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Henry J. (Henry Jarvis) Raymond.

Lincoln, his life and time : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages and proclamations and closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and time : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages and proclamations and closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 42)
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original Constitution ; and, for the same reason, I have also omitted what
ever understanding may have been manifested by any of the " thirty
nine " even, on any other phase of the general question of slavery. If w
should look into their acts and declarations on those other phases, as th*
foreign slave-trade, and the morality and policy of slavery generally, it
would appear to us that on the direct question of Federal control of sla
very in Federal territories, the sixteen, if they had acted at all, would
probably have acted just as the twenty- three did. Among that sixteer
were several of the most noted anti-slavery men of those times as Dr.
Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Gouverneur Morris while there was
not one now known to have been otherwise, unless it may be John Rut-
ledge, of South Carolina.

The sum of the whole is, that of our thirty-nine fathers who framed
the original Constitution, twenty-one a clear majority of the whole
certainly understood that no proper division of local from Federal au
thority, nor any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Govern
ment to control slavery in the Federal territories ; whilst all the rest prob
ably had the same understanding. Such, unquestionably, was the under
standing of our fathers who framed the original Constitution ; and the
text affirms that they understood the question " better than we."

But, so far, I have been considering the understanding of the question
manifested by the framers of the original Constitution. In and by the
original instrument, a mode was provided for amending it ; and, as I have
already stated, the present frame of "the Government under which we
live" consists of that original, and twelve amendatory articles framed
and adopted since. Those who now insist that Federal control of slavery
iu Federal territories violates the Constitution, point us to the provision!



90 THE LIFE, PUBLIC SERVICES, AND

which they suppose it thus violates ; and, as I understand, they all hi
upon provisions in these amendatory articles, and not in the original in
strument. The Supreme Court, in the Dred Scott case, plant themselves
rpon the fifth amendment, which provides that no person shall be de
prived of "life, liberty, or property without due process of law;" while
Senator Douglas and his peculiar adherents plant themselves upon the
tenth amendment, providing that "the powers not delegated to the
United States by the Constitution," ; are reserved to the States respect
ively, or to the people."

Now, it so happens that these amendments were framed by the first
Congress whnh sat under the Constitution the identical Congress which
passed the act already mentioned, enforcing the prohibition of slavery in
t^ie Northwestern Territory. Not only was it the same Congress, but
tl ey were the identical same individual men who, at the same session,
ai d at the same time within the session, had under consideration, and in
progress toward maturity, these Constitutional amendments, and this act
prohibiting slavery in all the territory the nation then owned. The Con
stitutional amendments were introduced before, and passed after the act
enforcing the Ordinance of 87 ; so that, during the whole pendency of
the act to enforce the Ordinance, the Constitutional amendments were
also pending.

The seventy-six members of that Congress, including sixteen of the
framers of the original Constitution, as before stated, were pre-eminently
our fathers who framed that part of " the Government under which we
live," which is now claimed as forbidding the Federal Government to
control slavery in the Federal territories.

Is it not a little presumptuous in any one at this day to affirm that the
two things which that Congress deliberately framed, and carried to ma
turity at the same time, are absolutely inconsistent with each other?
And does not such affirmation become impudently absurd when coupled
with the other affirmation from the same mouth, that those who did tlu j
two things alleged to be inconsistent, understood whether they reali\
were inconsistent better than we better than he who affirms that they
are inconsistent ?

It is surely safe to assume that the thirty-nine framers of the original
Constitution, and the seventy-six members of the Congress which framed
the amendments thereto, t; ken together, do certainly include those who
may be fairly called " our fathers Avlio framed the Government under
which we live." And, so assuming, 1 defy any man to show that any one
of them ever, in his whole life, declared that, in his understanding, any
proper division of local from Federal authority, or auy part of the Con
stitution, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the
Federal territories. I go a step further. I defy any one to show that any
living man in the whole world ever did, prior to the beginning of the
present century (and I might almost say prior to the beginning of the



STATE PAPERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 91

last half of the present century), declare that, in his understanding, any
proper division of local from Federal authority, or any part of the Consti
tution, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the
Federal territories. To those who now so declare, I give not only " our
fathers who framed the Government under which we live," but with them
all othcfr living men within the century in which it was framed, among
whom to search, and they shall not bo able to find the evidence of a single
man agreeing with them.

Now, and here, let me guard a little against being misunderstood,
do not mean to say we are bound to follow implicitly in whatever oui
fathers did. To do so, would be to discard all the lights of current ex
perience to reject all progress all improvement. What I do say is, that
if we would supplant the opinions and policy of our fathers in any case,
we should do so upon evidence so conclusive, and argument so clear, that
even their great authority, fairly considered and weighed, cannot stand ;
and most surely not in a case whereof we ourselves declare they under
stood the question better than we.

If any man at this day sincerely believes that proper division of local
from Federal authority, or any part of the Constitution, forbids the Federal
Government to control as to slavery in the Federal territories, he is right
to say so, and to enforce his position by all truthful evidence and fkir
argument which he can. But he has no right to mislead others, who
have less access to history, and less leisure to study it, into tiie false belief
that " our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live,"
were of the same opinion thus substituting falsehood and deception for
truthful evidence and fair argument. If any man at this day sincerely
believes "our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live,"
used and applied principles, in other ases, which ought to have led them
to understand that a proper division of local from Federal authority, or
some part of the Constitution, forbids the Federal Government to control
as to slavery in the Federal territories, he is right to say so. But he
should, at the same time, brave the responsibility of declaring that, in his
opinion, he understands their principles better than they did themselves ;
and especially should he not shirk that responsibility by asserting that they
"understood the question just as well, and even better than we do now."

But enough! Let all who beliece that u our fathers, who framed the
Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and
even better than we do now,"" speak a* they spoke, and act as they acted
upon it. This is- all Republicans ask all Republicans desire in relation
to slavery. As those fathers marked it, so let it be again marked, as an
evil not to be extended, but to be tolerated and protected only because of, and
tv far as, its actual presence among us makes that toleration and protection
a necessity. Let all the guaranties those fathers gave it be not grudgingly,
but fully and fairly maintained. For this Republicans contend, and with
this, so far as I know or believe, they will be content.



92 THE LIFE, PUBLIC SERVICES, AND

And now, if they would listen as I suppose they will not I would
address a few words to the Southern people.

I would say to them : You consider yourselves a reasonable and a just
people ; and I consider that in the general qualities of reason and justice
YOU are not inferior to any other people. Still, when you speak of us
Republicans, you do so only to denounce us as reptiles, or, at the best, as
no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers,
but nothing like it to " Black Republicans." In all your contentions with
one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of " Black
Republicanism" as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such con
demnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite license, so to
speak among you, to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now,
can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause, and to consider whether this
is quite just to us, or even to yourselves ? Bring forward your charges and
specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or
justify.

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. You will then begin
to discover, as the truth plainly is, that your proof does not touch the
issue. 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 discussion of the right or wrong of our principle. If
our principle, put in practice, would wrong your section for the bene
fit of ours, or for any other object, then our principle, and we with it,
arc sectional, and are justly opposed and denounced as such. Meet us,
then, on the question of whether our principle, put in practice, would
wrong your section ; and so meet us 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 Gov
ernment under which we live" thought so clearly right as to adopt it,
and indorse it again and again, upon their official oathg, is in fact so
clearly wrong as to demand your condemnation witnout a moment s con
ideration.

Some of you delight to flaunt in our faces the warning against sectional
parties given by Washington in his Farewell Address. Less than



STATE PAPERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 93

yearn bforo Washington gave that warning, he hwl, as President of tht
United Suites, approved and signed an act ot Congress enforcing the pro-
Lihition of slavery in the Northwestern Territory, which act embodied
tlio policy of the Government upon that subject up to, and at, the very
moment lie penned that warning ; and about one year after he penned it,
hj wrote La Fayette that no considered that prohibition a wise measure,
expressing in the same connection his hope that we should at some time
Lave a confederacy of tree 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 himself speak, 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 the sort. What is con
servatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against a new and
untried? We stick to, contend for, the identical old policy on the point
in controversy which was adopted by " our fathers who framed the Gov
ernment 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 are divided on 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 Con
gressional Slave-Code for the Territories; some for Congress forbidding
the Territories to prohibit Slavery within their limits ; some for maintain
ing blavery in the Territories through the judiciary; some for the "gur-
reat pur-riuciple" that "if one man would enslave another, no third man
should object," fantastically called " Popular Sovereignty ;" but never a
man among you in favor of Federal prohibition of slavery in Federal terri
tories, according to the practice of our fathers who framed the Govern
ment under which we live." Not one of all your various plans can show a
precedent or an advocate in the century within which our Governineht
originated. Consider, then, whether your claim of conservatism for your
selves, and your charge of destructiveness against us, are based on the
most clear and stable foundations.

Again : you say we have made the slavery question more prominent than
it formerly was. We deny it. We admit that it is more prominent, but
we deny that we made it so. It was not we, but you, who discarded tUe
old policy of the fathers. We resisted, and still resist your innovation;
and thence comes !;he greater prominence of the question. Would you
have that question reduced to its former proportions? Go back to that
old policy. What has been will be again, under the same conditions. If



H THE LIFE, PUBLIC SERVICES, AND

rou would have the peace of the old times, readopt the precepts and policy
>f tho old times.

You charge that we stir up insurrections among your slaves. "Wo deny
t; and what is your proof? Harper s Ferry I John Brown!! John
Brown was no Republican ; and you have failed to implicate a single Re
publican in his Harper s Ferry enterprise. If any member of our party is
guilty in that matter, you know it or you do not know it. If you do know
it, you are inexcusable for not designating the man and proving the fact.
If you do not know it, you are inexcusable for asserting it, and especially
for persisting in the assertion after you have tried and failed to make the
nroof. 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 declara
tions necessarily lead to such results. "We do not believe it. We know
we hold to no doctrine, and make no declaration, which were not held to
and made by " our fathers who framed the Government under which we
live." You never dealt fairly by us in relation to this affair. When it
occurred, some important State elections were near at hand, and you were
in evident glee with the belief that, by charging the blame upon us, you
could get an advantage of us in those elections. The elections came, and
four expectations were not quite fulfilled. Every Republican man knew
that, as to himself at least, your charge was a slander, and he was not
much inclined by it to cast his vote in your favor. Republican doctrines
and declarations are accompanied with a continued protest against any
interference whatever with your slaves, or with you about your slaves.
Surely, this does not encourage them to revolt. True, we do, in common
with "our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live,"
declare our belief that slavery is wrong ; but the slaves do not hear us
declare even this. For any thing we say or do, the slaves would scarcely
know there is a Republican party. I believe they would not, in fact,
generally know it but ibr your misrepresentations of us in their hearing.
In your political contests among yourselves, each faction harges the
other with sympathy with Black Republicanism ; and then, to give point
to the charge, defines Black Republicanism to simply be insurrection,
blood, and thunder among the slaves.

Slave insurrections are no more common now than they were be
fore the Republicau party was organized. What induced the Southamp
ton insurrection, twenty-eight years ago, in which, at least, three times as
many lives were lost as at Harper s Ferry? You can scarcely stretch
your very elastic fancy to the conclusion that Southampton was "got up
by Black Republicanism." In the present state of things in the United
States, I do not think a general or even a very extensive slave insurrec-
tioi- is possible. The indispensable concert of action cannot be attained.
The slaves have no means of rapid communication ; uor can incendiarj



STATE PAPERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 95

freemen, black or white, supply it. The explosive materials are every
where in parcels; but there neither are, nor can be supplied, the indis
pensable connecting- trains.

Much is said by Southern people about the affection of slaves for theif
masters and mistresses ; and a part of it, at least, is true. A plot for an
uprising could scarcely be devised and communicated to twenty individ
uals before some one of them, to save the life of a favorite muster or mis
tress, would divulge it. This is the rule; and the slave revolution ii;
Hayti was not an exception to it, but a case occurring under peculiar cir
cumstances. The gunpowder plot of British history, though not connect
ed with slaves, was more in point. In that case, only about twenty were
admitted to the secret ; and yet one of them, in his anxiety to save a
friend, betrayed the plot to that friend, and, by consequence, averted the
calamity. Occasional poisonings from the kitchen, and open or stealthy
assassinations in the field, and local revolts, extending to a score or so,
vail continue to occur as the natural results of slavery; but no general
insurrection of slaves, as I think, can happen in this country for a long
time. Whoever much fears or much hopes for such an event will be alike
disappointed.

i.n the language of Mr. Jefferson, uttered many years ago, * It is still in
co_r power to direct the process of emancipation and deportation peace
a:>iy, and in ^uch slow degrees, as that the evil will wear off insensibly;
tml their places be, part passu, filled up by free white laborers. If, on
tne contrary, it is left to force itself on, human nature must shudder at
the prospect held up."

Mr. Jefferson did not mean to oay, nor do I, that the power of emanci
pation is in the Federal Government. He spoke of Virginia; and, as to
the power of emancipation, I speak of the slaveholding States only. The
Federal Government, however, as we insist, has the power of restraining
the extension of the institution the power to insure that a slave insur
rection shall never occur on any American soil which is now free fron
tUverj .

John Brown s effort was peculiar. It was not a slave insurrection. It
was an attempt by white men to get up a revolt among slaves, in which
the slaves refused to participate. In fact, it was so absurd that the slaves,
with all their ignorance, saw plainly enough it could not succeed. That
affair, in its philosophy, corresponds with the many attempts related in
history at the assassination of kings and emperors. An enthusiast brooda
over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by
Heaven to liberate them. He ventures the attempt, which ends in little
else than his own execution. Orsini s attempt on Louis Napoleon and
John Brown s attempt at Harper s Ferry were, in their philosophy, pre
cisely the same. The eagerness to cast blame on old England in the one
case, and on New England in the other, does not disprove the sameneas
of the two things.



96 THE LIFE, PUBLIC SERVICES, AND

And how much would it avail you, if you could, hy the use of John
Brown, Helper s Book, and the like, break up the Republican organiza
tion? Human action can be modified to some extent, but human uatr.ro
cannot be changed. There is a judgment and a feeling against slavery in
this nation, which cast at least a million and a half of votes. You cannot
destroy that judgment and feeling that sentiment by breaking up tbe
political organization which rallies around it. You can scarcely scatter
and disperse an army which has been formed into order in the face of
your heaviest fire; but if you could, how much would you gain by forcin
tha sentiment which created it out of the peaceful channel of the ballot-
box, into some other channel ? What would that other channel probably
b? Would the number of John Browns be lessened or enlarged by tbo
O /eration ?

rUit you will break up the Union rather than submit to a denial of yonr
Constitutional rights.

That has a somewhat reckless sound; but it would be palliated, if no*
fully justified, were we proposing, by the mere force of numbers, to de
prive you of some right plainly written down in the Constitution. Bui
we are proposing no such thing.

When you make these declarations, you have a specific and well-under-
itood allusion to an assumed Constitutional right of ycurs to take filavti
nto the Federal Territories, and to hold them there as properly. But bo
inch right is specifically written in the Constitution. That instrument il
literally silent about any such right. We, on the contrary, deny that
such a right has any existence in the Constitution, even by implication.

Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is, that you will destroy the Gov
ernment unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution
s you please on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule
or ruin, in all events.

This, plainly stated, is your language. Perhaps you will say the Su
preme Court has decided the disputed Constitutional question in your
favor. Not quite so. But, waiving the lawyer s distinction between dic-
ti:in and decision, the Court have decided the question for you in a sort
of wnv. The Court have substantially said, it it your Constitutional righ*
to take slaves into the Federal Territories, and to hold them there as
property. When I say the decision was made in a sort of way, I mean it
was made in a divided Court, by a bare majority of the judges, and they
not quite agreeing with one another in the reasons for making it; that it
is so made as that its avowed supporters disagree with one another about
its meaning, and that it was mainly based upon a mistaken statement of
fact the statement in the opinion that " the right of property in a slave
is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution."

An inspection of the Constitution will show that the right of property
in a slave is not "distinctly and expressly affirmed " in it. Bear in mind,
fudges do not plfldge their judicial opiqioo that such right is implied



STATE PAPERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 97

ly ainrmed in the Constitution ; but they pledge their veracity that it is
^ distinctly and expressly" aflinned there " distinctly," that in, net
mingled with any thing else "expressly," that is, in words meaning just
that, without the aid of any inference, and susceptible of no other meaning.

Ir they hud only pledged their judicial opinion that such right is
affi/med in the instrument by implication, it would be open to others to
b >w that neither the word "slave" nor "slavery" is to be found in the
Cr.nstitution, nor the word "property" even, in any connection with Ian
gunge alluding to the things slave or slavery, and that wherever in that
iiintruineut the slave is alluded to, he is called a " person; and Vk -ier-
ever his master s legal right iu relation to him is nil tided to, H IB &[>WK^
of as "service or labor which maybe due,"~-us a debt payable in service
or labor. Also, it would be open to show, by contemporaneous history,
that this mode of alluding to slaves and slavery, instead of speaking of



Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and time : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages and proclamations and closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 42)