The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

The Judge tells, in proceeding, that he is opposed to making any
odious distinctions between free and slave States. I am altogether
unaware that the Republicans are in favor of making any odious
distinctions between the free and slave States. But there is still a
difference, I think, between Judge Douglas and the Republicans in
this. I suppose that the real difference between Judge Douglas and
his friends, and the Republicans on the contrary, is, that the Judge
is not in favor of making any difference between slavery and liberty;
that he is in favor of eradicating, of pressing out of view, the
questions of preference in this country for free or slave
institutions; and consequently every sentiment he utters discards the
idea that there is any wrong in slavery. Everything that emanates
from him or his coadjutors in their course of policy carefully
excludes the thought that there is anything wrong in slavery. All
their arguments, if you will consider them, will be seen to exclude
the thought that there is anything whatever wrong in slavery. If you
will take the Judge’s speeches, and select the short and pointed
sentences expressed by him,–as his declaration that he “don’t care
whether slavery is voted up or down,”–you will see at once that this
is perfectly logical, if you do not admit that slavery is wrong. If
you do admit that it is wrong, Judge Douglas cannot logically say he
don’t care whether a wrong is voted up or voted down. Judge Douglas
declares that if any community wants slavery they have a right to
have it. He can say that logically, if he says that there is no
wrong in slavery; but if you admit that there is a wrong in it, he
cannot logically say that anybody has a right to do wrong. He
insists that upon the score of equality the owners of slaves and
owners of property–of horses and every other sort of property–
should be alike, and hold them alike in a new Territory. That is
perfectly logical if the two species of property are alike and are
equally founded in right. But if you admit that one of them is
wrong, you cannot institute any equality between right and wrong.
And from this difference of sentiment,–the belief on the part of one
that the institution is wrong, and a policy springing from that
belief which looks to the arrest of the enlargement of that wrong,
and this other sentiment, that it is no wrong, and a policy sprung
from that sentiment, which will tolerate no idea of preventing the
wrong from growing larger, and looks to there never being an end to
it through all the existence of things,–arises the real difference
between Judge Douglas and his friends on the one hand and the
Republicans on the other. Now, I confess myself as belonging to that
class in the country who contemplate slavery as a moral, social, and
political evil, having due regard for its actual existence amongst us
and the difficulties of getting rid of it in any satisfactory way,
and to all the constitutional obligations which have been thrown
about it; but, nevertheless, desire a policy that looks to the
prevention of it as a wrong, and looks hopefully to the time when as
a wrong it may come to an end.

Judge Douglas has again, for, I believe, the fifth time, if not the
seventh, in my presence, reiterated his charge of a conspiracy or
combination between the National Democrats and Republicans. What
evidence Judge Douglas has upon this subject I know not, inasmuch as
he never favors us with any. I have said upon a former occasion, and
I do not choose to suppress it now, that I have no objection to the
division in the Judge’s party. He got it up himself. It was all his
and their work. He had, I think, a great deal more to do with the
steps that led to the Lecompton Constitution than Mr. Buchanan had;
though at last, when they reached it, they quarreled over it, and
their friends divided upon it. I am very free to confess to Judge
Douglas that I have no objection to the division; but I defy the
Judge to show any evidence that I have in any way promoted that
division, unless he insists on being a witness himself in merely
saying so. I can give all fair friends of Judge Douglas here to
understand exactly the view that Republicans take in regard to that
division. Don’t you remember how two years ago the opponents of the
Democratic party were divided between Fremont and Fillmore? I guess
you do. Any Democrat who remembers that division will remember also
that he was at the time very glad of it, and then he will be able to
see all there is between the National Democrats and the Republicans.
What we now think of the two divisions of Democrats, you then thought
of the Fremont and Fillmore divisions. That is all there is of it.

But if the Judge continues to put forward the declaration that there
is an unholy and unnatural alliance between the Republicans and the
National Democrats, I now want to enter my protest against receiving
him as an entirely competent witness upon that subject. I want to
call to the Judge’s attention an attack he made upon me in the first
one of these
debates, at Ottawa, on the 21st of August. In order to fix extreme
Abolitionism upon me, Judge Douglas read a set of resolutions which
he declared had been passed by a Republican State Convention, in
October, 1854, at Springfield, Illinois, and he declared I had taken
part in that Convention. It turned out that although a few men
calling themselves an anti-Nebraska State Convention had sat at
Springfield about that time, yet neither did I take any part in it,
nor did it pass the resolutions or any such resolutions as Judge
Douglas read. So apparent had it become that the resolutions which
he read had not been passed at Springfield at all, nor by a State
Convention in which I had taken part, that seven days afterward, at
Freeport, Judge Douglas declared that he had been misled by Charles
H. Lanphier, editor of the State Register, and Thomas L. Harris,
member of Congress in that district, and he promised in that speech
that when he went to Springfield he would investigate the matter.
Since then Judge Douglas has been to Springfield, and I presume has
made the investigation; but a month has passed since he has been
there, and, so far as I know, he has made no report of the result of
his investigation. I have waited as I think sufficient time for the
report of that investigation, and I have some curiosity to see and
hear it. A fraud, an absolute forgery was committed, and the
perpetration of it was traced to the three,–Lanphier, Harris, and
Douglas. Whether it can be narrowed in any way so as to exonerate
any one of them, is what Judge Douglas’s report would probably show.

It is true that the set of resolutions read by Judge Douglas were
published in the Illinois State Register on the 16th of October,
1854, as being the resolutions of an anti-Nebraska Convention which
had sat in that same month of October, at Springfield. But it is
also true that the publication in the Register was a forgery then,
and the question is still behind, which of the three, if not all of
them, committed that forgery. The idea that it was done by mistake
is absurd. The article in the Illinois State Register contains part
of the real proceedings of that Springfield Convention, showing that
the writer of the article had the real proceedings before him, and
purposely threw out the genuine resolutions passed by the Convention
and fraudulently substituted the others. Lanphier then, as now, was
the editor of the Register, so that there seems to be but little room
for his escape. But then it is to be borne in mind that Lanphier had
less interest in the object of that forgery than either of the other
two. The main object of that forgery at that time was to beat Yates
and elect Harris to Congress, and that object was known to be
exceedingly dear to Judge Douglas at that time. Harris and Douglas
were both in Springfield when the Convention was in session, and
although they both left before the fraud appeared in the Register,
subsequent events show that they have both had their eyes fixed upon
that Convention.

The fraud having been apparently successful upon the occasion, both
Harris and Douglas have more than once since then been attempting to
put it to new uses. As the fisherman’s wife, whose drowned husband
was brought home with his body full of eels, said when she was asked
what was to be done with him, “Take the eels out and set him again,”
so Harris and Douglas have shown a disposition to take the eels out
of that stale fraud by which they gained Harris’s election, and set
the fraud again more than once. On the 9th of July, 1856, Douglas
attempted a repetition of it upon Trumbull on the floor of the Senate
of the United States, as will appear from the appendix of the
Congressional Globe of that date.

On the 9th of August, Harris attempted it again upon Norton in the
House of Representatives, as will appear by the same documents,–the
appendix to the Congressional Globe of that date. On the 21st of
August last, all three–Lanphier, Douglas, and Harris–reattempted it
upon me at Ottawa. It has been clung to and played out again and
again as an exceedingly high trump by this blessed trio. And now
that it has been discovered publicly to be a fraud we find that Judge
Douglas manifests no surprise at it at all. He makes no complaint of
Lanphier, who must have known it to be a fraud from the beginning.
He, Lanphier, and Harris are just as cozy now and just as active in
the concoction of new schemes as they were before the general
discovery of this fraud. Now, all this is very natural if they are
all alike guilty in that fraud, and it is very unnatural if any one
of them is innocent. Lanphier perhaps insists that the rule of honor
among thieves does not quite require him to take all upon himself,
and consequently my friend Judge Douglas finds it difficult to make a
satisfactory report upon his investigation. But meanwhile the three
are agreed that each is “a most honorable man.”

Judge Douglas requires an indorsement of his truth and honor by a
re-election to the United States Senate, and he makes and reports
against me and against Judge Trumbull, day after day, charges which
we know to be utterly untrue, without for a moment seeming to think
that this one unexplained fraud, which he promised to investigate,
will be the least drawback to his claim to belief. Harris ditto. He
asks a re-election to the lower House of Congress without seeming to
remember at all that he is involved in this dishonorable fraud! The
Illinois State Register, edited by Lanphier, then, as now, the
central organ of both Harris and Douglas, continues to din the public
ear with this assertion, without seeming to suspect that these
assertions are at all lacking in title to belief.

After all, the question still recurs upon us, How did that fraud
originally get into the State Register.? Lanphier then, as now, was
the editor of that paper. Lanphier knows. Lanphier cannot be
ignorant of how and by whom it was originally concocted. Can he be
induced to tell, or, if he has told, can Judge Douglas be induced to
tell how it originally was concocted? It may be true that Lanphier
insists that the two men for whose benefit it was originally devised
shall at least bear their share of it! How that is, I do not know,
and while it remains unexplained I hope to be pardoned if I insist
that the mere fact of Judge Douglas making charges against Trumbull
and myself is not quite sufficient evidence to establish them!

While we were at Freeport, in one of these joint discussions, I
answered certain interrogatories which Judge Douglas had propounded
to me, and then in turn propounded some to him, which he in a sort of
way answered. The third one of these interrogatories I have with me,
and wish now to make some comments upon it. It was in these words:
“If the Supreme Court of the United States shall decide that the
States cannot exclude slavery from their limits, are you in favor of
acquiescing in, adhering to, and following such decision as a rule of
political action?”

To this interrogatory Judge Douglas made no answer in any just sense
of the word. He contented himself with sneering at the thought that
it was possible for the Supreme Court ever to make such a decision.
He sneered at me for propounding the interrogatory. I had not
propounded it without some reflection, and I wish now to address to
this audience some remarks upon it.

In the second clause of the sixth article, I believe it is, of the
Constitution of the United States, we find the following language:

“This Constitution and the laws of the United States which shall be
made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be
made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme
law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound
thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the
contrary notwithstanding.”

The essence of the Dred Scott case is compressed into the sentence
which I will now read:

“Now, as we have already said in an earlier part of this opinion,
upon a different point, the right of property in a slave is
distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution.”

I repeat it, “The right of property in a slave is distinctly and
expressly affirmed in the Constitution”! What is it to be “affirmed”
in the Constitution? Made firm in the Constitution, so made that it
cannot be separated from the Constitution without breaking the
Constitution; durable as the Constitution, and part of the
Constitution. Now, remembering the provision of the Constitution
which I have read–affirming that that instrument is the supreme law
of the land; that the judges of every State shall be bound by it, any
law or constitution of any State to the contrary notwithstanding;
that the right of property in a slave is affirmed in that
Constitution, is made, formed into, and cannot be separated from it
without breaking it; durable as the instrument; part of the
instrument;–what follows as a short and even syllogistic argument
from it? I think it follows, and I submit to the consideration of
men capable of arguing whether, as I state it, in syllogistic form,
the argument has any fault in it:

Nothing in the Constitution or laws of any State can destroy a right
distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution of the United

The right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed
in the Constitution of the United States.

Therefore, nothing in the Constitution or laws of any State can
destroy the right of property in a slave.

I believe that no fault can be pointed out in that argument; assuming
the truth of the premises, the conclusion, so far as I have capacity
at all to understand it, follows inevitably. There is a fault in it
as I think, but the fault is not in the reasoning; but the falsehood
in fact is a fault of the premises. I believe that the right of
property in a slave is not distinctly and expressly affirmed in the
Constitution, and Judge Douglas thinks it is. I believe that the
Supreme Court and the advocates of that decision may search in vain
for the place in the Constitution where the right of property in a
slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed I say, therefore, that I
think one of the premises is not true in fact. But it is true with
Judge Douglas. It is true with the Supreme Court who pronounced it.
They are estopped from denying it, and being estopped from denying
it, the conclusion follows that, the Constitution of the United
States being the supreme law, no constitution or law can interfere
with it. It being affirmed in the decision that the right of
property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the
Constitution, the conclusion inevitably follows that no State law or
constitution can destroy that right. I then say to Judge Douglas and
to all others that I think it will take a better answer than a sneer
to show that those who have said that the right of property in a
slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution, are
not prepared to show that no constitution or law can destroy that
right. I say I believe it will take a far better argument than a
mere sneer to show to the minds of intelligent men that whoever has
so said is not prepared, whenever public sentiment is so far advanced
as to justify it, to say the other. This is but an opinion, and the
opinion of one very humble man; but it is my opinion that the Dred
Scott decision, as it is, never would have been made in its present
form if the party that made it had not been sustained previously by
the elections. My own opinion is, that the new Dred Scott decision,
deciding against the right of the people of the States to exclude
slavery, will never be made if that party is not sustained by the
elections. I believe, further, that it is just as sure to be made as
to-morrow is to come, if that party shall be sustained. I have said,
upon a former occasion, and I repeat it now, that the course of
arguement that Judge Douglas makes use of upon this subject (I charge
not his motives in this), is preparing the public mind for that new
Dred Scott decision. I have asked him again to point out to me the
reasons for his first adherence to the Dred Scott decision as it is.
I have turned his attention to the fact that General Jackson differed
with him in regard to the political obligation of a Supreme Court
decision. I have asked his attention to the fact that Jefferson
differed with him in regard to the political obligation of a Supreme
Court decision. Jefferson said that “Judges are as honest as other
men, and not more so.” And he said, substantially, that whenever a
free people should give up in absolute submission to any department
of government, retaining for themselves no appeal from it, their
liberties were gone. I have asked his attention to the fact that the
Cincinnati platform, upon which he says he stands, disregards a
time-honored decision of the Supreme Court, in denying the power of
Congress to establish a National Bank. I have asked his attention to
the fact that he himself was one of the most active instruments at
one time in breaking down the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois
because it had made a decision distasteful to him,–a struggle ending
in the remarkable circumstance of his sitting down as one of the new
Judges who were to overslaugh that decision; getting his title of
Judge in that very way.

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