The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

Of course, I state this case as an illustration only, not meaning
to say or intimate that the master of Dred Scott and his family,
or any more than a percentage of masters generally, are inclined
to exercise this particular power which they hold over their
female slaves.

I have said that the separation of the races is the only perfect
preventive of amalgamation. I have no right to say all the
members of the Republican party are in favor of this, nor to say
that as a party they are in favor of it. There is nothing in
their platform directly on the subject. But I can say a very
large proportion of its members are for it, and that the chief
plank in their platform–opposition to the spread of slavery–is
most favorable to that separation.

Such separation, if ever effected at all, must be effected by
colonization; and no political party, as such, is now doing
anything directly for colonization. Party operations at present
only favor or retard colonization incidentally. The enterprise
is a difficult one; but “where there is a will there is a way,”
and what colonization needs most is a hearty will. Will springs
from the two elements of moral sense and self-interest. Let us
be brought to believe it is morally right, and at the same time
favorable to, or at least not against, our interest to transfer
the African to his native clime, and we shall find a way to do
it, however great the task may be. The children of Israel, to
such numbers as to include four hundred thousand fighting men,
went out of Egyptian bondage in a body.

How differently the respective courses of the Democratic and
Republican parties incidentally, bear on the question of forming
a will–a public sentiment–for colonization, is easy to see.
The Republicans inculcate, with whatever of ability they can,
that the negro is a man, that his bondage is cruelly wrong, and
that the field of his oppression ought not to be enlarged. The
Democrats deny his manhood; deny, or dwarf to insignificance, the
wrong of his bondage; so far as possible crush all sympathy for
him, and cultivate and excite hatred and disgust against him;
compliment themselves as Union-savers for doing so; and call the
indefinite outspreading of his bondage “a sacred right of self-

The plainest print cannot be read through a gold eagle; and it
will be ever hard to find many men who will send a slave to
Liberia, and pay his passage, while they can send him to a new
country–Kansas, for instance–and sell him for fifteen hundred
dollars, and the rise.



DEAR SIR:–Yours of the 14th is received, and I am much obliged
for the legal information you give.

You can scarcely be more anxious than I that the next election in
Iowa should result in favor of the Republicans. I lost nearly
all the working part of last year, giving my time to the canvass;
and I am altogether too poor to lose two years together. I am
engaged in a suit in the United States Court at Chicago, in which
the Rock Island Bridge Company is a party. The trial is to
commence on the 8th of September, and probably will last two or
three weeks. During the trial it is not improbable that all
hands may come over and take a look at the bridge, and, if it
were possible to make it hit right, I could then speak at
Davenport. My courts go right on without cessation till late in
November. Write me again, pointing out the more striking points
of difference between your old and new constitutions, and also
whether Democratic and Republican party lines were drawn in the
adoption of it, and which were for and which were against it.
If, by possibility, I could get over among you it might be of
some advantage to know these things in advance.

Yours very truly,



(From the Daily Press of Chicago, Sept. 24, 1857.)

Hurd et al. vs Railroad Bridge Co.

United States Circuit Court,
Hon. John McLean, Presiding Judge.

13th day, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 1857.

Mr. A. Lincoln addressed the jury. He said he did not purpose to
assail anybody, that he expected to grow earnest as he proceeded
but not ill-natured. “There is some conflict of testimony in the
case,” he said, “but one quarter of such a number of witnesses
seldom agree, and even if all were on one side some discrepancy
might be expected. We are to try and reconcile them, and to
believe that they are not intentionally erroneous as long as we
can.” He had no prejudice, he said, against steamboats or
steamboat men nor any against St. Louis, for he supposed they
went about this matter as other people would do in their
situation. “St. Louis,” he continued, “as a commercial place may
desire that this bridge should not stand, as it is adverse to her
commerce, diverting a portion of it from the river; and it may be
that she supposes that the additional cost of railroad
transportation upon the productions of Iowa will force them to go
to St. Louis if this bridge is removed. The meetings in St.
Louis are connected with this case only as some witnesses are in
it, and thus has some prejudice added color to their testimony.”
The last thing that would be pleasing to him, Mr. Lincoln said,
would be to have one of these great channels, extending almost
from where it never freezes to where it never thaws, blocked up,
but there is a travel from east to west whose demands are not
less important than those of the river. It is growing larger and
larger, building up new countries with a rapidity never before
seen in the history of the world. He alluded to the astonishing
growth of Illinois, having grown within his memory to a
population of a million and a half; to Iowa and the other young
rising communities of the Northwest.

“This current of travel,” said he, “has its rights as well as
that of north and south. If the river had not the advantage in
priority and legislation we could enter into free competition
with it and we could surpass it. This particular railroad line
has a great importance and the statement of its business during a
little less than a year shows this importance. It is in evidence
that from September 8, 1856, to August 8, 1857, 12,586 freight
cars and 74,179 passengers passed over this bridge. Navigation
was closed four days short of four months last year, and during
this time while the river was of no use this road and bridge were
valuable. There is, too, a considerable portion of time when
floating or thin ice makes the river useless while the bridge is
as useful as ever. This shows that this bridge must be treated
with respect in this court and is not to be kicked about with
contempt. The other day Judge Wead alluded to the strike of the
contending interest and even a dissolution of the Union. The
proper mode for all parties in this affair is to ‘live and let
live,’ and then we will find a cessation of this trouble about
the bridge. What mood were the steamboat men in when this bridge
was burned? Why, there was a shouting and ringing of bells and
whistling on all the boats as it fell. It was a jubilee, a
greater celebration than follows an excited election. The first
thing I will proceed to is the record of Mr. Gurney and the
complaint of Judge Wead that the record did not extend back over
all the time from the completion of the bridge. The principal
part of the navigation after the bridge was burned passed through
the span. When the bridge was repaired and the boats were a
second time confined to the draw it was provided that this record
should be kept. That is the simple history of that book.

“From April 19th, 1856, to May 6th–seventeen days–there were
twenty accidents and all the time since then there have been but
twenty hits, including seven accidents, so that the dangers of
this place are tapering off and as the boatmen get cool the
accidents get less. We may soon expect if this ratio is kept up
that there will be no accidents at all.

“Judge Wead said, while admitting that the floats went straight
through, there was a difference between a float and a boat, but I
do not remember that he indulged us with an argument in support
of this statement. Is it because there is a difference in size?
Will not a small body and a large one float the same way under
the same influence? True a flatboat will float faster than an
egg shell and the egg shell might be blown away by the wind, but
if under the same influence they would go the same way. Logs,
floats, boards, various things the witnesses say all show the
same current. Then is not this test reliable? At all depths too
the direction of the current is the same. A series of these
floats would make a line as long as a boat and would show any
influence upon any part and all parts of the boat.

“I will now speak of the angular position of the piers. What is
the amount of the angle? The course of the river is a curve and
the pier is straight. If a line is produced from the upper end
of the long pier straight with the pier to a distance of 350
feet, and a line is drawn from a point in the channel opposite
this point to the head of the pier, Colonel Nason says they will
form an angle of twenty degrees. But the angle if measured at
the pier is seven degrees; that is, we would have to move the
pier seven degrees to make it exactly straight with the current.
Would that make the navigation better or worse? The witnesses of
the plaintiff seem to think it was only necessary to say that the
pier formed an angle with the current and that settled the
matter. Our more careful and accurate witnesses say that, though
they had been accustomed to seeing the piers placed straight with
the current, yet they could see that here the current had been
made straight by us in having made this slight angle; that the
water now runs just right, that it is straight and cannot be
improved. They think that if the pier was changed the eddy would
be divided and the navigation improved.

“I am not now going to discuss the question what is a material
obstruction. We do not greatly differ about the law. The cases
produced here are, I suppose, proper to be taken into
consideration by the court in instructing a jury. Some of them I
think are not exactly in point, but I am still willing to trust
his honor, Judge McLean, and take his instructions as law. What
is reasonable skill and care? This is a thing of which the jury
are to judge. I differ from the other side when it says that
they are bound to exercise no more care than was taken before the
building of the bridge. If we are allowed by the Legislature to
build the bridge which will require them to do more than before,
when a pilot comes along, it is unreasonable for him to dash on
heedless of this structure which has been legally put there. The
Afton came there on the 5th and lay at Rock Island until next
morning. When a boat lies up the pilot has a holiday, and would
not any of these jurors have then gone around to the bridge and
gotten acquainted with the place? Pilot Parker has shown here
that he does not understand the draw. I heard him say that the
fall from the head to the foot of the pier was four feet; he
needs information. He could have gone there that day and seen
there was no such fall. He should have discarded passion and the
chances are that he would have had no disaster at all. He was
bound to make himself acquainted with the place.

“McCammon says that the current and the swell coming from the
long pier drove her against the long pier. In other words drove
her toward the very pier from which the current came! It is an
absurdity, an impossibility. The only recollection I can find
for this contradiction is in a current which White says strikes
out from the long pier and then like a ram’s horn turns back, and
this might have acted somehow in this manner.

“It is agreed by all that the plaintiff’s boat was destroyed and
that it was destroyed upon the head of the short pier; that she
moved from the channel where she was with her bow above the head
of the long pier, till she struck the short one, swung around
under the bridge and there was crowded and destroyed.

“I shall try to prove that the average velocity of the current
through the draw with the boat in it should be five and a half
miles an hour; that it is slowest at the head of the pier and
swiftest at the foot of the pier. Their lowest estimate in
evidence is six miles an hour, their highest twelve miles. This
was the testimony of men who had made no experiment, only
conjecture. We have adopted the most exact means. The water
runs swiftest in high water and we have taken the point of nine
feet above low water. The water when the Afton was lost was
seven feet above low water, or at least a foot lower than our
time. Brayton and his assistants timed the instruments, the best
instruments known in measuring currents. They timed them under
various circumstances and they found the current five miles an
hour and no more. They found that the water at the upper end ran
slower than five miles; that below it was swifter than five
miles, but that the average was five miles. Shall men who have
taken no care, who conjecture, some of whom speak of twenty miles
an hour, be believed against those who have had such a favorable.
and well improved opportunity? They should not even qualify the
result. Several men have given their opinion as to the distance
of the steamboat Carson, and I suppose if one should go and
measure that distance you would believe him in preference to all
of them.

“These measurements were made when the boat was not in the draw.
It has been ascertained what is the area of the cross section of
this stream and the area of the face of the piers, and the
engineers say that the piers being put there will increase the
current proportionally as the space is decreased. So with the
boat in the draw. The depth of the channel was twenty-two feet,
the width one hundred and sixteen feet; multiply these and you
have the square-feet across the water of the draw, viz.: 2552
feet. The Afton was 35 feet wide and drew 5 feet, making a
fourteenth of the sum. Now, one-fourteenth of five miles is
five-fourteenths of one mile–about ,one third of a mile–the
increase of the current. We will call the current five and a
half miles per hour. The next thing I will try to prove is that
the plaintiff’s (?) boat had power to run six miles an hour in
that current. It had been testified that she was a strong, swift
boat, able to run eight miles an hour up stream in a current of
four miles an hour, and fifteen miles down stream. Strike the
average and you will find what is her average–about eleven and a
half miles. Take the five and a half miles which is the speed of
the current in the draw and it leaves the power of that boat in
that draw at six miles an hour, 528 feet per minute and 8 4/5
feet to the second.

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