The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

Let us attend to that argument for a little while and see if it be
sound. You do not raise sugar-cane (except the new-fashioned
sugar-cane, and you won’t raise that long), but they do raise it in
Louisiana. You don’t raise it in Ohio, because you can’t raise it
profitably, because the climate don’t suit it. They do raise it in
Louisiana, because there it is profitable. Now, Douglas will tell
you that is precisely the slavery question: that they do have slaves
there because they are profitable, and you don’t have them here
because they are not profitable. If that is so, then it leads to
dealing with the one precisely as with the other. Is there, then,
anything in the constitution or laws of Ohio against raising
sugar-cane? Have you found it necessary to put any such provision in
your law? Surely not! No man desires to raise sugar-cane in Ohio,
but if any man did desire to do so, you would say it was a tyrannical
law that forbids his doing so; and whenever you shall agree with
Douglas, whenever your minds are brought to adopt his argument, as
surely you will have reached the conclusion that although it is not
profitable in Ohio, if any man wants it, is wrong to him not to let
him have it.

In this matter Judge Douglas is preparing the public mind for you of
Kentucky to make perpetual that good thing in your estimation, about
which you and I differ.

In this connection, let me ask your attention to another thing. I
believe it is safe to assert that five years ago no living man had
expressed the opinion that the negro had no share in the Declaration
of Independence. Let me state that again: five years ago no living
man had expressed the opinion that the negro had no share in the
Declaration of Independence. If there is in this large audience any
man who ever knew of that opinion being put upon paper as much as
five years ago, I will be obliged to him now or at a subsequent time
to show it.

If that be true I wish you then to note the next fact: that within
the space of five years Senator Douglas, in the argument of this
question, has got his entire party, so far as I know, without
exception, in saying that the negro has no share in the Declaration
of Independence. If there be now in all these United States one
Douglas man that does not say this, I have been unable upon any
occasion to scare him up. Now, if none of you said this five years
ago, and all of you say it now, that is a matter that you Kentuckians
ought to note. That is a vast change in the Northern public
sentiment upon that question.

Of what tendency is that change? The tendency of that change is to
bring the public mind to the conclusion that when men are spoken of,
the negro is not meant; that when negroes are spoken of, brutes alone
are contemplated. That change in public sentiment has already
degraded the black man in the estimation of Douglas and his followers
from the condition of a man of some sort, and assigned him to the
condition of a brute. Now, you Kentuckians ought to give Douglas
credit for this. That is the largest possible stride that can be
made in regard to the perpetuation of your thing of slavery.

A voice: Speak to Ohio men, and not to Kentuckians!

Mr. LINCOLN: I beg permission to speak as I please.

In Kentucky perhaps, in many of the slave States certainly, you are
trying to establish the rightfulness of slavery by reference to the
Bible. You are trying to show that slavery existed in the Bible
times by divine ordinance. Now, Douglas is wiser than you, for your
own benefit, upon that subject. Douglas knows that whenever you
establish that slavery was–right by the Bible, it will occur that
that slavery was the slavery of the white man, of men without
reference to color; and he knows very well that you may entertain
that idea in Kentucky as much as you please, but you will never win
any Northern support upon it. He makes a wiser argument for you: he
makes the argument that the slavery of the black man; the slavery of
the man who has a skin of a different color from your own, is right.
He thereby brings to your support Northern voters who could not for a
moment be brought by your own argument of the Bible right of slavery.
Will you give him credit for that? Will you not say that in this
matter he is more wisely for you than you are for yourselves?

Now, having established with his entire party this doctrine, having
been entirely successful in that branch of his efforts in your
behalf, he is ready for another.

At this same meeting at Memphis he declared that in all contests
between the negro and the white man he was for the white man, but
that in all questions between the negro and the crocodile he was for
the negro. He did not make that declaration accidentally at Memphis.
He made it a great many times in the canvass in Illinois last year
(though I don’t know that it was reported in any of his speeches
there, but he frequently made it). I believe he repeated it at
Columbus, and I should not wonder if be repeated it here. It is,
then, a deliberate way of expressing himself upon that subject. It
is a matter of mature deliberation with him thus to express himself
upon that point of his case. It therefore requires deliberate

The first inference seems to be that if you do not enslave the negro,
you are wronging the white man in some way or other, and that whoever
is opposed to the negro being enslaved, is, in some way or other,
against the white man. Is not that a falsehood? If there was a
necessary conflict between the white man and the negro, I should be
for the white man as much as Judge Douglas; but I say there is no
such necessary conflict. I say that there is room enough for us all
to be free, and that it not only does not wrong the white man that
the negro should be free, but it positively wrongs the mass of the
white men that the negro should be enslaved; that the mass of white
men are really injured by the effects of slave labor in the vicinity
of the fields of their own labor.

But I do not desire to dwell upon this branch of the question more
than to say that this assumption of his is false, and I do hope that
that fallacy will not long prevail in the minds of intelligent white
men. At all events, you ought to thank Judge Douglas for it; it is
for your benefit it is made.

The other branch of it is, that in the struggle between the negro and
the crocodile; he is for the negro. Well, I don’t know that there is
any struggle between the negro and the crocodile, either. I suppose
that if a crocodile (or, as we old Ohio River boatmen used to call
them, alligators) should come across a white man, he would kill him
if he could; and so he would a negro. But what, at last, is this
proposition? I believe it is a sort of proposition in proportion,
which may be stated thus: “As the negro is to the white man, so is
the crocodile to the negro; and as the negro may rightfully treat the
crocodile as a beast or reptile, so the white man may rightfully
treat the negro as a beast or a reptile.” That is really the “knip”
of all that argument of his.

Now, my brother Kentuckians, who believe in this, you ought to thank
Judge Douglas for having put that in a much more taking way than any
of yourselves have done.

Again, Douglas’s great principle, “popular sovereignty,” as he calls
it, gives you, by natural consequence, the revival of the slave trade
whenever you want it. If you question this, listen awhile, consider
awhile what I shall advance in support of that proposition.

He says that it is the sacred right of the man who goes into the
Territories to have slavery if he wants it. Grant that for
argument’s sake. Is it not the sacred right of the man who don’t go
there equally to buy slaves in Africa, if he wants them? Can you
point out the difference? The man who goes into the Territories of
Kansas and Nebraska, or any other new Territory, with the sacred
right of taking a slave there which belongs to him, would certainly
have no more right to take one there than I would, who own no slave,
but who would desire to buy one and take him there. You will not say
you, the friends of Judge Douglas but that the man who does not own a
slave has an equal right to buy one and take him to the Territory as
the other does.

A voice: I want to ask a question. Don’t foreign nations interfere
with the slave trade?

Mr. LINCOLN: Well! I understand it to be a principle of Democracy to
whip foreign nations whenever, they interfere with us.

Voice: I only asked for information. I am a Republican myself.

Mr. LINCOLN: You and I will be on the best terms in the world, but
I do not wish to be diverted from the point I was trying to press.

I say that Douglas’s popular sovereignty, establishing his sacred
right in the people, if you please, if carried to its logical
conclusion gives equally the sacred right to the people of the States
or the Territories themselves to buy slaves wherever they can buy
them cheapest; and if any man can show a distinction, I should like
to hear him try it. If any man can show how the people of Kansas
have a better right to slaves, because they want them, than the
people of Georgia have to buy them in Africa, I want him to do it.
I think it cannot be done. If it is “popular sovereignty” for the
people to have slaves because they want them, it is popular
sovereignty for them to buy them in Africa because they desire to do

I know that Douglas has recently made a little effort, not seeming to
notice that he had a different theory, has made an effort to get rid
of that. He has written a letter, addressed to somebody, I believe,
who resides in Iowa, declaring his opposition to the repeal of the
laws that prohibit the Africa slave trade. He bases his opposition
to such repeal upon the ground that these laws are themselves one of
the compromises of the Constitution of the United States. Now, it
would be very interesting to see Judge Douglas or any of his friends
turn, to the Constitution of the United States and point out that
compromise, to show where there is any compromise in the
Constitution, or provision in the Constitution; express or implied,
by which the administrators of that Constitution are under any
obligation to repeal the African slave trade. I know, or at least I
think I know, that the framers of that Constitution did expect the
African slave trade would be abolished at the end of twenty years, to
which time their prohibition against its being abolished extended.
there is abundant contemporaneous history to show that the framers of
the Constitution expected it to be abolished. But while they so
expected, they gave nothing for that expectation, and they put no
provision in the Constitution requiring it should be so abolished.
The migration or importation of such persons as the States shall see
fit to admit shall not be prohibited, but a certain tax might be
levied upon such importation. But what was to be done after that
time? The Constitution is as silent about that as it is silent,
personally, about myself. There is absolutely nothing in it about
that subject; there is only the expectation of the framers of the
Constitution that the slave trade would be abolished at the end of
that time; and they expected it would be abolished, owing to public
sentiment, before that time; and the put that provision in, in order
that it should not be abolished before that time, for reasons which I
suppose they thought to be sound ones, but which I will not now try
to enumerate before you.

But while, they expected the slave trade would be abolished at that
time, they expected that the spread of slavery into the new
Territories should also be restricted. It is as easy to prove that
the framers of the Constitution of the United States expected that
slavery should be prohibited from extending into the new Territories,
as it is to prove that it was expected that the slave trade should be
abolished. Both these things were expected. One was no more
expected than the other, and one was no more a compromise of the
Constitution than the other. There was nothing said in the
Constitution in regard to the spread of slavery into the Territory.
I grant that; but there was something very important said about it by
the same generation of men in the adoption of the old Ordinance of
’87, through the influence of which you here in Ohio, our neighbors
in Indiana, we in Illinois, our neighbors in Michigan and Wisconsin,
are happy, prosperous, teeming millions of free men. That generation
of men, though not to the full extent members of the convention that
framed the Constitution, were to some extent members of that
convention, holding seats at the same time in one body and the other,
so that if there was any compromise on either of these subjects, the
strong evidence is that that compromise was in favor of the
restriction of slavery from the new Territories.

But Douglas says that he is unalterably opposed to the repeal of
those laws because, in his view, it is a compromise of the
Constitution. You Kentuckians, no doubt, are somewhat offended with
that. You ought not to be! You ought to be patient! You ought to
know that if he said less than that, he would lose the power of
“lugging” the Northern States to your support. Really, what you
would push him to do would take from him his entire power to serve
you. And you ought to remember how long, by precedent, Judge Douglas
holds himself obliged to stick by compromises. You ought to remember
that by the time you yourselves think you are ready to inaugurate
measures for the revival of the African slave trade, that sufficient
time will have arrived, by precedent, for Judge Douglas to break
through, that compromise. He says now nothing more strong than he
said in 1849 when he declared in favor of Missouri Compromise,–and
precisely four years and a quarter after he declared that Compromise
to be a sacred thing, which “no ruthless hand would ever daze to
touch,” he himself brought forward the measure ruthlessly to destroy
it. By a mere calculation of time it will only be four years more
until he is ready to take back his profession about the sacredness of
the Compromise abolishing the slave trade. Precisely as soon as you
are ready to have his services in that direction, by fair
calculation, you may be sure of having them.

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