The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this
country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be
silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles--
right and wrong--throughout the world. They are the two principles
that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will
ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity,
and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in
whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says,
"You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it." No matter in
what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to
bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their
labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another
race, it is the same tyrannical principle. I was glad to express my
gratitude at Quincy, and I re-express it here, to Judge Douglas,--
that he looks to no end of the institution of slavery. That will
help the people to see where the struggle really is. It will
hereafter place with us all men who really do wish the wrong may have
an end. And whenever we can get rid of the fog which obscures the
real question, when we can get Judge Douglas and his friends to avow
a policy looking to its perpetuation,--we can get out from among that
class of men and bring them to the side of those who treat it as a
wrong. Then there will soon be an end of it, and that end will be
its "ultimate extinction." Whenever the issue can be distinctly
made, and all extraneous matter thrown out so that men can fairly see
the real difference between the parties, this controversy will soon
be settled, and it will be done peaceably too. There will be no war,
no violence. It will be placed again where the wisest and best men
of the world placed it. Brooks of South Carolina once declared that
when this Constitution was framed its framers did not look to the
institution existing until this day. When he said this, I think he
stated a fact that is fully borne out by the history of the times.
But he also said they were better and wiser men than the men of these
days, yet the men of these days had experience which they had not,
and by the invention of the cotton-gin it became a necessity in this
country that slavery should be perpetual. I now say that, willingly
or unwillingly--purposely or without purpose, Judge Douglas has been
the most prominent instrument in changing the position of the
institution of slavery,--which the fathers of the government expected
to come to an end ere this, and putting it upon Brooks's cotton-gin
basis; placing it where he openly confesses he has no desire there
shall ever be an end of it.

I understand I have ten minutes yet. I will employ it in saying
something about this argument Judge Douglas uses, while he sustains
the Dred Scott decision, that the people of the Territories can still
somehow exclude slavery. The first thing I ask attention to is the
fact that Judge Douglas constantly said, before the decision, that
whether they could or not, was a question for the Supreme Court. But
after the court had made the decision he virtually says it is not a
question for the Supreme Court, but for the people. And how is it he
tells us they can exclude it? He says it needs "police regulations,"
and that admits of "unfriendly legislation." Although it is a right
established by the Constitution of the United States to take a slave
into a Territory of the United States and hold him as property, yet
unless the Territorial Legislature will give friendly legislation,
and more especially if they adopt unfriendly legislation, they can
practically exclude him. Now, without meeting this proposition as a
matter of fact, I pass to consider the real constitutional
obligation. Let me take the gentleman who looks me in the face
before me, and let us suppose that he is a member of the Territorial
Legislature. The first thing he will do will be to swear that he
will support the Constitution of the United States. His neighbor by
his side in the Territory has slaves and needs Territorial
legislation to enable him to enjoy that constitutional right. Can he
withhold the legislation which his neighbor needs for the enjoyment
of a right which is fixed in his favor in the Constitution of the
United States which he has sworn to support? Can he withhold it
without violating his oath? And, more especially, can he pass
unfriendly legislation to violate his oath? Why, this is a monstrous
sort of talk about the Constitution of the United States! There has
never been as outlandish or lawless a doctrine from the mouth of any
respectable man on earth. I do not believe it is a constitutional
right to hold slaves in a Territory of the United States. I believe
the decision was improperly made and I go for reversing it. Judge
Douglas is furious against those who go for reversing a decision.
But he is for legislating it out of all force while the law itself
stands. I repeat that there has never been so monstrous a doctrine
uttered from the mouth of a respectable man.

I suppose most of us (I know it of myself) believe that the people of
the Southern States are entitled to a Congressional Fugitive Slave
law,--that is a right fixed in the Constitution. But it cannot be
made available to them without Congressional legislation. In the
Judge's language, it is a "barren right," which needs legislation
before it can become efficient and valuable to the persons to whom it
is guaranteed. And as the right is constitutional, I agree that the
legislation shall be granted to it, and that not that we like the
institution of slavery. We profess to have no taste for running and
catching niggers, at least, I profess no taste for that job at all.
Why then do I yield support to a Fugitive Slave law? Because I do
not understand that the Constitution, which guarantees that right,
can be supported without it. And if I believed that the right to
hold a slave in a Territory was equally fixed in the Constitution
with the right to reclaim fugitives, I should be bound to give it the
legislation necessary to support it. I say that no man can deny his
obligation to give the necessary legislation to support slavery in a
Territory, who believes it is a constitutional right to have it
there. No man can, who does not give the Abolitionists an argument
to deny the obligation enjoined by the Constitution to enact a
Fugitive State law. Try it now. It is the strongest Abolition
argument ever made. I say if that Dred Scott decision is correct,
then the right to hold slaves in a Territory is equally a
constitutional right with the right of a slaveholder to have his
runaway returned. No one can show the distinction between them. The
one is express, so that we cannot deny it. The other is construed to
be in the Constitution, so that he who believes the decision to be
correct believes in the right. And the man who argues that by
unfriendly legislation, in spite of that constitutional right,
slavery may be driven from the Territories, cannot avoid furnishing
an argument by which Abolitionists may deny the obligation to return
fugitives, and claim the power to pass laws unfriendly to the right
of the slaveholder to reclaim his fugitive. I do not know how such
an arguement may strike a popular assembly like this, but I defy
anybody to go before a body of men whose minds are educated to
estimating evidence and reasoning, and show that there is an iota of
difference between the constitutional right to reclaim a fugitive and
the constitutional right to hold a slave, in a Territory, provided
this Dred Scott decision is correct, I defy any man to make an
argument that will justify unfriendly legislation to deprive a
slaveholder of his right to hold his slave in a Territory, that will
not equally, in all its length, breadth, and thickness, furnish an
argument for nullifying the Fugitive Slave law. Why, there is not
such an Abolitionist in the nation as Douglas, after all!

End of Etext of The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Vol 4

THE WRITINGS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

VOLUME 5.

TO SYDNEY SPRING, GRAYVILLE, ILL.

SPRINGFIELD, June 19, 1858.

SYDNEY SPRING, Esq.

MY DEAR SIR:--Your letter introducing Mr. Faree was duly received.
There was no opening to nominate him for Superintendent of Public
Instruction, but through him Egypt made a most valuable contribution
to the convention. I think it may be fairly said that he came off the
lion of the day--or rather of the night. Can you not elect him to the
Legislature? It seems to me he would be hard to beat. What
objection could be made to him? What is your Senator Martin saying
and doing? What is Webb about?

Please write me.
Yours truly,

A. LINCOLN.

TO H. C. WHITNEY.

SPRINGFIELD, June 24, 1858

H. C. WHITNEY, ESQ.

DEAR SIR:--Your letter enclosing the attack of the Times upon me was
received this morning. Give yourself no concern about my voting
against the supplies. Unless you are without faith that a lie can be
successfully contradicted, there is not a word of truth in the
charge, and I am just considering a little as to the best shape to
put a contradiction in. Show this to whomever you please, but do not
publish it in the paper.

Your friend as ever,

A. LINCOLN.

TO J. W. SOMERS.

SPRINGFIELD, June 25, 1858.

JAMES W. SOMERS, Esq.

MY DEAR SIR:--Yours of the 22nd, inclosing a draft of two hundred
dollars, was duly received. I have paid it on the judgment, and
herewith you have the receipt. I do not wish to say anything as to
who shall be the Republican candidate for the Legislature in your
district, further than that I have full confidence in Dr. Hull. Have
you ever got in the way of consulting with McKinley in political
matters? He is true as steel, and his judgment is very good. The
last I heard from him, he rather thought Weldon, of De Witt, was our
best timber for representative, all things considered. But you there
must settle it among yourselves. It may well puzzle older heads than
yours to understand how, as the Dred Scott decision holds, Congress
can authorize a Territorial Legislature to do everything else, and
cannot authorize them to prohibit slavery. That is one of the things
the court can decide, but can never give an intelligible reason for.

Yours very truly,

A. LINCOLN.

TO A. CAMPBELL.

SPRINGFIELD, June 28, 1858.

A. CAMPBELL, Esq.

MY DEAR SIR:--In 1856 you gave me authority to draw on you for any
sum not exceeding five hundred dollars. I see clearly that such a
privilege would be more available now than it was then. I am aware
that times are tighter now than they were then. Please write me at
all events, and whether you can now do anything or not I shall
continue grateful for the past.

Yours very truly,

A. LINCOLN.

TO J. GILLESPIE.

SPRINGFIELD, July 16, 1858.

HON. JOSEPH GILLESPIE.

MY DEAR SIR:--I write this to say that from the specimens of Douglas
Democracy we occasionally see here from Madison, we learn that they
are making very confident calculation of beating you and your friends
for the lower house, in that county. They offer to bet upon it.
Billings and Job, respectively, have been up here, and were each as I
learn, talking largely about it. If they do so, it can only be done
by carrying the Fillmore men of 1856 very differently from what they
seem to [be] going in the other party. Below is the vote of 1856, in
your district:

Counties.

Counties. Buchanan. Fremont. Fillmore.
Bond ............ 607 153 659
Madison ......... 1451 1111 1658
Montgomery ...... 992 162 686
---- ---- ----
3050 1426 3003

By this you will see, if you go through the calculation, that if they
get one quarter of the Fillmore votes, and you three quarters, they
will beat you 125 votes. If they get one fifth, and you four fifths,
you beat them 179. In Madison, alone, if our friends get 1000 of the
Fillmore votes, and their opponents the remainder, 658, we win by
just two votes.

This shows the whole field, on the basis of the election of 1856.

Whether, since then, any Buchanan, or Fremonters, have shifted
ground, and how the majority of new votes will go, you can judge
better than I.

Of course you, on the ground, can better determine your line of
tactics than any one off the ground; but it behooves you to be wide
awake and actively working.

Don't neglect it; and write me at your first leisure.
Yours as ever,

A. LINCOLN.

TO JOHN MATHERS, JACKSONVILLE, ILL.

SPRINGFIELD, JULY 20, 1858.

JNO. MATHERS, Esq.

MY DEAR SIR:--Your kind and interesting letter of the 19th was duly
received. Your suggestions as to placing one's self on the offensive
rather than the defensive are certainly correct. That is a point
which I shall not disregard. I spoke here on Saturday night. The
speech, not very well reported, appears in the State journal of this
morning. You doubtless will see it; and I hope that you will
perceive in it that I am already improving. I would mail you a copy
now, but have not one [at] hand. I thank you for your letter and
shall be pleased to hear from you again.

Yours very truly,

A. LINCOLN.

TO JOSEPH GILLESPIE.

SPRINGFIELD, JULY 25, 1858.

HON. J. GILLESPIE.

MY DEAR SIR:--Your doleful letter of the 8th was received on my
return from Chicago last night. I do hope you are worse scared than
hurt, though you ought to know best. We must not lose the district.
We must make a job of it, and save it. Lay hold of the proper
agencies, and secure all the Americans you can, at once. I do hope,
on closer inspection, you will find they are not half gone. Make a
little test. Run down one of the poll-books of the Edwardsville
precinct, and take the first hundred known American names. Then
quietly ascertain how many of them are actually going for Douglas. I
think you will find less than fifty. But even if you find fifty,
make sure of the other fifty, that is, make sure of all you can, at
all events. We will set other agencies to work which shall
compensate for the loss of a good many Americans. Don't fail to
check the stampede at once. Trumbull, I think, will be with you
before long.

There is much he cannot do, and some he can. I have reason to hope
there will be other help of an appropriate kind. Write me again.

Yours as ever,

A. LINCOLN.

TO B. C. COOK.

SPRINGFIELD, Aug. 2, 1858.

Hon. B. C. COOK.

MY DEAR SIR:--I have a letter from a very true and intelligent man
insisting that there is a plan on foot in La Salle and Bureau to run
Douglas Republicans for Congress and for the Legislature in those
counties, if they can only get the encouragement of our folks
nominating pretty extreme abolitionists.

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