The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, v5
Part 1 out of 8
This etext was produced by David Widger
THE WRITINGS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, Volume Five
TO SYDNEY SPRING, GRAYVILLE, ILL.
SPRINGFIELD, June 19, 1858.
SYDNEY SPRING, Esq.
MY DEAR SIR:--Your letter introducing Mr. Faree was duly received.
There was no opening to nominate him for Superintendent of Public
Instruction, but through him Egypt made a most valuable contribution
to the convention. I think it may be fairly said that he came off the
lion of the day--or rather of the night. Can you not elect him to the
Legislature? It seems to me he would be hard to beat. What
objection could be made to him? What is your Senator Martin saying
and doing? What is Webb about?
Please write me.
TO H. C. WHITNEY.
SPRINGFIELD, June 24, 1858
H. C. WHITNEY, ESQ.
DEAR SIR:--Your letter enclosing the attack of the Times upon me was
received this morning. Give yourself no concern about my voting
against the supplies. Unless you are without faith that a lie can be
successfully contradicted, there is not a word of truth in the
charge, and I am just considering a little as to the best shape to
put a contradiction in. Show this to whomever you please, but do not
publish it in the paper.
Your friend as ever,
TO J. W. SOMERS.
SPRINGFIELD, June 25, 1858.
JAMES W. SOMERS, Esq.
MY DEAR SIR:--Yours of the 22nd, inclosing a draft of two hundred
dollars, was duly received. I have paid it on the judgment, and
herewith you have the receipt. I do not wish to say anything as to
who shall be the Republican candidate for the Legislature in your
district, further than that I have full confidence in Dr. Hull. Have
you ever got in the way of consulting with McKinley in political
matters? He is true as steel, and his judgment is very good. The
last I heard from him, he rather thought Weldon, of De Witt, was our
best timber for representative, all things considered. But you there
must settle it among yourselves. It may well puzzle older heads than
yours to understand how, as the Dred Scott decision holds, Congress
can authorize a Territorial Legislature to do everything else, and
cannot authorize them to prohibit slavery. That is one of the things
the court can decide, but can never give an intelligible reason for.
Yours very truly,
TO A. CAMPBELL.
SPRINGFIELD, June 28, 1858.
A. CAMPBELL, Esq.
MY DEAR SIR:--In 1856 you gave me authority to draw on you for any
sum not exceeding five hundred dollars. I see clearly that such a
privilege would be more available now than it was then. I am aware
that times are tighter now than they were then. Please write me at
all events, and whether you can now do anything or not I shall
continue grateful for the past.
Yours very truly,
TO J. GILLESPIE.
SPRINGFIELD, July 16, 1858.
HON. JOSEPH GILLESPIE.
MY DEAR SIR:--I write this to say that from the specimens of Douglas
Democracy we occasionally see here from Madison, we learn that they
are making very confident calculation of beating you and your friends
for the lower house, in that county. They offer to bet upon it.
Billings and Job, respectively, have been up here, and were each as I
learn, talking largely about it. If they do so, it can only be done
by carrying the Fillmore men of 1856 very differently from what they
seem to [be] going in the other party. Below is the vote of 1856, in
Counties. Buchanan. Fremont. Fillmore.
Bond ............ 607 153 659
Madison ......... 1451 1111 1658
Montgomery ...... 992 162 686
---- ---- ----
3050 1426 3003
By this you will see, if you go through the calculation, that if they
get one quarter of the Fillmore votes, and you three quarters, they
will beat you 125 votes. If they get one fifth, and you four fifths,
you beat them 179. In Madison, alone, if our friends get 1000 of the
Fillmore votes, and their opponents the remainder, 658, we win by
just two votes.
This shows the whole field, on the basis of the election of 1856.
Whether, since then, any Buchanan, or Fremonters, have shifted
ground, and how the majority of new votes will go, you can judge
better than I.
Of course you, on the ground, can better determine your line of
tactics than any one off the ground; but it behooves you to be wide
awake and actively working.
Don't neglect it; and write me at your first leisure.
Yours as ever,
TO JOHN MATHERS, JACKSONVILLE, ILL.
SPRINGFIELD, JULY 20, 1858.
JNO. MATHERS, Esq.
MY DEAR SIR:--Your kind and interesting letter of the 19th was duly
received. Your suggestions as to placing one's self on the offensive
rather than the defensive are certainly correct. That is a point
which I shall not disregard. I spoke here on Saturday night. The
speech, not very well reported, appears in the State journal of this
morning. You doubtless will see it; and I hope that you will
perceive in it that I am already improving. I would mail you a copy
now, but have not one [at] hand. I thank you for your letter and
shall be pleased to hear from you again.
Yours very truly,
TO JOSEPH GILLESPIE.
SPRINGFIELD, JULY 25, 1858.
HON. J. GILLESPIE.
MY DEAR SIR:--Your doleful letter of the 8th was received on my
return from Chicago last night. I do hope you are worse scared than
hurt, though you ought to know best. We must not lose the district.
We must make a job of it, and save it. Lay hold of the proper
agencies, and secure all the Americans you can, at once. I do hope,
on closer inspection, you will find they are not half gone. Make a
little test. Run down one of the poll-books of the Edwardsville
precinct, and take the first hundred known American names. Then
quietly ascertain how many of them are actually going for Douglas. I
think you will find less than fifty. But even if you find fifty,
make sure of the other fifty, that is, make sure of all you can, at
all events. We will set other agencies to work which shall
compensate for the loss of a good many Americans. Don't fail to
check the stampede at once. Trumbull, I think, will be with you
There is much he cannot do, and some he can. I have reason to hope
there will be other help of an appropriate kind. Write me again.
Yours as ever,
TO B. C. COOK.
SPRINGFIELD, Aug. 2, 1858.
Hon. B. C. COOK.
MY DEAR SIR:--I have a letter from a very true and intelligent man
insisting that there is a plan on foot in La Salle and Bureau to run
Douglas Republicans for Congress and for the Legislature in those
counties, if they can only get the encouragement of our folks
nominating pretty extreme abolitionists.
It is thought they will do nothing if our folks nominate men who are
not very obnoxious to the charge of abolitionism. Please have your
eye upon this. Signs are looking pretty fair.
Yours very truly,
TO HON. J. M. PALMER.
SPRINGFIELD, Aug. 5, 1858.
HON. J. M. PALMER.
DEAR SIR:--Since we parted last evening no new thought has occurred
to [me] on the subject of which we talked most yesterday.
I have concluded, however, to speak at your town on Tuesday, August
31st, and have promised to have it so appear in the papers of
to-morrow. Judge Trumbull has not yet reached here.
Yours as ever,
TO ALEXANDER SYMPSON.
SPRINGFIELD, Aug. 11, 1858.
ALEXANDER SYMPSON, Esq.
DEAR SIR:--Yours of the 6th received. If life and health continue I
shall pretty likely be at Augusta on the 25th.
Things look reasonably well. Will tell you more fully when I see
TO J. O. CUNNINGHAM.
OTTAWA, August 22, 1858.
J. O. CUNNINGHAM, Esq.
MY DEAR SIR:--Yours of the 18th, signed as secretary of the
Republican club, is received. In the matter of making speeches I am
a good deal pressed by invitations from almost all quarters, and
while I hope to be at Urbana some time during the canvass, I cannot
yet say when. Can you not see me at Monticello on the 6th of
Douglas and I, for the first time this canvass, crossed swords here
yesterday; the fire flew some, and I am glad to know I am yet alive.
There was a vast concourse of people--more than could get near enough
Yours as ever,
ON SLAVERY IN A DEMOCRACY.
August ??, 1858
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This
expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the
extent of the difference, is no democracy.
TO B. C. COOK.
SPRINGFIELD, August 2, 1858
HON. B. C. COOK.
MY DEAR SIR:--I have a letter from a very true friend, and
intelligent man, writing that there is a plan on foot in La Salle and
Bureau, to run Douglas Republican for Congress and for the
Legislature in those counties, if they can only get the encouragement
of our folks nominating pretty extreme abolitionists. It is thought
they will do nothing if our folks nominate men who are not very
[undecipherable word looks like "obnoxious"] to the charge of
abolitionism. Please have your eye upon this. Signs are looking
Yours very truly,
TO DR. WILLIAM FITHIAN, DANVILLE, ILL.
BLOOMINGTON, Sept. 3, 1858
DEAR DOCTOR:--Yours of the 1st was received this morning, as also one
from Mr. Harmon, and one from Hiram Beckwith on the same subject.
You will see by the Journal that I have been appointed to speak at
Danville on the 22d of Sept.,--the day after Douglas speaks there.
My recent experience shows that speaking at the same place the next
day after D. is the very thing,--it is, in fact, a concluding speech
on him. Please show this to Messrs. Harmon and Beckwith; and tell
them they must excuse me from writing separate letters to them.
Yours as ever,
P. S.--Give full notice to all surrounding country.
FRAGMENT OF SPEECH AT PARIS, ILL.,
SEPT. 8, 1858.
Let us inquire what Judge Douglas really invented when he introduced
the Nebraska Bill? He called it Popular Sovereignty. What does that
mean? It means the sovereignty of the people over their own affairs--
in other words, the right of the people to govern themselves. Did
Judge Douglas invent this? Not quite. The idea of popular
sovereignty was floating about several ages before the author of the
Nebraska Bill was born--indeed, before Columbus set foot on this
continent. In the year 1776 it took form in the noble words which
you are all familiar with: "We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal," etc. Was not this the origin of
popular sovereignty as applied to the American people? Here we are
told that governments are instituted among men deriving their just
powers from the consent of the governed. If that is not popular
sovereignty, then I have no conception of the meaning of words. If
Judge Douglas did not invent this kind of popular sovereignty, let us
pursue the inquiry and find out what kind he did invent. Was it the
right of emigrants to Kansas and Nebraska to govern themselves, and a
lot of "niggers," too, if they wanted them? Clearly this was no
invention of his because General Cass put forth the same doctrine in
1848 in his so called Nicholson letter, six years before Douglas
thought of such a thing. Then what was it that the "Little Giant"
invented? It never occurred to General Cass to call his discovery by
the odd name of popular sovereignty. He had not the face to say that
the right of the people to govern "niggers" was the right of the
people to govern themselves. His notions of the fitness of things
were not moulded to the brazenness of calling the right to put a
hundred "niggers" through under the lash in Nebraska a "sacred" right
of self-government. And here I submit to you was Judge Douglas's
discovery, and the whole of it: He discovered that the right to breed
and flog negroes in Nebraska was popular sovereignty.
SPEECH AT CLINTON, ILLINOIS,
SEPTEMBER 8, 1858.
The questions are sometimes asked "What is all this fuss that is
being made about negroes? What does it amount to? And where will it
end?" These questions imply that those who ask them consider the
slavery question a very insignificant matter they think that it
amounts to little or nothing and that those who agitate it are
extremely foolish. Now it must be admitted that if the great
question which has caused so much trouble is insignificant, we are
very foolish to have anything to do with it--if it is of no
importance we had better throw it aside and busy ourselves with
something else. But let us inquire a little into this insignificant
matter, as it is called by some, and see if it is not important
enough to demand the close attention of every well-wisher of the
Union. In one of Douglas's recent speeches, I find a reference to
one which was made by me in Springfield some time ago. The judge
makes one quotation from that speech that requires some little notice
from me at this time. I regret that I have not my Springfield speech
before me, but the judge has quoted one particular part of it so
often that I think I can recollect it. It runs I think as follows:
"We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with
the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery
agitation. Under the operation of that policy that agitation has not
only not ceased but has constantly augmented. In my opinion it will
not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed.
"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this
government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do
not expect the Union to be dissolved. I do not expect the house to
fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become
all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will
arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind
shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate
extinction; or its advocates will push it forward till it shall
become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as
well as South."
Judge Douglas makes use of the above quotation, and finds a great
deal of fault with it. He deals unfairly with me, and tries to make
the people of this State believe that I advocated dangerous doctrines
in my Springfield speech. Let us see if that portion of my
Springfield speech of which Judge Douglas complains so bitterly, is
as objectionable to others as it is to him. We are, certainly, far
into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed
object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation.
On the fourth day of January, 1854, Judge Douglas introduced the
Kansas-Nebraska bill. He initiated a new policy, and that policy, so
he says, was to put an end to the agitation of the slavery question.
Whether that was his object or not I will not stop to discuss, but at
all events some kind of a policy was initiated; and what has been the
result? Instead of the quiet and good feeling which were promised us
by the self-styled author of Popular Sovereignty, we have had nothing
but ill-feeling and agitation. According to Judge Douglas, the
passage of the Nebraska bill would tranquilize the whole country--
there would be no more slavery agitation in or out of Congress, and
the vexed question would be left entirely to the people of the
Territories. Such was the opinion of Judge Douglas, and such were
the opinions of the leading men of the Democratic Party. Even as
late as the spring of 1856 Mr. Buchanan said, a short time subsequent
to his nomination by the Cincinnati convention, that the territory of
Kansas would be tranquil in less than six weeks. Perhaps he thought
so, but Kansas has not been and is not tranquil, and it may be a long
time before she may be so.
We all know how fierce the agitation was in Congress last winter, and
what a narrow escape Kansas had from being admitted into the Union
with a constitution that was detested by ninety-nine hundredths of
her citizens. Did the angry debates which took place at Washington
during the last season of Congress lead you to suppose that the
slavery agitation was settled?
An election was held in Kansas in the month of August, and the
constitution which was submitted to the people was voted down by a
large majority. So Kansas is still out of the Union, and there is a
probability that she will remain out for some time. But Judge
Douglas says the slavery question is settled. He says the bill he
introduced into the Senate of the United States on the 4th day of
January, 1854, settled the slavery question forever! Perhaps he can
tell us how that bill settled the slavery question, for if he is able
to settle a question of such great magnitude he ought to be able to
explain the manner in which he does it. He knows and you know that
the question is not settled, and that his ill-timed experiment to
settle it has made it worse than it ever was before.
And now let me say a few words in regard to Douglas's great hobby of
negro equality. He thinks--he says at least--that the Republican
party is in favor of allowing whites and blacks to intermarry, and
that a man can't be a good Republican unless he is willing to elevate
black men to office and to associate with them on terms of perfect
equality. He knows that we advocate no such doctrines as these, but
he cares not how much he misrepresents us if he can gain a few votes
by so doing. To show you what my opinion of negro equality was in
times past, and to prove to you that I stand on that question where I
always stood, I will read you a few extracts from a speech that was
made by me in Peoria in 1854. It was made in reply to one of Judge
(Mr. Lincoln then read a number of extracts which had the ring of the
true metal. We have rarely heard anything with which we have been
more pleased. And the audience after hearing the extracts read, and
comparing their conservative sentiments with those now advocated by
Mr. Lincoln, testified their approval by loud applause. How any
reasonable man can hear one of Mr. Lincoln's speeches without being
converted to Republicanism is something that we can't account for.
Slavery, continued Mr. Lincoln, is not a matter of little importance,
it overshadows every other question in which we are interested. It
has divided the Methodist and Presbyterian churches, and has sown
discord in the American Tract Society. The churches have split and
the society will follow their example before long. So it will be
seen that slavery is agitated in the religious as well as in the
Judge Douglas is very much afraid in the triumph that the Republican
party will lead to a general mixture of the white and black races.
Perhaps I am wrong in saying that he is afraid, so I will correct
myself by saying that he pretends to fear that the success of our
party will result in the amalgamation of the blacks and whites. I
think I can show plainly, from documents now before me, that Judge
Douglas's fears are groundless. The census of 1800 tells us that in
that year there were over four hundred thousand mulattoes in the
United States. Now let us take what is called an Abolition State--
the Republican, slavery-hating State of New Hampshire--and see how
many mulattoes we can find within her borders. The number amounts to
just one hundred and eighty-four. In the Old Dominion--in the
Democratic and aristocratic State of Virginia--there were a few more
mulattoes than the Census-takers found in New Hampshire. How many do
you suppose there were? Seventy-nine thousand, seven hundred and
seventy-five--twenty-three thousand more than there were in all the
free States! In the slave States there were in 1800, three
hundred and forty-eight thousand mulattoes all of home production;
and in the free States there were less than sixty thousand mulattoes
--and a large number of them were imported from the South.
FRAGMENT OF SPEECH AT EDWARDSVILLE, ILL.,
SEPT. 13, 1858.
I have been requested to give a concise statement of the difference,
as I understand it, between the Democratic and Republican parties, on
the leading issues of the campaign. This question has been put to me
by a gentleman whom I do not know. I do not even know whether he is
a friend of mine or a supporter of Judge Douglas in this contest, nor
does that make any difference. His question is a proper one. Lest I
should forget it, I will give you my answer before proceeding with
the line of argument I have marked out for this discussion.
The difference between the Republican and the Democratic parties on
the leading issues of this contest, as I understand it, is that the
former consider slavery a moral, social and political wrong, while
the latter do not consider it either a moral, a social or a political
wrong; and the action of each, as respects the growth of the country
and the expansion of our population, is squared to meet these views.
I will not affirm that the Democratic party consider slavery morally,
socially and politically right, though their tendency to that view
has, in my opinion, been constant and unmistakable for the past five
years. I prefer to take, as the accepted maxim of the party, the
idea put forth by Judge Douglas, that he don't care whether slavery
is voted down or voted up." I am quite willing to believe that many
Democrats would prefer that slavery should be always voted down, and
I know that some prefer that it be always voted up"; but I have a
right to insist that their action, especially if it be their constant
action, shall determine their ideas and preferences on this subject.
Every measure of the Democratic party of late years, bearing directly
or indirectly on the slavery question, has corresponded with this
notion of utter indifference whether slavery or freedom shall outrun
in the race of empire across to the Pacific--every measure, I say, up
to the Dred Scott decision, where, it seems to me, the idea is boldly
suggested that slavery is better than freedom. The Republican party,
on the contrary, hold that this government was instituted to secure
the blessings of freedom, and that slavery is an unqualified evil to
the negro, to the white man, to the soil, and to the State.
Regarding it as an evil, they will not molest it in the States where
it exists, they will not overlook the constitutional guards which our
fathers placed around it; they will do nothing that can give proper
offence to those who hold slaves by legal sanction; but they will use
every constitutional method to prevent the evil from becoming larger
and involving more negroes, more white men, more soil, and more
States in its deplorable consequences. They will, if possible, place
it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in
course of ultimate peaceable extinction in God's own good time. And
to this end they will, if possible, restore the government to the
policy of the fathers, the policy of preserving the new Territories
from the baneful influence of human bondage, as the Northwestern
Territories were sought to be preserved by the Ordinance of 1787, and
the Compromise Act of 1820. They will oppose, in all its length and
breadth, the modern Democratic idea, that slavery is as good as
freedom, and ought to have room for expansion all over the continent,
if people can be found to carry it. All, or nearly all, of Judge
Douglas's arguments are logical, if you admit that slavery is as good
and as right as freedom, and not one of them is worth a rush if you
deny it. This is the difference, as I understand it, between the
Republican and Democratic parties.
My friends, I have endeavored to show you the logical consequences of
the Dred Scott decision, which holds that the people of a Territory
cannot prevent the establishment of slavery in their midst. I have
stated what cannot be gainsaid, that the grounds upon which this
decision is made are equally applicable to the free States as to the
free Territories, and that the peculiar reasons put forth by Judge
Douglas for indorsing this decision commit him, in advance, to the
next decision and to all other decisions corning from the same
source. And when, by all these means, you have succeeded in
dehumanizing the negro; when you have put him down and made it
impossible for him to be but as the beasts of the field; when you
have extinguished his soul in this world and placed him where the ray
of hope is blown out as in the darkness of the damned, are you quite
sure that the demon you have roused will not turn and rend you? What
constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is
not our frowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts, our army and
our navy. These are not our reliance against tyranny All of those
may be turned against us without making us weaker for the struggle.
Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us.
Our defense is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of
all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have
planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors. Familiarize
yourselves with the chains of bondage and you prepare your own limbs
to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you
have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit
subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you. And let me
tell you, that all these things are prepared for you by the teachings
of history, if the elections shall promise that the next Dred Scott
decision and all future decisions will be quietly acquiesced in by
VERSE TO "LINNIE "
September 30,? 1858.
A sweet plaintive song did I hear
And I fancied that she was the singer.
May emotions as pure as that song set astir
Be the wont that the future shall bring her.
NEGROES ARE MEN
TO J. U. BROWN.
SPRINGFIELD, OCT 18, 1858
HON. J. U. BROWN.
MY DEAR SIR:--I do not perceive how I can express myself more plainly
than I have in the fore-going extracts. In four of them I have
expressly disclaimed all intention to bring about social and
political equality between the white and black races and in all the
rest I have done the same thing by clear implication.
I have made it equally plain that I think the negro is included in
the word "men" used in the Declaration of Independence.
I believe the declaration that "all men are created equal "is the
great fundamental principle upon which our free institutions rest;
that negro slavery is violative of that principle; but that, by our
frame of government, that principle has not been made one of legal
obligation; that by our frame of government, States which have
slavery are to retain it, or surrender it at their own pleasure; and
that all others--individuals, free States and national Government--
are constitutionally bound to leave them alone about it.
I believe our Government was thus framed because of the necessity
springing from the actual presence of slavery, when it was framed.
That such necessity does not exist in the Territories when slavery is
In his Mendenhall speech Mr. Clay says: "Now as an abstract principle
there is no doubt of the truth of that declaration (all men created
equal), and it is desirable, in the original construction of society,
to keep it in view as a great fundamental principle."
Again, in the same speech Mr. Clay says: "If a state of nature
existed and we were about to lay the foundations of society, no man
would be more strongly opposed than I should to incorporate the
institution of slavery among its elements."
Exactly so. In our new free Territories, a state of nature does
exist. In them Congress lays the foundations of society; and in
laying those foundations, I say, with Mr. Clay, it is desirable that
the declaration of the equality of all men shall be kept in view as a
great fundamental principle, and that Congress, which lays the
foundations of society, should, like Mr. Clay, be strongly opposed to
the incorporation of slavery and its elements.
But it does not follow that social and political equality between
whites and blacks must be incorporated because slavery must not. The
declaration does not so require.
Yours as ever,
[Newspaper cuttings of Lincoln's speeches at Peoria, in 1854, at
Springfield, Ottawa, Chicago, and Charleston, in 1858. They were
pasted in a little book in which the above letter was also written.]
TO A. SYMPSON.
BLANDINSVILLE, Oct 26, 1858
A. SYMPSON, Esq.
DEAR SIR:--Since parting with you this morning I heard some things
which make me believe that Edmunds and Morrill will spend this week
among the National Democrats, trying to induce them to content
themselves by voting for Jake Davis, and then to vote for the Douglas
candidates for senator and representative. Have this headed off, if
you can. Call Wagley's attention to it and have him and the National
Democrat for Rep. to counteract it as far as they can.
Yours as ever,
SENATORIAL ELECTION LOST AND OUT OF MONEY
TO N. B. JUDD.
SPRINGFIELD, NOVEMBER 16, 1858
HON. N. B. JUDD
DEAR SIR:--Yours of the 15th is just received. I wrote you the same
day. As to the pecuniary matter, I am willing to pay according to my
ability; but I am the poorest hand living to get others to pay. I
have been on expenses so long without earning anything that I am
absolutely without money now for even household purposes. Still, if
you can put in two hundred and fifty dollars for me toward
discharging the debt of the committee, I will allow it when you and I
settle the private matter between us. This, with what I have already
paid, and with an outstanding note of mine, will exceed my
subscription of five hundred dollars. This, too, is exclusive of my
ordinary expenses during the campaign, all of which, being added to
my loss of time and business, bears pretty heavily upon one no better
off in [this] world's goods than I; but as I had the post of honor,
it is not for me to be over nice. You are feeling badly,--"And this
too shall pass away," never fear.
Yours as ever,
THE FIGHT MUST GO ON
TO H. ASBURY.
SPRINGFIELD, November 19, 1858.
HENRY ASBURY, Esq.
DEAR SIR:--Yours of the 13th was received some days ago. The fight
must go on. The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at
the end of one or even one hundred defeats. Douglas had the
ingenuity to be supported in the late contest both as the best means
to break down and to uphold the slave interest. No ingenuity can
keep these antagonistic elements in harmony long. Another explosion
will soon come.
REALIZATION THAT DEBATES MUST BE SAVED
TO C. H. RAY.
SPRINGFIELD, Nov.20, 1858
DR. C. H. RAY
MY DEAR SIR:--I wish to preserve a set of the late debates (if they
may be called so), between Douglas and myself. To enable me to do
so, please get two copies of each number of your paper containing the
whole, and send them to me by express; and I will pay you for the
papers and for your trouble. I wish the two sets in order to lay one
away in the [undecipherable word] and to put the other in a
scrapbook. Remember, if part of any debate is on both sides of the
sheet it will take two sets to make one scrap-book.
I believe, according to a letter of yours to Hatch, you are "feeling
like h-ll yet." Quit that--you will soon feel better. Another "blow
up" is coming; and we shall have fun again. Douglas managed to be
supported both as the best instrument to down and to uphold the slave
power; but no ingenuity can long keep the antagonism in harmony.
Yours as ever,
TO H. C. WHITNEY.
SPRINGFIELD, November 30, 1858
H. C. WHITNEY, ESQ.
MY DEAR SIR :--Being desirous of preserving in some permanent form
the late joint discussion between Douglas and myself, ten days ago I
wrote to Dr. Ray, requesting him to forward to me by express two
sets of the numbers of the Tribune which contain the reports of those
discussions. Up to date I have no word from him on the subject.
Will you, if in your power, procure them and forward them to me by
express? If you will, I will pay all charges, and be greatly obliged,
to boot. Hoping to visit you before long, I remain
As ever your friend,
TO H. D. SHARPE.
SPRINGFIELD, Dec. 8, 1858.
H. D. SHARPE, Esq.
DEAR SIR:--Your very kind letter of Nov. 9th was duly received. I
do not know that you expected or desired an answer; but glancing over
the contents of yours again, I am prompted to say that, while I
desired the result of the late canvass to have been different, I
still regard it as an exceeding small matter. I think we have fairly
entered upon a durable struggle as to whether this nation is to
ultimately become all slave or all free, and though I fall early in
the contest, it is nothing if I shall have contributed, in the least
degree, to the final rightful result.
TO A. SYMPSON.
SPRINGFIELD, Dec.12, 1858.
ALEXANDER SYMPSON, Esq.
MY DEAR SIR:--I expect the result of the election went hard with you.
So it did with me, too, perhaps not quite so hard as you may have
supposed. I have an abiding faith that we shall beat them in the
long run. Step by step the objects of the leaders will become too
plain for the people to stand them. I write merely to let you know
that I am neither dead nor dying. Please give my respects to your
good family, and all inquiring friends.
Yours as ever,
NOTES OF AN ARGUMENT.
December [?], 1858.
Legislation and adjudication must follow and conform to the progress
The progress of society now begins to produce cases of the transfer
for debts of the entire property of railroad corporations; and to
enable transferees to use and enjoy the transferred property,
legislation and adjudication begin to be necessary.
Shall this class of legislation just now beginning with us be general
Section Ten of our Constitution requires that it should be general,
if possible. (Read the section.)
Special legislation always trenches upon the judicial department; and
in so far violates Section Two of the Constitution. (Read it.)
Just reasoning--policy--is in favor of general legislation--else the
Legislature will be loaded down with the investigation of smaller
cases--a work which the courts ought to perform, and can perform much
more perfectly. How can the Legislature rightly decide the facts
between P. & B. and S.C.
It is said that under a general law, whenever a R. R. Co. gets tired
of its debts, it may transfer fraudulently to get rid of them. So
they may--so may individuals; and which--the Legislature or the
courts--is best suited to try the question of fraud in either case?
It is said, if a purchaser have acquired legal rights, let him not be
robbed of them, but if he needs legislation let him submit to just
terms to obtain it.
Let him, say we, have general law in advance (guarded in every
possible way against fraud), so that, when he acquires a legal right,
he will have no occasion to wait for additional legislation; and if
he has practiced fraud let the courts so decide.
A LEGAL OPINION BY ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
The 11th Section of the Act of Congress, approved Feb. 11, 1805,
prescribing rules for the subdivision of sections of land within the
United States system of surveys, standing unrepealed, in my opinion,
is binding on the respective purchasers of different parts of the
same section, and furnishes the true rule for surveyors in
establishing lines between them. That law, being in force at the
time each became a purchaser, becomes a condition of the purchase.
And, by that law, I think the true rule for dividing into quarters
any interior section or sections, which is not fractional, is to run
straight lines through the section from the opposite quarter section
corners, fixing the point where such straight lines cross, or
intersect each other, as the middle or centre of the section.
Nearly, perhaps quite, all the original surveys are to some extent
erroneous, and in some of the sections, greatly so. In each of the
latter, it is obvious that a more equitable mode of division than the
above might be adopted; but as error is infinitely various perhaps no
better single rules can be prescribed.
At all events I think the above has been prescribed by the competent
SPRINGFIELD, Jany. 6, 1859.
TO M. W. DELAHAY.
SPRINGFIELD, March 4, 1859.
M. W. DELAHAY, Esq.
MY DEAR SIR: Your second letter in relation to my being with you at
your Republican convention was duly received. It is not at hand just
now, but I have the impression from it that the convention was to be
at Leavenworth; but day before yesterday a friend handed me a letter
from Judge M. F. Caraway, in which he also expresses a wish for me to
come, and he fixes the place at Ossawatomie. This I believe is off
of the river, and will require more time and labor to get to it. It
will push me hard to get there without injury to my own business; but
I shall try to do it, though I am not yet quite certain I shall
I should like to know before coming, that while some of you wish me
to come, there may not be others who would quite as lief I would stay
away. Write me again.
Yours as ever,
TO W. M. MORRIS.
SPRINGFIELD, March 28, 1859.
W. M. MORRIS, Esq.
DEAR SIR:--Your kind note inviting me to deliver a lecture at
Galesburg is received. I regret to say I cannot do so now; I must
stick to the courts awhile. I read a sort of lecture to three
different audiences during the last month and this; but I did so
under circumstances which made it a waste of no time whatever.
Yours very truly,
TO H. L. PIERCE AND OTHERS.
SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, April 6, 1859.
GENTLEMEN:--Your kind note inviting me to attend a festival in
Boston, on the 28th instant, in honor of the birthday of Thomas
Jefferson, was duly received. My engagements are such that I cannot
Bearing in mind that about seventy years ago two great political
parties were first formed in this country, that Thomas Jefferson was
the head of one of them and Boston the headquarters of the other, it
is both curious and interesting that those supposed to descend
politically from the party opposed to Jefferson should now be
celebrating his birthday in their own original seat of empire, while
those claiming political descent from him have nearly ceased to
breathe his name everywhere.
Remembering, too, that the Jefferson party was formed upon its
supposed superior devotion to the personal rights of men, holding the
rights of property to be secondary only, and greatly inferior, and
assuming that the so-called Democracy of to-day are the Jefferson,
and their opponents the anti-Jefferson, party, it will be equally
interesting to note how completely the two have changed hands as to
the principle upon which they were originally supposed to be divided.
The Democracy of to-day hold the liberty of one man to be absolutely
nothing, when in conflict with another man's right of property;
Republicans, on the contrary, are for both the man and the dollar,
but in case of conflict the man before the dollar.
I remember being once much amused at seeing two partially intoxicated
men engaged in a fight with their great-coats on, which fight, after
a long and rather harmless contest, ended in each having fought
himself out of his own coat and into that of the other. If the two
leading parties of this day are really identical with the two in the
days of Jefferson and Adams, they have performed the same feat as the
two drunken men.
But soberly, it is now no child's play to save the principles of
Jefferson from total overthrow in this nation. One would state with
great confidence that he could convince any sane child that the
simpler propositions of Euclid are true; but nevertheless he would
fail, utterly, with one who should deny the definitions and axioms.
The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free
society. And yet they are denied and evaded, with no small show of
success. One dashingly calls them "glittering generalities."
Another bluntly calls them "self-evident lies." And others
insidiously argue that they apply to "superior races." These
expressions, differing in form, are identical in object and effect--
the supplanting the principles of free government, and restoring
those of classification, caste, and legitimacy. They would delight a
convocation of crowned heads plotting against the people. They are
the vanguard, the miners and sappers, of returning despotism. We
must repulse them, or they will subjugate us. This is a world of
compensation; and he who would be no slave must consent to have no
slave. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for
themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it. All honor
to Jefferson to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle
for national independence by a single people, had the coolness,
forecast, and capacity to introduce into a mere revolutionary
document an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and
so to embalm it there that to-day and in all coming days it shall be
a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of reappearing
tyranny and oppression.
Your obedient servant,
TO T. CANISIUS.
SPRINGFIELD, May 17, 1859.
DR. THEODORE CANISIUS.
DEAR SIR:--Your note asking, in behalf of yourself and other German
citizens, whether I am for or against the constitutional provision in
regard to naturalized citizens, lately adopted by Massachusetts, and
whether I am for or against a fusion of the Republicans and other
opposition elements for the canvass of 1860, is received.
Massachusetts is a sovereign and independent State; and it is no
privilege of mine to scold her for what she does. Still, if from
what she has done an inference is sought to be drawn as to what I
would do, I may without impropriety speak out. I say, then, that, as
I understand the Massachusetts provision, I am against its adoption
in Illinois, or in any other place where I have a right to oppose it.
Understanding the spirit of our institutions to aim at the elevation
of men, I am opposed to whatever tends to degrade them. I have some
little notoriety for commiserating the oppressed negro; and I should
be strangely inconsistent if I could favor any project for curtailing
the existing rights of white men, even though born in different
lands, and speaking different languages from myself. As to the
matter of fusion, I am for it if it can be had on Republican grounds;
and I am not for it on any other terms. A fusion on any other terms
would be as foolish as unprincipled. It would lose the whole North,
while the common enemy would still carry the whole South. The
question of men is a different one. There are good, patriotic men
and able statesmen in the South whom I would cheerfully support, if
they would now place themselves on Republican ground, but I am
against letting down the Republican standard a hairsbreadth.
I have written this hastily, but I believe it answers your questions
TO THE GOVERNOR, AUDITOR, AND TREASURER OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS.
In reply to your inquiry; requesting our written opinion as to what
your duty requires you to do in executing the latter clause of the
Seventh Section of "An Act in relation to the payment of the
principal and interest of the State debt," approved Feb'y 22, 1859,
we reply that said last clause of said section is certainly
indefinite, general, and ambiguous in its description of the bonds to
be issued by you; giving no time at which the bonds are to be made
payable, no place at which either principal or interest are to be
paid, and no rate of interest which the bonds are to bear; nor any
other description except that they are to be coupon bonds, which in
commercial usage means interest-paying bonds with obligations or
orders attached to them for the payment of annual or semiannual
interest; there is we suppose no difficulty in ascertaining, if this
act stood alone, what ought to be the construction of the terms
"coupon bonds" and that it, would mean bonds bearing interest from
the time of issuing the same. And under this act considered by
itself the creditors would have a right to require such bonds. But
your inquiry in regard to a class of bonds on which no interest is to
be paid or shall begin to run until January 1, 1860, is whether the
Act of February 18, 1857, would not authorize you to refuse to give
bonds with any coupons attached payable before the first day of July,
1860. We have very maturely considered this question and have arrived
at the conclusion that you have a right to use such measures as will
secure the State against the loss of six months' interest on these
bonds by the indefiniteness of the Act of 1859. While it cannot be
denied that the letter of the laws favor the construction claimed by
some of the creditors that interest-bearing bonds were required to be
issued to them, inasmuch as the restriction that no interest is to
run on said bonds until 1st January, 1860, relates solely to the
bonds issued under the Act of 1857. And the Act of 1859 directing
you to issue new bonds does not contain this restriction, but directs
you to issue coupon bonds. Nevertheless the very indefiniteness and
generality of the Act of 1859, giving no rate of interest, no time
due, no place of payment, no postponement of the time when interest
commences, necessarily implies that the Legislature intended to
invest you with a discretion to impose such terms and restrictions as
would protect the interest of the State; and we think you have a
right and that it is your duty to see that the State Bonds are so
issued that the State shall not lose six months' interest. Two plans
present themselves either of which will secure the State. 1st. If in
literal compliance with the law you issue bonds bearing interest from
1st July, 1859, you may deduct from the bonds presented three
thousand from every $100,000 of bonds and issue $97,000 of coupon
bonds; by this plan $3000 out of $100,000 of principal would be
extinguished in consideration of paying $2910 interest on the first
of January, 1860--and the interest on the $3000 would forever cease;
this would be no doubt most advantageous to the State. But if the
Auditor will not consent to this, then, 2nd. Cut off of each bond
all the coupons payable before 1st July, 1860.
One of these plans would undoubtedly have been prescribed by the
Legislature if its attention had been directed to this question.
May 28, 1859.
ON LINCOLN'S SCRAP BOOK
TO H. C. WHITNEY.
SPRINGFIELD, December 25, 1858.
H. C. WHITNEY, ESQ.
MY DEAR SIR:--I have just received yours of the 23rd inquiring
whether I received the newspapers you sent me by express. I did
receive them, and am very much obliged. There is some probability
that my scrap-book will be reprinted, and if it shall, I will save
you a copy.
Your friend as ever,
FIRST SUGGESTION OF A PRESIDENTIAL OFFER.
TO S. GALLOWAY.
SPRINGFIELD, ILL., July 28, 1859.
HON. SAMUEL GALLOWAY.
MY DEAR SIR:--Your very complimentary, not to say flattering, letter
of the 23d inst. is received. Dr. Reynolds had induced me to expect
you here; and I was disappointed not a little by your failure to
come. And yet I fear you have formed an estimate of me which can
scarcely be sustained on a personal acquaintance.
Two things done by the Ohio Republican convention--the repudiation of
Judge Swan, and the "plank" for a repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law--I
very much regretted. These two things are of a piece; and they are
viewed by many good men, sincerely opposed to slavery, as a struggle
against, and in disregard of, the Constitution itself. And it is the
very thing that will greatly endanger our cause, if it be not kept
out of our national convention. There is another thing our friends
are doing which gives me some uneasiness. It is their leaning toward
"popular sovereignty." There are three substantial objections to
this: First, no party can command respect which sustains this year
what it opposed last. Secondly, Douglas (who is the most dangerous
enemy of liberty, because the most insidious one) would have little
support in the North, and by consequence, no capital to trade on in
the South, if it were not for his friends thus magnifying him and his
humbug. But lastly, and chiefly, Douglas's popular sovereignty,
accepted by the public mind as a just principle, nationalizes
slavery, and revives the African slave trade inevitably.
Taking slaves into new Territories, and buying slaves in Africa, are
identical things, identical rights or identical wrongs, and the
argument which establishes one will establish the other. Try a
thousand years for a sound reason why Congress shall not hinder the
people of Kansas from having slaves, and, when you have found it, it
will be an equally good one why Congress should not hinder the people
of Georgia from importing slaves from Africa.
As to Governor Chase, I have a kind side for him. He was one of the
few distinguished men of the nation who gave us, in Illinois, their
sympathy last year. I never saw him, but suppose him to be able and
right-minded; but still he may not be the most suitable as a
candidate for the Presidency.
I must say I do not think myself fit for the Presidency. As you
propose a correspondence with me, I shall look for your letters
I have not met Dr. Reynolds since receiving your letter; but when I
shall, I will present your respects as requested.
Yours very truly,
IT IS BAD TO BE POOR.
TO HAWKINS TAYLOR
SPRINGFIELD, ILL. Sept. 6, 1859.
HAWKINS TAYLOR, Esq.
DEAR SIR:--Yours of the 3d is just received. There is some mistake
about my expected attendance of the U.S. Court in your city on the 3d
Tuesday of this month. I have had no thought of being there.
It is bad to be poor. I shall go to the wall for bread and meat if I
neglect my business this year as well as last. It would please me
much to see the city and good people of Keokuk, but for this year it
is little less than an impossibility. I am constantly receiving
invitations which I am compelled to decline. I was pressingly urged
to go to Minnesota; and I now have two invitations to go to Ohio.
These last are prompted by Douglas going there; and I am really
tempted to make a flying trip to Columbus and Cincinnati.
I do hope you will have no serious trouble in Iowa. What thinks
Grimes about it? I have not known him to be mistaken about an
election in Iowa. Present my respects to Col. Carter, and any other
friends, and believe me
SPEECH AT COLUMBUS, OHIO.
SEPTEMBER 16, 1859.
FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE STATE OF OHIO: I cannot fail to remember that
I appear for the first time before an audience in this now great
State,--an audience that is accustomed to hear such speakers as
Corwin, and Chase, and Wade, and many other renowned men; and,
remembering this, I feel that it will be well for you, as for me,
that you should not raise your expectations to that standard to which
you would have been justified in raising them had one of these
distinguished men appeared before you. You would perhaps be only
preparing a disappointment for yourselves, and, as a consequence of
your disappointment, mortification to me. I hope, therefore, that
you will commence with very moderate expectations; and perhaps, if
you will give me your attention, I shall be able to interest you to a
Appearing here for the first time in my life, I have been somewhat
embarrassed for a topic by way of introduction to my speech; but I
have been relieved from that embarrassment by an introduction which
the Ohio Statesman newspaper gave me this morning. In this paper I
have read an article, in which, among other statements, I find the
"In debating with Senator Douglas during the memorable contest of
last fall, Mr. Lincoln declared in favor of negro suffrage, and
attempted to defend that vile conception against the Little Giant."
I mention this now, at the opening of my remarks, for the purpose of
making three comments upon it. The first I have already announced,--
it furnishes me an introductory topic; the second is to show that the
gentleman is mistaken; thirdly, to give him an opportunity to correct
In the first place, in regard to this matter being a mistake. I have
found that it is not entirely safe, when one is misrepresented under
his very nose, to allow the misrepresentation to go uncontradicted.
I therefore propose, here at the outset, not only to say that this is
a misrepresentation, but to show conclusively that it is so; and you
will bear with me while I read a couple of extracts from that very
"memorable" debate with Judge Douglas last year, to which this
newspaper refers. In the first pitched battle which Senator Douglas
and myself had, at the town of Ottawa, I used the language which I
will now read. Having been previously reading an extract, I
continued as follows:
"Now, gentlemen, I don't want to read at any greater length, but this
is the true complexion of all I have ever said in regard to the
institution of slavery and the black race. This is the whole of it;
and anything that argues me into his idea of perfect social and
political equality with the negro, is but a specious and fantastic
arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a horse-chestnut to be
a chestnut horse. I will say here, while upon this subject, that I
have no purpose directly or indirectly to interfere with the
institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I
have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so. I
have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between
the white and the black races. There is a physical difference
between the two which, in my judgment, will probably forbid their
ever living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and
inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference,
I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I
belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to
the contrary, but I hold that, notwithstanding all this, there is no
reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural
rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence,--the right to
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as
much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with judge Douglas,
he is not my equal in many respects,--certainly not in color, perhaps
not in moral or intellectual endowments. But in the right to eat the
bread, without leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is
my equal, and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every
Upon a subsequent occasion, when the reason for making a statement
like this occurred, I said:
"While I was at the hotel to-day an elderly gentleman called upon me
to know whether I was really in favor of producing perfect equality
between the negroes and white people. While I had not proposed to
myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet, as the
question was asked me, I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes
in saying something in regard to it. I will say, then, that I am
not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the
social and political equality of the white and black races; that I am
not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of
negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, or intermarry with
the white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a
physical difference between the white and black races which I believe
will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social
and political equality. And inasmuch as they can not so live, while
they do remain together there must be the position of superior and
inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the
superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this
occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the
superior position, the negro should be denied everything. I do not
understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave, I
must necessarily want her for a wife. My understanding is that I can
just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly
never have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it
seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either
slaves or wives of negroes. I will add to this that I have never
seen, to my knowledge, a man, woman, or child, who was in favor of
producing perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and
white men. I recollect of but one distinguished instance that I ever
heard of so frequently as to be satisfied of its correctness, and
that is the case of Judge Douglas's old friend Colonel Richard M.
Johnson. I will also add to the remarks I have made (for I am not
going to enter at large upon this subject), that I have never had the
least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes, if there
was no law to keep them from it; but as judge Douglas and his friends
seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no
law to keep them from it, I give him the most solemn pledge that I
will to the very last stand by the law of the State which forbids the
marrying of white people with negroes."
There, my friends, you have briefly what I have, upon former
occasions, said upon this subject to which this newspaper, to the
extent of its ability, has drawn the public attention. In it you not
only perceive, as a probability, that in that contest I did not at
any time say I was in favor of negro suffrage, but the absolute proof
that twice--once substantially, and once expressly--I declared
against it. Having shown you this, there remains but a word of
comment upon that newspaper article. It is this, that I presume the
editor of that paper is an honest and truth-loving man, and that he
will be greatly obliged to me for furnishing him thus early an
opportunity to correct the misrepresentation he has made, before it
has run so long that malicious people can call him a liar.
The Giant himself has been here recently. I have seen a brief report
of his speech. If it were otherwise unpleasant to me to introduce
the subject of the negro as a topic for discussion, I might be
somewhat relieved by the fact that he dealt exclusively in that
subject while he was here. I shall, therefore, without much
hesitation or diffidence, enter upon this subject.
The American people, on the first day of January, 1854, found the
African slave trade prohibited by a law of Congress. In a majority
of the States of this Union, they found African slavery, or any other
sort of slavery, prohibited by State constitutions. They also found
a law existing, supposed to be valid, by which slavery was excluded
from almost all the territory the United States then owned. This was
the condition of the country, with reference to the institution of
slavery, on the first of January, 1854. A few days after that, a
bill was introduced into Congress, which ran through its regular
course in the two branches of the national legislature, and finally
passed into a law in the month of May, by which the Act of Congress
prohibiting slavery from going into the Territories of the United
States was repealed. In connection with the law itself, and, in
fact, in the terms of the law, the then existing prohibition was not
only repealed, but there was a declaration of a purpose on the part
of Congress never thereafter to exercise any power that they might
have, real or supposed, to prohibit the extension or spread of
slavery. This was a very great change; for the law thus repealed was
of more than thirty years' standing. Following rapidly upon the
heels of this action of Congress, a decision of the Supreme Court is
made, by which it is declared that Congress, if it desires to
prohibit the spread of slavery into the Territories, has no
constitutional power to do so. Not only so, but that decision lays
down principles which, if pushed to their logical conclusion,--I say
pushed to their logical conclusion,--would decide that the
constitutions of free States, forbidding slavery, are themselves
unconstitutional. Mark me, I do not say the judges said this, and
let no man say I affirm the judges used these words; but I only say
it is my opinion that what they did say, if pressed to its logical
conclusion, will inevitably result thus.
Looking at these things, the Republican party, as I understand its
principles and policy, believes that there is great danger of the
institution of slavery being spread out and extended until it is
ultimately made alike lawful in all the States of this Union; so
believing, to prevent that incidental and ultimate consummation is
the original and chief purpose of the Republican organization. I say
"chief purpose" of the Republican organization; for it is certainly
true that if the National House shall fall into the hands of the
Republicans, they will have to attend to all the other matters of
national house-keeping, as well as this. The chief and real purpose
of the Republican party is eminently conservative. It proposes
nothing save and except to restore this government to its original
tone in regard to this element of slavery, and there to maintain it,
looking for no further change in reference to it than that which the
original framers of the Government themselves expected and looked
The chief danger to this purpose of the Republican party is not just
now the revival of the African slave trade, or the passage of a
Congressional slave code, or the declaring of a second Dred Scott
decision, making slavery lawful in all the States. These are not
pressing us just now. They are not quite ready yet. The authors of
these measures know that we are too strong for them; but they will be
upon us in due time, and we will be grappling with them hand to hand,
if they are not now headed off. They are not now the chief danger to
the purpose of the Republican organization; but the most imminent
danger that now threatens that purpose is that insidious Douglas
popular sovereignty. This is the miner and sapper. While it does
not propose to revive the African slave trade, nor to pass a slave
code, nor to make a second Dred Scott decision, it is preparing us
for the onslaught and charge of these ultimate enemies when they
shall be ready to come on, and the word of command for them to
advance shall be given. I say this "Douglas popular sovereignty";
for there is a broad distinction, as I now understand it, between
that article and a genuine popular sovereignty.
I believe there is a genuine popular sovereignty. I think a
definition of "genuine popular sovereignty," in the abstract, would
be about this: That each man shall do precisely as he pleases with
himself, and with all those things which exclusively concern him.
Applied to government, this principle would be, that a general
government shall do all those things which pertain to it, and all the
local governments shall do precisely as they please in respect to
those matters which exclusively concern them. I understand that this
government of the United States, under which we live, is based upon
this principle; and I am misunderstood if it is supposed that I have
any war to make upon that principle.
Now, what is judge Douglas's popular sovereignty? It is, as a
principle, no other than that if one man chooses to make a slave of
another man neither that other man nor anybody else has a right to
object. Applied in government, as he seeks to apply it, it is this:
If, in a new Territory into which a few people are beginning to enter
for the purpose of making their homes, they choose to either exclude
slavery from their limits or to establish it there, however one or
the other may affect the persons to be enslaved, or the infinitely
greater number of persons who are afterwards to inhabit that
Territory, or the other members of the families of communities, of
which they are but an incipient member, or the general head of the
family of States as parent of all, however their action may affect
one or the other of these, there is no power or right to interfere.
That is Douglas's popular sovereignty applied.
He has a good deal of trouble with popular sovereignty. His
explanations explanatory of explanations explained are interminable.
The most lengthy, and, as I suppose, the most maturely considered of
this long series of explanations is his great essay in Harper's
Magazine. I will not attempt to enter on any very thorough
investigation of his argument as there made and presented. I will
nevertheless occupy a good portion of your time here in drawing your
attention to certain points in it. Such of you as may have read this
document will have perceived that the judge early in the document
quotes from two persons as belonging to the Republican party, without
naming them, but who can readily be recognized as being Governor
Seward of New York and myself. It is true that exactly fifteen
months ago this day, I believe, I for the first time expressed a
sentiment upon this subject, and in such a manner that it should get
into print, that the public might see it beyond the circle of my
hearers; and my expression of it at that time is the quotation that
Judge Douglas makes. He has not made the quotation with accuracy, but
justice to him requires me to say that it is sufficiently accurate
not to change the sense.
The sense of that quotation condensed is this: that this slavery
element is a durable element of discord among us, and that we shall
probably not have perfect peace in this country with it until it
either masters the free principle in our government, or is so far
mastered by the free principle as for the public mind to rest in the
belief that it is going to its end. This sentiment, which I now
express in this way, was, at no great distance of time, perhaps in
different language, and in connection with some collateral ideas,
expressed by Governor Seward. Judge Douglas has been so much annoyed
by the expression of that sentiment that he has constantly, I
believe, in almost all his speeches since it was uttered, been
referring to it. I find he alluded to it in his speech here, as well
as in the copyright essay. I do not now enter upon this for the
purpose of making an elaborate argument to show that we were right in
the expression of that sentiment. In other words, I shall not stop
to say all that might properly be said upon this point, but I only
ask your attention to it for the purpose of making one or two points
If you will read the copyright essay, you will discover that judge
Douglas himself says a controversy between the American Colonies and
the Government of Great Britain began on the slavery question in
1699, and continued from that time until the Revolution; and, while
he did not say so, we all know that it has continued with more or
less violence ever since the Revolution.
Then we need not appeal to history, to the declarations of the
framers of the government, but we know from judge Douglas himself
that slavery began to be an element of discord among the white people
of this country as far back as 1699, or one hundred and sixty years
ago, or five generations of men,--counting thirty years to a
generation. Now, it would seem to me that it might have occurred to
Judge Douglas, or anybody who had turned his attention to these
facts, that there was something in the nature of that thing, slavery,
somewhat durable for mischief and discord.
There is another point I desire to make in regard to this matter,
before I leave it. From the adoption of the Constitution down to 1820
is the precise period of our history when we had comparative peace
upon this question,--the precise period of time when we came nearer
to having peace about it than any other time of that entire one
hundred and sixty years in which he says it began, or of the eighty
years of our own Constitution. Then it would be worth our while to
stop and examine into the probable reason of our coming nearer to
having peace then than at any other time. This was the precise
period of time in which our fathers adopted, and during which they
followed, a policy restricting the spread of slavery, and the whole
Union was acquiescing in it. The whole country looked forward to the
ultimate extinction of the institution. It was when a policy had
been adopted, and was prevailing, which led all just and right-minded
men to suppose that slavery was gradually coming to an end, and that
they might be quiet about it, watching it as it expired. I think
Judge Douglas might have perceived that too; and whether he did or
not, it is worth the attention of fair-minded men, here and
elsewhere, to consider whether that is not the truth of the case. If
he had looked at these two facts,--that this matter has been an
element of discord for one hundred and sixty years among this people,
and that the only comparative peace we have had about it was when
that policy prevailed in this government which he now wars upon, he
might then, perhaps, have been brought to a more just appreciation of
what I said fifteen months ago,--that "a house divided against itself
cannot stand. I believe that this government cannot endure
permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the house to
fall, I do not expect the Union to dissolve; but I do expect it will
cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.
Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it,
and place it where the public mind will rest in the belief that it is
in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it
forward until it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as
well as new, North as well as South." That was my sentiment at that
time. In connection with it, I said: "We are now far into the fifth
year since a policy was inaugurated with the avowed object and
confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the
operation of the policy that agitation has not only not ceased, but
has constantly augmented." I now say to you here that we are
advanced still farther into the sixth year since that policy of Judge
Douglas--that popular sovereignty of his--for quieting the slavery
question was made the national policy. Fifteen months more have been
added since I uttered that sentiment; and I call upon you and all
other right-minded men to say whether that fifteen months have belied
or corroborated my words.
While I am here upon this subject, I cannot but express gratitude
that this true view of this element of discord among us--as I believe
it is--is attracting more and more attention. I do not believe that
Governor Seward uttered that sentiment because I had done so before,
but because he reflected upon this subject and saw the truth of it.
Nor do I believe because Governor Seward or I uttered it that Mr.
Hickman of Pennsylvania, in, different language, since that time, has
declared his belief in the utter antagonism which exists between the
principles of liberty and slavery. You see we are multiplying. Now,
while I am speaking of Hickman, let me say, I know but little about
him. I have never seen him, and know scarcely anything about the
man; but I will say this much of him: Of all the anti-Lecompton
Democracy that have been brought to my notice, he alone has the true,
genuine ring of the metal. And now, without indorsing anything else
he has said, I will ask this audience to give three cheers for
Hickman. [The audience responded with three rousing cheers for
Another point in the copyright essay to which I would ask your
attention is rather a feature to be extracted from the whole thing,
than from any express declaration of it at any point. It is a
general feature of that document, and, indeed, of all of Judge
Douglas's discussions of this question, that the Territories of the
United States and the States of this Union are exactly alike; that
there is no difference between them at all; that the Constitution
applies to the Territories precisely as it does to the States; and
that the United States Government, under the Constitution, may not do
in a State what it may not do in a Territory, and what it must do in
a State it must do in a Territory. Gentlemen, is that a true view of
the case? It is necessary for this squatter sovereignty, but is it
Let us consider. What does it depend upon? It depends altogether
upon the proposition that the States must, without the interference
of the General Government, do all those things that pertain
exclusively to themselves,--that are local in their nature, that have
no connection with the General Government. After Judge Douglas has
established this proposition, which nobody disputes or ever has
disputed, he proceeds to assume, without proving it, that slavery is
one of those little, unimportant, trivial matters which are of just
about as much consequence as the question would be to me whether my
neighbor should raise horned cattle or plant tobacco; that there is
no moral question about it, but that it is altogether a matter of
dollars and cents; that when a new Territory is opened for
settlement, the first man who goes into it may plant there a thing
which, like the Canada thistle or some other of those pests of the
soil, cannot be dug out by the millions of men who will come
thereafter; that it is one of those little things that is so trivial
in its nature that it has nor effect upon anybody save the few men
who first plant upon the soil; that it is not a thing which in any
way affects the family of communities composing these States, nor any
way endangers the General Government. Judge Douglas ignores
altogether the very well known fact that we have never had a serious
menace to our political existence, except it sprang from this thing,
which he chooses to regard as only upon a par with onions and
Turn it, and contemplate it in another view. He says that, according
to his popular sovereignty, the General Government may give to the
Territories governors, judges, marshals, secretaries, and all the
other chief men to govern them, but they, must not touch upon this
other question. Why? The question of who shall be governor of a
Territory for a year or two, and pass away, without his track being
left upon the soil, or an act which he did for good or for evil being
left behind, is a question of vast national magnitude; it is so much
opposed in its nature to locality that the nation itself must decide
it: while this other matter of planting slavery upon a soil,--a thing
which, once planted, cannot be eradicated by the succeeding millions
who have as much right there as the first comers, or, if eradicated,
not without infinite difficulty and a long struggle, he considers the
power to prohibit it as one of these little local, trivial things
that the nation ought not to say a word about; that it affects nobody
save the few men who are there.
Take these two things and consider them together, present the
question of planting a State with the institution of slavery by the
side of a question who shall be Governor of Kansas for a year or two,
and is there a man here, is there a man on earth, who would not say
the governor question is the little one, and the slavery question is
the great one? I ask any honest Democrat if the small, the local,
and the trivial and temporary question is not, Who shall be governor?
while the durable, the important, and the mischievous one is, Shall
this soil be planted with slavery?
This is an idea, I suppose, which has arisen in Judge Douglas's mind
from his peculiar structure. I suppose the institution of slavery
really looks small to him. He is so put up by nature that a lash
upon his back would hurt him, but a lash upon anybody else's back
does not hurt him. That is the build of the man, and consequently he
looks upon the matter of slavery in this unimportant light.
Judge Douglas ought to remember, when he is endeavoring to force this
policy upon the American people, that while he is put up in that way,
a good many are not. He ought to remember that there was once in
this country a man by the name of Thomas Jefferson, supposed to be a
Democrat,--a man whose principles and policy are not very prevalent
amongst Democrats to-day, it is true; but that man did not take
exactly this view of the insignificance of the element of slavery
which our friend judge Douglas does. In contemplation of this thing,
we all know he was led to exclaim, "I tremble for my country when I
remember that God is just!" We know how he looked upon it when he
thus expressed himself. There was danger to this country,--danger of
the avenging justice of God, in that little unimportant popular
sovereignty question of judge Douglas. He supposed there was a
question of God's eternal justice wrapped up in the enslaving of any
race of men, or any man, and that those who did so braved the arm of
Jehovah; that when a nation thus dared the Almighty, every friend of
that nation had cause to dread his wrath. Choose ye between
Jefferson and Douglas as to what is the true view of this element
There is another little difficulty about this matter of treating the
Territories and States alike in all things, to which I ask your
attention, and I shall leave this branch of the case. If there is no
difference between them, why not make the Territories States at once?
What is the reason that Kansas was not fit to come into the Union
when it was organized into a Territory, in Judge Douglas's view? Can
any of you tell any reason why it should not have come into the Union
at once? They are fit, as he thinks, to decide upon the slavery
question,--the largest and most important with which they could
possibly deal: what could they do by coming into the Union that they
are not fit to do, according to his view, by staying out of it? Oh,
they are not fit to sit in Congress and decide upon the rates of
postage, or questions of ad valorem or specific duties on foreign
goods, or live-oak timber contracts, they are not fit to decide these
vastly important matters, which are national in their import, but
they are fit, "from the jump," to decide this little negro question.
But, gentlemen, the case is too plain; I occupy too much time on this
head, and I pass on.
Near the close of the copyright essay, the judge, I think, comes very
near kicking his own fat into the fire. I did not think, when I
commenced these remarks, that I would read that article, but I now
believe I will:
"This exposition of the history of these measures shows conclusively
that the authors of the Compromise measures of 1850 and of the
Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, as well as the members of the
Continental Congress of 1774., and the founders of our system of
government subsequent to the Revolution, regarded the people of the
Territories and Colonies as political communities which were entitled
to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their provisional
legislatures, where their representation could alone be preserved, in
all cases of taxation and internal polity."
When the judge saw that putting in the word "slavery" would
contradict his own history, he put in what he knew would pass
synonymous with it, "internal polity." Whenever we find that in one
of his speeches, the substitute is used in this manner; and I can
tell you the reason. It would be too bald a contradiction to say
slavery; but "internal polity" is a general phrase, which would pass
in some quarters, and which he hopes will pass with the reading
community for the same thing.
"This right pertains to the people collectively, as a law-abiding and
peaceful community, and not in the isolated individuals who may
wander upon the public domain in violation of the law. It can only be
exercised where there are inhabitants sufficient to constitute a
government, and capable of performing its various functions and
duties,--a fact to be ascertained and determined by "who do you
think? Judge Douglas says "by Congress!" "Whether the number shall
be fixed at ten, fifteen or twenty thousand inhabitants, does not
affect the principle."
Now, I have only a few comments to make. Popular sovereignty, by his
own words, does not pertain to the few persons who wander upon the
public domain in violation of law. We have his words for that. When
it does pertain to them, is when they are sufficient to be formed
into an organized political community, and he fixes the minimum for
that at ten thousand, and the maximum at twenty thousand. Now, I
would like to know what is to be done with the nine thousand? Are
they all to be treated, until they are large enough to be organized
into a political community, as wanderers upon the public land, in
violation of law? And if so treated and driven out, at what point of
time would there ever be ten thousand? If they were not driven out,
but remained there as trespassers upon the public land in violation
of the law, can they establish slavery there? No; the judge says
popular sovereignty don't pertain to them then. Can they exclude it
then? No; popular sovereignty don't pertain to them then. I would
like to know, in the case covered by the essay, what condition the
people of the Territory are in before they reach the number of ten
But the main point I wish to ask attention to is, that the question
as to when they shall have reached a sufficient number to be formed
into a regular organized community is to be decided "by Congress."
Judge Douglas says so. Well, gentlemen, that is about all we want.
No, that is all the Southerners want. That is what all those who are
for slavery want. They do not want Congress to prohibit slavery from
coming into the new Territories, and they do not want popular
sovereignty to hinder it; and as Congress is to say when they are
ready to be organized, all that the South has to do is to get
Congress to hold off. Let Congress hold off until they are ready to
be admitted as a State, and the South has all it wants in taking
slavery into and planting it in all the Territories that we now have
or hereafter may have. In a word, the whole thing, at a dash of the
pen, is at last put in the power of Congress; for if they do not have
this popular sovereignty until Congress organizes them, I ask if it
at last does not come from Congress? If, at last, it amounts to
anything at all, Congress gives it to them. I submit this rather for
your reflection than for comment. After all that is said, at last,
by a dash of the pen, everything that has gone before is undone, and
he puts the whole question under the control of Congress. After
fighting through more than three hours, if you undertake to read it,
he at last places the whole matter under the control of that power
which he has been contending against, and arrives at a result
directly contrary to what he had been laboring to do. He at last
leaves the whole matter to the control of Congress.
There are two main objects, as I understand it, of this Harper's
Magazine essay. One was to show, if possible, that the men of our
Revolutionary times were in favor of his popular sovereignty, and the
other was to show that the Dred Scott decision had not entirely
squelched out this popular sovereignty. I do not propose, in regard
to this argument drawn from the history of former times, to enter
into a detailed examination of the historical statements he has made.
I have the impression that they are inaccurate in a great many
instances,--sometimes in positive statement, but very much more
inaccurate by the suppression of statements that really belong to the
history. But I do not propose to affirm that this is so to any very
great extent, or to enter into a very minute examination of his
historical statements. I avoid doing so upon this principle,--that
if it were important for me to pass out of this lot in the least
period of time possible, and I came to that fence, and saw by a
calculation of my known strength and agility that I could clear it at
a bound, it would be folly for me to stop and consider whether I
could or not crawl through a crack. So I say of the whole history
contained in his essay where he endeavored to link the men of the
Revolution to popular sovereignty. It only requires an effort to
leap out of it, a single bound to be entirely successful. If you
read it over, you will find that he quotes here and there from
documents of the Revolutionary times, tending to show that the people
of the colonies were desirous of regulating their own concerns in
their own way, that the British Government should not interfere; that
at one time they struggled with the British Government to be
permitted to exclude the African slave trade,--if not directly, to be
permitted to exclude it indirectly, by taxation sufficient to
discourage and destroy it. From these and many things of this sort,
judge Douglas argues that they were in favor of the people of our own
Territories excluding slavery if they wanted to, or planting it there
if they wanted to, doing just as they pleased from the time they
settled upon the Territory. Now, however his history may apply and
whatever of his argument there may be that is sound and accurate or
unsound and inaccurate, if we can find out what these men did
themselves do upon this very question of slavery in the Territories,
does it not end the whole thing? If, after all this labor and effort
to show that the men of the Revolution were in favor of his popular
sovereignty and his mode of dealing with slavery in the Territories,
we can show that these very men took hold of that subject, and dealt
with it, we can see for ourselves how they dealt with it. It is not
a matter of argument or inference, but we know what they thought
It is precisely upon that part of the history of the country that one
important omission is made by Judge Douglas. He selects parts of the
history of the United States upon the subject of slavery, and treats
it as the whole, omitting from his historical sketch the legislation
of Congress in regard to the admission of Missouri, by which the
Missouri Compromise was established and slavery excluded from a
country half as large as the present United States. All this is left
out of his history, and in nowise alluded to by him, so far as I can
remember, save once, when he makes a remark, that upon his principle
the Supreme Court were authorized to pronounce a decision that the
act called the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. All that
history has been left out. But this part of the history of the
country was not made by the men of the Revolution.
There was another part of our political history, made by the very men
who were the actors in the Revolution, which has taken the name of
the Ordinance of '87. Let me bring that history to your attention.
In 1784, I believe, this same Mr. Jefferson drew up an ordinance for
the government of the country upon which we now stand, or, rather, a
frame or draft of an ordinance for the government of this country,
here in Ohio, our neighbors in Indiana, us who live in Illinois, our
neighbors in Wisconsin and Michigan. In that ordinance, drawn up not
only for the government of that Territory, but for the Territories
south of the Ohio River, Mr. Jefferson expressly provided for the
prohibition of slavery. Judge Douglas says, and perhaps is right,
that that provision was lost from that ordinance. I believe that is
true. When the vote was taken upon it, a majority of all present in
the Congress of the Confederation voted for it; but there were so
many absentees that those voting for it did not make the clear
majority necessary, and it was lost. But three years after that, the
Congress of the Confederation were together again, and they adopted a
new ordinance for the government of this Northwest Territory, not
contemplating territory south of the river, for the States owning
that territory had hitherto refrained from giving it to the General
Government; hence they made the ordinance to apply only to what the
Government owned. In fact, the provision excluding slavery was
inserted aside, passed unanimously, or at any rate it passed and
became a part of the law of the land. Under that ordinance we live.
First here in Ohio you were a Territory; then an enabling act was
passed, authorizing you to form a constitution and State Government,
provided it was republican and not in conflict with the Ordinance of
'87. When you framed your constitution and presented it for
admission, I think you will find the legislation upon the subject
will show that, whereas you had formed a constitution that was
republican, and not in conflict with the Ordinance of '87, therefore
you were admitted upon equal footing with the original States. The
same process in a few years was gone through with in Indiana, and so
with Illinois, and the same substantially with Michigan and
Not only did that Ordinance prevail, but it was constantly looked to
whenever a step was taken by a new Territory to become a State.
Congress always turned their attention to it, and in all their
movements upon this subject they traced their course by that
Ordinance of '87. When they admitted new States, they advertised
them of this Ordinance, as a part of the legislation of the country.
They did so because they had traced the Ordinance of '87 throughout
the history of this country. Begin with the men of the Revolution,
and go down for sixty entire years, and until the last scrap of that
Territory comes into the Union in the form of the State of Wisconsin,
everything was made to conform with the Ordinance of '87, excluding
slavery from that vast extent of country.
I omitted to mention in the right place that the Constitution of the
United States was in process of being framed when that Ordinance was
made by the Congress of the Confederation; and one of the first Acts
of Congress itself, under the new Constitution itself, was to give
force to that Ordinance by putting power to carry it out in the hands
of the new officers under the Constitution, in the place of the old
ones, who had been legislated out of existence by the change in the
Government from the Confederation to the Constitution. Not only so,
but I believe Indiana once or twice, if not Ohio, petitioned the
General Government for the privilege of suspending that provision and
allowing them to have slaves. A report made by Mr. Randolph, of
Virginia, himself a slaveholder, was directly against it, and the
action was to refuse them the privilege of violating the Ordinance of
This period of history, which I have run over briefly, is, I presume,
as familiar to most of this assembly as any other part of the history
of our country. I suppose that few of my hearers are not as familiar
with that part of history as I am, and I only mention it to recall
your attention to it at this time. And hence I ask how extraordinary
a thing it is that a man who has occupied a position upon the floor
of the Senate of the United States, who is now in his third term, and
who looks to see the government of this whole country fall into his
own hands, pretending to give a truthful and accurate history o the
slavery question in this country, should so entirely ignore the whole
of that portion of our history--the most important of all. Is it not
a most extraordinary spectacle that a man should stand up and ask for
any confidence in his statements who sets out as he does with
portions of history, calling upon the people to believe that it is a
true and fair representation, when the leading part and controlling
feature of the whole history is carefully suppressed?
But the mere leaving out is not the most remarkable feature of this
most remarkable essay. His proposition is to establish that the
leading men of the Revolution were for his great principle of
nonintervention by the government in the question of slavery in the
Territories, while history shows that they decided, in the cases
actually brought before them, in exactly the contrary way, and he
knows it. Not only did they so decide at that time, but they stuck
to it during sixty years, through thick and thin, as long as there
was one of the Revolutionary heroes upon the stage of political
action. Through their whole course, from first to last, they clung
to freedom. And now he asks the community to believe that the men of
the Revolution were in favor of his great principle, when we have the
naked history that they themselves dealt with this very subject
matter of his principle, and utterly repudiated his principle, acting
upon a precisely contrary ground. It is as impudent and absurd as if
a prosecuting attorney should stand up before a jury and ask them
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