The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

My declarations upon this subject of negro slavery may be
misrepresented, but cannot be misunderstood. I have said that I
do not understand the Declaration to mean that all men were
created equal in all respects. They are not our equal in color;
but I suppose that it does mean to declare that all men are equal
in some respects; they are equal in their right to "life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Certainly the negro is
not our equal in color, perhaps not in many other respects;
still, in the right to put into his mouth the bread that his own
hands have earned, he is the equal of every other man, white or
black. In pointing out that more has been given you, you cannot
be justified in taking away the little which has been given him.
All I ask for the negro is that if you do not like him, let him
alone. If God gave him but little, that little let him enjoy.

When our government was established we had the institution of
slavery among us. We were in a certain sense compelled to
tolerate its existence. It was a sort of necessity. We had gone
through our struggle and secured our own independence. The
framers of the Constitution found the institution of slavery
amongst their own institutions at the time. They found that by
an effort to eradicate it they might lose much of what they had
already gained. They were obliged to bow to the necessity. They
gave power to Congress to abolish the slave trade at the end of
twenty years. They also prohibited it in the Territories where
it did not exist. They did what they could, and yielded to the
necessity for the rest. I also yield to all which follows from
that necessity. What I would most desire would be the separation
of the white and black races.

One more point on this Springfield speech which Judge Douglas
says he has read so carefully. I expressed my belief in the
existence of a conspiracy to perpetuate and nationalize slavery.
I did not profess to know it, nor do I now. I showed the part
Judge Douglas had played in the string of facts constituting to
my mind the proof of that conspiracy. I showed the parts played
by others.

I charged that the people had been deceived into carrying the
last Presidential election, by the impression that the people of
the Territories might exclude slavery if they chose, when it was
known in advance by the conspirators that the court was to decide
that neither Congress nor the people could so exclude slavery.
These charges are more distinctly made than anything else in the
speech.

Judge Douglas has carefully read and reread that speech. He has
not, so far as I know, contradicted those charges. In the two
speeches which I heard he certainly did not. On this own tacit
admission, I renew that charge. I charge him with having been a
party to that conspiracy and to that deception for the sole
purpose of nationalizing slavery.

CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN LINCOLN AND DOUGLAS

[The following is the correspondence between the two rival
candidates for the United States Senate]

MR. LINCOLN TO MR. DOUGLAS.

CHICAGO, ILL., July 24, 1558.

HON. S. A. DOUGLAS:

My dear Sir,--Will it be agreeable to you to make an arrangement
for you and myself to divide time, and address the same audiences
the present canvass? Mr. Judd, who will hand you this, is
authorized to receive your answer; and, if agreeable to you, to
enter into the terms of such arrangement.

Your obedient servant,

A. LINCOLN.

Mr. DOUGLAS TO Mr. LINCOLN.

BEMENT, PIATT Co., ILL., July 30, 1858.

Dear Sir,--Your letter dated yesterday, accepting my proposition
for a joint discussion at one prominent point in each
Congressional District, as stated in my previous letter, was
received this morning.

The times and places designated are as follows:

Ottawa, La Salle County August 21st, 1858.
Freeport, Stephenson County " 27th,
Jonesboro, Union County, September 15th,
Charleston, Coles County " 18th,
Galesburgh, Knox County October 7th,
Quincy, Adams County " 13th,
Alton, Madison County " 15th,

I agree to your suggestion that we shall alternately open and
close the discussion. I will speak at Ottawa one hour, you can
reply, occupying an hour and a half, and I will then follow for
half an hour. At Freeport, you shall open the discussion and
speak one hour; I will follow for an hour and a half, and you can
then reply for half an hour. We will alternate in like manner in
each successive place.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. A. DOUGLAS.

Mr. LINCOLN TO Mr. DOUGLAS.

SPRINGFIELD, July 31, 1858.

HON. S. A. DOUGLAS:

Dear Sir,--Yours of yesterday, naming places, times, and terms
for joint discussions between us, was received this morning.
Although, by the terms, as you propose, you take four openings
and closes, to my three, I accede, and thus close the
arrangement. I direct this to you at Hillsborough, and shall try
to have both your letter and this appear in the Journal and
Register of Monday morning.

Your obedient servant,

A. LINCOLN.

FIRST JOINT DEBATE, AT OTTAWA,

AUGUST 21, 1858

Mr. LINCOLN'S REPLY

MY FELLOW-CITIZENS:--When a man hears himself somewhat
misrepresented, it provokes him, at least, I find it so with
myself; but when misrepresentation becomes very gross and
palpable, it is more apt to amuse him. The first thing I see fit
to notice is the fact that Judge Douglas alleges, after running
through the history of the old Democratic and the old Whig
parties, that Judge Trumbull and myself made an arrangement in
1854, by which I was to have the place of General Shields in the
United States Senate, and Judge Trumbull was to have the place of
Judge Douglas. Now, all I have to say upon that subject is that
I think no man not even Judge Douglas can prove it, because it is
not true. I have no doubt he is "conscientious" in saying it.
As to those resolutions that he took such a length of time to
read, as being the platform of the Republican party in 1854, I
say I never had anything to do with them, and I think Trumbull
never had. Judge Douglas cannot show that either of us ever did
have anything to do with them.

I believe this is true about those resolutions: There was a call
for a convention to form a Republican party at Springfield, and I
think that my friend Mr. Lovejoy, who is here upon this stand,
had a hand in it. I think this is true, and I think if he will
remember accurately he will be able to recollect that he tried to
get me into it, and I would not go in. I believe it is also true
that I went away from Springfield when the convention was in
session, to attend court in Tazewell county. It is true they did
place my name, though without authority, upon the committee, and
afterward wrote me to attend the meeting of the committee; but I
refused to do so, and I never had anything to do with that
organization. This is the plain truth about all that matter of
the resolutions.

Now, about this story that Judge Douglas tells of Trumbull
bargaining to sell out the old Democratic party, and Lincoln
agreeing to sell out the old Whig party, I have the means of
knowing about that: Judge Douglas cannot have; and I know there
is no substance to it whatever. Yet I have no doubt he is
"conscientious" about it. I know that after Mr. Lovejoy got into
the Legislature that winter, he complained of me that I had told
all the old Whigs of his district that the old Whig party was
good enough for them, and some of them voted against him because
I told them so. Now, I have no means of totally disproving such
charges as this which the Judge makes. A man cannot prove a
negative; but he has a right to claim that when a man makes an
affirmative charge, he must offer some proof to show the truth of
what he says. I certainly cannot introduce testimony to show the
negative about things, but I have a right to claim that if a man
says he knows a thing, then he must show how he knows it. I
always have a right to claim this, and it is not satisfactory to
me that he may be "conscientious" on the subject.

Now, gentlemen, I hate to waste my time on such things; but in
regard to that general Abolition tilt that Judge Douglas makes,
when he says that I was engaged at that time in selling out and
Abolitionizing the old Whig party, I hope you will permit me to
read a part of a printed speech that I made then at Peoria, which
will show altogether a different view of the position I took in
that contest of 1854.

[Voice:"Put on your specs."]

Mr. LINCOLN: Yes, sir, I am obliged to do so; I am no longer a
young man.

"This is the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. The foregoing
history may not be precisely accurate in every particular, but I
am sure it is sufficiently so for all the uses I shall attempt to
make of it, and in it we have before us the chief materials
enabling us to correctly judge whether the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise is right or wrong.

"I think, and shall try to show, that it is wrong--wrong in its
direct effect, letting slavery into Kansas and Nebraska, and
wrong in its prospective principle, allowing it to spread to
every other part of the wide world where men can be found
inclined to take it.

"This declared indifference, but, as I must think, covert real
zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it
because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it
because it deprives our republican example of its just influence
in the world,--enables the enemies of free institutions, with
plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites; causes the real friends
of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it
forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war
with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty,
criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that
there is no right principle of action but self-interest.

"Before proceeding, let me say I think I have no prejudice
against the Southern people. They are just what we would be in
their situation. If slavery did not now exist among them, they
would not introduce it. If it did now exist among us, we should
not instantly give it up. This I believe of the masses north and
south. Doubtless there are individuals on both sides who would
not hold slaves under any circumstances; and others who would
gladly introduce slavery anew, if it were out of existence. We
know that some Southern men do free their slaves, go north, and
become tip-top Abolitionists; while some Northern ones go south
and become most cruel slave-masters.

"When Southern people tell us they are no more responsible for
the origin of slavery than we, I acknowledge the fact. When it
is said that the institution exists, and that it is very
difficult to get rid of it, in any satisfactory way, I can
understand and appreciate the saying. I will not blame them for
not doing what I should not know how to do myself. If all
earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do, as to
the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free all
the slaves and send them to Liberia,--to their own native land.
But a moment's reflection would convince me that whatever of high
hope (as I think there is) there may be in this in the long term,
its sudden execution is impossible. If they were all landed
there in a day, they would all perish in the next ten days; and
there are not surp1us shipping and surplus money enough in the
world to carry them there in many times ten days. What then?
Free them all and keep them among us as underlings? Is it quite
certain that this betters their condition? I think I would not
hold one in slavery, at any rate; yet the point is not clear
enough to me to denounce people upon. What next? Free them, and
make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings
will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that
those of the great mass of white people will not. Whether this
feeling accords with justice and sound judgment, is not the sole
question, if, indeed, it is any part of it. A universal feeling,
whether well or ill founded, cannot be safely disregarded. We
cannot, then, make them equals. It does seem to me that systems
of gradual emancipation might be adopted; but for their tardiness
in this I will not undertake to judge our brethren of the South.

"When they remind us of their constitutional rights, I
acknowledge them, not grudgingly, but fully and fairly; and I
would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their
fugitives, which should not, in its stringency, be more likely to
carry a free man into slavery than Our ordinary criminal laws are
to hang an innocent one.

"But all this, to my judgment, furnishes no more excuse for
permitting slavery to go into our own free territory than it
would for reviving the African slave-trade by law. The law which
forbids the bringing of slaves from Africa, and that which has so
long forbid the taking of them to Nebraska, can hardly be
distinguished on any moral principle; and the repeal of the
former could find quite as plausible excuses as that of the
latter."

I have reason to know that Judge Douglas knows that I said this.
I think he has the answer here to one of the questions he put to
me. I do not mean to allow him to catechize me unless he pays
back for it in kind. I will not answer questions one after
another, unless he reciprocates; but as he has made this inquiry,
and I have answered it before, he has got it without my getting
anything in return. He has got my answer on the Fugitive Slave
law.

Now, gentlemen, I don't want to read at any greater length; but
this is the true complexion of all I have ever said in regard to
the institution of slavery and the black race. This is the whole
of it; and anything that argues me into his idea of perfect
social and political equality with the negro is but a specious
and fantastic arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a
horse-chestnut to be a chestnut horse. I will say here, while
upon this subject, that I have no purpose, directly or
indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the
States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do
so, and I have no inclination to do so. I have no purpose to
introduce political and social equality between the white and the
black races. There is a physical difference between the two
which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living
together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as it
becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well
as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong
having the superior position. I have never said anything to the
contrary, but I hold that, notwithstanding all this, there is no
reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the
natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the
right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I hold
that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree
with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects, certainly
not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment.
But in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody
else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal, and the equal of
Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man.

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