The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

He and they, by their voices and votes, denied that it was a fair
emanation of the people. The Administration affirmed that it
was. With respect to the evidence bearing upon that question of
fact, I readily agree that Judge Douglas and the Republicans had
the right on their side, and that the Administration was wrong.
But I state again that, as a matter of principle, there is no
dispute upon the right of a people in a Territory, merging into a
State, to form a constitution for themselves without outside
interference from any quarter. This being so, what is Judge
Douglas going to spend his life for? Is he going to spend his
life in maintaining a principle that nobody on earth opposes?
Does he expect to stand up in majestic dignity, and go through
his apotheosis and become a god in the maintaining of a principle
which neither man nor mouse in all God's creation is opposing?
Now something in regard to the Lecompton Constitution more
specially; for I pass from this other question of popular
sovereignty as the most arrant humbug that has ever been
attempted on an intelligent community.

As to the Lecompton Constitution, I have already said that on the
question of fact, as to whether it was a fair emanation of the
people or not, Judge Douglas, with the Republicans and some
Americans, had greatly the argument against the Administration;
and while I repeat this, I wish to know what there is in the
opposition of Judge Douglas to the Lecompton Constitution that
entitles him to be considered the only opponent to it,--as being
par excellence the very quintessence of that opposition. I agree
to the rightfulness of his opposition. He in the Senate and his
class of men there formed the number three and no more. In the
House of Representatives his class of men--the Anti-Lecompton
Democrats--formed a number of about twenty. It took one hundred
and twenty to defeat the measure, against one hundred and twelve.
Of the votes of that one hundred and twenty, Judge Douglas's
friends furnished twenty, to add to which there were six
Americans and ninety-four Republicans. I do not say that I am
precisely accurate in their numbers, but I am sufficiently so for
any use I am making of it.

Why is it that twenty shall be entitled to all the credit of
doing that work, and the hundred none of it? Why, if, as Judge
Douglas says, the honor is to be divided and due credit is to be
given to other parties, why is just so much given as is consonant
with the wishes, the interests, and advancement of the twenty?
My understanding is, when a common job is done, or a common
enterprise prosecuted, if I put in five dollars to your one, I
have a right to take out five dollars to your one. But he does
not so understand it. He declares the dividend of credit for
defeating Lecompton upon a basis which seems unprecedented and
incomprehensible.

Let us see. Lecompton in the raw was defeated. It afterward
took a sort of cooked-up shape, and was passed in the English
bill. It is said by the Judge that the defeat was a good and
proper thing. If it was a good thing, why is he entitled to more
credit than others for the performance of that good act, unless
there was something in the antecedents of the Republicans that
might induce every one to expect them to join in that good work,
and at the same time something leading them to doubt that he
would? Does he place his superior claim to credit on the ground
that he performed a good act which was never expected of him? He
says I have a proneness for quoting Scripture. If I should do so
now, it occurs that perhaps he places himself somewhat upon the
ground of the parable of the lost sheep which went astray upon
the mountains, and when the owner of the hundred sheep found the
one that was lost, and threw it upon his shoulders and came home
rejoicing, it was said that there was more rejoicing over the one
sheep that was lost and had been found than over the ninety and
nine in the fold. The application is made by the Saviour in this
parable, thus: "Verily, I say unto you, there is more rejoicing
in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and
nine just persons that need no repentance."

And now, if the Judge claims the benefit of this parable, let him
repent. Let him not come up here and say: "I am the only just
person; and you are the ninety-nine sinners! Repentance before
forgiveness is a provision of the Christian system, and on that
condition alone will the Republicans grant his forgiveness.

How will he prove that we have ever occupied a different position
in regard to the Lecompton Constitution or any principle in it?
He says he did not make his opposition on the ground as to
whether it was a free or slave constitution, and he would have
you understand that the Republicans made their opposition because
it ultimately became a slave constitution. To make proof in
favor of himself on this point, he reminds us that he opposed
Lecompton before the vote was taken declaring whether the State
was to be free or slave. But he forgets to say that our
Republican Senator, Trumbull, made a speech against Lecompton
even before he did.

Why did he oppose it? Partly, as he declares, because the
members of the convention who framed it were not fairly elected
by the people; that the people were not allowed to vote unless
they had been registered; and that the people of whole counties,
some instances, were not registered. For these reasons he
declares the Constitution was not an emanation, in any true
sense, from the people. He also has an additional objection as
to the mode of submitting the Constitution back to the people.
But bearing on the question of whether the delegates were fairly
elected, a speech of his, made something more than twelve months
ago, from this stand, becomes important. It was made a little
while before the election of the delegates who made Lecompton.
In that speech he declared there was every reason to hope and
believe the election would be fair; and if any one failed to
vote, it would be his own culpable fault.

I, a few days after, made a sort of answer to that speech. In
that answer I made, substantially, the very argument with which
he combated his Lecompton adversaries in the Senate last winter.
I pointed to the facts that the people could not vote without
being registered, and that the time for registering had gone by.
I commented on it as wonderful that Judge Douglas could be
ignorant of these facts which every one else in the nation so
well knew.

I now pass from popular sovereignty and Lecompton. I may have
occasion to refer to one or both.

When he was preparing his plan of campaign, Napoleon-like, in New
York, as appears by two speeches I have heard him deliver since
his arrival in Illinois, he gave special attention to a speech of
mine, delivered here on the 16th of June last. He says that he
carefully read that speech. He told us that at Chicago a week
ago last night and he repeated it at Bloomington last night.
Doubtless, he repeated it again to-day, though I did not hear
him. In the first two places--Chicago and Bloomington I heard
him; to-day I did not. He said he had carefully examined that
speech,--when, he did not say; but there is no reasonable doubt
it was when he was in New York preparing his plan of campaign. I
am glad he did read it carefully. He says it was evidently
prepared with great care. I freely admit it was prepared with
care. I claim not to be more free from errors than others,--
perhaps scarcely so much; but I was very careful not to put
anything in that speech as a matter of fact, or make any
inferences, which did not appear to me to be true and fully
warrantable. If I had made any mistake, I was willing to be
corrected; if I had drawn any inference in regard to Judge
Douglas or any one else which was not warranted, I was fully
prepared to modify it as soon as discovered. I planted myself
upon the truth and the truth only, so far as I knew it, or could
be brought to know it.

Having made that speech with the most kindly feelings toward
Judge Douglas, as manifested therein, I was gratified when I
found that he had carefully examined it, and had detected no
error of fact, nor any inference against him, nor any
misrepresentations of which he thought fit to complain. In
neither of the two speeches I have mentioned did he make any such
complaint. I will thank any one who will inform me that he, in
his speech to-day, pointed out anything I had stated respecting
him as being erroneous. I presume there is no such thing. I
have reason to be gratified that the care and caution used in
that speech left it so that he, most of all others interested in
discovering error, has not been able to point out one thing
against him which he could say was wrong. He seizes upon the
doctrines he supposes to be included in that speech, and declares
that upon them will turn the issues of this campaign. He then
quotes, or attempts to quote, from my speech. I will not say
that he wilfully misquotes, but he does fail to quote accurately.
His attempt at quoting is from a passage which I believe I can
quote accurately from memory. I shall make the quotation now,
with some comments upon it, as I have already said, in order that
the Judge shall be left entirely without excuse for
misrepresenting me. I do so now, as I hope, for the last time.
I do this in great caution, in order that if he repeats his
misrepresentation it shall be plain to all that he does so
wilfully. If, after all, he still persists, I shall be compelled
to reconstruct the course I have marked out for myself, and draw
upon such humble resources, as I have, for a new course, better
suited to the real exigencies of the case. I set out in this
campaign with the intention of conducting it strictly as a
gentleman, in substance at least, if not in the outside polish.
The latter I shall never be; but that which constitutes the
inside of a gentleman I hope I understand, and am not less
inclined to practice than others. It was my purpose and
expectation that this canvass would be conducted upon principle,
and with fairness on both sides, and it shall not be my fault if
this purpose and expectation shall be given up.

He charges, in substance, that I invite a war of sections; that I
propose all the local institutions of the different States shall
become consolidated and uniform. What is there in the language
of that speech which expresses such purpose or bears such
construction? I have again and again said that I would not enter
into any of the States to disturb the institution of slavery.
Judge Douglas said, at Bloomington, that I used language most
able and ingenious for concealing what I really meant; and that
while I had protested against entering into the slave States, I
nevertheless did mean to go on the banks of the Ohio and throw
missiles into Kentucky, to disturb them in their domestic
institutions.

I said in that speech, and I meant no more, that the institution
of slavery ought to be placed in the very attitude where the
framers of this government placed it and left it. I do not
understand that the framers of our Constitution left the people
of the free States in the attitude of firing bombs or shells into
the slave States. I was not using that passage for the purpose
for which he infers I did use it. I said:

"We are now far advanced into the fifth year since a policy was
created 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. In my opinion it will not cease till a crisis shall
have been reached and passed. 'A house divided against itself
cannot stand.' I believe that this government cannot endure
permanently half slave and half free; it will become all one
thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will
arrest the further 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 till
it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as
new, North as well as South."

Now, you all see, from that quotation, I did not express my wish
on anything. In that passage I indicated no wish or purpose of
my own; I simply expressed my expectation. Cannot the Judge
perceive a distinction between a purpose and an expectation? I
have often expressed an expectation to die, but I have never
expressed a wish to die. I said at Chicago, and now repeat, that
I am quite aware this government has endured, half slave and half
free, for eighty-two years. I understand that little bit of
history. I expressed the opinion I did because I perceived--or
thought I perceived--a new set of causes introduced. I did say
at Chicago, in my speech there, that I do wish to see the spread
of slavery arrested, and to see it placed where the public mind
shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate
extinction. I said that because I supposed, when the public mind
shall rest in that belief, we shall have peace on the slavery
question. I have believed--and now believe--the public mind did
rest on that belief up to the introduction of the Nebraska Bill.

Although I have ever been opposed to slavery, so far I rested in
the hope and belief that it was in the course of ultimate
extinction. For that reason it had been a minor question with
me. I might have been mistaken; but I had believed, and now
believe, that the whole public mind, that is, the mind of the
great majority, had rested in that belief up to the repeal of the
Missouri Compromise. But upon that event I became convinced that
either I had been resting in a delusion, or the institution was
being placed on a new basis, a basis for making it perpetual,
national, and universal. Subsequent events have greatly
confirmed me in that belief. I believe that bill to be the
beginning of a conspiracy for that purpose. So believing, I have
since then considered that question a paramount one. So
believing, I thought the public mind will never rest till the
power of Congress to restrict the spread of it shall again be
acknowledged and exercised on the one hand or, on the other, all
resistance be entirely crushed out. I have expressed that
opinion, and I entertain it to-night. It is denied that there is
any tendency to the nationalization of slavery in these States.

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