The Great Conspiracy

“I should like to know, taking this old Declaration of Independence,
which declares that all men are equal upon principle, and making
exceptions to it, where will it stop? If one man says it does not mean
a Negro, why not say it does not mean some other man? If that
Declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute Book, in which we
find it, and tear it out! Who is so bold as to do it? If it is not
true, let us tear it out!” [Cries of “No, no.”] “Let us stick to it
then; let us stand firmly by it, then. * * *

” * * * The Saviour, I suppose, did not expect that any human creature
could be perfect as the Father in Heaven; but He said, ‘As your Father
in Heaven is perfect, be ye also perfect.’ He set that up as a
standard, and he who did most toward reaching that standard, attained
the highest degree of moral perfection. So I say, in relation to the
principle that all men are created equal–let it be as nearly reached as
we can. If we cannot give Freedom to every creature, let us do nothing
that will impose Slavery upon any other creature. Let us then turn this
Government back into the channel in which the framers of the
Constitution originally placed it. Let us stand firmly by each other.
* * * Let us discard all this quibbling * * * and unite as one People
throughout this Land, until we shall once more stand up declaring that
all men are created equal.”

At Bloomington, July 16th (Mr. Lincoln being present), Judge Douglas
made another great speech of vindication and attack. After sketching
the history of the Kansas-Nebraska struggle, from the introduction by
himself of the Nebraska Bill in the United States Senate, in 1854, down
to the passage of the “English” Bill–which prescribed substantially
that if the people of Kansas would come in as a Slave-holding State,
they should be admitted with but 35,000 inhabitants; but if they would
come in as a Free State, they must have 93,420 inhabitants; which unfair
restriction was opposed by Judge Douglas, but to which after it became
law he “bowed in deference,” because whatever decision the people of
Kansas might make on the coming third of August would be “final and
conclusive of the whole question”–he proceeded to compliment the
Republicans in Congress, for supporting the Crittenden-Montgomery Bill–
for coming “to the Douglas platform, abandoning their own, believing (in
the language of the New York Tribune), that under the peculiar
circumstances they would in that mode best subserve the interests of the
Country;” and then again attacked Mr. Lincoln for his “unholy and
unnatural alliance” with the Lecompton-Democrats to defeat him, because
of which, said he: “You will find he does not say a word against the
Lecompton Constitution or its supporters. He is as silent as the grave
upon that subject. Behold Mr. Lincoln courting Lecompton votes, in
order that he may go to the Senate as the representative of Republican
principles! You know that the alliance exists. I think you will find
that it will ooze out before the contest is over.” Then with many
handsome compliments to the personal character of Mr. Lincoln, and
declaring that the question for decision was “whether his principles are
more in accordance with the genius of our free institutions, the peace
and harmony of the Republic” than those advocated by himself, Judge
Douglas proceeded to discuss what he described as “the two points at
issue between Mr. Lincoln and myself.”

Said he: “Although the Republic has existed from 1789 to this day,
divided into Free States and Slave States, yet we are told that in the
future it cannot endure unless they shall become all Free or all Slave.
* * * He wishes to go to the Senate of the United States in order to
carry out that line of public policy which will compel all the States in
the South to become Free. How is he going to do it? Has Congress any
power over the subject of Slavery in Kentucky or Virginia or any other
State of this Union? How, then, is Mr. Lincoln going to carry out that
principle which he says is essential to the existence of this Union, to
wit: That Slavery must be abolished in all the States of the Union or
must be established in them all? You convince the South that they must
either establish Slavery in Illinois and in every other Free State, or
submit to its abolition in every Southern State and you invite them to
make a warfare upon the Northern States in order to establish Slavery
for the sake of perpetuating it at home. Thus, Mr. Lincoln invites, by
his proposition, a War of Sections, a War between Illinois and Kentucky,
a War between the Free States and the Slave States, a War between the
North and South, for the purpose of either exterminating Slavery in
every Southern State or planting it in every Northern State. He tells
you that the safety of the Republic, that the existence of this Union,
depends upon that warfare being carried on until one Section or the
other shall be entirely subdued. The States must all be Free or Slave,
for a house divided against itself cannot stand. That is Mr. Lincoln’s
argument upon that question. My friends, is it possible to preserve
Peace between the North and the South if such a doctrine shall prevail
in either Section of the Union?

“Will you ever submit to a warfare waged by the Southern States to
establish Slavery in Illinois? What man in Illinois would not lose the
last drop of his heart’s blood before lie would submit to the
institution of Slavery being forced upon us by the other States against
our will? And if that be true of us, what Southern man would not shed
the last drop of his heart’s blood to prevent Illinois, or any other
Northern State, from interfering to abolish Slavery in his State? Each
of these States is sovereign under the Constitution; and if we wish to
preserve our liberties, the reserved rights and sovereignty of each and
every State must be maintained. * * * The difference between Mr.
Lincoln and myself upon this point is, that he goes for a combination of
the Northern States, or the organization of a sectional political party
in the Free States, to make War on the domestic institutions of the
Southern States, and to prosecute that War until they all shall be
subdued, and made to conform to such rules as the North shall dictate to

“I am aware that Mr. Lincoln, on Saturday night last, made a speech at
Chicago for the purpose, as he said, of explaining his position on this
question. * * * His answer to this point which I have been arguing,
is, that he never did mean, and that I ought to know that he never
intended to convey the idea, that he wished the people of
the Free States to enter into the Southern States and interfere with
Slavery. Well, I never did suppose that he ever dreamed of entering
into Kentucky, to make War upon her institutions, nor will any
Abolitionist ever enter into Kentucky to wage such War. Their mode of
making War is not to enter into those States where Slavery exists, and
there interfere, and render themselves responsible for the consequences.
Oh, no! They stand on this side of the Ohio River and shoot across.
They stand in Bloomington and shake their fists at the people of
Lexington; they threaten South Carolina from Chicago. And they call
that bravery! But they are very particular, as Mr. Lincoln says, not to
enter into those States for the purpose of interfering with the
institution of Slavery there. I am not only opposed to entering into
the Slave States, for the purpose of interfering with their
institutions, but I am opposed to a sectional agitation to control the
institutions of other States. I am opposed to organizing a sectional
party, which appeals to Northern pride, and Northern passion and
prejudice, against Southern institutions, thus stirring up ill feeling
and hot blood between brethren of the same Republic. I am opposed to
that whole system of sectional agitation, which can produce nothing but
strife, but discord, but hostility, and finally disunion. * * *

“I ask Mr. Lincoln how it is that he purposes ultimately to bring about
this uniformity in each and all the States of the Union? There is but
one possible mode which I can see, and perhaps Mr. Lincoln intends to
pursue it; that is, to introduce a proposition into the Senate to change
the Constitution of the United States in order that all the State
Legislatures may be abolished, State Sovereignty blotted out, and the
power conferred upon Congress to make local laws and establish the
domestic institutions and police regulations uniformly throughout the
United States.

“Are you prepared for such a change in the institutions of your country?
Whenever you shall have blotted out the State Sovereignties, abolished
the State Legislatures, and consolidated all the power in the Federal
Government, you will have established a Consolidated Empire as
destructive to the Liberties of the People and the Rights of the Citizen
as that of Austria, or Russia, or any other despotism that rests upon
the neck of the People. * * * There is but one possible way in which
Slavery can be abolished, and that is by leaving a State, according to
the principle of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, perfectly free to form and
regulate its institutions in its own way. That was the principle upon
which this Republic was founded, and it is under the operation of that
principle that we have been able to preserve the Union thus far under
its operation. Slavery disappeared from New Hampshire, from Rhode
Island, from Connecticut, from New York, from New Jersey, from
Pennsylvania, from six of the twelve original Slave-holding States; and
this gradual system of emancipation went on quietly, peacefully, and
steadily, so long as we in the Free States minded our own business, and
left our neighbors alone.

“But the moment the Abolition Societies were organized throughout the
North, preaching a violent crusade against Slavery in the Southern
States, this combination necessarily caused a counter-combination in the
South, and a sectional line was drawn which was a barrier to any further
emancipation. Bear in mind that emancipation has not taken place in any
one State since the Free Soil Party was organized as a political party
in this country. Emancipation went on gradually, in State after State,
so long as the Free States were content with managing their own affairs
and leaving the South perfectly free to do as they pleased; but the
moment the North said we are powerful enough to control you of the
South, the moment the North proclaimed itself the determined master of
the South, that moment the South combined to resist the attack, and thus
sectional parties were formed and gradual emancipation ceased in all the
Slave-holding States.

“And yet Mr. Lincoln, in view of these historical facts, proposes to
keep up this sectional agitation, band all the Northern States together
in one political Party, elect a President by Northern votes alone, and
then, of course, make a Cabinet composed of Northern men, and administer
the Government by Northern men only, denying all the Southern States of
this Union any participation in the administration of affairs
whatsoever. I submit to you, my fellow-citizens, whether such a line of
policy is consistent with the peace and harmony of the Country? Can the
Union endure under such a system of policy? He has taken his position
in favor of sectional agitation and sectional warfare. I have taken
mine in favor of securing peace, harmony, and good-will among all the
States, by permitting each to mind its own business, and
discountenancing any attempt at interference on the part of one State
with the domestic concerns of the others. * * *

“Mr. Lincoln tells you that he is opposed to the decision of the Supreme
Court in the Dred Scott case. Well, suppose he is; what is he going to
do about it? * * * Why, he says he is going to appeal to Congress. Let
us see how he will appeal to Congress. He tells us that on the 8th of
March, 1820, Congress passed a law called the Missouri Compromise,
prohibiting Slavery forever in all the territory west of the Mississippi
and north of the Missouri line of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes;
that Dred Scott, a slave in Missouri, was taken by his master to Fort
Snelling, in the present State of Minnesota, situated on the west branch
of the Mississippi River, and consequently in the Territory where
Slavery was prohibited by the Act of 1820; and that when Dred Scott
appealed for his Freedom in consequence of having been taken into that
Territory, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that Dred
Scott did not become Free by being taken into that Territory, but that
having been carried back to Missouri, was yet a Slave.

“Mr. Lincoln is going to appeal from that decision and reverse it. He
does not intend to reverse it as to Dred Scott. Oh, no! But he will
reverse it so that it shall not stand as a rule in the future. How will
he do it? He says that if he is elected to the Senate he will introduce
and pass a law just like the Missouri Compromise, prohibiting Slavery
again in all the Territories. Suppose he does re-enact the same law
which the Court has pronounced unconstitutional, will that make it
Constitutional? * * * Will it be any more valid? Will he be able to
convince the Court that the second Act is valid, when the first is
invalid and void? What good does it do to pass a second Act? Why, it
will have the effect to arraign the Supreme Court before the People, and
to bring them into all the political discussions of the Country. Will
that do any good? * * *

“The functions of Congress are to enact the Statutes, the province of
the Court is to pronounce upon their validity, and the duty of the
Executive is to carry the decision into effect when rendered by the
Court. And yet, notwithstanding the Constitution makes the decision of
the Court final in regard to the validity of an Act of Congress, Mr.
Lincoln is going to reverse that decision by passing another Act of
Congress. When he has become convinced of the Folly of the proposition,
perhaps he will resort to the same subterfuge that I have found others
of his Party resort to, which is to agitate and agitate until he can
change the Supreme Court and put other men in the places of the present

After ridiculing this proposition at some length, he proceeded:

“Mr. Lincoln is alarmed for fear that, under the Dred Scott decision,
Slavery will go into all the Territories of the United States. All I
have to say is that, with or without this decision, Slavery will go just
where the People want it, and not an inch further. * * * Hence, if the
People of a Territory want Slavery, they will encourage it by passing
affirmatory laws, and the necessary police regulations, patrol laws and
Slave Code; if they do not want it, they will withhold that legislation,
and, by withholding it, Slavery is as dead as if it was prohibited by a
Constitutional prohibition, especially if, in addition, their
legislation is unfriendly, as it would be if they were opposed to it.”

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