The Great Conspiracy

Mr. Lincoln then proceeded to take up the issues which Mr. Douglas had
joined with him the previous evening. He denied that he had said, or
that it could be fairly inferred from what he had said, in his
Springfield speech, that he was in favor of making War by the North upon
the South for the extinction of Slavery, “or, in favor of inviting the
South to a War upon the North, for the purpose of nationalizing
Slavery.” Said he: “I did not even say that I desired that Slavery
should be put in course of ultimate extinction. I do say so now,
however; so there need be no longer any difficulty about that. * * * I
am tolerably well acquainted with the history of the Country and I know
that it has endured eighty-two years half Slave and half Free. I
believe–and that is what I meant to allude to there–I believe it has
endured, because during all that time, until the introduction of the
Nebraska Bill, the public mind did rest all the, time in the belief that
Slavery was in course of ultimate extinction. That was what gave us the
rest that we had through that period of eighty-two years; at least, so I

“I have always hated Slavery, I think, as much as any Abolitionist–I
have been an Old Line Whig–I have always hated it, but I have always
been quiet about it until this new era of the introduction of the
Nebraska Bill began. I always believed that everybody was against it,
and that it was in course of ultimate extinction. * * * The great mass
of the Nation have rested in the belief that Slavery was in course of
ultimate extinction. They had reason so to believe. The adoption of
the Constitution and its attendant history led the People to believe so,
and that such was the belief of the framers of the Constitution itself.
Why did those old men about the time of the adoption of the Constitution
decree that Slavery should not go into the new territory, where it had
not already gone? Why declare that within twenty years the African
Slave Trade, by which Slaves are supplied, might be cut off by Congress?
Why were all these acts? I might enumerate more of these acts–but
enough. What were they but a clear indication that the framers of the
Constitution intended and expected the ultimate extinction of that

“And now, when I say, as I said in my speech that Judge Douglas has
quoted from, when I say that I think the opponents of Slavery will
resist the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind
shall rest with the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction,
I only mean to say, that they will place it where the founders of this
Government originally placed it. I have said a hundred times, and I
have now no inclination to take it back, that I believe there is no
right, and ought to be no inclination in the people of the Free States,
to enter into the Slave States, and interfere with the question of
Slavery at all. I have said that always; Judge Douglas has heard me say
it–if not quite a hundred times, at least as good as a hundred times;
and when it is said that I am in favor of interfering with Slavery where
it exists, I know that it is unwarranted by anything I have ever
intended, and as I believe, by anything I have ever said. If, by any
means, I have ever used language which could fairly be so construe (as,
however, I believe I never have) I now correct it. So much, then, for
the inference that Judge Douglas draws, that I am in favor of setting
the Sections at War with one another.

“Now in relation to his inference that I am in favor of a general
consolidation of all the local institutions of the various States * * *
I have said, very many times in Judge Douglas’s hearing, that no man
believed more than I in the principle of self-government from beginning
to end. I have denied that his use of that term applies properly. But
for the thing itself, I deny that any man has ever gone ahead of me in
his devotion to the principle, whatever he may have done in efficiency
in advocating it. I think that I have said it in your hearing–that I
believe each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with
himself and the fruit of his labor, so far as it in no wise interferes
with any other man’s rights–that each community, as a State, has a
right to do exactly as it pleases with all the concerns within that
State that interfere with the rights of no other State, and that the
General Government, upon principle, has no right to interfere with
anything other than that general class of things that does concern the
whole. I have said that at all times.

“I have said, as illustrations, that I do not believe in the right of
Illinois to interfere with the cranberry laws of Indiana, the oyster
laws of Virginia, or the liquor laws of Maine. I have said these things
over and over again, and I repeat them here as my sentiments. * * *
What can authorize him to draw any such inference? I suppose there
might be one thing that at least enabled him to draw such an inference
that would not be true with me or many others, that is, because he looks
upon all this matter of Slavery as an exceedingly little thing–this
matter of keeping one-sixth of the population of the whole Nation in a
state of oppression and tyranny unequaled in the World.

“He looks upon it as being an exceedingly little thing only equal to the
cranberry laws of Indiana–as something having no moral question in it–
as something on a par with the question of whether a man shall pasture
his land with cattle, or plant it with tobacco–so little and so small a
thing, that he concludes, if I could desire that anything should be done
to bring about the ultimate extinction of that little thing, I must be
in favor of bringing about an amalgamation of all the other little
things in the Union.

“Now it so happens–and there, I presume, is the foundation of this
mistake–that the Judge thinks thus; and it so happens that there is a
vast portion of the American People that do not look upon that matter as
being this very little thing. They look upon it as a vast moral evil;
they can prove it as such by the writings of those who gave us the
blessings of Liberty which we enjoy, and that they so looked upon it,
and not as an evil merely confining itself to the States where it is
situated; while we agree that, by the Constitution we assented to, in
the States where it exists we have no right to interfere with it,
because it is in the Constitution; and we are by both duty and
inclination to stick by that Constitution in all its letter and spirit,
from beginning to end. * * * The Judge can have no issue with me on a
question of establishing uniformity in the domestic regulations of the
States. * * *

“Another of the issues he says that is to be made with me, is upon his
devotion to the Dred Scott decision, and my opposition to it. I have
expressed heretofore, and I now repeat, my opposition to the Dred Scott
decision; but I should be allowed to state the nature of that
opposition. * * * What is fairly implied by the term Judge Douglas has
used, ‘resistance to the decision?’ I do not resist it. If I wanted to
take Dred Scott from his master, I would be interfering with property
and that terrible difficulty that Judge Douglas speaks of, of
interfering with property, would arise. But I am doing no such thing as
that, but all that I am doing is refusing to obey it, as a political
rule. If I were in Congress, and a vote should come up on a question
whether Slavery should be prohibited in a new Territory, in spite of the
Dred Scott decision, I would vote that it should. That is what I would

“Judge Douglas said last night, that before the decision he might
advance his opinion, and it might be contrary to the decision when it
was made; but after it was made, he would abide by it until it was
reversed. Just so! We let this property abide by the decision, but we
will try to reverse that decision. We will try to put it where Judge
Douglas would not object, for he says he will obey it until it is
reversed. Somebody has to reverse that decision, since it is made, and
we mean to reverse it, and we mean to do it peaceably.

“What are the uses of decisions of Courts? They have two uses. As
rules of property they have two uses. First, they decide upon the
question before the Court. They decide in this case that Dred Scott is
a Slave. Nobody resists that. Not only that, but they say to everybody
else, that persons standing just as Dred Scott stands, are as he is.
That is, they say that when a question comes up upon another person, it
will be so decided again, unless the Court decides in another way–
unless the Court overrules its decision.–Well, we mean to do what we
can to have the Court decide the other way. That is one thing we mean
to try to do.

“The sacredness that Judge Douglas throws around this decision is a
degree of sacredness that has never before been thrown around any other
decision. I have never heard of such a thing. Why, decisions
apparently contrary to that decision, or that good lawyers thought were
contrary to that decision, have been made by that very Court before. It
is the first of its kind; it is an astonisher in legal history. It is a
new wonder of the world. It is based upon falsehood in the main as to
the facts–allegations of facts upon which it stands are not facts at
all in many instances; and no decision made on any question–the first
instance of a decision made under so many unfavorable circumstances–
thus placed, has ever been held by the profession as law, and it has
always needed confirmation before the lawyers regarded it as settled
law. But Judge Douglas will have it that all hands must take this
extraordinary decision, made under these extraordinary circumstances,
and give their vote in Congress in accordance with it, yield to it and
obey it in every possible sense.

“Circumstances alter cases. Do not gentlemen remember the case of that
same Supreme Court, some twenty-five or thirty years ago, deciding that
a National Bank was Constitutional? * * * The Bank charter ran out,
and a recharter was granted by Congress. That re-charter was laid
before General Jackson. It was urged upon him, when he denied the
Constitutionality of the Bank, that the Supreme Court had decided that
it was Constitutional; and General Jackson then said that the Supreme
Court had no right to lay down a rule to govern a co-ordinate branch of
the Government, the members of which had sworn to support the
Constitution–that each member had sworn to support that Constitution as
he understood it. I will venture here to say, that I have heard Judge
Douglas say that he approved of General Jackson for that act. What has
now become of all his tirade about ‘resistance to the Supreme Court?'”

After adverting to Judge Douglas’s warfare on “the leaders” of the
Republican party, and his desire to have “it understood that the mass of
the Republican party are really his friends,” Mr. Lincoln said: “If you
indorse him, you tell him you do not care whether Slavery be voted up or
down, and he will close, or try to close, your mouths with his
declaration repeated by the day, the week, the month, and the year. Is
that what you mean? * * * Now I could ask the Republican party, after
all the hard names that Judge Douglas has called them by, all his
repeated charges of their inclination to marry with and hug negroes–all
his declarations of Black Republicanism–by the way, we are improving,
the black has got rubbed off–but with all that, if he be indorsed by
Republican votes, where do you stand? Plainly, you stand ready saddled,
bridled, and harnessed, and waiting to be driven over to the Slavery-
extension camp of the Nation–just ready to be driven over, tied
together in a lot–to be driven over, every man with a rope around his
neck, that halter being held by Judge Douglas. That is the question.
If Republican men have been in earnest in what they have done, I think
that they has better not do it. * * *

“We were often–more than once at least–in the course of Judge
Douglas’s speech last night, reminded that this Government was made for
White men–that he believed it was made for White men. Well, that is
putting it in a shape in which no one wants to deny it; but the Judge
then goes into his passion for drawing inferences that are not
warranted. I protest, now and forever, against that counterfeit logic
which presumes that because I do not want a Negro woman for a Slave I do
necessarily want her for a wife. My understanding is that I need not
have her for either; but, as God has made us separate, we can leave one
another alone, and do one another much good thereby. There are White
men enough to marry all the White women, and enough Black men to marry
all the Black women, and in God’s name let them be so married. The
Judge regales us with the terrible enormities that take place by the
mixture of races; that the inferior race bears the superior down. Why,
Judge, if we do not let them get together in the Territories, they won’t
mix there.

” * * * Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be
treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as
much is to be done for them as their condition will allow–what are
these arguments? They are the arguments that Kings have made for
enslaving the People in all ages of the World. You will find that all
the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always
bestrode the necks of the People, not that they wanted to do it, but
because the People were better off for being ridden! That is their
argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old Serpent that
says: you work, and I eat; you toil, and I will enjoy the fruits of it.

“Turn it whatever way you will–whether it come from the mouth of a
King, an excuse for enslaving the People of his Country, or from the
mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another
race, it is all the same old Serpent; and I hold, if that course of
argumentation that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind
that we should not care about this, should be granted, it does not stop
with the Negro.

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