The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

I ask attention to the fact that in a pre-eminent degree these
popular sovereigns are at this work: blowing out the moral lights
around us; teaching that the negro is no longer a man, but a brute;
that the Declaration has nothing to do with him; that he ranks with
the crocodile and the reptile; that man, with body and soul, is a
matter of dollars and cents. I suggest to this portion of the Ohio
Republicans, or Democrats, if there be any present, the serious
consideration of this fact that there is now going on among you a
steady process of debauching public opinion on this subject. With
this, my friends, I bid you adieu.

SPEECH AT CINCINNATI OHIO, SEPTEMBER 17, 1859

My Fellow-Citizens of the State of Ohio: This is the first time in
my life that I have appeared before an audience in so great a city as
this: I therefore--though I am no longer a young man--make this
appearance under some degree of embarrassment. But I have found that
when one is embarrassed, usually the shortest way to get through with
it is to quit talking or thinking about it, and go at something else.

I understand that you have had recently with you my very
distinguished friend Judge Douglas, of Illinois; and I understand,
without having had an opportunity (not greatly sought, to be sure) of
seeing a report of the speech that he made here, that he did me the
honor to mention my humble name. I suppose that he did so for the
purpose of making some objection to some sentiment at some time
expressed by me. I should expect, it is true, that judge Douglas had
reminded you, or informed you, if you had never before heard it, that
I had once in my life declared it as my opinion that this government
cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free; that a house
divided against itself cannot stand, and, as I had expressed it, I
did not expect the house to fall, that I did not expect the Union to
be dissolved, but that I did expect that it would cease to be
divided, that it would become all one thing, or all the other; that
either the opponents of slavery would arrest the further spread of
it, and place it where the public mind would rest in the belief that
it was in the course of ultimate extinction, or the friends of
slavery will push it forward until it becomes alike lawful in all the
States, old or new, free as well as slave. I did, fifteen months ago,
express that opinion, and upon many occasions Judge Douglas has
denounced it, and has greatly, intentionally or unintentionally,
misrepresented my purpose in the expression of that opinion.

I presume, without having seen a report of his speech, that he did so
here. I presume that he alluded also to that opinion, in different
language, having been expressed at a subsequent time by Governor
Seward of New York, and that he took the two in a lump and denounced
them; that he tried to point out that there was something couched in
this opinion which led to the making of an entire uniformity of the
local institutions of the various States of the Union, in utter
disregard of the different States, which in their nature would seem
to require a variety of institutions and a variety of laws,
conforming to the differences in the nature of the different States.

Not only so: I presume he insisted that this was a declaration of war
between the free and slave States, that it was the sounding to the
onset of continual war between the different States, the slave and
free States.

This charge, in this form, was made by Judge Douglas on, I believe,
the 9th of July, 1858, in Chicago, in my hearing. On the next
evening, I made some reply to it. I informed him that many of the
inferences he drew from that expression of mine were altogether
foreign to any purpose entertained by me, and in so far as he should
ascribe these inferences to me, as my purpose, he was entirely
mistaken; and in so far as he might argue that, whatever might be my
purpose, actions conforming to my views would lead to these results,
he might argue and establish if he could; but, so far as purposes
were concerned, he was totally mistaken as to me.

When I made that reply to him, I told him, on the question of
declaring war between the different States of the Union, that I had
not said that I did not expect any peace upon this question until
slavery was exterminated; that I had only said I expected peace when
that institution was put where the public mind should rest in the
belief that it was in course of ultimate extinction; that I believed,
from the organization of our government until a very recent period of
time, the institution had been placed and continued upon such a
basis; that we had had comparative peace upon that question through a
portion of that period of time, only because the public mind rested
in that belief in regard to it, and that when we returned to that
position in relation to that matter, I supposed we should again have
peace as we previously had. I assured him, as I now, assure you, that
I neither then had, nor have, or ever had, any purpose in any way of
interfering with the institution of slavery, where it exists. I
believe we have no power, under the Constitution of the United
States, or rather under the form of government under which we live,
to interfere with the institution of slavery, or any other of the
institutions of our sister States, be they free or slave States. I
declared then, and I now re-declare, that I have as little
inclination to interfere with the institution of slavery where it now
exists, through the instrumentality of the General Government, or any
other instrumentality, as I believe we have no power to do so. I
accidentally used this expression: I had no purpose of entering into
the slave States to disturb the institution of slavery. So, upon the
first occasion that Judge Douglas got an opportunity to reply to me,
he passed by the whole body of what I had said upon that subject, and
seized upon the particular expression of mine that I had no purpose
of entering into the slave States to disturb the institution of
slavery. "Oh, no," said he, "he [Lincoln] won't enter into the slave
States to disturb the institution of slavery, he is too prudent a man
to do such a thing as that; he only means that he will go on to the
line between the free and slave States, and shoot over at them. This
is all he means to do. He means to do them all the harm he can, to
disturb them all he can, in such a way as to keep his own hide in
perfect safety."

Well, now, I did not think, at that time, that that was either a very
dignified or very logical argument but so it was, I had to get along
with it as well as I could.

It has occurred to-me here to-night that if I ever do shoot over the
line at the people on the other side of the line into a slave State,
and purpose to do so, keeping my skin safe, that I have now about the
best chance I shall ever have. I should not wonder if there are some
Kentuckians about this audience--we are close to Kentucky; and
whether that be so or not, we are on elevated ground, and, by
speaking distinctly, I should not wonder if some of the Kentuckians
would hear me on the other side of the river. For that reason I
propose to address a portion of what I have to say to the
Kentuckians.

I say, then, in the first place, to the Kentuckians, that I am what
they call, as I understand it, a "Black Republican." I think slavery
is wrong, morally and politically. I desire that it should be no
further spread in--these United States, and I should not object if it
should gradually terminate in the whole Union. While I say this for
myself, I say to you Kentuckians that I understand you differ
radically with me upon this proposition; that you believe slavery is
a good thing; that slavery is right; that it ought to be extended and
perpetuated in this Union. Now, there being this broad difference
between us, I do not pretend, in addressing myself to you
Kentuckians, to attempt proselyting you; that would be a vain effort.
I do not enter upon it. I only propose to try to show you that you
ought to nominate for the next Presidency, at Charleston, my
distinguished friend Judge Douglas. In all that there is a
difference between you and him, I understand he is sincerely for you,
and more wisely for you than you are for yourselves. I will try to
demonstrate that proposition. Understand, now, I say that I believe
he is as sincerely for you, and more wisely for you, than you are for
yourselves.

What do you want more than anything else to make successful your
views of slavery,--to advance the outspread of it, and to secure and
perpetuate the nationality of it? What do you want more than
anything else? What--is needed absolutely? What is indispensable to
you? Why, if I may, be allowed to answer the question, it is to
retain a hold upon the North, it is to retain support and strength
from the free States. If you can get this support and strength from
the free States, you can succeed. If you do not get this support and
this strength from the free States, you are in the minority, and you
are beaten at once.

If that proposition be admitted,--and it is undeniable,--then the
next thing I say to you is, that Douglas, of all the men in this
nation, is the only man that affords you any hold upon the free
States; that no other man can give you any strength in the free
States. This being so, if you doubt the other branch of the
proposition, whether he is for you--whether he is really for you, as
I have expressed it,--I propose asking your attention for a while to
a few facts.

The issue between you and me, understand, is, that I think slavery is
wrong, and ought not to be outspread; and you think it is right, and
ought to be extended and perpetuated. [A voice, "Oh, Lord!"] That is
my Kentuckian I am talking to now.

I now proceed to try to show you that Douglas is as sincerely for you
and more wisely for you than you are for yourselves.

In the first place, we know that in a government like this, in a
government of the people, where the voice of all the men of the
country, substantially, enters into the execution--or administration,
rather--of the government, in such a government, what lies at the
bottom of all of it is public opinion. I lay down the proposition,
that Judge Douglas is not only the man that promises you in advance a
hold upon the North, and support in the North, but he constantly
moulds public opinion to your ends; that in every possible way he can
he constantly moulds the public opinion of the North to your ends;
and if there are a few things in which he seems to be against you,-
-a, few things which he says that appear to be against you, and a few
that he forbears to say which you would like to have him say you
ought to remember that the saying of the one, or the forbearing to
say the other, would lose his hold upon the North, and, by
consequence, would lose his capacity to serve you.

Upon this subject of moulding public opinion I call your attention to
the fact--for a well established fact it is--that the Judge never
says your institution of slavery is wrong. There is not a public man
in the United States, I believe, with the exception of Senator
Douglas, who has not, at some time in his life, declared his opinion
whether the thing is right or wrong; but Senator Douglas never
declares it is wrong. He leaves himself at perfect liberty to do all
in your favor which he would be hindered from doing if he were to
declare the thing to be wrong. On the contrary, he takes all the
chances that he has for inveigling the sentiment of the North,
opposed to slavery, into your support, by never saying it is right.
This you ought to set down to his credit: You ought to give him full
credit for this much; little though it be, in comparison to the whole
which he does for you.

Some other, things I will ask your attention to. He said upon the
floor of the United States Senate, and he has repeated it, as I
understand, a great many times, that he does not care whether slavery
is "voted up or voted down." This again shows you, or ought to show
you, if you would reason upon it, that he does not believe it to be
wrong; for a man may say when he sees nothing wrong in a thing; that
he, dues not care whether it be voted up or voted down but no man can
logically say that he cares not whether a thing goes up or goes down
which to him appears to be wrong. You therefore have a demonstration
in this that to Judge Douglas's mind your favorite institution, which
you would have spread out and made perpetual, is no wrong.

Another thing he tells you, in a speech made at Memphis in Tennessee,
shortly after the canvass in Illinois, last year. He there
distinctly told the people that there was a "line drawn by the
Almighty across this continent, on the one side of which the soil
must always be cultivated by slaves"; that he did not pretend to know
exactly where that line was, but that there was such a line. I want
to ask your attention to that proposition again; that there is one
portion of this continent where the Almighty has signed the soil
shall always be cultivated by slaves; that its being cultivated by
slaves at that place is right; that it has the direct sympathy and
authority of the Almighty. Whenever you can get these Northern
audiences to adopt the opinion that slavery is right on the other
side of the Ohio, whenever you can get them, in pursuance of
Douglas's views, to adopt that sentiment, they will very readily make
the other argument, which is perfectly logical, that that which is
right on that side of the Ohio cannot be wrong on this, and that if
you have that property on that side of the Ohio, under the seal and
stamp of the Almighty, when by any means it escapes over here it is
wrong to have constitutions and laws "to devil" you about it. So
Douglas is moulding the public opinion of the North, first to say
that the thing is right in your State over the Ohio River, and hence
to say that that which is right there is not wrong here, and that all
laws and constitutions here recognizing it as being wrong are
themselves wrong, and ought to be repealed and abrogated. He will
tell you, men of Ohio, that if you choose here to have laws against
slavery, it is in conformity to the idea that your climate is not
suited to it, that your climate is not suited to slave labor, and
therefore you have constitutions and laws against it.

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 | View All | Next -»