The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

[A HIBERNIAN: “Give us something besides Dred Scott.”]

Yes; no doubt you want to hear something that don’t hurt. Now,
having spoken of the Dred Scott decision, one more word, and I am
done. Henry Clay, my beau-ideal of a statesman, the man for whom
I fought all my humble life, Henry Clay once said of a class of
men who would repress all tendencies to liberty and ultimate
emancipation that they must, if they would do this, go back to
the era of our Independence, and muzzle the cannon which thunders
its annual joyous return; they must blow out the moral lights
around us; they must penetrate the human soul, and eradicate
there the love of liberty; and then, and not till then, could
they perpetuate slavery in this country! To my thinking, Judge
Douglas is, by his example and vast influence, doing that very
thing in this community, when he says that the negro has nothing
in the Declaration of Independence. Henry Clay plainly
understood the contrary. Judge Douglas is going back to the era
of our Revolution, and, to the extent of his ability, muzzling
the cannon which thunders its annual joyous return. When he
invites any people, willing to have slavery, to establish it, he
is blowing out the moral lights around us. When he says he
“cares not whether slavery is voted down or up,”–that it is a
sacred right of self-government,–he is, in my judgment,
penetrating the human soul and eradicating the light of reason
and the love of liberty in this American people. And now I will
only say that when, by all these means and appliances, Judge
Douglas shall succeed in bringing public sentiment to an exact
accordance with his own views; when these vast assemblages shall
echo back all these sentiments; when they shall come to repeat
his views and to avow his principles, and to say all that he says
on these mighty questions,–then it needs only the formality of
the second Dred Scott decision, which he indorses in advance, to
make slavery alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new,
North as well as South.

My friends, that ends the chapter. The Judge can take his


AUGUST 27, 1858

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:–On Saturday last, Judge Douglas and myself
first met in public discussion. He spoke one hour, I an hour and
a half, and he replied for half an hour. The order is now
reversed. I am to speak an hour, he an hour and a half, and then
I am to reply for half an hour. I propose to devote myself
during the first hour to the scope of what was brought within the
range of his half-hour speech at Ottawa. Of course there was
brought within the scope in that half-hour’s speech something of
his own opening speech. In the course of that opening argument
Judge Douglas proposed to me seven distinct interrogatories. In
my speech of an hour and a half, I attended to some other parts
of his speech, and incidentally, as I thought, intimated to him
that I would answer the rest of his interrogatories on condition
only that he should agree to answer as many for me. He made no
intimation at the time of the proposition, nor did he in his
reply allude at all to that suggestion of mine. I do him no
injustice in saying that he occupied at least half of his reply
in dealing with me as though I had refused to answer his
interrogatories. I now propose that I will answer any of the
interrogatories, upon condition that he will answer questions
from me not exceeding the same number. I give him an opportunity
to respond.

The Judge remains silent. I now say that I will answer his
interrogatories, whether he answers mine or not; and that after I
have done so, I shall propound mine to him.

I have supposed myself, since the organization of the Republican
party at Bloomington, in May, 1856, bound as a party man by the
platforms of the party, then and since. If in any
interrogatories which I
shall answer I go beyond the scope of what is within these
platforms, it will be perceived that no one is responsible but

Having said thus much, I will take up the Judge’s interrogatories
as I find them printed in the Chicago Times, and answer them
seriatim. In order that there may be no mistake about it, I have
copied the interrogatories in writing, and also my answers to
them. The first one of these interrogatories is in these words:

Question 1.–“I desire to know whether Lincoln to-day stands, as
he did in 1854, in favor of the unconditional repeal of the
Fugitive Slave law?” Answer:–I do not now, nor ever did, stand
in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave law.

Q. 2.–“I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to-day,
as he did in 1854, against the admission of any more slave States
into the Union, even if the people want them?” Answer:–I do not
now, nor ever did, stand pledged against the admission of any
more slave States into the Union.

Q. 3.–“I want to know whether he stands pledged against the
admission of a new State into the Union with such a constitution
as the people of that State may see fit to make?” Answer:–I do
not stand pledged against the admission of a new State into the
Union, with such a constitution as the people of that State may
see fit to make.

Q. 4.–“I want to know whether he stands to-day pledged to the
abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia?” Answer:–I do
not stand to-day pledged to the abolition of slavery in the
District of Columbia.

Q. 5.–“I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to the
prohibition of the slave-trade between the different States?”
Answer:–I do not stand pledged to the prohibition of the
slave-trade between the different States.

Q. 6.–I desire to know whether he stands pledged to prohibit
slavery in all the Territories of the United States, north as
well as south of the Missouri Compromise line?” Answer:–I am
impliedly, if not expressly, pledged to a belief in the right and
duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the United States

Q. 7. –“I desire him to answer whether he is opposed to the
acquisition of any new territory unless slavery is first
prohibited therein?” Answer:–I am not generally opposed to
honest acquisition of territory; and, in any given case, I would
or would not oppose such acquisition, accordingly as I might
think such acquisition would or would not aggravate the slavery
question among ourselves.

Now, my friends, it will be perceived, upon an examination of
these questions and answers, that so far I have only answered
that I was not pledged to this, that, or the other. The Judge
has not framed his interrogatories to ask me anything more than
this, and I have answered in strict accordance with the
interrogatories, and have answered truly, that I am not pledged
at all upon any of the points to which I have answered. But I am
not disposed to hang upon the exact form of his interrogatory. I
am rather disposed to take up at least some of these questions,
and state what I really think upon them.

As to the first one, in regard to the Fugitive Slave law, I have
never hesitated to say, and I do not now hesitate to say, that I
think, under the Constitution of the United States, the people of
the Southern States are entitled to a Congressional Fugitive
Slave law. Having said that, I have had nothing to say in regard
to the existing Fugitive Slave law, further than that I think it
should have been framed so as to be free from some of the
objections that pertain to it, without lessening its efficiency.
And inasmuch as we are not now in an agitation in regard to an
alteration or modification of that law, I would not be the man to
introduce it as a new subject of agitation upon the general
question of slavery.

In regard to the other question, of whether I am pledged to the
admission of any more slave States into the Union, I state to you
very frankly that I would be exceedingly sorry ever to be put in
a position of having to pass upon that question. I should be
exceedingly glad to know that there would never be another slave
State admitted into the Union; but I must add that if slavery
shall be kept out of the Territories during the territorial
existence of any one given Territory, and then the people shall,
having a fair chance and a clear field, when they come to adopt
the constitution, do such an extraordinary thing as to adopt a
slave constitution, uninfluenced by the actual presence of the
institution among them, I see no alternative, if we own the
country, but to admit them into the Union.

The third interrogatory is answered by the answer to the second,
it being, as I conceive, the same as the second.

The fourth one is in regard to the abolition of slavery in the
District of Columbia. In relation to that, I have my mind very
distinctly made up. I should be exceedingly glad to see slavery
abolished in the District of Columbia. I believe that Congress
possesses the constitutional power to abolish it. Yet as a
member of Congress, I should not, with my present views, be in
favor of endeavoring to abolish slavery in the District of
Columbia, unless it would be upon these conditions: First, that
the abolition should be gradual; second, that it should be on a
vote of the majority of qualified voters in the District; and
third, that compensation should be made to unwilling owners.
With these three conditions, I confess I would be exceedingly
glad to see Congress abolish slavery in the District of Columbia,
and, in the language of Henry Clay, “sweep from our capital that
foul blot upon our nation.”

In regard to the fifth interrogatory, I must say here that, as to
the question of the abolition of the slave-trade between the
different States, I can truly answer, as I have, that I am
pledged to nothing about it. It is a subject to which I have not
given that mature consideration that would make me feel
authorized to state a position so as to hold myself entirely
bound by it. In other words, that question has never been
prominently enough before me to induce me to investigate whether
we really have the constitutional power to do it. I could
investigate it if I had sufficient time to bring myself to a
conclusion upon that subject; but I have not done so, and I say
so frankly to you here, and to Judge Douglas. I must say,
however, that if I should be of opinion that Congress does
possess the constitutional power to abolish the slave-trade among
the different States, I should still not be in favor of the
exercise of that power, unless upon some conservative principle
as I conceive it, akin to what I have said in relation to the
abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.

My answer as to whether I desire that slavery should be
prohibited in all the Territories of the United States is full
and explicit within itself, and cannot be made clearer by any
comments of mine. So I suppose in regard to the question whether
I am opposed to the acquisition of any more territory unless
slavery is first prohibited therein, my answer is such that I
could add nothing by way of illustration, or making myself better
understood, than the answer which I have placed in writing.

Now in all this the Judge has me, and he has me on the record. I
suppose he had flattered himself that I was really entertaining
one set of opinions for one place, and another set for another
place; that I was afraid to say at one place what I uttered at
another. What I am saying here I suppose I say to a vast
audience as strongly tending to Abolitionism as any audience in
the State of Illinois, and I believe I am saying that which, if
it would be offensive to any persons and render them enemies to
myself, would be offensive to persons in this

I now proceed to propound to the Judge the interrogatories, so
far as I have framed them. I will bring forward a new
installment when I get them ready. I will bring them forward now
only reaching to number four.
The first one is:

Question 1.–If the people of Kansas shall, by means entirely
unobjectionable in all other respects, adopt a State
constitution, and ask admission into the Union under it, before
they have the requisite number of inhabitants according to the
English bill,–some ninety-three thousand,–will you vote to
admit them?

Q. 2.–Can the people of a United States Territory, in any
lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States,
exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formation of a State

Q. 3. If the Supreme Court of the United States shall decide
that States cannot exclude slavery from their limits, are you in
favor of acquiescing in, adopting, and following such decision as
a rule of political action?

Q. 4. Are you in favor of acquiring additional territory, in
disregard of how such acquisition may affect the nation on the
slavery question?

As introductory to these interrogatories which Judge Douglas
propounded to me at Ottawa, he read a set of resolutions which he
said Judge Trumbull and myself had participated in adopting, in
the first Republican State Convention, held at Springfield in
October, 1854. He insisted that I and Judge Trumbull, and
perhaps the entire Republican party, were responsible for the
doctrines contained in the set of resolutions which he read, and
I understand that it was from that set of resolutions that he
deduced the interrogatories which he propounded to me, using
these resolutions as a sort of authority for propounding those
questions to me. Now, I say here to-day that I do not answer his
interrogatories because of their springing at all from that set
of resolutions which he read. I answered them because Judge
Douglas thought fit to ask them. I do not now, nor ever did,
recognize any responsibility upon myself in that set of
resolutions. When I replied to him on that occasion, I assured
him that I never had anything to do with them. I repeat here to
today that I never in any possible form had anything to do with
that set of resolutions It turns out, I believe, that those
resolutions were never passed in any convention held in

It turns out that they were never passed at any convention or any
public meeting that I had any part in. I believe it turns out,
in addition to all this, that there was not, in the fall of 1854,
any convention holding a session in Springfield, calling itself a
Republican State Convention; yet it is true there was a
convention, or assemblage of men calling themselves a convention,
at Springfield, that did pass some resolutions. But so little
did I really know of the proceedings of that convention, or what
set of resolutions they had passed, though having a general
knowledge that there had been such an assemblage of men there,
that when Judge Douglas read the resolutions, I really did not
know but they had been the resolutions passed then and there. I
did not question that they were the resolutions adopted. For I
could not bring myself to suppose that Judge Douglas could say
what he did upon this subject without knowing that it was true.
I contented myself, on that occasion, with denying, as I truly
could, all connection with them, not denying or affirming whether
they were passed at Springfield. Now, it turns out that he had
got hold of some resolutions passed at some convention or public
meeting in Kane County. I wish to say here, that I don’t
conceive that in any fair and just mind this discovery relieves
me at all. I had just as much to do with the convention in Kane
County as that at Springfield. I am as much responsible for the
resolutions at Kane County as those at Springfield,–the amount
of the responsibility being exactly nothing in either case; no
more than there would be in regard to a set of resolutions passed
in the moon.

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