The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

This is the entire quotation brought forward to prove that somebody
previous to three years ago had said the negro was not included in
the term “all men” in the Declaration. How does it do so? In what
way has it a tendency to prove that? Mr. Clay says it is true as an
abstract principle that all men are created equal, but that we cannot
practically apply it in all eases. He illustrates this by bringing
forward the cases of females, minors, and insane persons, with whom
it cannot be enforced; but he says it is true as an abstract
principle in the organization of society as well as in organized
society and it should be kept in view as a fundamental principle.
Let me read a few words more before I add some comments of my own.
Mr. Clay says, a little further on:

“I desire no concealment of my opinions in regard to the institution
of slavery. I look upon it as a great evil, and deeply lament that
we have derived it from the parental government and from our
ancestors. I wish every slave in the United States was in the
country of his ancestors. But here they are, and the question is,
How can they be best dealt with? If a state of nature existed, and
we were about to lay the foundations of society, no man would be more
strongly opposed than I should be to incorporate the institution of
slavery amongst its elements.”

Now, here in this same book, in this same speech, in this same
extract, brought forward to prove that Mr. Clay held that the negro
was not included in the Declaration of Independence, is no such
statement on his part, but the declaration that it is a great
fundamental truth which should be constantly kept in view in the
organization of society and in societies already organized. But if I
say a word about it; if I attempt, as Mr. Clay said all good men
ought to do, to keep it in view; if, in this “organized society,” I
ask to have the public eye turned upon it; if I ask, in relation to
the organization of new Territories, that the public eye should be
turned upon it, forthwith I am vilified as you hear me to-day. what
have I done that I have not the license of Henry Clay’s illustrious
example here in doing? Have I done aught that I have not his
authority for, while maintaining that in organizing new Territories
and societies this fundamental principle should be regarded, and in
organized society holding it up to the public view and recognizing
what he recognized as the great principle of free government?

And when this new principle–this new proposition that no human being
ever thought of three years ago–is brought forward, I combat it as
having an evil tendency, if not an evil design. I combat it as
having a tendency to dehumanize the negro, to take away from him the
right of ever striving to be a man. I combat it as being one of the
thousand things constantly done in these days to prepare the public
mind to make property, and nothing but property, of the negro in all
the States of this Union.

But there is a point that I wish, before leaving this part of the
discussion, to ask attention to. I have read and I repeat the words
of Henry Clay:

“I desire no concealment of my opinions in regard to the institution
of slavery. I look upon it as a great evil, and deeply lament that
we have derived it from the parental government and from our
ancestors. I wish every slave in the United States was in the
country of his ancestors. But here they are, and the question is,
How can they be best dealt with? If a state of nature existed, and
we were about to lay the foundations of society, no man would be more
strongly opposed than I should be to incorporate the institution of
slavery amongst its elements.”

The principle upon which I have insisted in this canvass is in
relation to laying the foundations of new societies. I have never
sought to apply these principles to the old States for the purpose of
abolishing slavery in those States. It is nothing but a miserable
perversion of what I have said, to assume that I have declared
Missouri, or any other slave State, shall emancipate her slaves; I
have proposed no such thing. But when Mr. Clay says that in laying
the foundations of society in our Territories where it does not
exist, he would be opposed to the introduction of slavery as an
element, I insist that we have his warrant–his license–for
insisting upon the exclusion of that element which he declared in
such strong and emphatic language was most hurtful to him.

Judge Douglas has again referred to a Springfield speech in which I
said “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” The Judge has so
often made the entire quotation from that speech that I can make it
from memory. I used this language:

“We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with
the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to the
slavery agitation. Under the operation of this policy, that
agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In
my opinion it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached
and passed. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe
this government cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free.
I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to
be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either
the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and
place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in
the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it
forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as
well as new, North as well as South.”

That extract and the sentiments expressed in it have been extremely
offensive to Judge Douglas. He has warred upon them as Satan wars
upon the Bible. His perversions upon it are endless. Here now are
my views upon it in brief:

I said we were now far into the fifth year since a policy was
initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an
end to the slavery agitation. Is it not so? When that Nebraska Bill
was brought forward four years ago last January, was it not for the
“avowed object” of putting an end to the slavery agitation? We were
to have no more agitation in Congress; it was all to be banished to
the Territories. By the way, I will remark here that, as Judge
Douglas is very fond of complimenting Mr. Crittenden in these days,
Mr. Crittenden has said there was a falsehood in that whole business,
for there was no slavery agitation at that time to allay. We were
for a little while quiet on the troublesome thing, and that very
allaying plaster of Judge Douglas’s stirred it up again. But was it
not understood or intimated with the “confident promise” of putting
an end to the slavery agitation? Surely it was. In every speech you
heard Judge Douglas make, until he got into this “imbroglio,” as they
call it, with the Administration about the Lecompton Constitution,
every speech on that Nebraska Bill was full of his felicitations that
we were just at the end of the slavery agitation. The last tip of
the last joint of the old serpent’s tail was just drawing out of
view. But has it proved so? I have asserted that under that policy
that agitation “has not only not ceased, but has constantly
augmented.” When was there ever a greater agitation in Congress than
last winter? When was it as great in the country as to-day?

There was a collateral object in the introduction of that Nebraska
policy, which was to clothe the people of the Territories with a
superior degree of self-government, beyond what they had ever had
before. The first object and the main one of conferring upon the
people a higher degree of “self-government” is a question of fact to
be determined by you in answer to a single question. Have you ever
heard or known of a people anywhere on earth who had as little to do
as, in the first instance of its use, the people of Kansas had with
this same right of “self-government “? In its main policy and in its
collateral object, it has been nothing but a living, creeping lie
from the time of its introduction till to-day.

I have intimated that I thought the agitation would not cease until a
crisis should have been reached and passed. I have stated in what
way I thought it would be reached and passed. I have said that it
might go one way or the other. We might, by arresting the further
spread of it, and placing it where the fathers originally placed it,
put it where the public mind should rest in the belief that it was in
the course of ultimate extinction. Thus the agitation may cease. It
may be pushed forward until it shall become alike lawful in all the
States, old as well as new, North as well as South. I have said, and
I repeat, my wish is that the further spread of it may be arrested,
and that it may be where the public mind shall rest in the belief
that it is in the course of ultimate extinction–I have expressed
that as my wish I entertain the opinion, upon evidence sufficient to
my mind, that the fathers of this government placed that institution
where the public mind did rest in the belief that it was in the
course of ultimate extinction. Let me ask why they made provision
that the source of slavery–the African slave-trade–should be cut
off at the end of twenty years? Why did they make provision that in
all the new territory we owned at that time slavery should be forever
inhibited? Why stop its spread in one direction, and cut off its
source in another, if they did not look to its being placed in the
course of its ultimate extinction?

Again: the institution of slavery is only mentioned in the
Constitution of the United States two or three times, and in neither
of these cases does the word “slavery” or “negro race” occur; but
covert language is used each time, and for a purpose full of
significance. What is the language in regard to the prohibition of
the African slave-trade? It runs in about this way:

“The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States
now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by
the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight.”

The next allusion in the Constitution to the question of slavery and
the black race is on the subject of the basis of representation, and
there the language used is:

“Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the
several States which may be included within this Union, according to
their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the
whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a
term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all
other persons.”

It says “persons,” not slaves, not negroes; but this “three-fifths”
can be applied to no other class among us than the negroes.

Lastly, in the provision for the reclamation of fugitive slaves, it
is said:

“No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws
thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or
regulation therein be discharged from such service or labor, but
shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or
labor may be due.”

There again there is no mention of the word “negro” or of slavery.
In all three of these places, being the only allusions to slavery in
the instrument, covert language is used. Language is used not
suggesting that slavery existed or that the black race were among us.
And I understand the contemporaneous history of those times to be
that covert language was used with a purpose, and that purpose was
that in our Constitution, which it was hoped and is still hoped will
endure forever,–when it should be read by intelligent and patriotic
men, after the institution of slavery had passed from among us,–
there should be nothing on the face of the great charter of liberty
suggesting that such a thing as negro slavery had ever existed among
us. This is part of the evidence that the fathers of the government
expected and intended the institution of slavery to come to an end.
They expected and intended that it should be in the course of
ultimate extinction. And when I say that I desire to see the further
spread of it arrested, I only say I desire to see that done which the
fathers have first done. When I say I desire to see it placed where
the public mind will rest in the belief that it is in the course of
ultimate extinction, I only say I desire to see it placed where they
placed it. It is not true that our fathers, as Judge Douglas
assumes, made this government part slave and part free. Understand
the sense in which he puts it. He assumes that slavery is a rightful
thing within itself,–was introduced by the framers of the
Constitution. The exact truth is, that they found the institution
existing among us, and they left it as they found it. But in making
the government they left this institution with many clear marks of
disapprobation upon it. They found slavery among them, and they left
it among them because of the difficulty–the absolute impossibility–
of its immediate removal. And when Judge Douglas asks me why we
cannot let it remain part slave and part free, as the fathers of the
government made it, he asks a question based upon an assumption which
is itself a falsehood; and I turn upon him and ask him the question,
when the policy that the fathers of the government had adopted in
relation to this element among us was the best policy in the world,
the only wise policy, the only policy that we can ever safely
continue upon that will ever give us peace, unless this dangerous
element masters us all and becomes a national institution,–I turn
upon him and ask him why he could not leave it alone. I turn and ask
him why he was driven to the necessity of introducing a new policy in
regard to it. He has himself said he introduced a new policy. He
said so in his speech on the 22d of March of the present year, 1858.
I ask him why he could not let it remain where our fathers placed it.
I ask, too, of Judge Douglas and his friends why we shall not again
place this institution upon the basis on which the fathers left it.
I ask you, when he infers that I am in favor of setting the free and
slave States at war, when the institution was placed in that attitude
by those who made the Constitution, did they make any war? If we had
no war out of it when thus placed, wherein is the ground of belief
that we shall have war out of it if we return to that policy? Have
we had any peace upon this matter springing from any other basis? I
maintain that we have not. I have proposed nothing more than a
return to the policy of the fathers.

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 | View All | Next -»