The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

The American Colonization Society was organized in 1816. Mr.
Clay, though not its projector, was one of its earliest members;
and he died, as for many preceding years he had been, its
president. It was one of the most cherished objects of his
direct care and consideration, and the association of his name
with it has probably been its very greatest collateral support.
He considered it no demerit in the society that it tended to
relieve the slave-holders from the troublesome presence of the
free negroes; but this was far from being its whole merit in his
estimation. In the same speech from which we have quoted he

” There is a moral fitness in the idea of returning to Africa her
children, whose ancestors have been torn from her by the ruthless
hand of fraud and violence. Transplanted in a foreign land, they
will carry back to their native soil the rich fruits of religion,
civilization, law, and liberty. May it not be one of the great
designs of the Ruler of the universe, whose ways are often
inscrutable by short-sighted mortals, thus to transform an
original crime into a signal blessing to that most unfortunate
portion of the globe?”

This suggestion of the possible ultimate redemption of the
African race and African continent was made twenty-five years
ago. Every succeeding year has added strength to the hope of its
realization. May it indeed be realized. Pharaoh’s country was
cursed with plagues, and his hosts were lost in the Red Sea, for
striving to retain a captive people who had already served them
more than four hundred years. May like disasters never befall
us! If, as the friends of colonization hope, the present and
coming generations of our countrymen shall by any means succeed
in freeing our land from the dangerous presence of slavery, and
at the same time in restoring a captive people to their long-lost
fatherland with bright prospects for the future, and this too so
gradually that neither races nor individuals shall have suffered
by the change, it will indeed be a glorious consummation. And if
to such a consummation the efforts of Mr. Clay shall have
contributed, it will be what he most ardently wished, and none of
his labors will have been more valuable to his country and his

But Henry Clay is dead. His long and eventful life is closed.
Our country is prosperous and powerful; but could it have been
quite all it has been, and is, and is to be, without Henry Clay?
Such a man the times have demanded, and such in the providence of
God was given us. But he is gone. Let us strive to deserve, as
far as mortals may, the continued care of Divine Providence,
trusting that in future national emergencies He will not fail to
provide us the instruments of safety and security.

NOTE. We are indebted for a copy of this speech to the courtesy
of Major Wm. H. Bailhache, formerly one of the proprietors of
the Illinois State Journal.



SPRINGFIELD, November 1, 1852

A leading article in the Daily Register of this morning has
induced some of our friends to request our opinion on the
election laws as applicable to challenged voters. We have
examined the present constitution of the State, the election law
of 1849, and the unrepealed parts of the election law in the
revised code of 1845; and we are of the opinion that any person
taking the oath prescribed in the act of 1849 is entitled to vote
unless counter-proof be made satisfactory to a majority of the
judges that such oath is untrue; and that for the purpose of
obtaining such counter-proof, the proposed voter may be asked
questions in the way of cross-examination, and other independent
testimony may be received. We base our opinion as to receiving
counter-proof upon the unrepealed Section nineteen of the
election law in the revised code.





PEKIN, MAY 12, 1853


SIR:–I hope the subject-matter of this letter will appear a
sufficient apology to you for the liberty I, a total stranger,
take in addressing you. The persons here holding two lots under
a conveyance made by you, as the attorney of Daniel M. Baily,
now nearly twenty-two years ago, are in great danger of losing
the lots, and very much, perhaps all, is to depend on the
testimony you give as to whether you did or did not account to
Baily for the proceeds received by you on this sale of the lots.
I, therefore, as one of the counsel, beg of you to fully refresh
your recollection by any means in your power before the time you
may be called on to testify. If persons should come about you,
and show a disposition to pump you on the subject, it may be no
more than prudent to remember that it may be possible they design
to misrepresent you and embarrass the real testimony you may
ultimately give. It may be six months or a year before you are
called on to testify.





SPRINGFIELD, June 22, 1854.


DEAR SIR:–You, no doubt, remember the enclosed memorandum being
handed me in your office. I have just made the desired search,
and find that no such deed has ever been here. Campbell, the
auditor, says that if it were here, it would be in his office,
and that he has hunted for it a dozen times, and could never find
it. He says that one time and another, he has heard much about
the matter, that it was not a deed for Right of Way, but a deed,
outright, for Depot-ground–at least, a sale for Depot-ground,
and there may never have been a deed. He says, if there is a
deed, it is most probable General Alexander, of Paris, has it.

Yours truly,





SPRINGFIELD, Sept. 7, 1854.


DEAR SIR:–You know how anxious I am that this Nebraska measure
shall be rebuked and condemned everywhere. Of course I hope
something from your position; yet I do not expect you to do
anything which may be wrong in your own judgment; nor would I
have you do anything personally injurious to yourself. You are,
and always have been, honestly and sincerely a Democrat; and I
know how painful it must be to an honest, sincere man to be urged
by his party to the support of a measure which in his conscience
he believes to be wrong. You have had a severe struggle with
yourself, and you have determined not to swallow the wrong. Is
it not just to yourself that you should, in a few public
speeches, state your reasons, and thus justify yourself? I wish
you would; and yet I say, don’t do it, if you think it will
injure you. You may have given your word to vote for Major
Harris; and if so, of course you will stick to it. But allow me
to suggest that you should avoid speaking of this; for it
probably would induce some of your friends in like manner to cast
their votes. You understand. And now let me beg your pardon for
obtruding this letter upon you, to whom I have ever been opposed
in politics. Had your party omitted to make Nebraska a test of
party fidelity, you probably would have been the Democratic
candidate for Congress in the district. You deserved it, and I
believe it would have been given you. In that case I should have
been quite happy that Nebraska was to be rebuked at all events.
I still should have voted for the Whig candidate; but I should
have made no speeches, written no letters; and you would have
been elected by at least a thousand majority.

Yours truly,



SPRINGFIELD, September 7, 1854


SIR:–Stranger though I am, personally, being a brother in the
faith, I venture to write you. Yates can not come to your court
next week. He is obliged to be at Pike court where he has a
case, with a fee of five hundred dollars, two hundred dollars
already paid. To neglect it would be unjust to himself, and
dishonest to his client. Harris will be with you, head up and
tail up, for Nebraska. You must have some one to make an anti-
Nebraska speech. Palmer is the best, if you can get him, I
think. Jo. Gillespie, if you can not get Palmer, and somebody
anyhow, if you can get neither. But press Palmer hard. It is in
his Senatorial district, I believe.

Yours etc.,




OCTOBER 16, 1854.

I do not rise to speak now, if I can stipulate with the audience
to meet me here at half-past six or at seven o’clock. It is now
several minutes past five, and Judge Douglas has spoken over
three hours. If you hear me at all, I wish you to hear me
through. It will take me as long as it has taken him. That will
carry us beyond eight o’clock at night. Now, every one of you
who can remain that long can just as well get his supper, meet me
at seven, and remain an hour or two later. The Judge has already
informed you that he is to have an hour to reply to me. I doubt
not but you have been a little surprised to learn that I have
consented to give one of his high reputation and known ability
this advantage of me. Indeed, my consenting to it, though
reluctant, was not wholly unselfish, for I suspected, if it were
understood that the Judge was entirely done, you Democrats would
leave and not hear me; but by giving him the close, I felt
confident you would stay for the fun of hearing him skin me.

The audience signified their assent to the arrangement, and
adjourned to seven o’clock P.M., at which time they reassembled,
and Mr. Lincoln spoke substantially as follows:

The repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and the propriety of its
restoration, constitute the subject of what I am about to say.
As I desire to present my own connected view of this subject, my
remarks will not be specifically an answer to Judge Douglas; yet,
as I proceed, the main points he has presented will arise, and
will receive such respectful attention as I may be able to give
them. I wish further to say that I do not propose to question
the patriotism or to assail the motives of any man or class of
men, but rather to confine myself strictly to the naked merits of
the question. I also wish to be no less than national in all the
positions I may take, and whenever I take ground which others
have thought, or may think, narrow, sectional, and dangerous to
the Union, I hope to give a reason which will appear sufficient,
at least to some, why I think differently.

And as this subject is no other than part and parcel of the
larger general question of domestic slavery, I wish to make and
to keep the distinction between the existing institution and the
extension of it so broad and so clear that no honest man can
misunderstand me, and no dishonest one successfully misrepresent

In order to a clear understanding of what the Missouri Compromise
is, a short history of the preceding kindred subjects will
perhaps be proper.

When we established our independence, we did not own or claim the
country to which this compromise applies. Indeed, strictly
speaking, the Confederacy then owned no country at all; the
States respectively owned the country within their limits, and
some of them owned territory beyond their strict State limits.
Virginia thus owned the Northwestern Territory–the country out
of which the principal part of Ohio, all Indiana, all Illinois,
all Michigan, and all Wisconsin have since been formed. She also
owned (perhaps within her then limits) what has since been formed
into the State of Kentucky. North Carolina thus owned what is
now the State of Tennessee; and South Carolina and Georgia owned,
in separate parts, what are now Mississippi and Alabama.
Connecticut, I think, owned the little remaining part of Ohio,
being the same where they now send Giddings to Congress and beat
all creation in making cheese.

These territories, together with the States themselves,
constitute all the country over which the Confederacy then
claimed any sort of jurisdiction. We were then living under the
Articles of Confederation, which were superseded by the
Constitution several years afterward. The question of ceding the
territories to the General Government was set on foot. Mr.
Jefferson,–the author of the Declaration of Independence, and
otherwise a chief actor in the Revolution; then a delegate in
Congress; afterward, twice President; who was, is, and perhaps
will continue to be, the most distinguished politician of our
history; a Virginian by birth and continued residence, and withal
a slaveholder,–conceived the idea of taking that occasion to
prevent slavery ever going into the Northwestern Territory. He
prevailed on the Virginia Legislature to adopt his views, and to
cede the Territory, making the prohibition of slavery therein a
condition of the deed. (Jefferson got only an understanding, not
a condition of the deed to this wish.) Congress accepted the
cession with the condition; and the first ordinance (which the
acts of Congress were then called) for the government of the
Territory provided that slavery should never be permitted
therein. This is the famed “Ordinance of ’87,” so often spoken

Thenceforward for sixty-one years, and until, in 1848, the last
scrap of this Territory came into the Union as the State of
Wisconsin, all parties acted in quiet obedience to this
ordinance. It is now what Jefferson foresaw and intended–the
happy home of teeming millions of free, white, prosperous people,
and no slave among them.

Thus, with the author of the Declaration of Independence, the
policy of prohibiting slavery in new territory originated. Thus,
away back to the Constitution, in the pure, fresh, free breath of
the Revolution, the State of Virginia and the national Congress
put that policy into practice. Thus, through more than sixty of
the best years of the republic, did that policy steadily work to
its great and beneficent end. And thus, in those five States,
and in five millions of free, enterprising people, we have before
us the rich fruits of this policy.

But now new light breaks upon us. Now Congress declares this
ought never to have been, and the like of it must never be again.
The sacred right of self-government is grossly violated by it.
We even find some men who drew their first breath–and every
other breath of their lives–under this very restriction, now
live in dread of absolute suffocation if they should be
restricted in the “sacred right” of taking slaves to Nebraska.
That perfect liberty they sigh for–the liberty of making slaves
of other people, Jefferson never thought of, their own fathers
never thought of, they never thought of themselves, a year ago.
How fortunate for them they did not sooner become sensible of
their great misery! Oh, how difficult it is to treat with respect
such assaults upon all we have ever really held sacred!

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