The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

But you remember and set down to Judge Douglas's debt, or discredit,
that he, last year, said the people of Territories can, in spite of
the Dred Scott decision, exclude your slaves from those Territories;
that he declared, by "unfriendly legislation" the extension of your
property into the new Territories may be cut off, in the teeth of the
decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.

He assumed that position at Freeport on the 27th of August, 1858. He
said that the people of the Territories can exclude slavery, in so
many words: You ought, however, to bear in mind that he has never
said it since. You may hunt in every speech that he has since made,
and he has never used that expression once. He has never seemed to
notice that he is stating his views differently from what he did
then; but by some sort of accident, he has always really stated it
differently. He has always since then declared that "the
Constitution does not carry slavery into the Territories of the
United States beyond the power of the people legally to control it,
as other property." Now, there is a difference in the language used
upon that former occasion and in this latter day. There may or may
not be a difference in the meaning, but it is worth while considering
whether there is not also a difference in meaning.

What is it to exclude? Why, it is to drive it out. It is in some
way to put it out of the Territory. It is to force it across the
line, or change its character so that, as property, it is out of
existence. But what is the controlling of it "as other property"?
Is controlling it as other property the same thing as destroying it,
or driving it away? I should think not. I should think the
controlling of it as other property would be just about what you in
Kentucky should want. I understand the controlling of property means
the controlling of it for the benefit of the owner of it. While I
have no doubt the Supreme Court of the United States would say "God
speed" to any of the Territorial Legislatures that should thus
control slave property, they would sing quite a different tune if, by
the pretence of controlling it, they were to undertake to pass laws
which virtually excluded it,--and that upon a very well known
principle to all lawyers, that what a Legislature cannot directly do,
it cannot do by indirection; that as the Legislature has not the
power to drive slaves out, they have no power, by indirection, by
tax, or by imposing burdens in any way on that property, to effect
the same end, and that any attempt to do so would be held by the Dred
Scott court unconstitutional.

Douglas is not willing to stand by his first proposition that they
can exclude it, because we have seen that that proposition amounts to
nothing more nor less than the naked absurdity that you may lawfully
drive out that which has a lawful right to remain. He admitted at
first that the slave might be lawfully taken into the Territories
under the Constitution of the United States, and yet asserted that he
might be lawfully driven out. That being the proposition, it is the
absurdity I have stated. He is not willing to stand in the face of
that direct, naked, and impudent absurdity; he has, therefore,
modified his language into that of being "controlled as other
property."

The Kentuckians don't like this in Douglas! I will tell you where it
will go. He now swears by the court. He was once a leading man in
Illinois to break down a court, because it had made a decision he did
not like. But he now not only swears by the court, the courts having
got to working for you, but he denounces all men that do not swear by
the courts, as unpatriotic, as bad citizens. When one of these acts
of unfriendly legislation shall impose such heavy burdens as to, in
effect, destroy property in slaves in a Territory, and show plainly
enough that there can be no mistake in the purpose of the Legislature
to make them so burdensome, this same Supreme Court will decide that
law to be unconstitutional, and he will be ready to say for your
benefit "I swear by the court; I give it up"; and while that is going
on he has been getting all his men to swear by the courts, and to
give it up with him. In this again he serves you faithfully, and, as
I say, more wisely than you serve yourselves.

Again: I have alluded in the beginning of these remarks to the fact
that Judge Douglas has made great complaint of my having expressed
the opinion that this government "cannot endure permanently, half
slave and half free." He has complained of Seward for using
different language, and declaring that there is an "irrepressible
conflict" between the principles of free and slave labor. [A voice:
" He says it is not original with Seward. That it is original with
Lincoln."] I will attend to that immediately, sir. Since that time,
Hickman of Pennsylvania expressed the same sentiment. He has never
denounced Mr. Hickman: why? There is a little chance,
notwithstanding that opinion in the mouth of Hickman, that he may yet
be a Douglas man. That is the difference! It is not unpatriotic to
hold that opinion if a man is a Douglas man.

But neither I, nor Seward, nor Hickman is entitled to the enviable or
unenviable distinction of having first expressed that idea. That
same idea was expressed by the Richmond Enquirer, in Virginia, in
1856,--quite two years before it was expressed by the first of us.
And while Douglas was pluming himself that in his conflict with my
humble self, last year, he had "squelched out" that fatal heresy, as
he delighted to call it, and had suggested that if he only had had a
chance to be in New York and meet Seward he would have "squelched" it
there also, it never occurred to him to breathe a word against Pryor.
I don't think that you can discover that Douglas ever talked of going
to Virginia to "squelch" out that idea there. No. More than that.
That same Roger A. Pryor was brought to Washington City and made the
editor of the par excellence Douglas paper, after making use of that
expression, which, in us, is so unpatriotic and heretical. From all
this, my Kentucky friends may see that this opinion is heretical in
his view only when it is expressed by men suspected of a desire that
the country shall all become free, and not when expressed by those
fairly known to entertain the desire that the whole country shall
become slave. When expressed by that class of men, it is in nowise
offensive to him. In this again, my friends of Kentucky, you have
Judge Douglas with you.

There is another reason why you Southern people ought to nominate
Douglas at your convention at Charleston. That reason is the
wonderful capaciity of the man,--the power he has of doing what would
seem to be impossible. Let me call your attention to one of these
apparently impossible things:

Douglas had three or four very distinguished men of the most extreme
anti-slavery views of any men in the Republican party expressing
their desire for his re-election to the Senate last year. That
would, of itself, have seemed to be a little wonderful; but that
wonder is heightened when we see that Wise of Virginia, a man exactly
opposed to them, a man who believes in the divine right of slavery,
was also expressing his desire that Douglas should be reelected; that
another man that may be said to be kindred to Wise, Mr. Breckinridge,
the Vice-President, and of your own State, was also agreeing with the
anti-slavery men in the North that Douglas ought to be re-elected.
Still to heighten the wonder, a senator from Kentucky, whom I have
always loved with an affection as tender and endearing as I have ever
loved any man, who was opposed to the anti-slavery men for reasons
which seemed sufficient to him, and equally opposed to Wise and
Breckinridge, was writing letters into Illinois to secure the
reelection of Douglas. Now, that all these conflicting elements
should be brought, while at daggers' points with one another, to
support him, is a feat that is worthy for you to note and consider.
It is quite probable that each of these classes of men thought, by
the re-election of Douglas, their peculiar views would gain
something: it is probable that the anti-slavery men thought their
views would gain something; that Wise and Breckinridge thought so
too, as regards their opinions; that Mr. Crittenden thought that his
views would gain something, although he was opposed to both these
other men. It is probable that each and all of them thought that
they were using Douglas; and it is yet an unsolved problem whether he
was not using them all. If he was, then it is for you to consider
whether that power to perform wonders is one for you lightly to throw
away.

There is one other thing that I will say to you, in this relation. It
is but my opinion, I give it to you without a fee. It is my opinion
that it is for you to take him or be defeated; and that if you do
take him you may be beaten. You will surely be beaten if you do not
take him. We, the Republicans and others forming the opposition of
the country, intend to "stand by our guns," to be patient and firm,
and in the long run to beat you, whether you take him or not. We
know that before we fairly beat you we have to beat you both
together. We know that you are "all of a feather," and that we have
to beat you all together, and we expect to do it. We don't intend to
be very impatient about it. We mean to be as deliberate and calm
about it as it is possible to be, but as firm and resolved as it is
possible for men to be. When we do as we say,--beat you,--you
perhaps want to know what we will do with you.

I will tell you, so far as I am authorized to speak for the
opposition, what we mean to do with you. We mean to treat you, as
near as we possibly can, as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison
treated you. We mean to leave you alone, and in no way interfere
with your institution; to abide by all and every compromise of the
Constitution, and, in a word, coming back to the original
proposition, to treat you, so far as degenerated men (if we have
degenerated) may, according to the examples of those noble fathers,
Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. We mean to remember that you are
as good as we; that there is no difference between us other than the
difference of circumstances. We mean to recognize and bear in mind
always that you have as good hearts in your bosoms as other people,
or as we claim to have, and treat you accordingly. We mean to marry
your girls when we have a chance, the white ones I mean; and I have
the honor to inform you that I once did have a chance in that way.

I have told you what we mean to do. I want to know, now, when that
thing takes place, what do you mean to do? I often hear it intimated
that you mean to divide the Union whenever a Republican, or anything
like it, is elected President of the United States. [A voice: "That
is so."] "That is so," one of them says; I wonder if he is a
Kentuckian? [A voice: "He is a Douglas man."] Well, then, I want to
know what you are going to do with your half of it? Are you going to
split the Ohio down through, and push your half off a piece? Or are
you going to keep it right alongside of us outrageous fellows? Or
are you going to build up a wall some way between your country and
ours, by which that movable property of yours can't come over here
any more, to the danger of your losing it? Do you think you can
better yourselves, on that subject, by leaving us here under no
obligation whatever to return those specimens of your movable
property that come hither? You have divided the Union because we
would not do right with you, as you think, upon that subject; when we
cease to be under obligations to do anything for you, how much better
off do you think you will be? Will you make war upon us and kill us
all? Why, gentlemen, I think you are as gallant and as brave men as
live; that you can fight as bravely in a good cause, man for man, as
any other people living; that you have shown yourselves capable of
this upon various occasions: but, man for man, you are not better
than we are, and there are not so many of you as there are of us. You
will never make much of a hand at whipping us. If we were fewer in
numbers than you, I think that you could whip us; if we were equal,
it would likely be a drawn battle; but being inferior in numbers, you
will make nothing by attempting to master us.

But perhaps I have addressed myself as long, or longer, to the
Kentuckians than I ought to have done, inasmuch as I have said that
whatever course you take we intend in the end to beat you. I propose
to address a few remarks to our friends, by way of discussing with
them the best means of keeping that promise that I have in good faith
made.

It may appear a little episodical for me to mention the topic of
which I will speak now. It is a favorite position of Douglas's that
the interference of the General Government, through the Ordinance of
'87, or through any other act of the General Government never has
made or ever can make a free State; the Ordinance of '87 did not make
free States of Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois; that these States are free
upon his "great principle" of popular sovereignty, because the people
of those several States have chosen to make them so. At Columbus,
and probably here, he undertook to compliment the people that they
themselves have made the State of Ohio free, and that the Ordinance
of '87 was not entitled in any degree to divide the honor with them.
I have no doubt that the people of the State of Ohio did make her
free according to their own will and judgment, but let the facts be
remembered.

In 1802, I believe, it was you who made your first constitution, with
the clause prohibiting slavery, and you did it, I suppose, very
nearly unanimously; but you should bear in mind that you--speaking of
you as one people--that you did so unembarrassed by the actual
presence of the, institution amongst you; that you made it a free
State not with the embarrassment upon you of already having among you
many slaves, which if they had been here, and you had sought to make
a free State, you would not know what to do with. If they had been
among you, embarrassing difficulties, most probably, would have
induced you to tolerate a slave constitution instead of a free one,
as indeed these very difficulties have constrained every people on
this continent who have adopted slavery.

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