories were propounded to Dr.
Molony which had been addressed to Campbell, as above, with the ex-
ception of the sixth, respecting the inter-state slave-trade, to which Dr.
Molony, the Democratic nominee for congress replied as follows:

I received the written interrogatories this day, and as you will see by the
La Salle Democrat and Ottawa Free Trader, I took at Peru on the 5th and at
Ottawa on the 7th, the affirmative side of interrogatories 1st and 2d, and in re-
lation to the admission of any more slave states from free territory, my posi-
tion taken at these meetings, as correctly reported in said papers, was emphat-
ically and distinctly opposed to it. In relation to the admission of any more
slave States from Texas, whether I shall go against it or not will depend upon
the opinion that I may hereafter form of the true meaning and nature of the
resolutions of annexation. If, by said resolutions, the honor and good faith of
the nation is pledged to admit more slave states from Texas when she (Texas)
may apply for the admission of such state, then I should, if in congress, vote
for their admission. But if not so PLEDGED and bound by sacred contract, then a
bill for the admission of more slave states from Texas would never receive my

To your fourth interrogatory I answer most decidedly in the affirmative,
and for reasons set forth in my reported remarks at Ottawa last Monday.

To your fifth interrogatory I also reply in the affirmative most cordially,
and that I will use my utmost exertions to secure the nomination and election
of a man who will accomplish the objects of said interrogatories. I most cor-
dially approve of the resolutions adopted at the union meeting held at Princeton
on the 27th September ult. Yours, etc.,


All I have to say in regard to Dr. Molony is, that he was the regu-
larly nominated Democratic candidate for congress in his district was
elected at that time, at the end of his term was appointed to a land-
office at Danville. (I never heard anything of Judge Douglas's instru-
mentality in this.) He held this office a considerable time, and when


we were at Freeport the other day, there were handbills scattered about
notifying the public that after our debate was over, R. S. Molony would
make a Democratic speech in favor of Judge Douglas. That is all I
know of my own personal knowledge. It is added here to this resolu-
tion, and truly I believe, that

"Among those who participated in the Joliet convention, and who
supported its nominee, with his platform as laid down in the resolu-
tion of the convention and in his reply as above given, we call at ran-
dom the following names, all of which are recognized at this day as
leading Democrats:"

"Cook County E. B. Williams, Charles McDonell, Arno Voss,
Thomas Hoyne, Isaac Cook."

I reckon we ought to except Cook.

"F. C. Sherman."

"Will Joel A. Matteson, S. W. Bowen."

"Kane B. F. Hall, G. W. Renwick, A. M. Herrington, Elijah Wil-

"McHenry W. M. Jackson, Enos W. Smith, Neil Donnelly."
"La Salle John Hise, William Reddick."

William Reddick! another one of Judge Douglas's friends that stood
on the stand with him at Ottawa, at the time the Judge says my knees
trembled so that I had to be carried away. The names are all here:

"DuPage Nathan Allen."

"DeKalb Z. B. Mayo." .

Here is another set of resolutions which I think are apposite to the
matter in hand.

On the twenty-eighth of February of the same year, a Democratic
district convention was held at Naperville, to nominate a candidate for
circuit judge. Among the delegates were Bowen and Kelly, of Will;
Captain Naper, H. H. Cody, Nathan Allen, of DuPage; W. M. Jack-
son, J. M. Strode, P. W. Platt and Enos W. Smith, of McHenry; J.
Horsman and others, of Winnebago. Colonel Strode presided over the
convention. The following resolutions were unanimously adopted
the first on motion of P. W. Platt, the second on motion of William M.
Jackson :

Resolved, That this Convention is in favor of the Wilmot Proviso, both in
principle and practice, and that we know of no good reason why any person
should oppose the largest latitude in free soil, free territory and free speech,

Resolved. That in the opinion of this convention, the time has arrived when
all men should be free, whites as well as others.

Judge Douglas" What is the date of those resolutions?"
Mr. Lincoln I understand it was in 1850, but I do not know it. I
do not state a thing and say I know it, when I do not. But I have the
highest belief that this is so. I know of no way to arrive at the conclu-
sion that there is an error in it. I mean to put a case no stronger than
the truth will allow. But what I was going to comment upon is an
extract from a newspaper in DeKalb county, and it strikes me as being
rather singular, I confess, under the circumstances. There is a Judge
Mayo in that county, who is a candidate for the legislature, for the
purpose, if he secures his election, of helping to re-elect Judge Douglas.
He is the editor of a newspaper [DeKalb County Sentinel], and in that
paper I find the extract I am going to read. It is part of an editorial
article in which he was electioneering as fiercely as he could for Judge


Douglas and against me. It was a curious thing, I think, to be in such
a paper. I will agree to that, and the Judge may make the most of it:

"Our education has been such, that we have ever been rather in
favor of the equality of the blacks; that is, that they should enjoy all
the privileges of the whites where they reside. We are aware that this
is not a very popular doctrine. We have had many a confab with some
who are now strong ' Republicans, ' we taking the broad ground of equal-
ity and they the opposite ground.

"We were brought up in a state where blacks were voters, and we
do not know of any inconvenience resulting from it, though perhaps it
would not work as well where the blacks are more numerous. We have
no doubt of the right of the whites to guard against such an evil, if it
is one. Our opinion is that it would be best for all concerned to have
the colored population in a state by themselves [in this I agree with
him] ; but if within the jurisdiction of the United States, we say by all
means they should have the right to have their senators and representa-
tives in congress, and to vote for President. With us ' worth makes the
man, and want of it the fellow.' We have seen many a 'nigger' that
we thought more of than some white men."

This is one of Judge Douglas's friends. Now I do not want to leave
myself in an attitude where I can be misrepresented, so I will say I do
not think the Judge is responsible for this article; but he is quite as
responsible for it as I would be if one of my friends had said it. I
think that is fair enough.

I have here also a set of resolutions passed by a Democratic state
convention in Judge Douglas's own good old state of Vermont, that I
think ought to be good for him too :

Resolved, That liberty is a right inherent and inalienable in man, and that
herein all men are equal.

Resolved. That we claim no authority in the Federal Government to abolish
slavery in the several states, but we do claim for it constitutional power per-
petually to prohibit the introduction of slavery into territory now free, and abolish
it wherever, under the jurisdiction of congress, it exists.

Resolved. That this power ought immediately to be exercised in prohibiting
the introduction and existence of slavery in New Mexico and California, in
abolishing slavery and the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, on the high
seas, and wherever else, under the constitution, it can be reached.

Resolved, That no more slave states should be admitted into the Federal

Resolved, That the government ought to return to its ancient policy, not to
extend, nationalize or encourage, but to limit, localize and discourage slavery.

At Freeport I answered several interrogatories that had been pro-
pounded to me by Judge Douglas at the Ottawa meeting. The Judge
has yet not seen fit to find any fault with the position that I took in
regard to those seven interrogatories, which were certainly broad
enough, in all conscience, to cover the entire ground. In my answers,
which have been printed, and all have had the opportunity of seeing,
I take the ground that those who elect me must expect that I will do
nothing which will not be in accordance with those answers. I have
some right to assert that Judge Douglas has no fault to find with them.
But he chooses to still try to thrust me upon different ground without
paying any attention to my answers, the obtaining of which from me
cost him so much trouble and concern. At the same time, I propounded
four interrogatories to him, claiming it as a right that he should answer


as many interrogatories for me as I did for him, and 1 would reserve
myself for a future installment when I got them ready. The Judge in
answering me upon that occasion, put in what I suppose he intends as
answers to all four of my interrogatories. The first one of these inter-
rogatories I have before me, and it is in these words:

"Question 1. If the people of Kansas shall, by means entirely un-
objectionable in all other respects, adopt a State Constitution, and ask
admission into the Union under it, before they have the requisite num-
ber of inhabitants according to the English bill some ninety-three
thousand will you vote to admit them?"

As I read the Judge's answer in the newspaper, and as I remember
it as pronounced at the time, he does not give any answer which is
equivalent to yes or no I will or I wont. He answers at very consid-
erable length, rather quarreling with me for asking the question, and
insisting that Judge Trumbull had done something that I ought to say
something about; and finally getting out such statements as induce me
to infer that he means to be understood he will, in that supposed case,
vote for the admission of Kansas. I only bring this forward now for
the purpose of saying that if he chooses to put a different construction
upon his answer he may do it. But if he does not, I shall from this
time forward assume that he will vote for the admission of Kansas in
disregard of the English bill. He has the right to remove any mis-
understanding I may have. I only mention it now that I may here-
after assume this to be the true construction of his answer, if he does
not now choose to correct me.

The second interrogatory that I propounded to him, was this:

"Question 2. Can the people of a United States territory, in any
lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, ex-
clude slavery from its limits prior to the formation of a State Consti-

To this Judge Douglas answered that they can lawfully exclude
slavery from the territory prior to the formation of a constitution. He-
goes on to tell us how it can be done. As I understand him, he holds
that it can be done by the territorial legislature refusing to make any
enactments for the protection of slavery in the territory and especially
by adopting unfriendly legislation to it. For the sake of clearness I
state it again; that they can exclude slavery from the territory, first, by
withholding what he assumes to be an indispensable assistance to it
in the way of legislation; and, second, by unfriendly legislation. If
I rightly understand him, I wish to ask your attention for a while to
his position.

In the first place, the supreme court of the United States has de-
cided that any congressional prohibition of slavery in the territories
is unconstitutional that they have reached this proposition as a con-
clusion from their former position, that the constitution of the United
States expressly recognizes property in slaves, and from that other con-
stitutional provision, that no person shall be deprived of property with-
out due process of law. Hence they reach the conclusion that as the
constitution of the United States expressly recogni/es property in
slaves, and prohibits any person from beine deprived of property with-
out due process of law, to pass an act of congress by which a man
who owned a slave on one side of a line would be deprived of him if


he took him on the other side, is depriving him of that property with-
out due process of law. That I understand to be the decision of the
supreme court. I understand also that Judge Douglas adheres most
firmly to that decision; and the difficulty is, how is it possible for any
power to exclude slavery from the territory unless in violation of that
decision? That is the difficulty. ,

In the senate of the United States, in 1850, Judge Trumbull, in a
speech, substantially, if not directly, put the same interrogatory to
Judge Douglas, as to whether the people of a territory had the lawful
power to exclude slavery prior to the formation of a constitution?
Judge Douglas then answered at considerable length and his answer
will be found in the Congressional Globe, under date of June 9, 1856.
The Judge said that whether the people could exclude slavery prior to
the formation of a constitution or not was a question to be decided by
the supreme court. He put that proposition, as will be seen by the
Congressional Globe, in a variety of forms, all running to the same
thing in substance that it was a question for the supreme court. I
maintain that when he says, after the supreme court have decided the
question, that the people may yet exclude slavery by any means what-
ever, he does virtually say, that it is not a question for the supreme
court. He shifts his ground. I appeal to you whether he did not say
it was a question for the supreme court? Has not the supreme court
decided that question? When he now says the people may exclude sla-
very, does he not make it a question for the people? Does he not vir-
tually shift his ground and say that it is not a question for the court,
but for the people? This is a very simple proposition a very plain
and naked one. It seems to me that there is no difficulty in deciding it.
In a variety of ways he said that it was a question for the supreme
court. He did not stop then to tell us that whatever the supreme court
decides, the people can by withholding necessary "police regulations"
keep slavery out. He did not make any such answer. I submit to you
now, whether the new state of the case has not induced the Judge to
sheer away from his original ground. Would not this be the impres-
sion of every fair-minded man?

I hold that the proposition that slavery cannot enter a new country
without police regulations is historically false. It is not true at all. I
hold that the history of this country shows that the institution of sla-
very was originally planted upon this continent without these "police
regulations" which the Judge now thinks necessary for the actual estab-
lishment of it. Not only so, but is there not another fact how came
this Dred Scott decision to be made? It was made upon the case of a
negro being taken and actually held in slavery in Minnesota territory,
claiming his freedom because the act of congress prohibited his being
so held there. Will the Judge pretend that Dred Scott was not held
there without police regulations? There is at least one matter of rec-
ord as to his having been held in slavery in the territory, not only with-
out police regulations, but in the teeth of congressional legislation sup-
posed to be valid 'at the time. This shows that there is vieror enough in
slavery to plant itself in a new country even against unfriendly legis-
lation. It takes not only law but the enforcement of law to keep it out.
That is the history of this country upon the subject.

I wish to ask one other question. It being understood that the con-


stitution of the United States guarantees property in slaves in the terri-
tories, if there is any infringement of the right of that property, would
not the United States courts, organized for the government of" the ter-
ritory, apply such remedy as might be necessary in that case? It is a
maxim held by the courts, that there is no wrong without its remedy;
and the courts have a remedy for whatever is acknowledged and treated
as a wrong.

Again : I will ask you, my friends, if you were elected members of
the legislature, what would be the first thing you would have to do
before entering upon your duties? Swear to support the constitution
of the United States. Suppose you believe, as Judge Douglas does, that
the constitution of the United States guarantees to your neighbor the
right to hold slaves in that territory that they are his property
how can you clear your oaths unless you give him such legislation as is
necessary to enable him to enjoy that property? What do you under-
stand by supporting the constitution of a state, or of the United
States? Is it not to give such constitutional helps to the rights estab-
lished by that constitution as may be practically needed. Can you, if
you swear to support the constitution, and believe that the constitution
establishes a right, clear your oath, without giving it support? Do you
support the constitution if, knowing or believing there is a right estab-
lished under it which needs specific legislation, you withhold that leg-
islation? Do you not violate and disregard your oath? I can conceive
of nothing plainer in the world. There can be nothing in the words
"support the constitution," if you may run counter to it by refusing
support to any right established under the constitution. And what I
say here will hold with still more force against the Judge's doctrine of
"unfriendly legislation." How could you, having sworn to support
the constitution, and believing it guaranteed the right to hold slaves in
the territories, assist in legislation intended to defeat that right? That
would be violating your own view of the constitution. Not only so,
but if you were to do so, how long would it take the courts to hold your
votes unconstitutional and void? Not a moment.

Lastly I would ask is not congress itself, under obligation to give
legislative support to any right that is established under the United
States constitution? I repeat the question is not congress, itself,
bound to give legislative support to any right that is established in the
United States constitution? A member of congress swears to support
the constitution of the United States, and if he sees a right established
by that constitution which needs specific legislative protection, can he
clear his oath without giving that protection? Let me ask you why
many of us who are opposed to slavery upon principle, give our acqui-
escence to a Fugitive Slave law? Why do we hold ourselves under
obligations to pass such a law, and abide by it when it is passed? Be-
cause the constitution makes provision that the owners of slaves shall
have the right to reclaim them. It gives the right to reclaim slaves,
and that right is, as Judge Douglas says, a barren right, unless there
is legislation that will enforce it.

The mere declaration, "No person held to service or labor in one
state under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in conse-
quence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service
or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such.

Tol. I 1


service or labor may be due," is powerless without specific legislation
to enforce it. Now, on what ground would a member of congress who
is opposed to slavery in the abstract, vote for a Fugitive law, as I would
deem it my duty to do? Because there is a constitutional right which
needs legislation to enforce it. And although it is distasteful to me, I
have sworn to support the constitution, and having so sworn, I cannot
conceive that I do support it if I withhold from that right any neces-
sary legislation to make it practical. And if that is true in regard to a
Fugitive Slave law, is the right to have fugitive slaves reclaimed any
better fixed in the constitution than the right to hold slaves in the ter-
ritories? For this decision is a just exposition of the constitution, as
Judge Douglas thinks. Is the one right any better than the other? Is
there any man who, while a member of congress, would give support to
the one any more than the other? If I wished to refuse to give legis-
lative support to slave property in the territories, if a member of con-
gress, I could not do it, holding the view that the constitution establishes
that right. If I did it at all, it would be because I deny that this de-
cision properly construes the constitution. But if I acknowledge, with
Judge Douglas, that this decision properly construes the constitution,
I cannot conceive that I would be less than a perjured man if I should
refuse in congress to give such protection to that property as in its
nature it needed.

At the end of what I have said here I propose to give the Judge my
fifth interrogatory, which he may take and answer at his leisure. My
fifth interrogatory is this :

If the slaveholding citizens of a United States territory should need
and demand congressional legislation for the protection of their slave
property in such territory, would you, as a member of congress, vote
for or against such legislation?

Judge Douglas "Will you repeat that? I want to answer that
question. ' '

Mr. Lincoln If the slaveholding citizens of a United States terri-
tory should need and demand congressional legislation for the protec-
tion of their slave property in such territory, would you, as a member
of congress, vote for or against such legislation?

I am aware that in some of the speeches Judge Douglas has made,
he has spoken as if he did not know or think that the supreme court
had decided that a territorial legislature cannot exclude slavery. Pre-
cisely what the Judge would say upon the subject whether he would
say definitely that he does not understand they have so decided, or
whether he would say he does understand that the courts have so de-
cided, I do not know ; but I know that in his speech at Springfield he
spoke of it as a thing they had not decided yet ; and in his answer to
me at Freeport, he spoke of it so far again, as I can comprehend it. as
a thing that had not yet been decided. Now I hold that if the Judge
does entertain that view, I think that he is not mistaken in so far as it
can be said that the court has not decided anything save the mere
question of jurisdiction. I know the legal arguments that can be made
that after a court has decided that it cannot take jurisdiction in a
case, it then has decided all that is before it, and that is the end of it.
A plausible argument can be made in favor of that proposition, but I
know that Judge Douglas has said in one of his speeches that the court


went forward, like honest men as they were, and decided all the points
in the case. If any points are really extra-judicially decided because
not necessarily before them, then this one as to the power of the territo-
rial legislature to exclude slavery is one of them, as also the one that
the Missouri Compromise was null and void. They are both extra-judi-
cial, or neither is, according as the court held that they had no juris-
diction in the case between the parties, because of want of capacity of
one party to maintain a suit in that court. I want, if I have sufficient
time, to show that the court did pass its opinion, but that is the only
thing actually done in the case. If they did not decide, they showed
what they were ready to decide whenever the matter was before them.
What is that opinion ? After having argued that congress had no power
to pass a law excluding slavery from a United States territory, they
then used language to this effect: That inasmuch as congress itself
could not exercise such a power, it followed as a matter of course that
it could not authorize a territorial government to exercise it, for the
territorial legislature can do no more than congress could do. Thus it
expressed its opinion emphatically against the power of a territorial
legislature to exclude slavery, leaving us in just as little doubt on that

Online LibraryGeorge Washington SmithA history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) → online text (page 38 of 65)