But this argument strikes me as not a little remarkable in
another particular–in its strong resemblance to the old argument
for the divine right of kings.” By the latter, the king is to do
just as he pleases with his white subjects, being responsible to
God alone. By the former, the white man is to do just as he
pleases with his black slaves, being responsible to God alone.
The two things are precisely alike, and it is but natural that
they should find similar arguments to sustain them.
I had argued that the application of the principle of self-
government, as contended for, would require the revival of the
African slave trade; that no argument could be made in favor of a
man’s right to take slaves to Nebraska which could not be equally
well made in favor of his right to bring them from the coast of
Africa. The Judge replied that the Constitution requires the
suppression of the foreign slave trade, but does not require the
prohibition of slavery in the Territories. That is a mistake in
point of fact. The Constitution does not require the action of
Congress in either case, and it does authorize it in both. And
so there is still no difference between the cases.
In regard to what I have said of the advantage the slave States
have over the free in the matter of representation, the Judge
replied that we in the free States count five free negroes as
five white people, while in the slave States they count five
slaves as three whites only; and that the advantage, at last, was
on the side of the free States.
Now, in the slave States they count free negroes just as we do;
and it so happens that, besides their slaves, they have as many
free negroes as we have, and thirty thousand over. Thus, their
free negroes more than balance ours; and their advantage over us,
in consequence of their slaves, still remains as I stated it.
In reply to my argument that the compromise measures of 1850 were
a system of equivalents, and that the provisions of no one of
them could fairly be carried to other subjects without its
corresponding equivalent being carried with it, the Judge denied
outright that these measures had any connection with or
dependence upon each other. This is mere desperation. If they
had no connection, why are they always spoken of in connection?
Why has he so spoken of them a thousand times? Why has he
constantly called them a series of measures? Why does everybody
call them a compromise? Why was California kept out of the Union
six or seven months, if it was not because of its connection with
the other measures? Webster’s leading definition of the verb “to
compromise” is “to adjust and settle a difference, by mutual
agreement, with concessions of claims by the parties.” This
conveys precisely the popular understanding of the word
We knew, before the Judge told us, that these measures passed
separately, and in distinct bills, and that no two of them were
passed by the votes of precisely the same members. But we also
know, and so does he know, that no one of them could have passed
both branches of Congress but for the understanding that the
others were to pass also. Upon this understanding, each got
votes which it could have got in no other way. It is this fact
which gives to the measures their true character; and it is the
universal knowledge of this fact that has given them the name of
“compromises,” so expressive of that true character.
I had asked: “If, in carrying the Utah and New Mexico laws to
Nebraska, you could clear away other objection, how could you
leave Nebraska ‘perfectly free’ to introduce slavery before she
forms a constitution, during her territorial government, while
the Utah and New Mexico laws only authorize it when they form
constitutions and are admitted into the Union?” To this Judge
Douglas answered that the Utah and New Mexico laws also
authorized it before; and to prove this he read from one of their
laws, as follows: “That the legislative power of said Territory
shall extend to all rightful subjects of legislation, consistent
with the Constitution of the United States and the provisions of
Now it is perceived from the reading of this that there is
nothing express upon the subject, but that the authority is
sought to be implied merely for the general provision of “all
rightful subjects of legislation.” In reply to this I insist, as
a legal rule of construction, as well as the plain, popular view
of the matter, that the express provision for Utah and New Mexico
coming in with slavery, if they choose, when they shall form
constitutions, is an exclusion of all implied authority on the
same subject; that Congress having the subject distinctly in
their minds when they made the express provision, they therein
expressed their whole meaning on that subject.
The Judge rather insinuated that I had found it convenient to
forget the Washington territorial law passed in 1853. This was a
division of Oregon, organizing the northern part as the Territory
of Washington. He asserted that by this act the Ordinance of
’87, theretofore existing in Oregon, was repealed; that nearly
all the members of Congress voted for it, beginning in the House
of Representatives with Charles Allen of Massachusetts, and
ending with Richard Yates of Illinois; and that he could not
understand how those who now opposed the Nebraska Bill so voted
there, unless it was because it was then too soon after both the
great political parties had ratified the compromises of 1850, and
the ratification therefore was too fresh to be then repudiated.
Now I had seen the Washington act before, and I have carefully
examined it since; and I aver that there is no repeal of the
Ordinance of ’87, or of any prohibition of slavery, in it. In
express terms, there is absolutely nothing in the whole law upon
the subject–in fact, nothing to lead a reader to think of the
subject. To my judgment it is equally free from everything from
which repeal can be legally implied; but, however this may be,
are men now to be entrapped by a legal implication, extracted
from covert language, introduced perhaps for the very purpose of
entrapping them? I sincerely wish every man could read this law
quite through, carefully watching every sentence and every line
for a repeal of the Ordinance of ’87, or anything equivalent to
Another point on the Washington act: If it was intended to be
modeled after the Utah and New Mexico acts, as Judge Douglas
insists, why was it not inserted in it, as in them, that
Washington was to come in with or without slavery as she may
choose at the adoption of her constitution? It has no such
provision in it; and I defy the ingenuity of man to give a reason
for the omission, other than that it was not intended to follow
the Utah and New Mexico laws in regard to the question of
The Washington act not only differs vitally from the Utah and New
Mexico acts, but the Nebraska act differs vitally from both. By
the latter act the people are left “perfectly free” to regulate
their own domestic concerns, etc.; but in all the former, all
their laws are to be submitted to Congress, and if disapproved
are to be null. The Washington act goes even further; it
absolutely prohibits the territorial Legislature, by very strong
and guarded language, from establishing banks or borrowing money
on the faith of the Territory. Is this the sacred right of self-
government we hear vaunted so much? No, sir; the Nebraska Bill
finds no model in the acts of ’50 or the Washington act. It
finds no model in any law from Adam till to-day. As Phillips
says of Napoleon, the Nebraska act is grand, gloomy and peculiar,
wrapped in the solitude of its own originality, without a model
and without a shadow upon the earth.
In the course of his reply Senator Douglas remarked in substance
that he had always considered this government was made for the
white people and not for the negroes. Why, in point of mere
fact, I think so too. But in this remark of the Judge there is a
significance which I think is the key to the great mistake (if
there is any such mistake) which he has made in this Nebraska
measure. It shows that the Judge has no very vivid impression
that the negro is human, and consequently has no idea that there
can be any moral question in legislating about him. In his view
the question of whether a new country shall be slave or free is a
matter of as utter indifference as it is whether his neighbor
shall plant his farm with tobacco or stock it with horned cattle.
Now, whether this view is right or wrong, it is very certain that
the great mass of mankind take a totally different view. They
consider slavery a great moral wrong, and their feeling against
it is not evanescent, but eternal. It lies at the very
foundation of their sense of justice, and it cannot be trifled
with. It is a great and durable element of popular action, and I
think no statesman can safely disregard it.
Our Senator also objects that those who oppose him in this matter
do not entirely agree with one another. He reminds me that in my
firm adherence to the constitutional rights of the slave States I
differ widely from others who are cooperating with me in opposing
the Nebraska Bill, and he says it is not quite fair to oppose him
in this variety of ways. He should remember that he took us by
surprise–astounded us by this measure. We were thunderstruck
and stunned, and we reeled and fell in utter confusion. But we
rose, each fighting, grasping whatever he could first reach–a
scythe, a pitchfork, a chopping-ax, or a butcher’s cleaver. We
struck in the direction of the sound, and we were rapidly closing
upon him. He must not think to divert us from our purpose by
showing us that our drill, our dress, and our weapons are not
entirely perfect and uniform. When the storm shall be past he
shall find us still Americans, no less devoted to the continued
union and prosperity of the country than heretofore.
Finally, the Judge invokes against me the memory of Clay and
Webster, They were great men, and men of great deeds. But where
have I assailed them? For what is it that their lifelong enemy
shall now make profit by assuming to defend them against me,
their lifelong friend? I go against the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise; did they ever go for it? They went for the
Compromise of 1850; did I ever go against them? They were
greatly devoted to the Union; to the small measure of my ability
was I ever less so? Clay and Webster were dead before this
question arose; by what authority shall our Senator say they
would espouse his side of it if alive? Mr. Clay was the leading
spirit in making the Missouri Compromise; is it very credible
that if now alive he would take the lead in the breaking of it?
The truth is that some support from Whigs is now a necessity with
the Judge, and for this it is that the names of Clay and Webster
are invoked. His old friends have deserted him in such numbers
as to leave too few to live by. He came to his own, and his own
received him not; and lo! he turns unto the Gentiles.
A word now as to the Judge’s desperate assumption that the
compromises of 1850 had no connection with one another; that
Illinois came into the Union as a slave State, and some other
similar ones. This is no other than a bold denial of the history
of the country. If we do not know that the compromises of 1850
were dependent on each other; if we do not know that Illinois
came into the Union as a free State,–we do not know anything.
If we do not know these things, we do not know that we ever had a
Revolutionary War or such a chief as Washington. To deny these
things is to deny our national axioms,–or dogmas, at least,–and
it puts an end to all argument. If a man will stand up and
assert, and repeat and reassert, that two and two do not make
four, I know nothing in the power of argument that can stop him.
I think I can answer the Judge so long as he sticks to the
premises; but when he flies from them, I cannot work any argument
into the consistency of a mental gag and actually close his mouth
with it. In such a case I can only commend him to the seventy
thousand answers just in from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.
REQUEST FOR SENATE SUPPORT
TO CHARLES HOYT
CLINTON, De WITT Co., Nov. 10, 1854
DEAR SIR:–You used to express a good deal of partiality for me,
and if you are still so, now is the time. Some friends here are
really for me for the U.S. Senate, and I should be very grateful
if you could make a mark for me among your members. Please write
me at all events, giving me the names, post-offices, and
“political position” of members round about you. Direct to
Let this be confidential.
TO T. J. HENDERSON.
November 27, 1854
T. J. HENDERSON, ESQ.
MY DEAR SIR:–It has come round that a whig may, by possibility,
be elected to the United States Senate, and I want the chance of
being the man. You are a member of the Legislature, and have a
vote to give. Think it over, and see whether you can do better
than to go for me.
Write me, at all events; and let this be confidential.
TO J. GILLESPIE.
SPRINGFIELD, Dec. 1, 1854.
DEAR SIR:–I have really got it into my head to try to be United
States Senator, and, if I could have your support, my chances
would be reasonably good. But I know, and acknowledge, that you
have as just claims to the place as I have; and therefore I
cannot ask you to yield to me, if you are thinking of becoming a
candidate, yourself. If, however, you are not, then I should
like to be remembered affectionately by you; and also to have you
make a mark for me with the Anti-Nebraska members down your way.
If you know, and have no objection to tell, let me know whether
Trumbull intends to make a push. If he does, I suppose the two
men in St. Clair, and one, or both, in Madison, will be for him.
We have the Legislature, clearly enough, on joint ballot, but the
Senate is very close, and Cullom told me to-day that the Nebraska
men will stave off the election, if they can. Even if we get
into joint vote, we shall have difficulty to unite our forces.
Please write me, and let this be confidential.
Your friend, as ever,
TO JUSTICE MCLEAN.
SPRINGFIELD, ILL., December 6, 1854.
SIR:–I understand it is in contemplation to displace the present
clerk and appoint a new one for the Circuit and District Courts
of Illinois. I am very friendly to the present incumbent, and,
both for his own sake and that of his family, I wish him to be
retained so long as it is possible for the court to do so.
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