The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

A little more, now, as to this matter of popular sovereignty and
the Lecompton Constitution. The Lecompton Constitution, as the
Judge tells us, was defeated. The defeat of it was a good thing
or it was not. He thinks the defeat of it was a good thing, and
so do I, and we agree in that. Who defeated it?

[A voice: Judge Douglas.]

Yes, he furnished himself, and if you suppose he controlled the
other Democrats that went with him, he furnished three votes;
while the Republicans furnished twenty.

That is what he did to defeat it. In the House of
Representatives he and his friends furnished some twenty votes,
and the Republicans furnished ninety odd. Now, who was it that
did the work?

[A voice: Douglas.]

Why, yes, Douglas did it! To be sure he did.

Let us, however, put that proposition another way. The
Republicans could not have done it without Judge Douglas. Could
he have done it without them? Which could have come the nearest
to doing it without the other?

[A voice: Who killed the bill?] [Another voice: Douglas.]

Ground was taken against it by the Republicans long before
Douglas did it. The proportion of opposition to that measure is
about five to one.

[A voice: Why don't they come out on it?]

You don't know what you are talking about, my friend. I am quite
willing to answer any gentleman in the crowd who asks an
intelligent question.

Now, who in all this country has ever found any of our friends of
Judge Douglas's way of thinking, and who have acted upon this
main question, that has ever thought of uttering a word in behalf
of Judge Trumbull?

[A voice: We have.]

I defy you to show a printed resolution passed in a Democratic
meeting--I take it upon myself to defy any man to show a printed
resolution of a Democratic meeting, large or small--in favor of
Judge Trumbull, or any of the five to one Republicans who beat
that bill. Everything must be for the Democrats! They did
everything, and the five to the one that really did the thing
they snub over, and they do not seem to remember that they have
an existence upon the face of the earth.

Gentlemen, I fear that I shall become tedious. I leave this
branch of the subject to take hold of another. I take up that
part of Judge Douglas's speech in which he respectfully attended
to me.

Judge Douglas made two points upon my recent speech at
Springfield. He says they are to be the issues of this campaign.
The first one of these points he bases upon the language in a
speech which I delivered at Springfield, which I believe I can
quote correctly from memory. I said there that "we are now far
into the fifth year since a policy was instituted for the avowed
object, and with the 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."
"I believe 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 am quoting from my speech, "--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 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 until
it shall become alike lawful in all the States, north as well as
south."

What is the paragraph? In this paragraph, which I have quoted in
your hearing, and to which I ask the attention of all, Judge
Douglas thinks he discovers great political heresy. I want your
attention particularly to what he has inferred from it. He says
I am in favor of making all the States of this Union uniform in
all their internal regulations; that in all their domestic
concerns I am in favor of making them entirely uniform. He draws
this inference from the language I have quoted to you. He says
that I am in favor of making war by the North upon the South for
the extinction of slavery; that I am also in favor of inviting
(as he expresses it) the South to a war upon the North for the
purpose of nationalizing slavery. Now, it is singular enough, if
you will carefully read that passage over, that I did not say
that I was in favor of anything in it. I only said what I
expected would take place. I made a prediction only,--it may
have been a foolish one, perhaps. I did not even say that I
desired that slavery should be put in course of ultimate
extinction. I do say so now, however, so there need be no longer
any difficulty about that. It may be written down in the great
speech.

Gentlemen, Judge Douglas informed you that this speech of mine
was probably carefully prepared. I admit that it was. I am not
master of language; I have not a fine education; I am not capable
of entering into a disquisition upon dialectics, as I believe you
call it; but I do not believe the language I employed bears any
such construction as Judge Douglas puts upon it. But I don't
care about a quibble in regard to words. I know what I meant,
and I will not leave this crowd in doubt, if I can explain it to
them, what I really meant in the use of that paragraph.

I am not, in the first place, unaware that this government has
endured eighty-two years half slave and half free. I know that.
I am tolerably well acquainted with the history of the country,
and I know that it has endured eighty-two years half slave and
half free. I believe--and that is what I meant to allude to
there--I believe it has endured because during all that time,
until the introduction of the Nebraska Bill, the public mind did
rest all the time in the belief that slavery was in course of
ultimate extinction. That was what gave us the rest that we had
through that period of eighty-two years,--at least, so I believe.
I have always hated slavery, I think, as much as any
Abolitionist,--I have been an Old Line Whig,--I have always hated
it; but I have always been quiet about it until this new era of
the introduction of the Nebraska Bill began. I always believed
that everybody was against it, and that it was in course of
ultimate extinction. [Pointing to Mr. Browning, who stood near
by.] Browning thought so; the great mass of the nation have
rested in the belief that slavery was in course of ultimate
extinction. They had reason so to believe.

The adoption of the Constitution and its attendant history led
the people to believe so; and that such was the belief of the
framers of the Constitution itself, why did those old men, about
the time of the adoption of the Constitution, decree that slavery
should not go into the new Territory, where it had not already
gone? Why declare that within twenty years the African slave
trade, by which slaves are supplied, might be cut off by
Congress? Why were all these acts? I might enumerate more of
these acts; but enough. What were they but a clear indication
that the framers of the Constitution intended and expected the
ultimate extinction of that institution? And now, when I say, as
I said in my speech that Judge Douglas has quoted from, when I
say that I think the opponents of slavery will resist the farther
spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest with
the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction, I only
mean to say that they will place it where the founders of this
government originally placed it.

I have said a hundred times, and I have now no inclination to
take it back, that I believe there is no right, and ought to be
no inclination, in the people of the free States to enter into
the slave States and interfere with the question of slavery at
all. I have said that always; Judge Douglas has heard me say it,
if not quite a hundred times, at least as good as a hundred
times; and when it is said that I am in favor of interfering with
slavery where it exists, I know it is unwarranted by anything I
have ever intended, and, as I believe, by anything I have ever
said. If, by any means, I have ever used language which could
fairly be so construed (as, however, I believe I never have), I
now correct it.

So much, then, for the inference that Judge Douglas draws, that I
am in favor of setting the sections at war with one another. I
know that I never meant any such thing, and I believe that no
fair mind can infer any such thing from anything I have ever
said.

Now, in relation to his inference that I am in favor of a general
consolidation of all the local institutions of the various
States. I will attend to that for a little while, and try to
inquire, if I can, how on earth it could be that any man could
draw such an inference from anything I said. I have said, very
many times, in Judge Douglas's hearing, that no man believed more
than I in the principle of self-government; that it lies at the
bottom of all my ideas of just government, from beginning to end.
I have denied that his use of that term applies properly. But
for the thing itself, I deny that any man has ever gone ahead of
me in his devotion to the principle, whatever he may have done in
efficiency in advocating it. I think that I have said it in your
hearing, that I believe each individual is naturally entitled to
do as he pleases with himself and the fruit of his labor, so far
as it in no wise interferes with any other man's rights; that
each community as a State has a right to do exactly as it pleases
with all the concerns within that State that interfere with the
right of no other State; and that the General Government, upon
principle, has no right to interfere with anything other than
that general class of things that does concern the whole. I have
said that at all times. I have said, as illustrations, that I do
not believe in the right of Illinois to interfere with the
cranberry laws of Indiana, the oyster laws of Virginia, or the
liquor laws of Maine. I have said these things over and over
again, and I repeat them here as my sentiments.

How is it, then, that Judge Douglas infers, because I hope to see
slavery put where the public mind shall rest in the belief that
it is in the course of ultimate extinction, that I am in favor of
Illinois going over and interfering with the cranberry laws of
Indiana? What can authorize him to draw any such inference?

I suppose there might be one thing that at least enabled him to
draw such an inference that would not be true with me or many
others: that is, because he looks upon all this matter of slavery
as an exceedingly little thing,--this matter of keeping one sixth
of the population of the whole nation in a state of oppression
and tyranny unequaled in the world. He looks upon it as being an
exceedingly little thing,--only equal to the question of the
cranberry laws of Indiana; as something having no moral question
in it; as something on a par with the question of whether a man
shall pasture his land with cattle, or plant it with tobacco; so
little and so small a thing that he concludes, if I could desire
that anything should be done to bring about the ultimate
extinction of that little thing, I must be in favor of bringing
about an amalgamation of all the other little things in the
Union. Now, it so happens--and there, I presume, is the
foundation of this mistake--that the Judge thinks thus; and it so
happens that there is a vast portion of the American people that
do not look upon that matter as being this very little thing.
They look upon it as a vast moral evil; they can prove it as such
by the writings of those who gave us the blessings of liberty
which we enjoy, and that they so looked upon it, and not as an
evil merely confining itself to the States where it is situated;
and while we agree that, by the Constitution we assented to, in
the States where it exists, we have no right to interfere with
it, because it is in the Constitution; and we are by both duty
and inclination to stick by that Constitution, in all its letter
and spirit, from beginning to end,

So much, then, as to my disposition--my wish to have all the
State legislatures blotted out, and to have one consolidated
government, and a uniformity of domestic regulations in all the
States, by which I suppose it is meant, if we raise corn here, we
must make sugar-cane grow here too, and we must make those which
grow North grow in the South. All this I suppose he understands
I am in favor of doing. Now, so much for all this nonsense; for
I must call it so. The Judge can have no issue with me on a
question of establishing uniformity in the domestic regulations
of the States.

A little now on the other point,--the Dred Scott decision.
Another of the issues he says that is to be made with me is upon
his devotion to the Dred Scott decision, and my opposition to it.

I have expressed heretofore, and I now repeat, my opposition to
the Dred Scott decision; but I should be allowed to state the
nature of that opposition, and I ask your indulgence while I do
so. What is fairly implied by the term Judge Douglas has used,
"resistance to the decision"? I do not resist it. If I wanted
to take Dred Scott from his master, I would be interfering with
property, and that terrible difficulty that Judge Douglas speaks
of, of interfering with property, would arise. But I am doing no
such thing as that, but all that I am doing is refusing to obey
it as a political rule. If I were in Congress, and a vote should
come up on a question whether slavery should be prohibited in a
new Territory, in spite of the Dred Scott decision, I would vote
that it should.

That is what I should do. Judge Douglas said last night that
before the decision he might advance his opinion, and it might be
contrary to the decision when it was made; but after it was made
he would abide by it until it was reversed. Just so! We let
this property abide by the decision, but we will try to reverse
that decision. We will try to put it where Judge Douglas would
not object, for he says he will obey it until it is reversed.
Somebody has to reverse that decision, since it is made, and we
mean to reverse it, and we mean to do it peaceably.

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