The Great Conspiracy

Then, taking up what he said was “Mr. Lincoln’s main objection to the
Dred Scott decision,” to wit: “that that decision deprives the Negro of
the benefits of that clause of the Constitution of the United States
which entitles the citizens of each State to all the privileges and
immunities of citizens of the several States,” and admitting that such
would be its effect, Mr. Douglas contended at some length that this
Government was “founded on the White basis” for the benefit of the
Whites and their posterity. He did “not believe that it was the design
or intention of the signers of the Declaration of Independence or the
frames of the Constitution to include Negroes, Indians, or other
inferior races, with White men as citizens;” nor that the former “had
any reference to Negroes, when they used the expression that all men
were created equal,” nor to “any other inferior race.” He held that,
“They were speaking only of the White race, and never dreamed that their
language would be construed to apply to the Negro;” and after ridiculing
the contrary view, insisted that, “The history of the Country shows that
neither the signers of the Declaration, nor the Framers of the
Constitution, ever supposed it possible that their language would be
used in an attempt to make this Nation a mixed Nation of Indians,
Negroes, Whites, and Mongrels.”

The “Fathers proceeded on the White basis, making the White people the
governing race, but conceding to the Indian and Negro, and all inferior
races, all the rights and all the privileges they could enjoy consistent
with the safety of the society in which they lived. That,” said he, “is
my opinion now. I told you that humanity, philanthropy, justice, and
sound policy required that we should give the Negro every right, every
privilege, every immunity consistent with the safety and welfare of the
State. The question, then, naturally arises, what are those rights and
privileges, and what is the nature and extent of them? My answer is,
that that is a question which each State and each Territory must decide
for itself. * * * I am content with that position. My friend Lincoln
is not. * * * He thinks that the Almighty made the Negro his equal and
his brother. For my part I do not consider the Negro any kin to me, nor
to any other White man; but I would still carry my humanity and my
philanthropy to the extent of giving him every privilege and every
immunity that he could enjoy, consistent with our own good.”

After again referring to the principles connected with non-interference
in the domestic institutions of the States and Territories, and to the
devotion of all his energies to them “since 1850, when,” said he, “I
acted side by side with the immortal Clay and the god-like Webster, in
that memorable struggle in which Whigs and Democrats united upon a
common platform of patriotism and the Constitution, throwing aside
partisan feelings in order to restore peace and harmony to a distracted
Country”–he alluded to the death-bed of Clay, and the pledges made by
himself to both Clay and Webster to devote his own life to the
vindication of the principles of that Compromise of 1850 as a means of
preserving the Union; and concluded with this appeal: “This Union can
only be preserved by maintaining the fraternal feeling between the North
and the South, the East and the West. If that good feeling can be
preserved, the Union will be as perpetual as the fame of its great
founders. It can be maintained by preserving the sovereignty of the
States, the right of each State and each Territory to settle its
domestic concerns for itself, and the duty of each to refrain from
interfering with the other in any of its local or domestic institutions.
Let that be done, and the Union will be perpetual; let that be done, and
this Republic, which began with thirteen States and which now numbers
thirty-two, which when it began, only extended from the Atlantic to the
Mississippi, but now reaches to the Pacific, may yet expand, North and
South, until it covers the whole Continent, and becomes one vast ocean-
bound Confederacy. Then, my friends, the path of duty, of honor, of
patriotism, is plain. There are a few simple principles to be
preserved. Bear in mind the dividing line between State rights and
Federal authority; let us maintain the great principles of Popular
Sovereignty, of State rights and of the Federal Union as the
Constitution has made it, and this Republic will endure forever.”

On the next evening, July 17th, at Springfield, both Douglas and Lincoln
addressed separate meetings.

After covering much the same ground with regard to the history of the
Kansas-Nebraska struggle and his own attitude upon it, as he did in his
previous speech, Mr. Douglas declined to comment upon Mr. Lincoln’s
intimation of a Conspiracy between Douglas, Pierce, Buchanan, and Taney
for the passage of the Nebraska Bill, the rendition of the Dred Scott
decision, and the extension of Slavery, but proceeded to dilate on the
“uniformity” issue between himself and Mr. Lincoln, in much the same
strain as before, tersely summing up with the statement that “there is a
distinct issue of principles–principles irreconcilable–between Mr.
Lincoln and myself. He goes for consolidation and uniformity in our
Government. I go for maintaining the Confederation of the Sovereign
States under the Constitution, as our fathers made it, leaving each
State at liberty to manage its own affairs and own internal

He then ridiculed, at considerable length, Mr. Lincoln’s proposed
methods of securing a reversal by the United States Supreme Court of the
Dred Scott decision–especially that of an “appeal to the People to
elect a President who will appoint judges who will reverse the Dred
Scott decision,” which he characterized as “a proposition to make that
Court the corrupt, unscrupulous tool of a political party,” and asked,
“when we refuse to abide by Judicial decisions, what protection is there
left for life and property? To whom shall you appeal? To mob law, to
partisan caucuses, to town meetings, to revolution? Where is the remedy
when you refuse obedience to the constituted authorities?” In other
respects the speech was largely a repetition of his Bloomington speech.

Mr. Lincoln in his speech, the same night, at Springfield, opened by
contrasting the disadvantages under which, by reason of an unfair
apportionment of State Legislative representation and otherwise, the
Republicans of Illinois labored in this fight. Among other
disadvantages–whereby he said the Republicans were forced “to fight
this battle upon principle and upon principle alone”–were those which
he said arose “out of the relative positions of the two persons who
stand before the State as candidates for the Senate.”

Said he: “Senator Douglas is of world-wide renown. All the anxious
politicians of his Party, or who have been of his Party for years past,
have been looking upon him as certainly, at no distant day, to be the
President of the United States. They have seen in his round, jolly,
fruitful face, Post-offices, Land-offices, Marshalships, and Cabinet
appointments, Chargeships and Foreign Missions, bursting and sprouting
out in wonderful exuberance, ready to be laid hold of by their greedy
hands. And as they have been gazing upon this attractive picture so
long, they cannot, in the little distraction that has taken place in the
party, bring themselves to give up the charming hope; but with greedier
anxiety they rush about him, sustain him, and give him marches,
triumphal entries, and receptions, beyond what even in the days of his
highest prosperity they could have brought about in his favor. On the
contrary, nobody has ever expected me to be President. In my poor,
lean, lank face, nobody has ever seen that any cabbages were sprouting

Then he described the main points of Senator Douglas’s plan of campaign
as being not very numerous. “The first,” he said, “is Popular
Sovereignty. The second and third are attacks upon my speech made on
the 16th of June. Out of these three points-drawing within the range of
Popular Sovereignty the question of the Lecompton Constitution–he makes
his principal assault. Upon these his successive speeches are
substantially one and the same.” Touching the first point, “Popular
Sovereignty”–“the great staple” of Mr. Douglas’s campaign–Mr. Lincoln
affirmed that it was “the most arrant Quixotism that was ever enacted
before a community.”

He said that everybody understood that “we have not been in a
controversy about the right of a People to govern themselves in the
ordinary matters of domestic concern in the States and Territories;”
that, “in this controversy, whatever has been said has had reference to
the question of Negro Slavery;” and “hence,” said he, “when hereafter I
speak of Popular Sovereignty, I wish to be understood as applying what I
say to the question of Slavery only; not to other minor domestic matters
of a Territory or a State.”

Having cleared away the cobwebs, Mr. Lincoln proceeded:

“Does Judge Douglas, when he says that several of the past years of his
life have been devoted to the question of ‘Popular Sovereignty’ * * *
mean to say that he has been devoting his life to securing the People of
the Territories the right to exclude Slavery from the Territories? If
he means so to say, he means to deceive; because he and every one knows
that the decision of the Supreme Court, which he approves, and makes
special ground of attack upon me for disapproving, forbids the People of
a Territory to exclude Slavery.

“This covers the whole ground from the settlement of a Territory till it
reaches the degree of maturity entitling it to form a State
Constitution. * * * This being so, the period of time from the first
settlement of a Territory till it reaches the point of forming a State
Constitution, is not the thing that the Judge has fought for, or is
fighting for; but, on the contrary, he has fought for, and is fighting
for, the thing that annihilates and crushes out that same Popular
Sovereignty. Well, so much being disposed of, what is left? Why, he is
contending for the right of the People, when they come to make a State
Constitution, to make it for themselves, and precisely as best suits
themselves. I say again, that is Quixotic. I defy contradiction when I
declare that the Judge can find no one to oppose him on that
proposition. I repeat, there is nobody opposing that proposition on
principle. * * * Nobody is opposing, or has opposed, the right of the
People when they form a State Constitution, to form it for themselves.
Mr. Buchanan and his friends have not done it; they, too, as well as the
Republicans and the Anti-Lecompton Democrats, have not done it; but on
the contrary, they together have insisted on the right of the People to
form a Constitution for themselves. The difference between the Buchanan
men, on the one hand, and the Douglas men and the Republicans, on the
other, has not been on a question of principle, but on a question of
fact * * * whether the Lecompton Constitution had been fairly formed by
the People or not. * * * As to the principle, all were agreed.

“Judge Douglas voted with the Republicans upon that matter of fact. He
and they, by their voices and votes, denied that it was a fair emanation
of the People. The Administration affirmed that it was. * * * This
being so, what is Judge Douglas going to spend his life for? Is he
going to spend his life in maintaining a principle that no body on earth
opposes? Does he expect to stand up in majestic dignity and go through
his apotheosis and become a god, in the maintaining of a principle which
neither man nor mouse in all God’s creation is opposing?”

After ridiculing the assumption that Judge Douglas was entitled to all
the credit for the defeat of the Lecompton Constitution in the House of
Representatives–when the defeating vote numbered 120, of which 6 were
Americans, 20 Douglas (or Anti-Lecompton) Democrats, and 94 Republicans
–and hinting that perhaps he placed “his superior claim to credit, on
the ground that he performed a good act which was never expected of
him,” or “upon the ground of the parable of the lost sheep,” of which it
had been said, “that there was more rejoicing over the one sheep that
was lost and had been found, than over the ninety and nine in the fold–
” he added: “The application is made by the Saviour in this parable,
thus: ‘Verily, I say unto you, there is more rejoicing in Heaven over
one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons that
need no repentance.’ And now if the Judge claims the benefit of this
parable, let him repent. Let him not come up here and say: ‘I am the
only just person; and you are the ninety-nine sinners!’ Repentance
before forgiveness is a provision of the Christian system, and on that
condition alone will the Republicans grant his forgiveness.”

After complaining that Judge Douglas misrepresented his attitude as
indicated in his 16th of June speech at Springfield, in charging that he
invited “a War of Sections;”–that he proposed that “all the local
institutions of the different States shall become consolidated and
uniform,” Mr. Lincoln denied that that speech could fairly bear such

In that speech he (Mr. L.) had simply expressed an expectation that
“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.” Since then, at Chicago, he had also
expressed a “wish to see the spread of Slavery arrested, and to see it
placed where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the
course of ultimate extinction”–and, said he: “I said that, because I
supposed, when the public mind shall rest in that belief, we shall have
Peace on the Slavery question. I have believed–and now believe–the
public mind did rest on that belief up to the introduction of the
Nebraska Bill. Although I have ever been opposed to Slavery, so far I
rested in the hope and belief that it was in the course of ultimate
extinction. For that reason, it had been a minor question with me. I
might have been mistaken; but I had believed, and now believe, that the
whole public mind, that is, the mind of the great majority, had rested
in that belief up to the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise. But upon
that event, I became convinced that either I had been resting in a
delusion, or the institution was being placed on a new basis–a basis
for making it Perpetual, National, and Universal. Subsequent events
have greatly confirmed me in that belief.

“I believe that Bill to be the beginning of a Conspiracy for that
purpose. So believing, I have since then considered that question a
paramount one. So believing, I thought the public mind would never rest
till the power of Congress to restrict the spread of it shall again be
acknowledged and exercised on the one hand, or, on the other, all
resistance be entirely crushed out. I have expressed that opinion and I
entertain it to-night.”

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