The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

It may be argued that there are certain conditions that make
necessities and impose them upon us; and to the extent that a
necessity is imposed upon a man, he must submit to it. I think
that was the condition in which we found ourselves when we
established this government. We had slavery among us, we could
not get our Constitution unless we permitted them to remain in
slavery, we could not secure the good we did secure if we grasped
for more; and having by necessity submitted to that much, it does
not destroy the principle that is the charter of our liberties.
Let that charter stand as our standard.

My friend has said to me that I am a poor hand to quote
Scripture. I will try it again, however. It is said in one of
the admonitions of our Lord, "As your Father in heaven is
perfect, be ye also perfect." The Savior, I suppose, did not
expect that any human creature could be perfect as the Father in
heaven; but he said, "As your Father in heaven is perfect, be ye
also perfect." He set that up as a standard; and he who did most
towards reaching that standard attained the highest degree of
moral perfection. So I say in relation to the principle that all
men are created equal, let it be as nearly reached as we can. If
we cannot give freedom to every creature, let us do nothing that
will impose slavery upon any other creature. Let us then turn
this government back into the channel in which the framers of the
Constitution originally placed it. Let us stand firmly by each
other. If we do not do so, we are turning in the contrary
direction, that our friend Judge Douglas proposes--not
intentionally--as working in the traces tends to make this one
universal slave nation. He is one that runs in that direction,
and as such I resist him.

My friends, I have detained you about as long as I desired to do,
and I have only to say: Let us discard all this quibbling about
this man and the other man, this race and that race and the other
race being inferior, and therefore they must be placed in an
inferior position; discarding our standard that we have left us.
Let us discard all these things, and unite as one people
throughout this land, until we shall once more stand up declaring
that all men are created equal.

My friends, I could not, without launching off upon some new
topic, which would detain you too long, continue to-night. I
thank you for this most extensive audience that you have
furnished me to-night. I leave you, hoping that the lamp of
liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a
doubt that all men are created free and equal.

SPEECH AT SPRINGFIELD, JULY 17, 1858.

DELIVERED SATURDAY EVENING

(Mr. Douglas was not present.)

FELLOW-CITIZENS:--Another election, which is deemed an important
one, is approaching, and, as I suppose, the Republican party
will, without much difficulty, elect their State ticket. But in
regard to the Legislature, we, the Republicans, labor under some
disadvantages. In the first place, we have a Legislature to
elect upon an apportionment of the representation made several
years ago, when the proportion of the population was far greater
in the South (as compared with the North) than it now is; and
inasmuch as our opponents hold almost entire sway in the South,
and we a correspondingly large majority in the North, the fact
that we are now to be represented as we were years ago, when the
population was different, is to us a very great disadvantage. We
had in the year 1855, according to law, a census, or enumeration
of the inhabitants, taken for the purpose of a new apportionment
of representation. We know what a fair apportionment of
representation upon that census would give us. We know that it
could not, if fairly made, fail to give the Republican party from
six to ten more members of the Legislature than they can probably
get as the law now stands. It so happened at the last session of
the Legislature that our opponents, holding the control of both
branches of the Legislature, steadily refused to give us such an
apportionment as we were rightly entitled to have upon the census
already taken. The Legislature steadily refused to give us such
an apportionment as we were rightfully entitled to have upon the
census taken of the population of the State. The Legislature
would pass no bill upon that subject, except such as was at least
as unfair to us as the old one, and in which, in some instances,
two men in the Democratic regions were allowed to go as far
toward sending a member to the Legislature as three were in the
Republican regions. Comparison was made at the time as to
representative and senatorial districts, which completely
demonstrated that such was the fact. Such a bill was passed and
tendered to the Republican Governor for his signature; but,
principally for the reasons I have stated, he withheld his
approval, and the bill fell without becoming a law.

Another disadvantage under which we labor is that there are one
or two Democratic Senators who will be members of the next
Legislature, and will vote for the election of Senator, who are
holding over in districts in which we could, on all reasonable
calculation, elect men of our own, if we only had the chance of
an election. When we consider that there are but twenty-five
Senators in the Senate, taking two from the side where they
rightfully belong, and adding them to the other, is to us a
disadvantage not to be lightly regarded. Still, so it is; we
have this to contend with. Perhaps there is no ground of
complaint on our part. In attending to the many things involved
in the last general election for President, Governor, Auditor,
Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Members of
Congress, of the Legislature, County Officers, and so on, we
allowed these things to happen by want of sufficient attention,
and we have no cause to complain of our adversaries, so far as
this matter is concerned. But we have some cause to complain of
the refusal to give us a fair apportionment.

There is still another disadvantage under which we labor, and to
which I will ask your attention. It arises out of the relative
positions of the two persons who stand before the State as
candidates for the Senate. Senator Douglas is of world-wide
renown. All the anxious politicians of his party, or who have
been of his party for years past, have been looking upon him as
certainly, at no distant day, to be the President of the United
States. They have seen in his round, jolly, fruitful face
post-offices, land-offices, marshalships, and cabinet
appointments, charge-ships and foreign missions bursting and
sprouting out in wonderful exuberance, ready to be laid hold of
by their greedy hands. And as they have been gazing upon this
attractive picture so long, they cannot, in the little
distraction that has taken place in the party, bring themselves
to give up the charming hope; but with greedier anxiety they rush
about him, sustain him, and give him marches, triumphal entries,
and receptions beyond what even in the days of his highest
prosperity they could have brought about in his favor. On the
contrary, nobody has ever expected me to be President. In my
poor, lean, lank face, nobody has ever seen that any cabbages
were sprouting out. These are disadvantages all, taken together,
that the Republicans labor under. We have to fight this battle
upon principle, and upon principle alone. I am, in a certain
sense, made the standard-bearer in behalf of the Republicans. I
was made so merely because there had to be some one so placed,--I
being in nowise preferable to any other one of twenty-five,
perhaps a hundred, we have in the Republican ranks. Then I say I
wish it to be distinctly understood and borne in mind that we
have to fight this battle without many--perhaps without any of
the external aids which are brought to bear against us. So I
hope those with whom I am surrounded have principle enough to
nerve themselves for the task, and leave nothing undone that can
be fairly done to bring about the right result.

After Senator Douglas left Washington, as his movements were made
known by the public prints, he tarried a considerable time in the
city of New York; and it was heralded that, like another
Napoleon, he was lying by and framing the plan of his campaign.
It was telegraphed to Washington City, and published in the
Union, that he was framing his plan for the purpose of going to
Illinois to pounce upon and annihilate the treasonable and
disunion speech which Lincoln had made here on the 16th of June.
Now, I do suppose that the Judge really spent some time in New
York maturing the plan of the campaign, as his friends heralded
for him. I have been able, by noting his movements since his
arrival in Illinois, to discover evidences confirmatory of that
allegation. I think I have been able to see what are the
material points of that plan. I will, for a little while, ask
your attention to some of them. What I shall point out, though
not showing the whole plan, are, nevertheless, the main points,
as I suppose.

They are not very numerous. The first is popular sovereignty.
The second and third are attacks upon my speech made on the 16th
of June. Out of these three points--drawing within the range of
popular sovereignty the question of the Lecompton Constitution--
he makes his principal assault. Upon these his successive
speeches are substantially one and the same. On this matter of
popular sovereignty I wish to be a little careful. Auxiliary to
these main points, to be sure, are their thunderings of cannon,
their marching and music, their fizzlegigs and fireworks; but I
will not waste time with them. They are but the little trappings
of the campaign.

Coming to the substance,--the first point,"popular sovereignty."
It is to be labeled upon the cars in which he travels; put upon
the hacks he rides in; to be flaunted upon the arches he passes
under, and the banners which wave over him. It is to be dished
up in as many varieties as a French cook can produce soups from
potatoes. Now, as this is so great a staple of the plan of the
campaign, it is worth while to examine it carefully; and if we
examine only a very little, and do not allow ourselves to be
misled, we shall be able to see that the whole thing is the most
arrant Quixotism that was ever enacted before a community. What
is the matter of popular sovereignty? The first thing, in order
to understand it, is to get a good definition of what it is, and
after that to see how it is applied.

I suppose almost every one knows that, in this controversy,
whatever has been said has had reference to the question of negro
slavery. We have not been in a controversy about the right of
the people to govern themselves in the ordinary matters of
domestic concern in the States and Territories. Mr. Buchanan, in
one of his late messages (I think when he sent up the Lecompton
Constitution) urged that the main point to which the public
attention had been directed was not in regard to the great
variety of small domestic matters, but was directed to the
question of negro slavery; and he asserts that if the people had
had a fair chance to vote on that question there was no
reasonable ground of objection in regard to minor questions.
Now, while I think that the people had not had given, or offered,
them a fair chance upon that slavery question, still, if there
had been a fair submission to a vote upon that main question, the
President's proposition would have been true to the utmost.
Hence, when hereafter I speak of popular sovereignty, I wish to
be understood as applying what I say to the question of slavery
only, not to other minor domestic matters of a Territory or a
State.

Does Judge Douglas, when he says that several of the past years
of his life have been devoted to the question of "popular
sovereignty," and that all the remainder of his life shall be
devoted to it, does he mean to say that he has been devoting his
life to securing to the people of the Territories the right to
exclude slavery from the Territories? If he means so to say he
means to deceive; because he and every one knows that the
decision of the Supreme Court, which he approves and makes
especial ground of attack upon me for disapproving, forbids the
people of a Territory to exclude slavery. This covers the whole
ground, from the settlement of a Territory till it reaches the
degree of maturity entitling it to form a State Constitution. So
far as all that ground is concerned, the Judge is not sustaining
popular sovereignty, but absolutely opposing it. He sustains the
decision which declares that the popular will of the Territory
has no constitutional power to exclude slavery during their
territorial existence. This being so, the period of time from
the first settlement of a Territory till it reaches the point of
forming a State Constitution is not the thing that the Judge has
fought for or is fighting for, but, on the contrary, he has
fought for, and is fighting for, the thing that annihilates and
crushes out that same popular sovereignty.

Well, so much being disposed of, what is left? Why, he is
contending for the right of the people, when they come to make a
State Constitution, to make it for themselves, and precisely as
best suits themselves. I say again, that is quixotic. I defy
contradiction when I declare that the Judge can find no one to
oppose him on that proposition. I repeat, there is nobody
opposing that proposition on principle. Let me not be
misunderstood. I know that, with reference to the Lecompton
Constitution, I may be misunderstood; but when you understand me
correctly, my proposition will be true and accurate. Nobody is
opposing, or has opposed, the right of the people, when they form
a constitution, to form it for themselves. Mr. Buchanan and his
friends have not done it; they, too, as well as the Republicans
and the Anti-Lecompton Democrats, have not done it; but on the
contrary, they together have insisted on the right of the people
to form a constitution for themselves. The difference between
the Buchanan men on the one hand, and the Douglas men and the
Republicans on the other, has not been on a question of
principle, but on a question of fact.

The dispute was upon the question of fact, whether the Lecompton
Constitution had been fairly formed by the people or not. Mr.
Buchanan and his friends have not contended for the contrary
principle any more than the Douglas men or the Republicans. They
have insisted that whatever of small irregularities existed in
getting up the Lecompton Constitution were such as happen in the
settlement of all new Territories. The question was, Was it a
fair emanation of the people? It was a question of fact, and not
of principle. As to the principle, all were agreed. Judge
Douglas voted with the Republicans upon that matter of fact.

«- 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 -»