The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

Remembering, too, that the Jefferson party was formed upon its
supposed superior devotion to the personal rights of men, holding the
rights of property to be secondary only, and greatly inferior, and
assuming that the so-called Democracy of to-day are the Jefferson,
and their opponents the anti-Jefferson, party, it will be equally
interesting to note how completely the two have changed hands as to
the principle upon which they were originally supposed to be divided.
The Democracy of to-day hold the liberty of one man to be absolutely
nothing, when in conflict with another man’s right of property;
Republicans, on the contrary, are for both the man and the dollar,
but in case of conflict the man before the dollar.

I remember being once much amused at seeing two partially intoxicated
men engaged in a fight with their great-coats on, which fight, after
a long and rather harmless contest, ended in each having fought
himself out of his own coat and into that of the other. If the two
leading parties of this day are really identical with the two in the
days of Jefferson and Adams, they have performed the same feat as the
two drunken men.

But soberly, it is now no child’s play to save the principles of
Jefferson from total overthrow in this nation. One would state with
great confidence that he could convince any sane child that the
simpler propositions of Euclid are true; but nevertheless he would
fail, utterly, with one who should deny the definitions and axioms.
The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free
society. And yet they are denied and evaded, with no small show of
success. One dashingly calls them “glittering generalities.”
Another bluntly calls them “self-evident lies.” And others
insidiously argue that they apply to “superior races.” These
expressions, differing in form, are identical in object and effect–
the supplanting the principles of free government, and restoring
those of classification, caste, and legitimacy. They would delight a
convocation of crowned heads plotting against the people. They are
the vanguard, the miners and sappers, of returning despotism. We
must repulse them, or they will subjugate us. This is a world of
compensation; and he who would be no slave must consent to have no
slave. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for
themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it. All honor
to Jefferson to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle
for national independence by a single people, had the coolness,
forecast, and capacity to introduce into a mere revolutionary
document an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and
so to embalm it there that to-day and in all coming days it shall be
a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of reappearing
tyranny and oppression.

Your obedient servant,



SPRINGFIELD, May 17, 1859.


DEAR SIR:–Your note asking, in behalf of yourself and other German
citizens, whether I am for or against the constitutional provision in
regard to naturalized citizens, lately adopted by Massachusetts, and
whether I am for or against a fusion of the Republicans and other
opposition elements for the canvass of 1860, is received.

Massachusetts is a sovereign and independent State; and it is no
privilege of mine to scold her for what she does. Still, if from
what she has done an inference is sought to be drawn as to what I
would do, I may without impropriety speak out. I say, then, that, as
I understand the Massachusetts provision, I am against its adoption
in Illinois, or in any other place where I have a right to oppose it.
Understanding the spirit of our institutions to aim at the elevation
of men, I am opposed to whatever tends to degrade them. I have some
little notoriety for commiserating the oppressed negro; and I should
be strangely inconsistent if I could favor any project for curtailing
the existing rights of white men, even though born in different
lands, and speaking different languages from myself. As to the
matter of fusion, I am for it if it can be had on Republican grounds;
and I am not for it on any other terms. A fusion on any other terms
would be as foolish as unprincipled. It would lose the whole North,
while the common enemy would still carry the whole South. The
question of men is a different one. There are good, patriotic men
and able statesmen in the South whom I would cheerfully support, if
they would now place themselves on Republican ground, but I am
against letting down the Republican standard a hairsbreadth.

I have written this hastily, but I believe it answers your questions

Yours truly,




In reply to your inquiry; requesting our written opinion as to what
your duty requires you to do in executing the latter clause of the
Seventh Section of “An Act in relation to the payment of the
principal and interest of the State debt,” approved Feb’y 22, 1859,
we reply that said last clause of said section is certainly
indefinite, general, and ambiguous in its description of the bonds to
be issued by you; giving no time at which the bonds are to be made
payable, no place at which either principal or interest are to be
paid, and no rate of interest which the bonds are to bear; nor any
other description except that they are to be coupon bonds, which in
commercial usage means interest-paying bonds with obligations or
orders attached to them for the payment of annual or semiannual
interest; there is we suppose no difficulty in ascertaining, if this
act stood alone, what ought to be the construction of the terms
“coupon bonds” and that it, would mean bonds bearing interest from
the time of issuing the same. And under this act considered by
itself the creditors would have a right to require such bonds. But
your inquiry in regard to a class of bonds on which no interest is to
be paid or shall begin to run until January 1 , 1860, is whether the
Act of February 18, 1857, would not authorize you to refuse to give
bonds with any coupons attached payable before the first day of July,
1860. We have very maturely considered this question and have arrived
at the conclusion that you have a right to use such measures as will
secure the State against the loss of six months’ interest on these
bonds by the indefiniteness of the Act of 1859. While it cannot be
denied that the letter of the laws favor the construction claimed by
some of the creditors that interest-bearing bonds were required to be
issued to them, inasmuch as the restriction that no interest is to
run on said bonds unti1 1st January, 1860, relates solely to the
bonds issued under the Act of 1857. And the Act of 1859 directing
you to issue new bonds does not contain this restriction, but directs
you to issue coupon bonds. Nevertheless the very indefiniteness and
generality of the Act of 1859, giving no rate of interest, no time
due, no place of payment, no postponement of the time when interest
commences, necessarily implies that the Legislature intended to
invest you with a discretion to impose such terms and restrictions as
would protect the interest of the State; and we think you have a
right and that it is your duty to see that the State Bonds are so
issued that the State shall not lose six months’ interest. Two plans
present themselves either of which will secure the State. 1st. If in
literal compliance with the law you issue bonds bearing interest from
1st July, 1859, you may deduct from the bonds presented three
thousand from every $100,000 of bonds and issue $97,000 of coupon
bonds; by this plan $3000 out of $100,000 of principal would be
extinguished in consideration of paying $2910 interest on the first
of January, 1860–and the interest on the $3000 would forever cease;
this would be no doubt most advantageous to the State. But if the
Auditor will not consent to this, then, 2nd. Cut off of each bond
all the coupons payable before 1st July, 1860.

One of these plans would undoubtedly have been prescribed by the
Legislature if its attention had been directed to this question.

May 28, 1859.



SPRINGFIELD, December 25, 1858.


MY DEAR SIR:–I have just received yours of the 23rd inquiring
whether I received the newspapers you sent me by express. I did
receive them, and am very much obliged. There is some probability
that my scrap-book will be reprinted, and if it shall, I will save
you a copy.

Your friend as ever,





SPRINGFIELD, ILL., July 28, 1859.


MY DEAR SIR:–Your very complimentary, not to say flattering, letter
of the 23d inst. is received. Dr. Reynolds had induced me to expect
you here; and I was disappointed not a little by your failure to
come. And yet I fear you have formed an estimate of me which can
scarcely be sustained on a personal acquaintance.

Two things done by the Ohio Republican convention–the repudiation of
Judge Swan, and the “plank” for a repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law–I
very much regretted. These two things are of a piece; and they are
viewed by many good men, sincerely opposed to slavery, as a struggle
against, and in disregard of, the Constitution itself. And it is the
very thing that will greatly endanger our cause, if it be not kept
out of our national convention. There is another thing our friends
are doing which gives me some uneasiness. It is their leaning toward
“popular sovereignty.” There are three substantial objections to
this: First, no party can command respect which sustains this year
what it opposed last. Secondly, Douglas (who is the most dangerous
enemy of liberty, because the most insidious one) would have little
support in the North, and by consequence, no capital to trade on in
the South, if it were not for his friends thus magnifying him and his
humbug. But lastly, and chiefly, Douglas’s popular sovereignty,
accepted by the public mind as a just principle, nationalizes
slavery, and revives the African slave trade inevitably.

Taking slaves into new Territories, and buying slaves in Africa, are
identical things, identical rights or identical wrongs, and the
argument which establishes one will establish the other. Try a
thousand years for a sound reason why Congress shall not hinder the
people of Kansas from having slaves, and, when you have found it, it
will be an equally good one why Congress should not hinder the people
of Georgia from importing slaves from Africa.

As to Governor Chase, I have a kind side for him. He was one of the
few distinguished men of the nation who gave us, in Illinois, their
sympathy last year. I never saw him, but suppose him to be able and
right-minded; but still he may not be the most suitable as a
candidate for the Presidency.

I must say I do not think myself fit for the Presidency. As you
propose a correspondence with me, I shall look for your letters

I have not met Dr. Reynolds since receiving your letter; but when I
shall, I will present your respects as requested.

Yours very truly,




SPRINGFIELD, ILL. Sept. 6, 1859.


DEAR SIR:–Yours of the 3d is just received. There is some mistake
about my expected attendance of the U.S. Court in your city on the 3d
Tuesday of this month. I have had no thought of being there.

It is bad to be poor. I shall go to the wall for bread and meat if I
neglect my business this year as well as last. It would please me
much to see the city and good people of Keokuk, but for this year it
is little less than an impossibility. I am constantly receiving
invitations which I am compelled to decline. I was pressingly urged
to go to Minnesota; and I now have two invitations to go to Ohio.
These last are prompted by Douglas going there; and I am really
tempted to make a flying trip to Columbus and Cincinnati.

I do hope you will have no serious trouble in Iowa. What thinks
Grimes about it? I have not known him to be mistaken about an
election in Iowa. Present my respects to Col. Carter, and any other
friends, and believe me

Yours truly,



SEPTEMBER 16, 1859.

FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE STATE OF OHIO: I cannot fail to remember that
I appear for the first time before an audience in this now great
State,–an audience that is accustomed to hear such speakers as
Corwin, and Chase, and Wade, and many other renowned men; and,
remembering this, I feel that it will be well for you, as for me,
that you should not raise your expectations to that standard to which
you would have been justified in raising them had one of these
distinguished men appeared before you. You would perhaps be only
preparing a disappointment for yourselves, and, as a consequence of
your disappointment, mortification to me. I hope, therefore, that
you will commence with very moderate expectations; and perhaps, if
you will give me your attention, I shall be able to interest you to a
moderate degree.

Appearing here for the first time in my life, I have been somewhat
embarrassed for a topic by way of introduction to my speech; but I
have been relieved from that embarrassment by an introduction which
the Ohio Statesman newspaper gave me this morning. In this paper I
have read an article, in which, among other statements, I find the

“In debating with Senator Douglas during the memorable contest of
last fall, Mr. Lincoln declared in favor of negro suffrage, and
attempted to defend that vile conception against the Little Giant.”

I mention this now, at the opening of my remarks, for the purpose of
making three comments upon it. The first I have already announced,–
it furnishes me an introductory topic; the second is to show that the
gentleman is mistaken; thirdly, to give him an opportunity to correct

In the first place, in regard to this matter being a mistake. I have
found that it is not entirely safe, when one is misrepresented under
his very nose, to allow the misrepresentation to go uncontradicted.
I therefore propose, here at the outset, not only to say that this is
a misrepresentation, but to show conclusively that it is so; and you
will bear with me while I read a couple of extracts from that very
“memorable” debate with Judge Douglas last year, to which this
newspaper refers. In the first pitched battle which Senator Douglas
and myself had, at the town of Ottawa, I used the language which I
will now read. Having been previously reading an extract, I
continued as follows:

“Now, gentlemen, I don’t want to read at any greater length, but this
is the true complexion of all I have ever said in regard to the
institution of slavery and the black race. This is the whole of it;
and anything that argues me into his idea of perfect social and
political equality with the negro, is but a specious and fantastic
arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a horse-chestnut to be
a chestnut horse. I will say here, while upon this subject, that I
have no purpose directly or indirectly to interfere with the
institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I
have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so. I
have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between
the white and the black races. There is a physical difference
between the two which, in my judgment, will probably forbid their
ever living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and
inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference,
I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I
belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to
the contrary, but I hold that, notwithstanding all this, there is no
reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural
rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence,–the right to
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as
much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with judge Douglas,
he is not my equal in many respects,–certainly not in color, perhaps
not in moral or intellectual endowments. But in the right to eat the
bread, without leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is
my equal, and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every
living man.”

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