The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

Now, in regard to his reminding me of the moral rule that persons
who tell what they do not know to be true falsify as much as
those who knowingly tell falsehoods. I remember the rule, and it
must be borne in mind that in what I have read to you, I do not
say that I know such a conspiracy to exist. To that I reply, I
believe it. If the Judge says that I do not believe it, then he
says what he does not know, and falls within his own rule, that
he who asserts a thing which he does not know to be true,
falsifies as much as he who knowingly tells a falsehood. I want
to call your attention to a little discussion on that branch of
the case, and the evidence which brought my mind to the
conclusion which I expressed as my belief. If, in arraying that
evidence I had stated anything which was false or erroneous, it
needed but that Judge Douglas should point it out, and I would
have taken it back, with all the kindness in the world. I do not
deal in that way. If I have brought forward anything not a fact,
if he will point it out, it will not even ruffle me to take it
back. But if he will not point out anything erroneous in the
evidence, is it not rather for him to show, by a comparison of
the evidence, that I have reasoned falsely, than to call the
"kind, amiable, intelligent gentleman" a liar? If I have
reasoned to a false conclusion, it is the vocation of an able
debater to show by argument that I have wandered to an erroneous
conclusion. I want to ask your attention to a portion of the
Nebraska Bill, which Judge Douglas has quoted:

"It being the true intent and meaning of this Act, not to
legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it
therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form
and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way,
subject only to the Constitution of the United States."

Thereupon Judge Douglas and others began to argue in favor of
"popular sovereignty," the right of the people to have slaves if
they wanted them, and to exclude slavery if they did not want
them. "But," said, in substance, a Senator from Ohio (Mr. Chase,
I believe),

"we more than suspect that you do not mean to allow the people to
exclude slavery if they wish to; and if you do mean it, accept an
amendment which I propose, expressly authorizing the people to
exclude slavery."

I believe I have the amendment here before me, which was offered,
and under which the people of the Territory, through their
representatives, might, if they saw fit, prohibit the existence
of slavery therein. And now I state it as a fact, to be taken
back if there is any mistake about it, that Judge Douglas and
those acting with him voted that amendment down. I now think
that those men who voted it down had a real reason for doing so.
They know what that reason was. It looks to us, since we have
seen the Dred Scott decision pronounced, holding that "under the
Constitution" the people cannot exclude slavery, I say it looks
to outsiders, poor, simple, "amiable, intelligent gentlemen," as
though the niche was left as a place to put that Dred Scott
decision in,--a niche which would have been spoiled by adopting
the amendment. And now, I say again, if this was not the reason,
it will avail the Judge much more to calmly and good-humoredly
point out to these people what that other reason was for voting
the amendment down, than, swelling himself up, to vociferate that
he may be provoked to call somebody a liar.

Again: There is in that same quotation from the Nebraska Bill
this clause: "It being the true intent and meaning of this bill
not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State." I have
always been puzzled to know what business the word "State" had in
that connection. Judge Douglas knows. He put it there. He
knows what he put it there for. We outsiders cannot say what he
put it there for. The law they were passing was not about
States, and was not making provisions for States. What was it
placed there for? After seeing the Dred Scott decision, which
holds that the people cannot exclude slavery from a Territory, if
another Dred Scott decision shall come, holding that they cannot
exclude it from a State, we shall discover that when the word was
originally put there, it was in view of something which was to
come in due time, we shall see that it was the other half of
something. I now say again, if there is any different reason for
putting it there, Judge Douglas, in a good-humored way, without
calling anybody a liar, can tell what the reason was.

When the Judge spoke at Clinton, he came very near making a
charge of falsehood against me. He used, as I found it printed
in a newspaper, which, I remember, was very nearly like the real
speech, the following language:

"I did not answer the charge [of conspiracy] before, for the
reason that I did not suppose there was a man in America with a
heart so corrupt as to believe such a charge could be true. I
have too much respect for Mr. Lincoln to suppose he is serious in
making the charge."

I confess this is rather a curious view, that out of respect for
me he should consider I was making what I deemed rather a grave
charge in fun. I confess it strikes me rather strangely. But I
let it pass. As the Judge did not for a moment believe that
there was a man in America whose heart was so "corrupt" as to
make such a charge, and as he places me among the "men in
America" who have hearts base enough to make such a charge, I
hope he will excuse me if I hunt out another charge very like
this; and if it should turn out that in hunting I should find
that other, and it should turn out to be Judge Douglas himself
who made it, I hope he will reconsider this question of the deep
corruption of heart he has thought fit to ascribe to me. In
Judge Douglas's speech of March 22, 1858, which I hold in my
hand, he says:

"In this connection there is another topic to which I desire to
allude. I seldom refer to the course of newspapers, or notice
the articles which they publish in regard to myself; but the
course of the Washington Union has been so extraordinary for the
last two or three months, that I think it well enough to make
some allusion to it. It has read me out of the Democratic party
every other day, at least for two or three months, and keeps
reading me out, and, as if it had not succeeded, still continues
to read me out, using such terms as 'traitor,' 'renegade,'
'deserter,' and other kind and polite epithets of that nature.
Sir, I have no vindication to make of my Democracy against the
Washington Union, or any other newspapers. I am willing to allow
my history and action for the last twenty years to speak for
themselves as to my political principles and my fidelity to
political obligations. The Washington Union has a personal
grievance. When its editor was nominated for public printer, I
declined to vote for him, and stated that at some time I might
give my reasons for doing so. Since I declined to give that
vote, this scurrilous abuse, these vindictive and constant
attacks have been repeated almost daily on me. Will any friend
from Michigan read the article to which I allude?"

This is a part of the speech. You must excuse me from reading
the entire article of the Washington Union, as Mr. Stuart read it
for Mr. Douglas. The Judge goes on and sums up, as I think,
correctly:

"Mr. President, you here find several distinct propositions
advanced boldly by the Washington Union editorially, and
apparently authoritatively; and any man who questions any of them
is denounced as an Abolitionist, a Free-soiler, a fanatic. The
propositions are, first, that the primary object of all
government at its original institution is the protection of
person and property; second, that the Constitution of the United
States declares that the citizens of each State shall be entitled
to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several
States; and that, therefore, thirdly, all State laws, whether
organic or otherwise, which prohibit the citizens of one State
from settling in another with their slave property, and
especially declaring it forfeited, are direct violations of the
original intention of the government and Constitution of the
United States; and, fourth, that the emancipation of the slaves
of the Northern States was a gross outrage of the rights of
property, inasmuch as it was involuntarily done on the part of
the owner.

"Remember that this article was published in the Union on the
17th of November, and on the 18th appeared the first article
giving the adhesion of the Union, to the Lecompton Constitution.
It was in these words:

"KANSAS AND HER CONSTITUTION.--The vexed question is settled.
The problem is saved. The dead point of danger is passed. All
serious trouble to Kansas affairs is over and gone ..."

And a column nearly of the same sort. Then, when you come to
look into the Lecompton Constitution, you find the same doctrine
incorporated in it which was put forth editorially in the Union.
What is it?

"ARTICLE 7, Section I. The right of property is before and
higher than any constitutional sanction; and the right of the
owner of a slave to such slave and its increase is the same and
as inviolable as the right of the owner of any property
whatever."

Then in the schedule is a provision that the Constitution may be
amended after 1864 by a two-thirds vote:

"But no alteration shall be made to affect the right of property
in the ownership of slaves."

"It will be seen by these clauses in the Lecompton Constitution
that they are identical in spirit with the authoritative article
in the Washington Union of the day previous to its indorsement of
this Constitution."

I pass over some portions of the speech, and I hope that any one
who feels interested in this matter will read the entire section
of the speech, and see whether I do the Judge injustice. He
proceeds:

"When I saw that article in the Union of the 17th of November,
followed by the glorification of the Lecompton Constitution on
the 10th of November, and this clause in the Constitution
asserting the doctrine that a State has no right to prohibit
slavery within its limits, I saw that there was a fatal blow
being struck at the sovereignty of the States of this Union."

I stop the quotation there, again requesting that it may all be
read. I have read all of the portion I desire to comment upon.
What is this charge that the Judge thinks I must have a very
corrupt heart to make? It was a purpose on the part of certain
high functionaries to make it impossible for the people of one
State to prohibit the people of any other State from entering it
with their "property," so called, and making it a slave State.
In other words, it was a charge implying a design to make the
institution of slavery national. And now I ask your attention to
what Judge Douglas has himself done here. I know he made that
part of the speech as a reason why he had refused to vote for a
certain man for public printer; but when we get at it, the charge
itself is the very one I made against him, that he thinks I am so
corrupt for uttering. Now, whom does he make that charge
against? Does he make it against that newspaper editor merely?
No; he says it is identical in spirit with the Lecompton
Constitution, and so the framers of that Constitution are brought
in with the editor of the newspaper in that "fatal blow being
struck." He did not call it a "conspiracy." In his language, it
is a "fatal blow being struck." And if the words carry the
meaning better when changed from a "conspiracy" into a "fatal
blow being struck, "I will change my expression, and call it
"fatal blow being struck." We see the charge made not merely
against the editor of the Union, but all the framers of the
Lecompton Constitution; and not only so, but the article was an
authoritative article. By whose authority? Is there any
question but he means it was by the authority of the President
and his Cabinet,--the Administration?

Is there any sort of question but he means to make that charge?
Then there are the editors of the Union, the framers of the
Lecompton Constitution, the President of the United States and
his Cabinet, and all the supporters of the Lecompton
Constitution, in Congress and out of Congress, who are all
involved in this "fatal blow being struck." I commend to Judge
Douglas's consideration the question of how corrupt a man's heart
must be to make such a charge!

Now, my friends, I have but one branch of the subject, in the
little time I have left, to which to call your attention; and as
I shall come to a close at the end of that branch, it is probable
that I shall not occupy quite all the time allotted to me.
Although on these questions I would like to talk twice as long as
I have, I could not enter upon another head and discuss it
properly without running over my time. I ask the attention of
the people here assembled and elsewhere to the course that Judge
Douglas is pursuing every day as bearing upon this question of
making slavery national. Not going back to the records, but
taking the speeches he makes, the speeches he made yesterday and
day before, and makes constantly all over the country, I ask your
attention to them. In the first place, what is necessary to make
the institution national? Not war. There is no danger that the
people of Kentucky will shoulder their muskets, and, with a young
nigger stuck on every bayonet, march into Illinois and force them
upon us. There is no danger of our going over there and making
war upon them. Then what is necessary for the nationalization of
slavery? It is simply the next Dred Scott decision. It is
merely for the Supreme Court to decide that no State under the
Constitution can exclude it, just as they have already decided
that under the Constitution neither Congress nor the Territorial
Legislature can do it. When that is decided and acquiesced in,
the whole thing is done. This being true, and this being the
way, as I think, that slavery is to be made national, let us
consider what Judge Douglas is doing every day to that end. In
the first place, let us see what influence he is exerting on
public sentiment. In this and like communities, public sentiment
is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without
it, nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who moulds public
sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces
decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or
impossible to be executed. This must be borne in mind, as also
the additional fact that Judge Douglas is a man of vast
influence, so great that it is enough for many men to profess to
believe anything when they once find out Judge Douglas professes
to believe it. Consider also the attitude he occupies at the
head of a large party,--a party which he claims has a majority of
all the voters in the country. This man sticks to a decision
which forbids the people of a Territory from excluding slavery,
and he does so, not because he says it is right in itself,--he
does not give any opinion on that,--but because it has been
decided by the court; and being decided by the court, he is, and
you are, bound to take it in your political action as law, not
that he judges at all of its merits, but because a decision of
the court is to him a "Thus saith the Lord." He places it on
that ground alone; and you will bear in mind that thus committing
himself unreservedly to this decision commits him to the next one
just as firmly as to this. He did not commit himself on account
of the merit or demerit of the decision, but it is a "Thus saith
the Lord." The next decision, as much as this, will be a "Thus
saith the Lord." There is nothing that can divert or turn him
away from this decision. It is nothing that I point out to him
that his great prototype, General Jackson, did not believe in the
binding force of decisions. It is nothing to him that Jefferson
did not so believe. I have said that I have often heard him
approve of Jackson's course in disregarding the decision of the
Supreme Court pronouncing a National Bank constitutional. He
says I did not hear him say so. He denies the accuracy of my
recollection. I say he ought to know better than I, but I will
make no question about this thing, though it still seems to me
that I heard him say it twenty times. I will tell him, though,
that he now claims to stand on the Cincinnati platform, which
affirms that Congress cannot charter a National Bank, in the
teeth of that old standing decision that Congress can charter a
bank. And I remind him of another piece of history on the
question of respect for judicial decisions, and it is a piece of
Illinois history belonging to a time when the large party to
which Judge Douglas belonged were displeased with a decision of
the Supreme Court of Illinois, because they had decided that a
Governor could not remove a Secretary of State. You will find
the whole story in Ford's History of Illinois, and I know that
Judge Douglas will not deny that he was then in favor of over-
slaughing that decision by the mode of adding five new judges, so
as to vote down the four old ones. Not only so, but it ended in
the Judge's sitting down on that very bench as one of the five
new judges to break down the four old ones It was in this way
precisely that he got his title of judge. Now, when the Judge
tells me that men appointed conditionally to sit as members of a
court will have to be catechized beforehand upon some subject, I
say, "You know, Judge; you have tried it." When he says a court
of this kind will lose the confidence of all men, will be
prostituted and disgraced by such a proceeding, I say, "You know
best, Judge; you have been through the mill." But I cannot shake
Judge Douglas's teeth loose from the Dred Scott decision. Like
some obstinate animal (I mean no disrespect) that will hang on
when he has once got his teeth fixed, you may cut off a leg, or
you may tear away an arm, still he will not relax his hold. And
so I may point out to the Judge, and say that he is bespattered
all over, from the beginning of his political life to the present
time, with attacks upon judicial decisions; I may cut off limb
after limb of his public record, and strive to wrench him from a
single dictum of the court,--yet I cannot divert him from it. He
hangs, to the last, to the Dred Scott decision. These things
show there is a purpose strong as death and eternity for which he
adheres to this decision, and for which he will adhere to all
other decisions of the same court.

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