The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

I do not wish to dwell at great length on this branch of the
subject at this time, but allow me to repeat one thing that I
have stated before. Brooks--the man who assaulted Senator Sumner
on the floor of the Senate, and who was complimented with
dinners, and silver pitchers, and gold-headed canes, and a good
many other things for that feat--in one of his speeches declared
that when this government was originally established, nobody
expected that the institution of slavery would last until this
day. That was but the opinion of one man, but it was such an
opinion as we can never get from Judge Douglas or anybody in
favor of slavery, in the North, at all. You can sometimes get it
from a Southern man. He said at the same time that the framers
of our government did not have the knowledge that experience has
taught us; that experience and the invention of the cotton-gin
have taught us that the perpetuation of slavery is a necessity.
He insisted, therefore, upon its being changed from the basis
upon which the fathers of the government left it to the basis of
its perpetuation and nationalization.

I insist that this is the difference between Judge Douglas and
myself,--that Judge Douglas is helping that change along. I
insist upon this government being placed where our fathers
originally placed it.

I remember Judge Douglas once said that he saw the evidences on
the statute books of Congress of a policy in the origin of
government to divide slavery and freedom by a geographical line;
that he saw an indisposition to maintain that policy, and
therefore he set about studying up a way to settle the
institution on the right basis,--the basis which he thought it
ought to have been placed upon at first; and in that speech he
confesses that he seeks to place it, not upon the basis that the
fathers placed it upon, but upon one gotten up on "original
principles." When he asks me why we cannot get along with it in
the attitude where our fathers placed it, he had better clear up
the evidences that he has himself changed it from that basis,
that he has himself been chiefly instrumental in changing the
policy of the fathers. Any one who will read his speech of the
22d of last March will see that he there makes an open
confession, showing that he set about fixing the institution upon
an altogether different set of principles. I think I have fully
answered him when he asks me why we cannot let it alone upon the
basis where our fathers left it, by showing that he has himself
changed the whole policy of the government in that regard.

Now, fellow-citizens, in regard to this matter about a contract
that was made between Judge Trumbull and myself, and all that
long portion of Judge Douglas's speech on this subject,--I wish
simply to say what I have said to him before, that he cannot know
whether it is true or not, and I do know that there is not a word
of truth in it. And I have told him so before. I don't want any
harsh language indulged in, but I do not know how to deal with
this persistent insisting on a story that I know to be utterly
without truth. It used to be a fashion amongst men that when a
charge was made, some sort of proof was brought forward to
establish it, and if no proof was found to exist, the charge was
dropped. I don't know how to meet this kind of an argument. I
don't want to have a fight with Judge Douglas, and I have no way
of making an argument up into the consistency of a corn-cob and
stopping his mouth with it. All I can do is--good-humoredly--to
say that, from the beginning to the end of all that story about a
bargain between Judge Trumbull and myself, there is not a word of
truth in it. I can only ask him to show some sort of evidence of
the truth of his story. He brings forward here and reads from
what he contends is a speech by James H. Matheny, charging such
a bargain between Trumbull and myself. My own opinion is that
Matheny did do some such immoral thing as to tell a story that he
knew nothing about. I believe he did. I contradicted it
instantly, and it has been contradicted by Judge Trumbull, while
nobody has produced any proof, because there is none. Now,
whether the speech which the Judge brings forward here is really
the one Matheny made, I do not know, and I hope the Judge will
pardon me for doubting the genuineness of this document, since
his production of those Springfield resolutions at Ottawa. I do
not wish to dwell at any great length upon this matter. I can
say nothing when a long story like this is told, except it is not
true, and demand that he who insists upon it shall produce some
proof. That is all any man can do, and I leave it in that way,
for I know of no other way of dealing with it.

[In an argument on the lines of: "Yes, you did. --No, I did
not." It bears on the former to prove his point, not on the
negative to "prove" that he did not--even if he easily can do
so.]

The Judge has gone over a long account of the old Whig and
Democratic parties, and it connects itself with this charge
against Trumbull and myself. He says that they agreed upon a
compromise in regard to the slavery question in 1850; that in a
National Democratic Convention resolutions were passed to abide
by that compromise as a finality upon the slavery question. He
also says that the Whig party in National Convention agreed to
abide by and regard as a finality the Compromise of 1850. I
understand the Judge to be altogether right about that; I
understand that part of the history of the country as stated by
him to be correct I recollect that I, as a member of that party,
acquiesced in that compromise. I recollect in the Presidential
election which followed, when we had General Scott up for the
presidency, Judge Douglas was around berating us Whigs as
Abolitionists, precisely as he does to-day,--not a bit of
difference. I have often heard him. We could do nothing when
the old Whig party was alive that was not Abolitionism, but it
has got an extremely good name since it has passed away.

[It almost a natural law that, when dead--no matter how bad we
were--we are automatically beatified.]

When that Compromise was made it did not repeal the old Missouri
Compromise. It left a region of United States territory half as
large as the present territory of the United States, north of the
line of 36 degrees 30 minutes, in which slavery was prohibited by
Act of Congress. This Compromise did not repeal that one. It
did not affect or propose to repeal it. But at last it became
Judge Douglas's duty, as he thought (and I find no fault with
him), as Chairman of the Committee on Territories, to bring in a
bill for the organization of a territorial government,--first of
one, then of two Territories north of that line. When he did so,
it ended in his inserting a provision substantially repealing the
Missouri Compromise. That was because the Compromise of 1850 had
not repealed it. And now I ask why he could not have let that
Compromise alone? We were quiet from the agitation of the
slavery question. We were making no fuss about it. All had
acquiesced in the Compromise measures of 1850. We never had been
seriously disturbed by any Abolition agitation before that
period. When he came to form governments for the Territories
north of the line of 36 degrees 30 minutes, why could he not have
let that matter stand as it was standing? Was it necessary to
the organization of a Territory? Not at all. Iowa lay north of
the line, and had been organized as a Territory and come into the
Union as a State without disturbing that Compromise. There was
no sort of necessity for destroying it to organize these
Territories. But, gentlemen, it would take up all my time to
meet all the little quibbling arguments of Judge Douglas to show
that the Missouri Compromise was repealed by the Compromise of
1850. My own opinion is, that a careful investigation of all the
arguments to sustain the position that that Compromise was
virtually repealed by the Compromise of 1850 would show that they
are the merest fallacies. I have the report that Judge Douglas
first brought into Congress at the time of the introduction of
the Nebraska Bill, which in its original form did not repeal the
Missouri Compromise, and he there expressly stated that he had
forborne to do so because it had not been done by the Compromise
of 1850. I close this part of the discussion on my part by
asking him the question again, "Why, when we had peace under the
Missouri Compromise, could you not have let it alone?"

In complaining of what I said in my speech at Springfield, in
which he says I accepted my nomination for the senatorship
(where, by the way, he is at fault, for if he will examine it, he
will find no acceptance in it), he again quotes that portion in
which I said that "a house divided against itself cannot stand."
Let me say a word in regard to that matter.

He tries to persuade us that there must be a variety in the
different institutions of the States of the Union; that that
variety necessarily proceeds from the variety of soil, climate,
of the face of the country, and the difference in the natural
features of the States. I agree to all that. Have these very
matters ever produced any difficulty amongst us? Not at all.
Have we ever had any quarrel over the fact that they have laws in
Louisiana designed to regulate the commerce that springs from the
production of sugar? Or because we have a different class
relative to the production of flour in this State? Have they
produced any differences? Not at all. They are the very cements
of this Union. They don't make the house a house divided against
itself. They are the props that hold up the house and sustain
the Union.

But has it been so with this element of slavery? Have we not
always had quarrels and difficulties over it? And when will we
cease to have quarrels over it? Like causes produce like
effects. It is worth while to observe that we have generally had
comparative peace upon the slavery question, and that there has
been no cause for alarm until it was excited by the effort to
spread it into new territory. Whenever it has been limited to
its present bounds, and there has been no effort to spread it,
there has been peace. All the trouble and convulsion has
proceeded from efforts to spread it over more territory. It was
thus at the date of the Missouri Compromise. It was so again
with the annexation of Texas; so with the territory acquired by
the Mexican war; and it is so now. Whenever there has been an
effort to spread it, there has been agitation and resistance.
Now, I appeal to this audience (very few of whom are my political
friends), as national men, whether we have reason to expect that
the agitation in regard to this subject will cease while the
causes that tend to reproduce agitation are actively at work?
Will not the same cause that produced agitation in 1820, when the
Missouri Compromise was formed, that which produced the agitation
upon the annexation of Texas, and at other times, work out the
same results always? Do you think that the nature of man will be
changed, that the same causes that produced agitation at one time
will not have the same effect at another?

This has been the result so far as my observation of the slavery
question and my reading in history extends. What right have we
then to hope that the trouble will cease,--that the agitation
will come to an end,--until it shall either be placed back where
it originally stood, and where the fathers originally placed it,
or, on the other hand, until it shall entirely master all
opposition? This is the view I entertain, and this is the reason
why I entertained it, as Judge Douglas has read from my
Springfield speech.

Now, my friends, there is one other thing that I feel myself
under some sort of obligation to mention. Judge Douglas has here
to-day--in a very rambling way, I was about saying--spoken of the
platforms for which he seeks to hold me responsible. He says,
"Why can't you come out and make an open avowal of principles in
all places alike?" and he reads from an advertisement that he
says was used to notify the people of a speech to be made by
Judge Trumbull at Waterloo. In commenting on it he desires to
know whether we cannot speak frankly and manfully, as he and his
friends do. How, I ask, do his friends speak out their own
sentiments? A Convention of his party in this State met on the
21st of April at Springfield, and passed a set of resolutions
which they proclaim to the country as their platform. This does
constitute their platform, and it is because Judge Douglas claims
it is his platform--that these are his principles and purposes--
that he has a right to declare he speaks his sentiments "frankly
and manfully." On the 9th of June Colonel John Dougherty,
Governor Reynolds, and others, calling themselves National
Democrats, met in Springfield and adopted a set of resolutions
which are as easily understood, as plain and as definite in
stating to the country and to the world what they believed in and
would stand upon, as Judge Douglas's platform Now, what is the
reason that Judge Douglas is not willing that Colonel Dougherty
and Governor Reynolds should stand upon their own written and
printed platform as well as he upon his? Why must he look
farther than their platform when he claims himself to stand by
his platform?

Again, in reference to our platform: On the 16th of June the
Republicans had their Convention and published their platform,
which is as clear and distinct as Judge Douglas's. In it they
spoke their principles as plainly and as definitely to the world.
What is the reason that Judge Douglas is not willing I should
stand upon that platform? Why must he go around hunting for some
one who is supporting me or has supported me at some time in his
life, and who has said something at some time contrary to that
platform? Does the Judge regard that rule as a good one? If it
turn out that the rule is a good one for me--that I am
responsible for any and every opinion that any man has expressed
who is my friend,--then it is a good rule for him. I ask, is it
not as good a rule for him as it is for me? In my opinion, it is
not a good rule for either of us. Do you think differently,
Judge?

[Mr. DOUGLAS: I do not.]

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