The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

What are the uses of decisions of courts? They have two uses.
As rules of property they have two uses. First, they decide upon
the question before the court. They decide in this case that
Dred Scott is a slave. Nobody resists that, not only that, but
they say to everybody else that persons standing just as Dred
Scott stands are as he is. That is, they say that when a
question comes up upon another person, it will be so decided
again, unless the court decides in another way, unless the court
overrules its decision. Well, we mean to do what we can to have
the court decide the other way. That is one thing we mean to try
to do.

The sacredness that Judge Douglas throws around this decision is
a degree of sacredness that has never been before thrown around
any other decision. I have never heard of such a thing. Why,
decisions apparently contrary to that decision, or that good
lawyers thought were contrary to that decision, have been made by
that very court before. It is the first of its kind; it is an
astonisher in legal history. It is a new wonder of the world.
It is based upon falsehood in the main as to the facts;
allegations of facts upon which it stands are not facts at all in
many instances, and no decision made on any question–the first
instance of a decision made under so many unfavorable
circumstances–thus placed, has ever been held by the profession
as law, and it has always needed confirmation before the lawyers
regarded it as settled law. But Judge Douglas will have it that
all hands must take this extraordinary decision, made under these
extraordinary circumstances, and give their vote in Congress in
accordance with it, yield to it, and obey it in every possible
sense. Circumstances alter cases. Do not gentlemen here
remember the case of that same Supreme Court some twenty-five or
thirty years ago deciding that a National Bank was
constitutional? I ask, if somebody does not remember that a
National Bank was declared to be constitutional? Such is the
truth, whether it be remembered or not. The Bank charter ran
out, and a recharter was granted by Congress. That recharter was
laid before General Jackson. It was urged upon him, when he
denied the constitutionality of the Bank, that the Supreme Court
had decided that it was constitutional; and General Jackson then
said that the Supreme Court had no right to lay down a rule to
govern a coordinate branch of the government, the members of
which had sworn to support the Constitution; that each member had
sworn to support that Constitution as he understood it. I will
venture here to say that I have heard Judge Douglas say that he
approved of General Jackson for that act. What has now become of
all his tirade about “resistance of the Supreme Court”?

My fellow-citizens, getting back a little,–for I pass from these
points,–when Judge Douglas makes his threat of annihilation upon
the “alliance,” he is cautious to say that that warfare of his is
to fall upon the leaders of the Republican party. Almost every
word he utters, and every distinction he makes, has its
significance. He means for the Republicans who do not count
themselves as leaders, to be his friends; he makes no fuss over
them; it is the leaders that he is making war upon. He wants it
understood that the mass of the Republican party are really his
friends. It is only the leaders that are doing something that
are intolerant, and that require extermination at his hands. As
this is dearly and unquestionably the light in which he presents
that matter, I want to ask your attention, addressing myself to
the Republicans here, that I may ask you some questions as to
where you, as the Republican party, would be placed if you
sustained Judge Douglas in his present position by a re-election?
I do not claim, gentlemen, to be unselfish; I do not pretend that
I would not like to go to the United States Senate,–I make no
such hypocritical pretense; but I do say to you that in this
mighty issue it is nothing to you–nothing to the mass of the
people of the nation,–whether or not Judge Douglas or myself
shall ever be heard of after this night; it may be a trifle to
either of us, but in connection with this mighty question, upon
which hang the destinies of the nation, perhaps, it is absolutely
nothing: but where will you be placed if you reindorse Judge
Douglas? Don’t you know how apt he is, how exceedingly anxious
he is at all times, to seize upon anything and everything to
persuade you that something he has done you did yourselves? Why,
he tried to persuade you last night that our Illinois Legislature
instructed him to introduce the Nebraska Bill. There was nobody
in that Legislature ever thought of such a thing; and when he
first introduced the bill, he never thought of it; but still he
fights furiously for the proposition, and that he did it because
there was a standing instruction to our Senators to be always
introducing Nebraska bills. He tells you he is for the
Cincinnati platform, he tells you he is for the Dred Scott
decision. He tells you, not in his speech last night, but
substantially in a former speech, that he cares not if slavery is
voted up or down; he tells you the struggle on Lecompton is past;
it may come up again or not, and if it does, he stands where he
stood when, in spite of him and his opposition, you built up the
Republican party. If you indorse him, you tell him you do not
care whether slavery be voted up or down, and he will close or
try to close your mouths with his declaration, repeated by the
day, the week, the month, and the year. Is that what you mean?
[Cries of “No,” one voice Yes.”] Yes, I have no doubt you who
have always been for him, if you mean that. No doubt of that,
soberly I have said, and I repeat it. I think, in the position
in which Judge Douglas stood in opposing the Lecompton
Constitution, he was right; he does not know that it will return,
but if it does we may know where to find him, and if it does not,
we may know where to look for him, and that is on the Cincinnati
platform. Now, I could ask the Republican party, after all the
hard names that Judge Douglas has called them by all his repeated
charges of their inclination to marry with and hug negroes; all
his declarations of Black Republicanism,–by the way, we are
improving, the black has got rubbed off,–but with all that, if
he be indorsed by Republican votes, where do you stand? Plainly,
you stand ready saddled, bridled, and harnessed, and waiting to
be driven over to the slavery extension camp of the nation,–just
ready to be driven over, tied together in a lot, to be driven
over, every man with a rope around his neck, that halter being
held by Judge Douglas. That is the question. If Republican men
have been in earnest in what they have done, I think they had
better not do it; but I think that the Republican party is made
up of those who, as far as they can peaceably, will oppose the
extension of slavery, and who will hope for its ultimate
extinction. If they believe it is wrong in grasping up the new
lands of the continent and keeping them from the settlement of
free white laborers, who want the land to bring up their families
upon; if they are in earnest, although they may make a mistake,
they will grow restless, and the time will come when they will
come back again and reorganize, if not by the same name, at least
upon the same principles as their party now has. It is better,
then, to save the work while it is begun. You have done the
labor; maintain it, keep it. If men choose to serve you, go with
them; but as you have made up your organization upon principle,
stand by it; for, as surely as God reigns over you, and has
inspired your mind, and given you a sense of propriety, and
continues to give you hope, so surely will you still cling to
these ideas, and you will at last come back again after your
wanderings, merely to do your work over again.

We were often,–more than once, at least,–in the course of Judge
Douglas’s speech last night, reminded that this government was
made for white men; that he believed it was made for white men.
Well, that is putting it into a shape in which no one wants to
deny it; but the Judge then goes into his passion for drawing
inferences that are not warranted. I protest, now and forever,
against that counterfeit logic which presumes that because I did
not want a negro woman for a slave, I do necessarily want her for
a wife. My understanding is that I need not have her for either,
but, as God made us separate, we can leave one another alone, and
do one another much good thereby. There are white men enough to
marry all the white women, and enough black men to marry all the
black women; and in God’s name let them be so married. The Judge
regales us with the terrible enormities that take place by the
mixture of races; that the inferior race bears the superior down.
Why, Judge, if we do not let them get together in the
Territories, they won’t mix there.

[A voice: “Three cheers for Lincoln”. –The cheers were given
with a hearty good-will.]

I should say at least that that is a self-evident truth.

Now, it happens that we meet together once every year, sometimes
about the 4th of July, for some reason or other. These 4th of
July gatherings I suppose have their uses. If you will indulge
me, I will state what I suppose to be some of them.

We are now a mighty nation; we are thirty or about thirty
millions of people, and we own and inhabit about one fifteenth
part of the dry land of the whole earth. We run our memory back
over the pages of history for about eighty-two years, and we
discover that we were then a very small people in point of
numbers, vastly inferior to what we are now, with a vastly less
extent of country, with vastly less of everything we deem
desirable among men; we look upon the change as exceedingly
advantageous to us and to our posterity, and we fix upon
something that happened away back, as in some way or other being
connected with this rise of prosperity. We find a race of men
living in that day whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers;
they were iron men; they fought for the principle that they were
contending for; and we understood that by what they then did it
has followed that the degree of prosperity which we now enjoy has
come to us. We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves
of all the good done in this process of time, of how it was done
and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it;
and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves, we
feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to
the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the
age and race and country in which we live, for these
celebrations. But after we have done all this we have not yet
reached the whole. There is something else connected with it.
We have–besides these, men descended by blood from our
ancestors–among us perhaps half our people who are not
descendants at all of these men; they are men who have come from
Europe, German, Irish, French, and Scandinavian,–men that have
come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither
and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things.
If they look back through this history to trace their connection
with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot
carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make
themselves feel that they are part of us; but when they look
through that old Declaration of Independence, they find that
those old men say that “We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal”; and then they feel that that
moral sentiment, taught in that day, evidences their relation to
those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them,
and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood
of the blood, and flesh of the flesh, of the men who wrote that
Declaration; and so they are. That is the electric cord in that
Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving
men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as
the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the

Now, sirs, for the purpose of squaring things with this idea of
“don’t care if slavery is voted up or voted down,” for sustaining
the Dred Scott decision, for holding that the Declaration of
Independence did not mean anything at all, we have Judge Douglas
giving his exposition of what the Declaration of Independence
means, and we have him saying that the people of America are
equal to the people of England. According to his construction,
you Germans are not connected with it. Now, I ask you in all
soberness if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if
confirmed and indorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated
to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the
country, and to transform this government into a government of
some other form. Those arguments that are made, that the
inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they
are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as
their condition will allow,–what are these arguments? They are
the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in
all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in
favor of kingcraft were of this class; they always bestrode the
necks of the people not that they wanted to do it, but because
the people were better off for being ridden. That is their
argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent
that says, You work, and I eat; you toil, and I will enjoy the
fruits of it. Turn in whatever way you will, whether it come
from the mouth of a king, an excuse for enslaving the people of
his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for
enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old
serpent; and I hold, if that course of argumentation that is made
for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not
care about this should be granted, it does not stop with the
negro. I should like to know, if 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 another 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.

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