The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

The Judge, in his concluding speech at Galesburgh, says that I was
pushing this matter to a personal difficulty, to avoid the
responsibility for the enormity of my principles. I say to the Judge
and this audience, now, that I will again state our principles, as
well as I hastily can, in all their enormity, and if the Judge
hereafter chooses to confine himself to a war upon these principles,
he will probably not find me departing from the same course.

We have in this nation this element of domestic slavery. It is a
matter of absolute certainty that it is a disturbing element. It is
the opinion of all the great men who have expressed an opinion upon
it, that it is a dangerous element. We keep up a controversy in
regard to it. That controversy necessarily springs from difference
of opinion; and if we can learn exactly--can reduce to the lowest
elements--what that difference of opinion is, we perhaps shall be
better prepared for discussing the different systems of policy that
we would propose in regard to that disturbing element. I suggest
that the difference of opinion, reduced to its lowest of terms, is no
other than the difference between the men who think slavery a wrong
and those who do not think it wrong. The Republican party think it
wrong; we think it is a moral, a social, and a political wrong. We
think it as a wrong not confining itself merely to the persons or the
States where it exists, but that it is a wrong in its tendency, to
say the least, that extends itself to the existence of the whole
nation. Because we think it wrong, we propose a course of policy
that shall deal with it as a wrong. We deal with it as with any
other wrong, in so far as we can prevent its growing any larger, and
so deal with it that in the run of time there may be some promise of
an end to it. We have a due regard to the actual presence of it
amongst us, and the difficulties of getting rid of it in any
satisfactory way, and all the constitutional obligations thrown about
it. I suppose that in reference both to its actual existence in the
nation, and to our constitutional obligations, we have no right at
all to disturb it in the States where it exists, and we profess that
we have no more inclination to disturb it than we have the right to
do it. We go further than that: we don't propose to disturb it
where, in one instance, we think the Constitution would permit us.
We think the Constitution would permit us to disturb it in the
District of Columbia. Still, we do not propose to do that, unless it
should be in terms which I don't suppose the nation is very likely
soon to agree to,--the terms of making the emancipation gradual, and
compensating the unwilling owners. Where we suppose we have the
constitutional right, we restrain ourselves in reference to the
actual existence of the institution and the difficulties thrown about
it. We also oppose it as an evil so far as it seeks to spread
itself. We insist on the policy that shall restrict it to its
present limits. We don't suppose that in doing this we violate
anything due to the actual presence of the institution, or anything
due to the constitutional guaranties thrown around it.

We oppose the Dred Scott decision in a certain way, upon which I
ought perhaps to address you a few words. We do not propose that
when Dred Scott has been decided to be a slave by the court, we, as a
mob, will decide him to be free. We do not propose that, when any
other one, or one thousand, shall be decided by that court to be
slaves, we will in any violent way disturb the rights of property
thus settled; but we nevertheless do oppose that decision as a
political rule which shall be binding on the voter to vote for nobody
who thinks it wrong, which shall be binding on the members of
Congress or the President to favor no measure that does not actually
concur with the principles of that decision. We do not propose to be
bound by it as a political rule in that way, because we think it lays
the foundation, not merely of enlarging and spreading out what we
consider an evil, but it lays the foundation for spreading that evil
into the States themselves. We propose so resisting it as to have it
reversed if we can, and a new judicial rule established upon this
subject.

I will add this: that if there be any man who does not believe that
slavery is wrong in the three aspects which I have mentioned, or in
any one of them, that man is misplaced, and ought to leave us; while
on the other hand, if there be any man in the Republican party who is
impatient over the necessity springing from its actual presence, and
is impatient of the constitutional guaranties thrown around it, and
would act in disregard of these, he too is misplaced, standing with
us. He will find his place somewhere else; for we have a due regard,
so far as we are capable of understanding them, for all these things.
This, gentlemen, as well as I can give it, is a plain statement of
our principles in all their enormity.
I will say now that there is a sentiment in the country contrary to
me,--a sentiment which holds that slavery is not wrong, and therefore
it goes for the policy that does not propose dealing with it as a
wrong. That policy is the Democratic policy, and that sentiment is
the Democratic sentiment. If there be a doubt in the mind of any one
of this vast audience that this is really the central idea of the
Democratic party in relation to this subject, I ask him to bear with
me while I state a few things tending, as I think, to prove that
proposition. In the first place, the leading man--I think I may do
my friend Judge Douglas the honor of calling him such advocating the
present Democratic policy never himself says it is wrong. He has the
high distinction, so far as I know, of never having said slavery is
either right or wrong. Almost everybody else says one or the other,
but the Judge never does. If there be a man in the Democratic party
who thinks it is wrong, and yet clings to that party, I suggest to
him, in the first place, that his leader don't talk as he does, for
he never says that it is wrong. In the second place, I suggest to
him that if he will examine the policy proposed to be carried
forward, he will find that he carefully excludes the idea that there
is anything wrong in it. If you will examine the arguments that are
made on it, you will find that every one carefully excludes the idea
that there is anything wrong in slavery. Perhaps that Democrat who
says he is as much opposed to slavery as I am will tell me that I am
wrong about this. I wish him to examine his own course in regard to
this matter a moment, and then see if his opinion will not be changed
a little. You say it is wrong; but don't you constantly object to
anybody else saying so? Do you not constantly argue that this is not
the right place to oppose it? You say it must not be opposed in the
free States, because slavery is not here; it must not be opposed in
the slave States, because it is there; it must not be opposed in
politics, because that will make a fuss; it must not be opposed in
the pulpit, because it is not religion. Then where is the place to
oppose it? There is no suitable place to oppose it. There is no
place in the country to oppose this evil overspreading the continent,
which you say yourself is coming. Frank Blair and Gratz Brown tried
to get up a system of gradual emancipation in Missouri, had an
election in August, and got beat, and you, Mr. Democrat, threw up
your hat, and hallooed "Hurrah for Democracy!" So I say, again, that
in regard to the arguments that are made, when Judge Douglas Says he
"don't care whether slavery is voted up or voted down," whether he
means that as an individual expression of sentiment, or only as a
sort of statement of his views on national policy, it is alike true
to say that he can thus argue logically if he don't see anything
wrong in it; but he cannot say so logically if he admits that slavery
is wrong. He cannot say that he would as soon see a wrong voted up
as voted down. When Judge Douglas says that whoever or whatever
community wants slaves, they have a right to have them, he is
perfectly logical, if there is nothing wrong in the institution; but
if you admit that it is wrong, he cannot logically say that anybody
has a right to do wrong. When he says that slave property and horse
and hog property are alike to be allowed to go into the Territories,
upon the principles of equality, he is reasoning truly, if there is
no difference between them as property; but if the one is property
held rightfully, and the other is wrong, then there is no equality
between the right and wrong; so that, turn it in anyway you can, in
all the arguments sustaining the Democratic policy, and in that
policy itself, there is a careful, studied exclusion of the idea that
there is anything wrong in slavery. Let us understand this. I am
not, just here, trying to prove that we are right, and they are
wrong. I have been stating where we and they stand, and trying to
show what is the real difference between us; and I now say that
whenever we can get the question distinctly stated, can get all these
men who believe that slavery is in some of these respects wrong to
stand and act with us in treating it as a wrong,--then, and not till
then, I think we will in some way come to an end of this slavery
agitation.

Mr. LINCOLN'S REJOINDER.

MY FRIENDS:--Since Judge Douglas has said to you in his conclusion
that he had not time in an hour and a half to answer all I had said
in an hour, it follows of course that I will not be able to answer in
half an hour all that he said in an hour and a half.

I wish to return to Judge Douglas my profound thanks for his public
annunciation here to-day, to be put on record, that his system of
policy in regard to the institution of slavery contemplates that it
shall last forever. We are getting a little nearer the true issue of
this controversy, and I am profoundly grateful for this one sentence.
Judge Douglas asks you, Why cannot the institution of slavery, or
rather, why cannot the nation, part slave and part free, continue as
our fathers made it, forever? In the first place, I insist that our
fathers did not make this nation half slave and half free, or part
slave and part free. I insist that they found the institution of
slavery existing here. They did not make it so but they left it so
because they knew of no way to get rid of it at that time. When
Judge Douglas undertakes to say that, as a matter of choice, the
fathers of the government made this nation part slave and part free,
he assumes what is historically a falsehood. More than that: when
the fathers of the government cut off the source of slavery by the
abolition of the slave-trade, and adopted a system of restricting it
from the new Territories where it had not existed, I maintain that
they placed it where they understood, and all sensible men
understood, it was in the course of ultimate extinction; and when
Judge Douglas asks me why it cannot continue as our fathers made it,
I ask him why he and his friends could not let it remain as our
fathers made it?

It is precisely all I ask of him in relation to the institution of
slavery, that it shall be placed upon the basis that our fathers
placed it upon. Mr. Brooks, of South Carolina, once said, and truly
said, that when this government was established, no one expected the
institution of slavery to last until this day, and that the men who
formed this government were wiser and better than the men of these
days; but the men of these days had experience which the fathers had
not, and that experience had taught them the invention of the
cotton-gin, and this had made the perpetuation of the institution of
slavery a necessity in this country. Judge Douglas could not let it
stand upon the basis which our fathers placed it, but removed it, and
put it upon the cotton-gin basis. It is a question, therefore, for
him and his friends to answer, why they could not let it remain where
the fathers of the government originally placed it. I hope nobody
has understood me as trying to sustain the doctrine that we have a
right to quarrel with Kentucky, or Virginia, or any of the slave
States, about the institution of slavery,--thus giving the Judge an
opportunity to be eloquent and valiant against us in fighting for
their rights. I expressly declared in my opening speech that I had
neither the inclination to exercise, nor the belief in the existence
of, the right to interfere with the States of Kentucky or Virginia in
doing as they pleased with slavery Or any other existing institution.
Then what becomes of all his eloquence in behalf of the rights of
States, which are assailed by no living man?

But I have to hurry on, for I have but a half hour. The Judge has
informed me, or informed this audience, that the Washington Union is
laboring for my election to the United States Senate. This is news
to me,--not very ungrateful news either. [Turning to Mr. W. H.
Carlin, who was on the stand]--I hope that Carlin will be elected to
the State Senate, and will vote for me. [Mr. Carlin shook his head.] Carlin don't fall in, I perceive, and I suppose he will not do much
for me; but I am glad of all the support I can get, anywhere, if I
can get it without practicing any deception to obtain it. In respect
to this large portion of Judge Douglas's speech in which he tries to
show that in the controversy between himself and the Administration
party he is in the right, I do not feel myself at all competent or
inclined to answer him. I say to him, "Give it to them,--give it to
them just all you can!" and, on the other hand, I say to Carlin, and
Jake Davis, and to this man Wogley up here in Hancock, "Give it to
Douglas, just pour it into him!

Now, in regard to this matter of the Dred Scott decision, I wish to
say a word or two. After all, the Judge will not say whether, if a
decision is made holding that the people of the States cannot exclude
slavery, he will support it or not. He obstinately refuses to say
what he will do in that case. The judges of the Supreme Court as
obstinately refused to say what they would do on this subject.
Before this I reminded him that at Galesburgh he said the judges had
expressly declared the contrary, and you remember that in my Opening
speech I told him I had the book containing that decision here, and I
would thank him to lay his finger on the place where any such thing
was said. He has occupied his hour and a half, and he has not
ventured to try to sustain his assertion. He never will. But he is
desirous of knowing how we are going to reverse that Dred Scott
decision. Judge Douglas ought to know how. Did not he and his
political friends find a way to reverse the decision of that same
court in favor of the constitutionality of the National Bank? Didn't
they find a way to do it so effectually that they have reversed it as
completely as any decision ever was reversed, so far as its practical
operation is concerned?

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