The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

There is one other thing I will mention before I leave this branch of
the discussion,--although I do not consider it much of my business,
anyway. I refer to that part of the Judge's remarks where he
undertakes to involve Mr. Buchanan in an inconsistency. He reads
something from Mr. Buchanan, from which he undertakes to involve him
in an inconsistency; and he gets something of a cheer for having done
so. I would only remind the Judge that while he is very valiantly
fighting for the Nebraska Bill and the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise, it has been but a little while since he was the valiant
advocate of the Missouri Compromise. I want to know if Buchanan has
not as much right to be inconsistent as Douglas has? Has Douglas the
exclusive right, in this country, of being on all sides of all
questions? Is nobody allowed that high privilege but himself? Is he
to have an entire monopoly on that subject?

So far as Judge Douglas addressed his speech to me, or so far as it
was about me, it is my business to pay some attention to it. I have
heard the Judge state two or three times what he has stated to-day,
that in a speech which I made at Springfield, Illinois, I had in a
very especial manner complained that the Supreme Court in the Dred
Scott case had decided that a negro could never be a citizen of the
United States. I have omitted by some accident heretofore to analyze
this statement, and it is required of me to notice it now. In point
of fact it is untrue. I never have complained especially of the Dred
Scott decision because it held that a negro could not be a citizen,
and the Judge is always wrong when he says I ever did so complain of
it. I have the speech here, and I will thank him or any of his
friends to show where I said that a negro should be a citizen, and
complained especially of the Dred Scott decision because it declared
he could not be one. I have done no such thing; and Judge Douglas,
so persistently insisting that I have done so, has strongly impressed
me with the belief of a predetermination on his part to misrepresent
me. He could not get his foundation for insisting that I was in
favor of this negro equality anywhere else as well as he could by
assuming that untrue proposition. Let me tell this audience what is
true in regard to that matter; and the means by which they may
correct me if I do not tell them truly is by a recurrence to the
speech itself. I spoke of the Dred Scott decision in my Springfield
speech, and I was then endeavoring to prove that the Dred Scott
decision was a portion of a system or scheme to make slavery national
in this country. I pointed out what things had been decided by the
court. I mentioned as a fact that they had decided that a negro
could not be a citizen; that they had done so, as I supposed, to
deprive the negro, under all circumstances, of the remotest
possibility of ever becoming a citizen and claiming the rights of a
citizen of the United States under a certain clause of the
Constitution. I stated that, without making any complaint of it at
all. I then went on and stated the other points decided in the case;
namely, that the bringing of a negro into the State of Illinois and
holding him in slavery for two years here was a matter in regard to
which they would not decide whether it would make him free or not;
that they decided the further point that taking him into a United
States Territory where slavery was prohibited by Act of Congress did
not make him free, because that Act of Congress, as they held, was
unconstitutional. I mentioned these three things as making up the
points decided in that case. I mentioned them in a lump, taken in
connection with the introduction of the Nebraska Bill, and the
amendment of Chase, offered at the time, declaratory of the right of
the people of the Territories to exclude slavery, which was voted
down by the friends of the bill. I mentioned all these things
together, as evidence tending to prove a combination and conspiracy
to make the institution of slavery national. In that connection and
in that way I mentioned the decision on the point that a negro could
not be a citizen, and in no other connection.

Out of this Judge Douglas builds up his beautiful fabrication of my
purpose to introduce a perfect social and political equality between
the white and black races. His assertion that I made an "especial
objection" (that is his exact language) to the decision on this
account is untrue in point of fact.

Now, while I am upon this subject, and as Henry Clay has been alluded
to, I desire to place myself, in connection with Mr. Clay, as nearly
right before this people as may be. I am quite aware what the
Judge's object is here by all these allusions. He knows that we are
before an audience having strong sympathies southward, by
relationship, place of birth, and so on. He desires to place me in
an extremely Abolition attitude. He read upon a former occasion, and
alludes, without reading, to-day to a portion of a speech which I
delivered in Chicago. In his quotations from that speech, as he has
made them upon former occasions, the extracts were taken in such a
way as, I suppose, brings them within the definition of what is
called garbling, --taking portions of a speech which, when taken by
themselves, do not present the entire sense of the speaker as
expressed at the time. I propose, therefore, out of that same
speech, to show how one portion of it which he skipped over (taking
an extract before and an extract after) will give a different idea,
and the true idea I intended to convey. It will take me some little
time to read it, but I believe I will occupy the time that way.

You have heard him frequently allude to my controversy with him in
regard to the Declaration of Independence. I confess that I have had
a struggle with Judge Douglas on that matter, and I will try briefly
to place myself right in regard to it on this occasion. I said--and
it is between the extracts Judge Douglas has taken from this speech,
and put in his published speeches:

"It may be argued that there are certain conditions that make
necessities and impose them upon us, and to the extent that a
necessity is imposed upon a man he must submit to it. I think that
was the condition in which we found ourselves when we established
this government. We had slaves among us, we could not get our
Constitution unless we permitted them to remain in slavery, we could
not secure the good we did secure if we grasped for more; and having
by necessity submitted to that much, it does not destroy the
principle that is the charter of our liberties. Let the charter
remain as our standard."

Now, I have upon all occasions declared as strongly as Judge Douglas
against the disposition to interfere with the existing institution of
slavery. You hear me read it from the same speech from which he
takes garbled extracts for the purpose of proving upon me a
disposition to interfere with the institution of slavery, and
establish a perfect social and political equality between negroes and
white people.

Allow me while upon this subject briefly to present one other extract
from a speech of mine, more than a year ago, at Springfield, in
discussing this very same question, soon after Judge Douglas took his
ground that negroes were, not included in the Declaration of
Independence:

"I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include
all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all
respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color,
size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined
with tolerable distinctness in what they did consider all men created
equal,--equal in certain inalienable rights, among which are life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This they said, and this they
meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were
then actually enjoying that equality, or yet that they were about to
confer it immediately upon them. In fact they had no power to confer
such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the
enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should
permit.

"They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should
be familiar to all,--constantly looked to, constantly labored for,
and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated,
and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and
augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all
colors, everywhere."

There again are the sentiments I have expressed in regard to the
Declaration of Independence upon a former occasion,--sentiments which
have been put in print and read wherever anybody cared to know what
so humble an individual as myself chose to say in regard to it.

At Galesburgh, the other day, I said, in answer to Judge Douglas,
that three years ago there never had been a man, so far as I knew or
believed, in the whole world, who had said that the Declaration of
Independence did not include negroes in the term "all men." I
reassert it to-day. I assert that Judge Douglas and all his friends
may search the whole records of the country, and it will be a matter
of great astonishment to me if they shall be able to find that one
human being three years ago had ever uttered the astounding sentiment
that the term "all men" in the Declaration did not include the negro.
Do not let me be misunderstood. I know that more than three years
ago there were men who, finding this assertion constantly in the way
of their schemes to bring about the ascendency and perpetuation of
slavery, denied the truth of it. I know that Mr. Calhoun and all the
politicians of his school denied the truth of the Declaration. I
know that it ran along in the mouth of some Southern men for a period
of years, ending at last in that shameful, though rather forcible,
declaration of Pettit of Indiana, upon the floor of the United States
Senate, that the Declaration of Independence was in that respect "a
self-evident lie," rather than a self-evident truth. But I say, with
a perfect knowledge of all this hawking at the Declaration without
directly attacking it, that three years ago there never had lived a
man who had ventured to assail it in the sneaking way of pretending
to believe it, and then asserting it did not include the negro. I
believe the first man who ever said it was Chief Justice Taney in the
Dred Scott case, and the next to him was our friend Stephen A.
Douglas. And now it has become the catchword of the entire party. I
would like to call upon his friends everywhere to consider how they
have come in so short a time to view this matter in a way so entirely
different from their former belief; to ask whether they are not being
borne along by an irresistible current,--whither, they know not.

In answer to my proposition at Galesburgh last week, I see that some
man in Chicago has got up a letter, addressed to the Chicago Times,
to show, as he professes, that somebody had said so before; and he
signs himself "An Old-Line Whig," if I remember correctly. In the
first place, I would say he was not an old-line Whig. I am somewhat
acquainted with old-line Whigs from the origin to the end of that
party; I became pretty well acquainted with them, and I know they
always had some sense, whatever else you could ascribe to them. I
know there never was one who had not more sense than to try to show
by the evidence he produces that some men had, prior to the time I
named, said that negroes were not included in the term "all men" in
the Declaration of Independence. What is the evidence he produces?
I will bring forward his evidence, and let you see what he offers by
way of showing that somebody more than three years ago had said
negroes were not included in the Declaration. He brings forward part
of a speech from Henry Clay,--the part of the speech of Henry Clay
which I used to bring forward to prove precisely the contrary. I
guess we are surrounded to some extent to-day by the old friends of
Mr. Clay, and they will be glad to hear anything from that authority.
While he was in Indiana a man presented a petition to liberate his
negroes, and he (Mr. Clay) made a speech in answer to it, which I
suppose he carefully wrote out himself and caused to be published. I
have before me an extract from that speech which constitutes the
evidence this pretended "Old-Line Whig" at Chicago brought forward to
show that Mr. Clay did n't suppose the negro was included in the
Declaration of Independence. Hear what Mr. Clay said:

"And what is the foundation of this appeal to me in Indiana to
liberate the slaves under my care in Kentucky? It is a general
declaration in the act announcing to the world the independence of
the thirteen American colonies, that all men are created equal. Now,
as an abstract principle, there is no doubt of the truth of that
declaration; and it is desirable, in the original construction of
society and in organized societies, to keep it in view as a great
fundamental principle. But, then, I apprehend that in no society
that ever did exist, or ever shall be formed, was or can the equality
asserted among the members of the human race be practically enforced
and carried out. There are portions, large portions, women, minors,
insane, culprits, transient sojourners, that will always probably
remain subject to the government of another portion of the community.

"That declaration, whatever may be the extent of its import, was made
by the delegations of the thirteen States. In most of them slavery
existed, and had long existed, and was established by law. It was
introduced and forced upon the colonies by the paramount law of
England. Do you believe that in making that declaration the States
that concurred in it intended that it should be tortured into a
virtual emancipation of all the slaves within their respective
limits? Would Virginia and other Southern States have ever united in
a declaration which was to be interpreted into an abolition of
slavery among them? Did any one of the thirteen colonies entertain
such a design or expectation? To impute such a secret and unavowed
purpose, would be to charge a political fraud upon the noblest band
of patriots that ever assembled in council,--a fraud upon the
Confederacy of the Revolution; a fraud upon the union of those States
whose Constitution not only recognized the lawfulness of slavery, but
permitted the importation of slaves from Africa until the year 1808."

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