The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

Mary will probably pass a day or two in Louisville in October.
My kindest regards to Mrs. Speed. On the leading subject of
this letter I have more of her sympathy than I have of yours; and
yet let me say I am,

Your friend forever,

A. LINCOLN.

1856

REQUEST FOR A RAILWAY PASS

TO R. P. MORGAN

SPRINGFIELD, February 13, 1856.

R. P. MORGAN, ESQ.:

Says Tom to John, "Here's your old rotten wheelbarrow. I've
broke it usin' on it. I wish you would mend it, 'case I shall
want to borrow it this arternoon." Acting on this as a
precedent, I say, "Here's your old 'chalked hat,--I wish you
would take it and send me a new one, 'case I shall want to use it
the first of March."

Yours truly,

A. LINCOLN

(A 'chalked hat' was the common term, at that time, for a
railroad pass.)

SPEECH DELIVERED BEFORE THE FIRST REPUBLICAN
STATE CONVENTION OF ILLINOIS,

HELD AT BLOOMINGTON, ON MAY 29, 1856.

[From the Report by William C. Whitney.]

(Mr. Whitney's notes were made at the time, but not written out
until 1896. He does not claim that the speech, as here reported,
is literally correct only that he has followed the argument, and
that in many cases the sentences are as Mr. Lincoln spoke them.)

Mr. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN: I was over at [Cries of "Platform!"
"Take the platform!"]--I say, that while I was at Danville Court,
some of our friends of Anti-Nebraska got together in Springfield
and elected me as one delegate to represent old Sangamon with
them in this convention, and I am here certainly as a sympathizer
in this movement and by virtue of that meeting and selection.
But we can hardly be called delegates strictly, inasmuch as,
properly speaking, we represent nobody but ourselves. I think it
altogether fair to say that we have no Anti-Nebraska party in
Sangamon, although there is a good deal of Anti-Nebraska feeling
there; but I say for myself, and I think I may speak also for my
colleagues, that we who are here fully approve of the platform
and of all that has been done [A voice, "Yes!,"], and even if we
are not regularly delegates, it will be right for me to answer
your call to speak. I suppose we truly stand for the public
sentiment of Sangamon on the great question of the repeal,
although we do not yet represent many numbers who have taken a
distinct position on the question.

We are in a trying time--it ranges above mere party--and this
movement to call a halt and turn our steps backward needs all the
help and good counsels it can get; for unless popular opinion
makes itself very strongly felt, and a change is made in our
present course, blood will flow on account of Nebraska, and
brother's hands will be raised against brother!

[The last sentence was uttered in such an earnest, impressive, if
not, indeed, tragic, manner, as to make a cold chill creep over
me. Others gave a similar experience.]

I have listened with great interest to the earnest appeal made to
Illinois men by the gentleman from Lawrence [James S. Emery] who
has just addressed us so eloquently and forcibly. I was deeply
moved by his statement of the wrongs done to free-State men out
there. I think it just to say that all true men North should
sympathize with them, and ought to be willing to do any possible
and needful thing to right their wrongs. But we must not promise
what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we
cannot; we must be calm and moderate, and consider the whole
difficulty, and determine what is possible and just. We must not
be led by excitement and passion to do that which our sober
judgments would not approve in our cooler moments. We have
higher aims; we will have more serious business than to dally
with temporary measures.

We are here to stand firmly for a principle--to stand firmly for
a right. We know that great political and moral wrongs are done,
and outrages committed, and we denounce those wrongs and
outrages, although we cannot, at present, do much more. But we
desire to reach out beyond those personal outrages and establish
a rule that will apply to all, and so prevent any future
outrages.

We have seen to-day that every shade of popular opinion is
represented here, with Freedom, or rather Free Soil, as the
basis. We have come together as in some sort representatives of
popular opinion against the extension of slavery into territory
now free in fact as well as by law, and the pledged word of the
statesmen of the nation who are now no more. We come--we are
here assembled together--to protest as well as we can against a
great wrong, and to take measures, as well as we now can, to make
that wrong right; to place the nation, as far as it may be
possible now, as it was before the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise; and the plain way to do this is to restore the
Compromise, and to demand and determine that Kansas shall be
free! [Immense applause.] While we affirm, and reaffirm, if
necessary, our devotion to the principles of the Declaration of
Independence, let our practical work here be limited to the
above. We know that there is not a perfect agreement of
sentiment here on the public questions which might be rightfully
considered in this convention, and that the indignation which we
all must feel cannot be helped; but all of us must give up
something for the good of the cause. There is one desire which
is uppermost in the mind, one wish common to us all, to which no
dissent will be made; and I counsel you earnestly to bury all
resentment, to sink all personal feeling, make all things work to
a common purpose in which we are united and agreed about, and
which all present will agree is absolutely necessary--which must
be done by any rightful mode if there be such:
Slavery must be kept out of Kansas! [Applause.] The test--the
pinch--is right there. If we lose Kansas to freedom, an example
will be set which will prove fatal to freedom in the end. We,
therefore, in the language of the Bible, must "lay the axe to the
root of the tree." Temporizing will not do longer; now is the
time for decision--for firm, persistent, resolute action.
[Applause.]

The Nebraska Bill, or rather Nebraska law, is not one of
wholesome legislation, but was and is an act of legislative
usurpation, whose result, if not indeed intention, is to make
slavery national; and unless headed off in some effective way, we
are in a fair way to see this land of boasted freedom converted
into a land of slavery in fact. [Sensation.] Just open your two
eyes, and see if this be not so. I need do no more than state,
to command universal approval, that almost the entire North, as
well as a large following in the border States, is radically
opposed to the planting of slavery in free territory. Probably
in a popular vote throughout the nation nine tenths of the voters
in the free States, and at least one-half in the border States,
if they could express their sentiments freely, would vote NO on
such an issue; and it is safe to say that two thirds of the votes
of the entire nation would be opposed to it. And yet, in spite
of this overbalancing of sentiment in this free country, we are
in a fair way to see Kansas present itself for admission as a
slave State. Indeed, it is a felony, by the local law of Kansas,
to deny that slavery exists there even now. By every principle
of law, a negro in Kansas is free; yet the bogus Legislature
makes it an infamous crime to tell him that he is free!

Statutes of Kansas, 1555, chapter 151, Sec. 12: If any free
person, by speaking or by writing, assert or maintain that
persons have not the right to hold slaves in this Territory, or
shall introduce into this Territory, print, publish, write,
circulate . . . any book, paper, magazine, pamphlet, or
circular containing any denial of the right of persons to hold
slaves in this Territory such person shall be deemed guilty of
felony, and punished by imprisonment at hard labor for a term of
not less than two years.
Sec. 13. No person who is conscientiously opposed to holding
slaves, or who does not admit the right to hold slaves in this
Territory, shall sit as a juror on the trial of any prosecution
for any violation of any Sections of this Act.

The party lash and the fear of ridicule will overawe justice and
liberty; for it is a singular fact, but none the less a fact, and
well known by the most common experience, that men will do things
under the terror of the party lash that they would not on any
account or for any consideration do otherwise; while men who will
march up to the mouth of a loaded cannon without shrinking will
run from the terrible name of "Abolitionist," even when
pronounced by a worthless creature whom they, with good reason,
despise. For instance--to press this point a little--Judge
Douglas introduced his Nebraska Bill in January; and we had an
extra session of our Legislature in the succeeding February, in
which were seventy-five Democrats; and at a party caucus, fully
attended, there were just three votes, out of the whole seventy-
five, for the measure. But in a few days orders came on from
Washington, commanding them to approve the measure; the party
lash was applied, and it was brought up again in caucus, and
passed by a large majority. The masses were against it, but
party necessity carried it; and it was passed through the lower
house of Congress against the will of the people, for the same
reason. Here is where the greatest danger lies that, while we
profess to be a government of law and reason, law will give way
to violence on demand of this awful and crushing power. Like the
great Juggernaut--I think that is the name--the great idol, it
crushes everything that comes in its way, and makes a [?]--or, as
I read once, in a blackletter law book, "a slave is a human being
who is legally not a person but a thing." And if the safeguards
to liberty are broken down, as is now attempted, when they have
made things of all the free negroes, how long, think you, before
they will begin to make things of poor white men? [Applause.] Be
not deceived. Revolutions do not go backward. The founder of
the Democratic party declared that all men were created equal.
His successor in the leadership has written the word "white"
before men, making it read "all white men are created equal."
Pray, will or may not the Know-Nothings, if they should get in
power, add the word "Protestant," making it read "all Protestant
white men...?"

Meanwhile the hapless negro is the fruitful subject of reprisals
in other quarters. John Pettit, whom Tom Benton paid his
respects to, you will recollect, calls the immortal Declaration
"a self-evident lie"; while at the birthplace of freedom--in the
shadow of Bunker Hill and of the "cradle of liberty," at the home
of the Adamses and Warren and Otis--Choate, from our side of the
house, dares to fritter away the birthday promise of liberty by
proclaiming the Declaration to be "a string of glittering
generalities"; and the Southern Whigs, working hand in hand with
proslavery Democrats, are making Choate's theories practical.
Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, mindful of the moral element in
slavery, solemnly declared that he trembled for his country when
he remembered that God is just; while Judge Douglas, with an
insignificant wave of the hand, "don't care whether slavery is
voted up or voted down." Now, if slavery is right, or even
negative, he has a right to treat it in this trifling manner.
But if it is a moral and political wrong, as all Christendom
considers it to be, how can he answer to God for this attempt to
spread and fortify it? [Applause.]

But no man, and Judge Douglas no more than any other, can
maintain a negative, or merely neutral, position on this
question; and, accordingly, he avows that the Union was made by
white men and for white men and their descendants. As matter of
fact, the first branch of the proposition is historically true;
the government was made by white men, and they were and are the
superior race. This I admit. But the corner-stone of the
government, so to speak, was the declaration that "all men are
created equal," and all entitled to "life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness." [Applause.]

And not only so, but the framers of the Constitution were
particular to keep out of that instrument the word "slave," the
reason being that slavery would ultimately come to an end, and
they did not wish to have any reminder that in this free country
human beings were ever prostituted to slavery. [Applause.] Nor
is it any argument that we are superior and the negro inferior--
that he has but one talent while we have ten. Let the negro
possess the little he has in independence; if he has but one
talent, he should be permitted to keep the little he has.
[Applause:] But slavery will endure no test of reason or logic;
and yet its advocates, like Douglas, use a sort of bastard logic,
or noisy assumption it might better be termed, like the above, in
order to prepare the mind for the gradual, but none the less
certain, encroachments of the Moloch of slavery upon the fair
domain of freedom. But however much you may argue upon it, or
smother it in soft phrase, slavery can only be maintained by
force--by violence. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise was by
violence. It was a violation of both law and the sacred
obligations of honor, to overthrow and trample under foot a
solemn compromise, obtained by the fearful loss to freedom of one
of the fairest of our Western domains. Congress violated the
will and confidence of its constituents in voting for the bill;
and while public sentiment, as shown by the elections of 1854,
demanded the restoration of this compromise, Congress violated
its trust by refusing simply because it had the force of numbers
to hold on to it. And murderous violence is being used now, in
order to force slavery on to Kansas; for it cannot be done in any
other way. [Sensation.]

The necessary result was to establish the rule of violence--
force, instead of the rule of law and reason; to perpetuate and
spread slavery, and in time to make it general. We see it at
both ends of the line. In Washington, on the very spot where the
outrage was started, the fearless Sumner is beaten to
insensibility, and is now slowly dying; while senators who claim
to be gentlemen and Christians stood by, countenancing the act,
and even applauding it afterward in their places in the Senate.
Even Douglas, our man, saw it all and was within helping
distance, yet let the murderous blows fall unopposed. Then, at
the other end of the line, at the very time Sumner was being
murdered, Lawrence was being destroyed for the crime of freedom.
It was the most prominent stronghold of liberty in Kansas, and
must give way to the all-dominating power of slavery. Only two
days ago, Judge Trumbull found it necessary to propose a bill in
the Senate to prevent a general civil war and to restore peace in
Kansas.

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