The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


OCTOBER 7, 1858


MY FELLOW-CITIZENS: A very large portion of the speech which Judge
Douglas has addressed to you has previously been delivered and put in
print. I do not mean that for a hit upon the Judge at all.— If I
had not been interrupted, I was going to say that such an answer as I
was able to make to a very large portion of it had already been more
than once made and published. There has been an opportunity afforded
to the public to see our respective views upon the topics discussed
in a large portion of the speech which he has just delivered. I make
these remarks for the purpose of excusing myself for not passing over
the entire ground that the Judge has traversed. I however desire to
take up some of the points that he has attended to, and ask your
attention to them, and I shall follow him backwards upon some notes
which I have taken, reversing the order, by beginning where he

The Judge has alluded to the Declaration of Independence, and
insisted that negroes are not included in that Declaration; and that
it is a slander upon the framers of that instrument to suppose that
negroes were meant therein; and he asks you: Is it possible to
believe that Mr. Jefferson, who penned the immortal paper, could have
supposed himself applying the language of that instrument to the
negro race, and yet held a portion of that race in slavery? Would he
not at once have freed them? I only have to remark upon this part of
the Judge’s speech (and that, too, very briefly, for I shall not
detain myself, or you, upon that point for any great length of time),
that I believe the entire records of the world, from the date of the
Declaration of Independence up to within three years ago, may be
searched in vain for one single affirmation, from one single man,
that the negro was not included in the Declaration of Independence; I
think I may defy Judge Douglas to show that he ever said so, that
Washington ever said so, that any President ever said so, that any
member of Congress ever said so, or that any living man upon the
whole earth ever said so, until the necessities of the present policy
of the Democratic party, in regard to slavery, had to invent that
affirmation. And I will remind Judge Douglas and this audience that
while Mr. Jefferson was the owner of slaves, as undoubtedly he was,
in speaking upon this very subject he used the strong language that
“he trembled for his country when he remembered that God was just”;
and I will offer the highest premium in my power to Judge Douglas if
he will show that he, in all his life, ever uttered a sentiment at
all akin to that of Jefferson.

The next thing to which I will ask your attention is the Judge’s
comments upon the fact, as he assumes it to be, that we cannot call
our public meetings as Republican meetings; and he instances Tazewell
County as one of the places where the friends of Lincoln have called
a public meeting and have not dared to name it a Republican meeting.
He instances Monroe County as another, where Judge Trumbull and Jehu
Baker addressed the persons whom the Judge assumes to be the friends
of Lincoln calling them the “Free Democracy.” I have the honor to
inform Judge Douglas that he spoke in that very county of Tazewell
last Saturday, and I was there on Tuesday last; and when he spoke
there, he spoke under a call not venturing to use the word
“Democrat.” [Turning to Judge Douglas.] what think you of this?

So, again, there is another thing to which I would ask the Judge’s
attention upon this subject. In the contest of 1856 his party
delighted to call themselves together as the “National Democracy”;
but now, if there should be a notice put up anywhere for a meeting of
the “National Democracy,” Judge Douglas and his friends would not
come. They would not suppose themselves invited. They would
understand that it was a call for those hateful postmasters whom he
talks about.

Now a few words in regard to these extracts from speeches of mine
which Judge Douglas has read to you, and which he supposes are in
very great contrast to each other. Those speeches have been before
the public for a considerable time, and if they have any
inconsistency in them, if there is any conflict in them, the public
have been able to detect it. When the Judge says, in speaking on
this subject, that I make speeches of one sort for the people of the
northern end of the State, and of a different sort for the southern
people, he assumes that I do not understand that my speeches will be
put in print and read north and south. I knew all the while that the
speech that I made at Chicago, and the one I made at Jonesboro and
the one at Charleston, would all be put in print, and all the reading
and intelligent men in the community would see them and know all
about my opinions. And I have not supposed, and do not now suppose,
that there is any conflict whatever between them. But the Judge will
have it that if we do not confess that there is a sort of inequality
between the white and black races which justifies us in making them
slaves, we must then insist that there is a degree of equality that
requires us to make them our wives. Now, I have all the while taken
a broad distinction in regard to that matter; and that is all there
is in these different speeches which he arrays here; and the entire
reading of either of the speeches will show that that distinction was
made. Perhaps by taking two parts of the same speech he could have
got up as much of a conflict as the one he has found. I have all the
while maintained that in so far as it should be insisted that there
was an equality between the white and black races that should produce
a perfect social and political equality, it was an impossibility.
This you have seen in my printed speeches, and with it I have said
that in their right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,”
as proclaimed in that old Declaration, the inferior races are our
equals. And these declarations I have constantly made in reference
to the abstract moral question, to contemplate and consider when we
are legislating about any new country which is not already cursed
with the actual presence of the evil,–slavery. I have never
manifested any impatience with the necessities that spring from the
actual presence of black people amongst us, and the actual existence
of slavery amongst us where it does already exist; but I have
insisted that, in legislating for new countries where it does not
exist there is no just rule other than that of moral and abstract
right! With reference to those new countries, those maxims as to the
right of a people to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”
were the just rules to be constantly referred to. There is no
misunderstanding this, except by men interested to misunderstand it.
I take it that I have to address an intelligent and reading
community, who will peruse what I say, weigh it, and then judge
whether I advanced improper or unsound views, or whether I advanced
hypocritical, and deceptive, and contrary views in different portions
of the country. I believe myself to be guilty of no such thing as
the latter, though, of course, I cannot claim that I am entirely free
from all error in the opinions I advance.

The Judge has also detained us awhile in regard to the distinction
between his party and our party. His he assumes to be a national
party, ours a sectional one. He does this in asking the question
whether this country has any interest in the maintenance of the
Republican party. He assumes that our party is altogether sectional,
that the party to which he adheres is national; and the argument is,
that no party can be a rightful party–and be based upon rightful
principles–unless it can announce its principles everywhere. I
presume that Judge Douglas could not go into Russia and announce the
doctrine of our national Democracy; he could not denounce the
doctrine of kings and emperors and monarchies in Russia; and it may
be true of this country that in some places we may not be able to
proclaim a doctrine as clearly true as the truth of democracy,
because there is a section so directly opposed to it that they will
not tolerate us in doing so. Is it the true test of the soundness of
a doctrine that in some places people won’t let you proclaim it? Is
that the way to test the truth of any doctrine? Why, I understood
that at one time the people of Chicago would not let Judge Douglas
preach a certain favorite doctrine of his. I commend to his
consideration the question whether he takes that as a test of the
unsoundness of what he wanted to preach.

There is another thing to which I wish to ask attention for a little
while on this occasion. What has always been the evidence brought
forward to prove that the Republican party is a sectional party? The
main one was that in the Southern portion of the Union the people did
not let the Republicans proclaim their doctrines amongst them. That
has been the main evidence brought forward,–that they had no
supporters, or substantially none, in the Slave States. The South
have not taken hold of our principles as we announce them; nor does
Judge Douglas now grapple with those principles. We have a
Republican State Platform, laid down in Springfield in June last
stating our position all the way through the questions before the
country. We are now far advanced in this canvass. Judge Douglas and
I have made perhaps forty speeches apiece, and we have now for the
fifth time met face to face in debate, and up to this day I have not
found either Judge Douglas or any friend of his taking hold of the
Republican platform, or laying his finger upon anything in it that is
wrong. I ask you all to recollect that. Judge Douglas turns away
from the platform of principles to the fact that he can find people
somewhere who will not allow us to announce those principles. If he
had great confidence that our principles were wrong, he would take
hold of them and demonstrate them to be wrong. But he does not do
so. The only evidence he has of their being wrong is in the fact
that there are people who won’t allow us to preach them. I ask
again, is that the way to test the soundness of a doctrine?

I ask his attention also to the fact that by the rule of nationality
he is himself fast becoming sectional. I ask his attention to the
fact that his speeches would not go as current now south of the Ohio
River as they have formerly gone there I ask his attention to the
fact that he felicitates himself to-day that all the Democrats of the
free States are agreeing with him, while he omits to tell us that the
Democrats of any slave State agree with him. If he has not thought
of this, I commend to his consideration the evidence in his own
declaration, on this day, of his becoming sectional too. I see it
rapidly approaching. Whatever may be the result of this ephemeral
contest between Judge Douglas and myself, I see the day rapidly
approaching when his pill of sectionalism, which he has been
thrusting down the throats of Republicans for years past, will be
crowded down his own throat.

Now, in regard to what Judge Douglas said (in the beginning of his
speech) about the Compromise of 1850 containing the principles of the
Nebraska Bill, although I have often presented my views upon that
subject, yet as I have not done so in this canvass, I will, if you
please, detain you a little with them. I have always maintained, so
far as I was able, that there was nothing of the principle of the
Nebraska Bill in the Compromise of 1850 at all,–nothing whatever.
Where can you find the principle of the Nebraska Bill in that
Compromise? If anywhere, in the two pieces of the Compromise
organizing the Territories of New Mexico and Utah. It was expressly
provided in these two acts that when they came to be admitted into
the Union they should be admitted with or without slavery, as they
should choose, by their own constitutions. Nothing was said in
either of those acts as to what was to be done in relation to slavery
during the Territorial existence of those Territories, while Henry
Clay constantly made the declaration (Judge Douglas recognizing him
as a leader) that, in his opinion, the old Mexican laws would control
that question during the Territorial existence, and that these old
Mexican laws excluded slavery. How can that be used as a principle
for declaring that during the Territorial existence as well as at the
time of framing the constitution the people, if you please, might
have slaves if they wanted them? I am not discussing the question
whether it is right or wrong; but how are the New Mexican and Utah
laws patterns for the Nebraska Bill? I maintain that the
organization of Utah and New Mexico did not establish a general
principle at all. It had no feature of establishing a general
principle. The acts to which I have referred were a part of a
general system of Compromises. They did not lay down what was
proposed as a regular policy for the Territories, only an agreement
in this particular case to do in that way, because other things were
done that were to be a compensation for it. They were allowed to
come in in that shape, because in another way it was paid for,
considering that as a part of that system of measures called the
Compromise of 1850, which finally included half-a-dozen acts. It
included the admission of California as a free State, which was kept
out of the Union for half a year because it had formed a free
constitution. It included the settlement of the boundary of Texas,
which had been undefined before, which was in itself a slavery
question; for if you pushed the line farther west, you made Texas
larger, and made more slave territory; while, if you drew the line
toward the east, you narrowed the boundary and diminished the domain
of slavery, and by so much increased free territory. It included the
abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia. It
included the passage of a new Fugitive Slave law. All these things
were put together, and, though passed in separate acts, were
nevertheless, in legislation (as the speeches at the time will show),
made to depend upon each other. Each got votes with the
understanding that the other measures were to pass, and by this
system of compromise, in that series of measures, those two bills–
the New Mexico and Utah bills–were passed: and I say for that reason
they could not be taken as models, framed upon their own intrinsic
principle, for all future Territories. And I have the evidence of
this in the fact that Judge Douglas, a year afterward, or more than a
year afterward, perhaps, when he first introduced bills for the
purpose of framing new Territories, did not attempt to follow these
bills of New Mexico and Utah; and even when he introduced this
Nebraska Bill, I think you will discover that he did not exactly
follow them. But I do not wish to dwell at great length upon this
branch of the discussion. My own opinion is, that a thorough
investigation will show most plainly that the New Mexico and Utah
bills were part of a system of compromise, and not designed as
patterns for future Territorial legislation; and that this Nebraska
Bill did not follow them as a pattern at all.

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