The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

I allude to this extraordinary matter in this canvass for some
further purpose than anything yet advanced. Judge Douglas did
not make his statement upon that occasion as matters that he
believed to be true, but he stated them roundly as being true, in
such form as to pledge his veracity for their truth. When the
whole matter turns out as it does, and when we consider who Judge
Douglas is, that he is a distinguished Senator of the United
States; that he has served nearly twelve years as such; that his
character is not at all limited as an ordinary Senator of the
United States, but that his name has become of world-wide
renown,--it is most extraordinary that he should so far forget
all the suggestions of justice to an adversary, or of prudence to
himself, as to venture upon the assertion of that which the
slightest investigation would have shown him to be wholly false.
I can only account for his having done so upon the supposition
that that evil genius which has attended him through his life,
giving to him an apparent astonishing prosperity, such as to lead
very many good men to doubt there being any advantage in virtue
over vice,--I say I can only account for it on the supposition
that that evil genius has as last made up its mind to forsake
him.

And I may add that another extraordinary feature of the Judge's
conduct in this canvass--made more extraordinary by this
incident--is, that he is in the habit, in almost all the speeches
he makes, of charging falsehood upon his adversaries, myself and
others. I now ask whether he is able to find in anything that
Judge Trumbull, for instance, has said, or in anything that I
have said, a justification at all compared with what we have, in
this instance, for that sort of vulgarity.

I have been in the habit of charging as a matter of belief on my
part that, in the introduction of the Nebraska Bill into
Congress, there was a conspiracy to make slavery perpetual and
national. I have arranged from time to time the evidence which
establishes and proves the truth of this charge. I recurred to
this charge at Ottawa. I shall not now have time to dwell upon
it at very great length; but inasmuch as Judge Douglas, in his
reply of half an hour, made some points upon me in relation to
it, I propose noticing a few of them.

The Judge insists that, in the first speech I made, in which I
very distinctly made that charge, he thought for a good while I
was in fun! that I was playful; that I was not sincere about it;
and that he only grew angry and somewhat excited when he found
that I insisted upon it as a matter of earnestness. He says he
characterized it as a falsehood so far as I implicated his moral
character in that transaction. Well, I did not know, till he
presented that view, that I had implicated his moral character.
He is very much in the habit, when he argues me up into a
position I never thought of occupying, of very cosily saying he
has no doubt Lincoln is "conscientious" in saying so. He should
remember that I did not know but what he was ALTOGETHER
"CONSCIENTIOUS" in that matter. I can conceive it possible for
men to conspire to do a good thing, and I really find nothing in
Judge Douglas's course of arguments that is contrary to or
inconsistent with his belief of a conspiracy to nationalize and
spread slavery as being a good and blessed thing; and so I hope
he will understand that I do not at all question but that in all
this matter he is entirely "conscientious."

But to draw your attention to one of the points I made in this
case, beginning at the beginning: When the Nebraska Bill was
introduced, or a short time afterward, by an amendment, I
believe, it was provided that it must be considered "the true
intent and meaning of this Act not to legislate slavery into any
State or Territory, or to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the
people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their own
domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the
Constitution of the United States." I have called his attention
to the fact that when he and some others began arguing that they
were giving an increased degree of liberty to the people in the
Territories over and above what they formerly had on the question
of slavery, a question was raised whether the law was enacted to
give such unconditional liberty to the people; and to test the
sincerity of this mode of argument, Mr. Chase, of Ohio,
introduced an amendment, in which he made the law--if the
amendment were adopted--expressly declare that the people of the
Territory should have the power to exclude slavery if they saw
fit. I have asked attention also to the fact that Judge Douglas
and those who acted with him voted that amendment down,
notwithstanding it expressed exactly the thing they said was the
true intent and meaning of the law. I have called attention to
the fact that in subsequent times a decision of the Supreme Court
has been made, in which it has been declared that a Territorial
Legislature has no constitutional right to exclude slavery. And
I have argued and said that for men who did, intend that the
people of the Territory should have the right to exclude slavery
absolutely and unconditionally, the voting down of Chase's
amendment is wholly inexplicable. It is a puzzle, a riddle. But
I have said, that with men who did look forward to such a
decision, or who had it in contemplation that such a decision of
the Supreme Court would or might be made, the voting down of that
amendment would be perfectly rational and intelligible. It would
keep Congress from coming in collision with the decision when it
was made. Anybody can conceive that if there was an intention or
expectation that such a decision was to follow, it would not be a
very desirable party attitude to get into for the Supreme Court--
all or nearly all its members belonging to the same party--to
decide one way, when the party in Congress had decided the other
way. Hence it would be very rational for men expecting such a
decision to keep the niche in that law clear for it. After
pointing this out, I tell Judge Douglas that it looks to me as
though here was the reason why Chase's amendment was voted down.
I tell him that, as he did it, and knows why he did it, if it was
done for a reason different from this, he knows what that reason
was and can tell us what it was. I tell him, also, it will be
vastly more satisfactory to the country for him to give some
other plausible, intelligible reason why it was voted down than
to stand upon his dignity and call people liars. Well, on
Saturday he did make his answer; and what do you think it was?
He says if I had only taken upon myself to tell the whole truth
about that amendment of Chase's, no explanation would have been
necessary on his part or words to that effect. Now, I say here
that I am quite unconscious of having suppressed anything
material to the case, and I am very frank to admit if there is
any sound reason other than that which appeared to me material,
it is quite fair for him to present it. What reason does he
propose? That when Chase came forward with his amendment
expressly authorizing the people to exclude slavery from the
limits of every Territory, General Cass proposed to Chase, if he
(Chase) would add to his amendment that the people should have
the power to introduce or exclude, they would let it go. This is
substantially all of his reply. And because Chase would not do
that, they voted his amendment down. Well, it turns out, I
believe, upon examination, that General Cass took some part in
the little running debate upon that amendment, and then ran away
and did not vote on it at all. Is not that the fact? So
confident, as I think, was General Cass that there was a snake
somewhere about, he chose to run away from the whole thing. This
is an inference I draw from the fact that, though he took part in
the debate, his name does not appear in the ayes and noes. But
does Judge Douglas's reply amount to a satisfactory answer?

[Cries of "Yes, "Yes," and "No," "No."]

There is some little difference of opinion here. But I ask
attention to a few more views bearing on the question of whether
it amounts to a satisfactory answer. The men who were determined
that that amendment should not get into the bill, and spoil the
place where the Dred Scott decision was to come in, sought an
excuse to get rid of it somewhere. One of these ways--one of
these excuses--was to ask Chase to add to his proposed amendment
a provision that the people might introduce slavery if they
wanted to. They very well knew Chase would do no such thing,
that Mr. Chase was one of the men differing from them on the
broad principle of his insisting that freedom was better than
slavery,--a man who would not consent to enact a law, penned with
his own hand, by which he was made to recognize slavery on the
one hand, and liberty on the other, as precisely equal; and when
they insisted on his doing this, they very well knew they
insisted on that which he would not for a moment think of doing,
and that they were only bluffing him. I believe (I have not,
since he made his answer, had a chance to examine the journals or
Congressional Globe and therefore speak from memory)--I believe
the state of the bill at that time, according to parliamentary
rules, was such that no member could propose an additional
amendment to Chase's amendment. I rather think this is the
truth,--the Judge shakes his head. Very well. I would like to
know, then, if they wanted Chase's amendment fixed over, why
somebody else could not have offered to do it? If they wanted it
amended, why did they not offer the amendment? Why did they not
put it in themselves? But to put it on the other ground:
suppose that there was such an amendment offered, and Chase's was
an amendment to an amendment; until one is disposed of by
parliamentary law, you cannot pile another on. Then all these
gentlemen had to do was to vote Chase's on, and then, in the
amended form in which the whole stood, add their own amendment to
it, if they wanted to put it in that shape. This was all they
were obliged to do, and the ayes and noes show that there were
thirty-six who voted it down, against ten who voted in favor of
it. The thirty-six held entire sway and control. They could in
some form or other have put that bill in the exact shape they
wanted. If there was a rule preventing their amending it at the
time, they could pass that, and then, Chase's amendment being
merged, put it in the shape they wanted. They did not choose to
do so, but they went into a quibble with Chase to get him to add
what they knew he would not add, and because he would not, they
stand upon the flimsy pretext for voting down what they argued
was the meaning and intent of their own bill. They left room
thereby for this Dred Scott decision, which goes very far to make
slavery national throughout the United States.

I pass one or two points I have, because my time will very soon
expire; but I must be allowed to say that Judge Douglas recurs
again, as he did upon one or two other occasions, to the enormity
of Lincoln, an insignificant individual like Lincoln,--upon his
ipse dixit charging a conspiracy upon a large number of members
of Congress, the Supreme Court, and two Presidents, to
nationalize slavery. I want to say that, in the first place, I
have made no charge of this sort upon my ipse dixit. I have only
arrayed the evidence tending to prove it, and presented it to the
understanding of others, saying what I think it proves, but
giving you the means of judging whether it proves it or not.
This is precisely what I have done. I have not placed it upon my
ipse dixit at all. On this occasion, I wish to recall his
attention to a piece of evidence which I brought forward at
Ottawa on Saturday, showing that he had made substantially the
same charge against substantially the same persons, excluding his
dear self from the category. I ask him to give some attention to
the evidence which I brought forward that he himself had
discovered a "fatal blow being struck" against the right of the
people to exclude slavery from their limits, which fatal blow he
assumed as in evidence in an article in the Washington Union,
published "by authority." I ask by whose authority? He
discovers a similar or identical provision in the Lecompton
Constitution. Made by whom? The framers of that Constitution.
Advocated by whom? By all the members of the party in the
nation, who advocated the introduction of Kansas into the Union
under the Lecompton Constitution. I have asked his attention to
the evidence that he arrayed to prove that such a fatal blow was
being struck, and to the facts which he brought forward in
support of that charge,--being identical with the one which he
thinks so villainous in me. He pointed it, not at a newspaper
editor merely, but at the President and his Cabinet and the
members of Congress advocating the Lecompton Constitution and
those framing that instrument. I must again be permitted to
remind him that although my ipse dixit may not be as great as
his, yet it somewhat reduces the force of his calling my
attention to the enormity of my making a like charge against him.

Go on, Judge Douglas.

Mr. LINCOLN'S REJOINDER.

MY FRIENDS:--It will readily occur to you that I cannot, in half
an hour, notice all the things that so able a man as Judge
Douglas can say in an hour and a half; and I hope, therefore, if
there be anything that he has said upon which you would like to
hear something from me, but which I omit to comment upon, you
will bear in mind that it would be expecting an impossibility for
me to go over his whole ground. I can but take up some of the
points that he has dwelt upon, and employ my half-hour specially
on them.

The first thing I have to say to you is a word in regard to Judge
Douglas's declaration about the "vulgarity and blackguardism" in
the audience, that no such thing, as he says, was shown by any
Democrat while I was speaking. Now, I only wish, by way of reply
on this subject, to say that while I was speaking, I used no
"vulgarity or blackguardism" toward any Democrat.

Now, my friends, I come to all this long portion of the Judge's
speech,--perhaps half of it,--which he has devoted to the various
resolutions and platforms that have been adopted in the different
counties in the different Congressional districts, and in the
Illinois legislature, which he supposes are at variance with the
positions I have assumed before you to-day. It is true that many
of these resolutions are at variance with the positions I have
here assumed. All I have to ask is that we talk reasonably and
rationally about it. I happen to know, the Judge's opinion to
the contrary notwithstanding, that I have never tried to conceal
my opinions, nor tried to deceive any one in reference to them.
He may go and examine all the members who voted for me for United
States Senator in 1855, after the election of 1854. They were
pledged to certain things here at home, and were determined to
have pledges from me; and if he will find any of these persons
who will tell him anything inconsistent with what I say now, I
will resign, or rather retire from the race, and give him no more
trouble. The plain truth is this: At the introduction of the
Nebraska policy, we believed there was a new era being introduced
in the history of the Republic, which tended to the spread and
perpetuation of slavery. But in our opposition to that measure
we did not agree with one another in everything. The people in
the north end of the State were for stronger measures of
opposition than we of the central and southern portions of the
State, but we were all opposed to the Nebraska doctrine. We had
that one feeling and that one sentiment in common. You at the
north end met in your conventions and passed your resolutions.
We in the middle of the State and farther south did not hold such
conventions and pass the same resolutions, although we had in
general a common view and a common sentiment. So that these
meetings which the Judge has alluded to, and the resolutions he
has read from, were local, and did not spread over the whole
State. We at last met together in 1886, from all parts of the
State, and we agreed upon a common platform. You, who held more
extreme notions, either yielded those notions, or, if not wholly
yielding them, agreed to yield them practically, for the sake of
embodying the opposition to the measures which the opposite party
were pushing forward at that time. We met you then, and if there
was anything yielded, it was for practical purposes. We agreed
then upon a platform for the party throughout the entire State of
Illinois, and now we are all bound, as a party, to that platform.

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