The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

So far in this controversy I can get no answer at all from Judge
Douglas upon these subjects. Not one can I get from him, except that
he swells himself up and says, “All of us who stand by the decision
of the Supreme Court are the friends of the Constitution; all you
fellows that dare question it in any way are the enemies of the
Constitution.” Now, in this very devoted adherence to this decision,
in opposition to all the great political leaders whom he has
recognized as leaders, in opposition to his former self and history,
there is something very marked. And the manner in which he adheres
to it,–not as being right upon the merits, as he conceives (because
he did not discuss that at all), but as being absolutely obligatory
upon every one simply because of the source from whence it comes, as
that which no man can gainsay, whatever it may be,–this is another
marked feature of his adherence to that decision. It marks it in
this respect, that it commits him to the next decision, whenever it
comes, as being as obligatory as this one, since he does not
investigate it, and won’t inquire whether this opinion is right or
wrong. So he takes the next one without inquiring whether it is
right or wrong. He teaches men this doctrine, and in so doing
prepares the public mind to take the next decision when it comes,
without any inquiry. In this I think I argue fairly (without
questioning motives at all) that Judge Douglas is most ingeniously
and powerfully preparing the public mind to take that decision when
it comes; and not only so, but he is doing it in various other ways.
In these general maxims about liberty, in his assertions that he
“don’t care whether slavery is voted up or voted down,”; that
“whoever wants slavery has a right to have it”; that “upon principles
of equality it should be allowed to go everywhere”; that “there is no
inconsistency between free and slave institutions “- in this he is
also preparing (whether purposely or not) the way for making the
institution of slavery national! I repeat again, for I wish no
misunderstanding, that I do not charge that he means it so; but I
call upon your minds to inquire, if you were going to get the best
instrument you could, and then set it to work in the most ingenious
way, to prepare the public mind for this movement, operating in the
free States, where there is now an abhorrence of the institution of
slavery, could you find an instrument so capable of doing it as Judge
Douglas, or one employed in so apt a way to do it?

I have said once before, and I will repeat it now, that Mr. Clay,
when he was once answering an objection to the Colonization Society,
that it had a tendency to the ultimate emancipation of the slaves,
said that:

“those who would repress all tendencies to liberty and ultimate
emancipation must do more than put down the benevolent efforts of the
Colonization Society: they must go back to the era of our liberty and
independence, and muzzle the cannon that thunders its annual joyous
return; they must blow out the moral lights around us; they must
penetrate the human soul, and eradicate the light of reason and the
love of liberty!”

And I do think–I repeat, though I said it on a former occasion–that
Judge Douglas and whoever, like him, teaches that the negro has no
share, humble though it may be, in the Declaration of Independence,
is going back to the era of our liberty and independence, and, so far
as in him lies, muzzling the cannon that thunders its annual joyous
return; that he is blowing out the moral lights around us, when he
contends that whoever wants slaves has a right to hold them; that he
is penetrating, so far as lies in his power, the human soul, and
eradicating the light of reason and the love of liberty, when he is
in every possible way preparing the public mind, by his vast
influence, for making the institution of slavery perpetual and

There is, my friends, only one other point to which I will call your
attention for the remaining time that I have left me, and perhaps I
shall not occupy the entire time that I have, as that one point may
not take me clear through it.

Among the interrogatories that Judge Douglas propounded to me at
Freeport, there was one in about this language:

“Are you opposed to the acquisition of any further territory to the
United States, unless slavery shall first be prohibited therein?”

I answered, as I thought, in this way: that I am not generally
opposed to the acquisition of additional territory, and that I would
support a proposition for the acquisition of additional territory
according as my supporting it was or was not calculated to aggravate
this slavery question amongst us. I then proposed to Judge Douglas
another interrogatory, which was correlative to that: “Are you in
favor of acquiring additional territory, in disregard of how it may
affect us upon the slavery question?” Judge Douglas answered,–that
is, in his own way he answered it. I believe that, although he took
a good many words to answer it, it was a little more fully answered
than any other. The substance of his answer was that this country
would continue to expand; that it would need additional territory;
that it was as absurd to suppose that we could continue upon our
present territory, enlarging in population as we are, as it would be
to hoop a boy twelve years of age, and expect him to grow to man’s
size without bursting the hoops. I believe it was something like
that. Consequently, he was in favor of the acquisition of further
territory as fast as we might need it, in disregard of how it might
affect the slavery question. I do not say this as giving his exact
language, but he said so substantially; and he would leave the
question of slavery, where the territory was acquired, to be settled
by the people of the acquired territory. [“That’s the doctrine.”] May be it is; let us consider that for a while. This will probably,
in the run of things, become one of the concrete manifestations of
this slavery question. If Judge Douglas’s policy upon this question
succeeds, and gets fairly settled down, until all opposition is
crushed out, the next thing will be a grab for the territory of poor
Mexico, an invasion of the rich lands of South America, then the
adjoining islands will follow, each one of which promises additional
slave-fields. And this question is to be left to the people of those
countries for settlement. When we get Mexico, I don’t know whether
the Judge will be in favor of the Mexican people that we get with it
settling that question for themselves and all others; because we know
the Judge has a great horror for mongrels, and I understand that the
people of Mexico are most decidedly a race of mongrels. I understand
that there is not more than one person there out of eight who is pure
white, and I suppose from the Judge’s previous declaration that when
we get Mexico, or any considerable portion of it, that he will be in
favor of these mongrels settling the question, which would bring him
somewhat into collision with his horror of an inferior race.

It is to be remembered, though, that this power of acquiring
additional territory is a power confided to the President and the
Senate of the United States. It is a power not under the control of
the representatives of the people any further than they, the
President and the Senate, can be considered the representatives of
the people. Let me illustrate that by a case we have in our history.
When we acquired the territory from Mexico in the Mexican War, the
House of Representatives, composed of the immediate representatives
of the people, all the time insisted that the territory thus to be
acquired should be brought in upon condition that slavery should be
forever prohibited therein, upon the terms and in the language that
slavery had been prohibited from coming into this country. That was
insisted upon constantly and never failed to call forth an assurance
that any territory thus acquired should have that prohibition in it,
so far as the House of Representatives was concerned. But at last
the President and Senate acquired the territory without asking the
House of Representatives anything about it, and took it without that
prohibition. They have the power of acquiring territory without the
immediate representatives of the people being called upon to say
anything about it, and thus furnishing a very apt and powerful means
of bringing new territory into the Union, and, when it is once
brought into the country, involving us anew in this slavery
agitation. It is therefore, as I think, a very important question
for due consideration of the American people, whether the policy of
bringing in additional territory, without considering at all how it
will operate upon the safety of the Union in reference to this one
great disturbing element in our national politics, shall be adopted
as the policy of the country. You will bear in mind that it is to be
acquired, according to the Judge’s view, as fast as it is needed, and
the indefinite part of this proposition is that we have only Judge
Douglas and his class of men to decide how fast it is needed. We
have no clear and certain way of determining or demonstrating how
fast territory is needed by the necessities of the country. Whoever
wants to go out filibustering, then, thinks that more territory is
needed. Whoever wants wider slave-fields feels sure that some
additional territory is needed as slave territory. Then it is as
easy to show the necessity of additional slave-territory as it is to
assert anything that is incapable of absolute demonstration.
Whatever motive a man or a set of men may have for making annexation
of property or territory, it is very easy to assert, but much less
easy to disprove, that it is necessary for the wants of the country.

And now it only remains for me to say that I think it is a very grave
question for the people of this Union to consider, whether, in view
of the fact that this slavery question has been the only one that has
ever endangered our Republican institutions, the only one that has
ever threatened or menaced a dissolution of the Union, that has ever
disturbed us in such a way as to make us fear for the perpetuity of
our liberty,–in view of these facts, I think it is an exceedingly
interesting and important question for this people to consider
whether we shall engage in the policy of acquiring additional
territory, discarding altogether from our consideration, while
obtaining new territory, the question how it may affect us in regard
to this, the only endangering element to our liberties and national
greatness. The Judge’s view has been expressed. I, in my answer to
his question, have expressed mine. I think it will become an
important and practical question. Our views are before the public.
I am willing and anxious that they should consider them fully; that
they should turn it about and consider the importance of the
question, and arrive at a just conclusion as to whether it is or is
not wise in the people of this Union, in the acquisition of new
territory, to consider whether it will add to the disturbance that is
existing amongst us–whether it will add to the one only danger that
has ever threatened the perpetuity of the Union or our own liberties.
I think it is extremely important that they shall decide, and rightly
decide, that question before entering upon that policy.

And now, my friends, having said the little I wish to say upon this
head, whether I have occupied the whole of the remnant of my time or
not, I believe I could not enter upon any new topic so as to treat it
fully, without transcending my time, which I would not for a moment
think of doing. I give way to Judge Douglas.



LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: I have had no immediate conference with Judge
Douglas, but I will venture to say that he and I will perfectly agree
that your entire silence, both when I speak and when he speaks, will
be most agreeable to us.

In the month of May, 1856, the elements in the State of Illinois
which have since been consolidated into the Republican party
assembled together in a State Convention at Bloomington. They
adopted at that time what, in political language, is called a
platform. In June of the same year the elements of the Republican
party in the nation assembled together in a National Convention at
Philadelphia. They adopted what is called the National Platform. In
June, 1858,–the present year,–the Republicans of Illinois
reassembled at Springfield, in State Convention, and adopted again
their platform, as I suppose not differing in any essential
particular from either of the former ones, but perhaps adding
something in relation to the new developments of political progress
in the country.

The Convention that assembled in June last did me the honor, if it be
one, and I esteem it such, to nominate me as their candidate for the
United States Senate. I have supposed that, in entering upon this
canvass, I stood generally upon these platforms. We are now met
together on the 13th of October of the same year, only four months
from the adoption of the last platform, and I am unaware that in this
canvass, from the beginning until to-day, any one of our adversaries
has taken hold of our platforms, or laid his finger upon anything
that he calls wrong in them.

In the very first one of these joint discussions between Senator
Douglas and myself, Senator Douglas, without alluding at all to these
platforms, or any one of them, of which I have spoken, attempted to
hold me responsible for a set of resolutions passed long before the
meeting of either one of these conventions of which I have spoken.
And as a ground for holding me responsible for these resolutions, he
assumed that they had been passed at a State Convention of the
Republican party, and that I took part in that Convention. It was
discovered afterward that this was erroneous, that the resolutions
which he endeavored to hold me responsible for had not been passed by
any State Convention anywhere, had not been passed at Springfield,
where he supposed they had, or assumed that they had, and that they
had been passed in no convention in which I had taken part. The
Judge, nevertheless, was not willing to give up the point that he was
endeavoring to make upon me, and he therefore thought to still hold
me to the point that he was endeavoring to make, by showing that the
resolutions that he read had been passed at a local convention in the
northern part of the State, although it was not a local convention
that embraced my residence at all, nor one that reached, as I
suppose, nearer than one hundred and fifty or two hundred miles of
where I was when it met, nor one in which I took any part at all. He
also introduced other resolutions, passed at other meetings, and by
combining the whole, although they were all antecedent to the two
State Conventions and the one National Convention I have mentioned,
still he insisted, and now insists, as I understand, that I am in
some way responsible for them.

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