July 17, 1858
Mr. Chairman and Fellow-Citizens of Springfield and Old Sagamon: My heart filled with emotions at the allusions which have been so happily and so kindly made in the welcome just extended to me—a welcome so numerous and so enthusiastic, bringing me to my home among my old friends, that language cannot express my gratitude. I do feel at home whenever I return to old Sangamon and receive those kind and friendly greetings which have never failed to meet me when I have come among you; but never before have I had such occasion to be grateful and to be proud of the manner of the reception as on the present. While I am willing, sir, to attribute a part of this demonstration to those kind and friendly personal relations to which you have referred, I cannot conceal from myself that the controlling and pervading element in this great mass of human beings is devotion to that principle of self-government to which so many years of my life have been devoted; and rejoice more in considering it an approval of my support of a cardinal principle than I would if I could appropriate it to myself as a personal compliment.
You but speak rightly when you assert that during the last session of Congress there was an attempt to violate one of the fundamental principles upon which our free institutions rest.. The attempt to force the Lecompton Constitution upon the people of Kansas against their will, would have been, if successful, subversive of the great fundamental principles upon which all our institutions rest. If there is any one principle more sacred and more vital to the existence of a free government than all others, it is the right of the people to form and ratify the Constitution under which they are to live. It is the cornerstone of the temple of liberty; it is the foundation upon which the whole structure rests; and whenever it can be successfully evaded self-government has received a vital stab. I deemed it my duty as a citizen and as a representative of the State of Illinois, to resist, with all my energies and with whatever ability I could command, the consummation of that effort to force a Constitution upon an unwilling people.
I am aware that other questions have been connected, or attempted to be connected, with that great struggle; but they were mere collateral questions, not affecting the main point. My opposition to the Lecompton Constitution rested solely upon the fact that it was not the act and deed of that people, and that it did not embody their will. I did not object to it upon the ground of the slavery clause contained in it. I should have resisted it with the same energy and determination even if it had been a Free State instead of a slaveholding State; and as an evidence of this fact I wish you to bear in mind that my speech against that Lecompton Act was made on the 9th day of December, nearly two weeks before the vote was taken on the acceptance or rejection of the slavery clause. I did not then know, I could not have known, whether the slavery clause would be accepted or rejected; the general impression was that it would be rejected, and in my speech I assumed that impression to be true; that probably it would be voted down; and then I said to the United States Senate, as I now proclaim to you, my constituents, that you have no more right to force a Free State upon an unwilling people than you have to force a Slave State upon them against their will. You have no right to force either a good or a bad thing upon a people who do not choose to receive it. And then, again, the highest privilege of our people is to determine for themselves what kind of institutions are good and what kind of institutions are bad; and it may be true that the same people, situated in a different latitude and different climate, and with different productions and different interests, might decide the same question one way in the North and another way in the South, in order to adapt their institutions to the wants and wishes of the people to be affected by them.
You all are familiar with the Lecompton struggle, and I will occupy no more time upon the subject, except to remark that when we drove the enemies of the principle of popular sovereignty from the effort to force the Lecompton Constitution upon the people of Kansas, and when we compelled them to abandon the attempt and to refer that Constitution to that people for acceptance or rejection, we obtained a concession of the principle for which I had contended throughout the struggle. When I saw that the principle was conceded, and that the Constitution was not to be forced on Kansas against the wishes of the people, I felt anxious to give the proposition my support; but, when I examined it, I found that the mode of reference to the people and the form of submission, upon which the vote was taken, was so objectionable as to make it unfair and unjust.
Sir, it is an axiom with me that in every free government an unfair election is no election at all. Every election should be free, should be fair, with the same privileges and the same inducements for a negative as for an affirmative vote. The objection to what is called the “English” proposition, by which the Lecompton Constitution was referred back to the people of Kansas, was this: that if the people chose to accept the Lecompton Constitution they could come in with only 35,000 inhabitants, while if they determined to reject it in order to form another more in accordance with their wishes and sentiments, they were compelled to stay out until they should have 93,420 inhabitants. In other words, it was making a distinction and discrimination between Free States and Slave States under the Federal Constitution. I deny the justice, I deny the right, of any distinction or discrimination between the States North and South, free or slave. Equality among the States is a fundamental principle of this government. Hence, while I will never consent to the passage of a law that a Slave Sate may come in with 35,000, while a Free State shall not come in unless it have 93,000, on the other hand, I shall not consent to admit a Free State with a population of 35,000, and require 93,000 in a slaveholding State.
My principle is to recognize each State of the Union as independent, sovereign and equal in its sovereignty. I will apply that principle not only to the original thirteen States, but to the States which have since been brought into the Union, and also to every State that shall hereafter be received, “as long as water shall run and grass grow.” For these reasons I felt compelled, by a sense of duty, by a conviction of principle, to record my vote against what is called the English bill; but yet the bill became a law, and under that law an election has been ordered to be held on the first Monday in August for the purpose of determining the question of the acceptance or rejection of the proposition submitted by Congress. I have no hesitation in saying to you, as the chairman of your committee has justly said in his address, that whatever the decision of the people of Kansas may be at that election, it must be final and conclusive of the whole subject; for if at that election a majority of the people of Kansas shall vote for the acceptance of the Congressional proposition, Kansas from that moment becomes a State of the Union, the law admitting her becomes irrepealable, and thus the controversy terminates forever; if, on the other hand, the people of Kansas shall vote down that proposition, as it is now generally admitted they will, by a large majority, then from that instant the Lecompton Constitution is dead—dead beyond the power of resurrection; and thus the controversy terminates. And when the monster shall die I shall be willing, and trust that all of you will be willing, to acquiesce in the death of the Lecompton Constitution. The controversy may now be considered as terminated, for in three weeks from now it will be finally settled, and all the ill-feeling, all the embittered feeling which grew out of it shall cease, unless an attempt should be made in the future to repeat the same outrage upon popular rights. I need not tell you that my past course is a sufficient guarantee that if the occasion shall ever arise again while I occupy a seat in the United States Senate, you will find me carrying out the same principle that I have this winter, with all the energy and all the power I may be able to command. I have the gratification of saying to you that I do not believe that that controversy will ever arise again; firstly, because the fate of Lecompton is a warning to the people of every Territory and of every State to be cautious how the example is repeated; and secondly, because the President of the United States, in his annual message, has said that he trusts the example in the Minnesota case, wherein Congress passed a law, called an Enabling Act, requiring the Constitution to be submitted to the people for acceptance or rejection, will be followed in all future cases. [“That was right.”] I agree with you that it was right. I said so on the day after the message was delivered, in my speech in the Senate on the Lecompton Constitution, and I have frequently in the debate tendered to the President and his friends, tendered to the Lecomptonites, my voluntary pledge that if he will stand by that recommendation, and they will stand by it, that they will find me working hand in hand with them in the effort to carry it out. All we have to do, therefore, is to adhere firmly in the future, as we have done in the past, to the principle contained in the recommendation of the President in his annual message, that the example in the Minnesota case shall be carried out in all future cases of the admission of Territories into the Union as States. Let that be done and the principle of popular sovereignty will be maintained in all of its vigor and all of its integrity. I rejoice to know that Illinois stands prominently and proudly forward among the States which first took their position firmly and immovably upon this principle of popular sovereignty, applied to the Territories as well as to the States. You all recollect when in 1850 the peace of the country was disturbed in consequence of the agitation of the slavery question, and the effort to force the Wilmot Proviso upon all the Territories, that it required all the talent and all the energy, all the wisdom, all the patriotism, of a Clay and a Webster, united with other great party leaders, to devise a system of measures by which peace and harmony could be restored to our distracted country. Those compromise measures eventually passed and were recorded on the statute book, not only as the settlement of the then existing difficulties, but as furnishing a rule of action which should prevent in all future time the recurrence of like evils, if they were firmly and fairly carried out. Those compromise measures rested, as I said in my speech at Chicago, on my return home that year, upon the principle that every people ought to have the right to form and regulate their own domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution. They were founded upon the principle that, while every State possessed that right under the Constitution, that the same right ought to be extended to and exercised by the people of the Territories. When the Illinois Legislature assembled, a few months after the adoption of these measures, the first thing the members did was to review their action upon this slavery agitation, and to correct the errors into which their predecessors had fallen. You remember that their first act was to repeal the Wilmot Proviso instructions to our United States Senators, which had been previously passed, and in lieu of them to record another resolution upon the journal, with which you must all be familiar—a resolution brought forward by Mr. Ninian Edwards, and adopted by the House of Representatives by a vote of sixty-one in the affirmative to four in the negative. That resolution I can quote to you in almost its precise language. It declared that the great principle of self-government was the birthright of freemen; was the gift of heaven; was achieved by the blood of our Revolutionary fathers, and must be continued and carried out in the organization of all the Territories and the admission of all new States. That became the Illinois platform by the united voices of the Democratic party and of the Whig party in 1851; all the Whigs and all the Democrats in the Legislature uniting in an affirmative vote upon it, and there being only four votes in the negative, of Abolitionists, of course. That resolution stands upon the journal of your Legislature to this day and hour unrepealed, as a standing, living, perpetual instruction to the Senators from Illinois in all time to come to carry out that principle of self-government and allow no limitation upon it in the organization of any Territories or the admission of any new States. In 1854, when it became my duty as chairman of the committee on Territories to bring forward a bill for the organization of Kansas and Nebraska, I incorporated that principle in it and Congress passed it, thus carrying the principle into practical effect. I will not recur to the scenes which took place all over the country in 1854 when that Nebraska bill passed. I could then travel from Boston to Chicago by the light of my own effigies, in consequence of having stood up for it. I leave it to you to say how I met that storm, and whether I quailed under it; whether I did not “face the music,” justify the principle, and pledge my life to carry it out.
A friend here reminds me, too, that when making speeches then, justifying the Nebraska bill and the great principle of self-government, that I predicted that in less than five years you would have to get out a search warrant to find an anti-Nebraska man. Well, I believe I did make that prediction. I did not claim the power of a prophet, but it occurred to me that among a free people, and an honest people, and an intelligent people, that five years was long enough for them to come to an understanding that the great principle of self-government was right, not only in the States, but in the Territories. I rejoiced this year to see my prediction, in that respect, carried out and fulfilled by the unanimous vote, in one form or another, of both Houses of Congress. If you will remember that pending this Lecompton controversy that gallant old Roman, Kentucky’s favorite son, the worthy successor of the immortal Clay—I allude, as you know, to the gallant John J. Crittenden—brought forward a bill, now known as the Crittenden-Montgomery bill, in which it was proposed that the Lecompton Constitution should be referred back to the people of Kansas, to be decided for or against it, at a fair election, and if a majority of the people were in favor of it, that Kansas should come into the Union as a slaveholding State, but that if a majority were against it, that they should make a new Constitution, and come in with slavery or without it, as they thought proper. [“That was right.”] Yes, my dear sir, it was not only right, but it was carrying out the principle of the Nebraska bill in its letter and in its spirit. Of course I voted for it, and so did every Republican Senator and Representative in Congress. I have found some Democrats so perfectly straight that they blame me for voting for the principle of the Nebraska bill because the Republicans voted the same way. [Great laughter. “What did they say?”]
What did they say? Why, many of them said that Douglas voted with the Republicans. Yes! not only that, but with the black Republicans. Well, there are different modes of stating that proposition. The New York Tribune says that Douglas did not vote with the Republicans, but that on that question the Republicans went over to Douglas and voted with him.
My friends, I have never yet abandoned a principle because of the support I found men yielding to it, and I shall never abandon my Democratic principles merely because Republicans come to them. For what do we travel over the country and make speeches in every political canvass, if it is not to enlighten the minds of these Republicans; to remove the scales from their eyes, and to impart to them the light of Democratic vision, so that they may be able to carry out the Constitution of our country as our fathers made it. And if by preaching our principles to the people we succeed in convincing the Republicans of the errors of their ways, and bring them over to us, are we bound to turn traitors to our principles merely because they give them their support? All I have to say is that I hope the Republican party will stand firm in the future by the vote they gave on the Crittenden-Montgomery bill. I hope we will find, in the resolutions of their County and Congressional Conventions, no declarations of “no more Slave States to be admitted into this Union,” but in lieu of that declaration that we will find the principle that the people of every State and every Territory shall come into the Union with slavery or without it, just as they please, without any interference on the part of Congress.
My friends, whilst I was at Washington, engaged in this great battle for sound constitutional principles, I find from the newspapers that the Republican party of this State assembled in this capital, in State Convention, and not only nominated, as it was wise and proper for them to do, a man for my successor in the Senate, but laid down a platform, and their nominee made a speech, carefully written and prepared, and well delivered, which that Convention accepted as containing the Republican creed. I have no comment to make on that part of Mr. Lincoln’s speech, in which he represents me as forming a conspiracy with the Supreme Court,. and with the late President of the United States and the present chief magistrate, having for my object the passage of the Nebraska bill, the Dred Scott decision and the extension of slavery—a scheme of political tricksters, composed of Chief Justice Taney and his eight associates, two Presidents of the United States, and one Senator of Illinois. If Mr. Lincoln deems me a conspirator of that kind, all I have to say is that I do not think so badly of the President of the United States, and the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest judicial tribunal on earth, as to believe that they were capable in their action and decision of entering into political intrigues for partisan purposes. I therefore shall only notice those parts of Mr. Lincoln’s speech, in which he lays down his platform of principles, and tells you what he intends to do if he is elected to the Senate of the United States.[An old gentleman here rose on the platform and said: “Be particular now, Judge, be particular.”]
Mr. DOUGLAS:My venerable friend here says that he will be gratified if I will be particular, and in order that I may be so, I will read the language of Mr. Lincoln as reported by himself and published to the country. Mr. Lincoln lays down his main proposition in these words:
‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this Union cannot endure permanently half free and half slave. I do not expect the Union will be dissolved, I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it to cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.
Mr. Lincoln does not think this Union can continue to exist composed of half slave and half free States; they must all be free or all slave. I do not doubt that this is Mr. Lincoln’s conscientious conviction. I do not doubt that he thinks it is the highest duty of every patriotic citizen to preserve this glorious Union, and to adopt these measures as necessary to its preservation. He tells you that the only mode to preserve the Union is to make all the States free or all slave. It must be the one or it must be the other. Now that being essential, in his estimation, to the preservation of this glorious Union, how is he going to accomplish it? He says that he wants to go to the Senate in order to carry out this favorite patriotic policy of his, of making all the States free, so that the house shall no longer be divided against itself. When he gets to the Senate, by what means is he going to accomplish it? By an Act of Congress? Will he contend that Congress has any power under the Constitution to abolish slavery in any State of this Union, or to interfere with it directly or indirectly? Of course he will not contend that. Then what is to be his mode of carrying out his principle, by which slavery shall be abolished in all of the States? Mr. Lincoln certainly does not speak at random. He is a lawyer—an eminent lawyer—and his profession is to know the remedy for every wrong. What is his remedy for this imaginary wrong which he supposes to exist? The Constitution of the United States provides that it may be amended by Congress passing an amendment by a two-thirds majority of each House, which shall be ratified by three-fourths of the States, and the inference is that Mr. Lincoln intends to carry this slavery agitation into Congress with the view of amending the Constitution so that slavery can be abolished in all the States of the Union. In other words, he is not going to allow one portion of the Union to be slave and another portion to be free; he is not going to permit the house to be divided against itself. He is going to remedy it by lawful and constitutional means. What are to be these means? How can he abolish slavery in those States where it exists? There is but one mode by which a political organization, composed of men in the Free States, can abolish slavery in the slaveholding States, and that would be to abolish the State Legislatures, blot out of existence the State sovereignties, invest Congress with full and plenary power over all the local and domestic and police regulations of the different States of this Union. Then there would be uniformity in the local concerns and domestic institutions of the different States; then the house would be no longer divided against itself; then the States would all be free, or they would all be slave; then you would have uniformity prevailing throughout this whole land in the local and domestic institutions: but it would be a uniformity not of liberty, but a uniformity of despotism that would triumph. I submit to you, my fellow-citizens, whether this is not the logical consequence of Mr. Lincoln’s proposition? I have called on Mr. Lincoln to explain what he did mean, if he did not mean this, and he has made a speech at Chicago, in which he attempts to explain. And how does he explain? I will give him the benefit of his own language, precisely as it was reported in the Republican papers of that city, after undergoing his revision:—
I have said a hundred times, and have now no inclination to take it back, that I believe there is no right and ought to be no inclination in the people of the Free States to enter into the Slave States and interfere with the question of slavery at all.
He believes there is no right on the part of the free people of the Free States to enter the Slave States and interfere with the question of slavery, hence he does not propose to go into Kentucky and stir up a civil war and a servile war between the blacks and the whites. All he proposes is to invite the people of Illinois and every other Free State to band together as one sectional party, governed and divided by a geographical line, to make war upon the institution of slavery in the slaveholding States. He is going to carry it out by means of a political party, that has its adherents only in the Free States—a political party, that does not pretend that it can give a solitary vote in the Slave States of the Union; and by this sectional vote he is going to elect a President of the United States, form a Cabinet and administer the Government on sectional grounds, being the power of the North over that of the South. In other words, he invites a war of the North against the South, a warfare of the Free States against the slaveholding States. He asks all men in the Free States to conspire to exterminate slavery in the Southern States, so as to make them all free, and then he notifies the South that unless they are going to submit to our efforts to exterminate their institutions, they must band together and plant slavery in Illinois and every Northern State. He says that the States must all be free or must all be slave. On this point I take issue with him directly. I assert that Illinois has a right to decide the slavery question for herself. We have decided it, and I think we have done it wisely; but whether wisely or unwisely, it is our business, and the people of no other State have any right to interfere with us, directly or indirectly. Claiming as we do this right for ourselves, we must concede it to every other State, to be exercised by them respectively.
Now, Mr. Lincoln says that he will not enter into Kentucky to abolish slavery there, but that all he will do is to fight slavery in Kentucky from Illinois. He will not go over there to set fire to the match. I do not think he would. Mr. Lincoln is a very prudent man. He would not deem it wise to go over into Kentucky to stir up this strife, but he would do it from this side of the river. Permit me to inquire whether the wrong, the outrage of interference by one State with the local concerns of another, is worse when you actually invade them than it would be if you carried on the warfare from another State? For the purpose of illustration, suppose the British Government should plant a battery on the Niagara River opposite Buffalo and throw their shells over into Buffalo, where they should explode and blow up the houses and destroy the town. We call the British Government to an account, and they say, in the language of Mr. Lincoln, we did not enter into the limits of the United States to interfere with you; we planted the battery on our own soil, and had a right to shoot from our own soil, and if our shells and balls fell in Buffalo and killed your inhabitants, why, it is your lookout, not ours. Thus, Mr. Lincoln is going to plant his Abolition batteries all along the banks of the Ohio River, and throw his shells into Virginia and Kentucky and into Missouri, and blow up the institution of slavery, and when we arraign him for his unjust interference with the institutions of the other States, he says, “Why, I never did enter into Kentucky to interfere with her; I do not propose to do it; I only propose to take care of my own head by keeping on this side of the river, out of harm’s way.” But yet, he says he is going to persevere in this system of sectional warfare, and I have no doubt he is sincere in what he says. He says that the existence of the Union depends upon his success in firing into these slave States until he exterminates them. He says that unless he shall play his batteries successfully, so as to abolish slavery in every one of the States, that the Union shall be dissolved; and he says that a dissolution of the Union would be a terrible calamity. Of course it would. We are all friends of the Union. We all believe—I do—that our lives, our liberties, our hopes in the future depend upon the preservation and perpetuity of this glorious Union. I believe that the hopes of the friends of liberty throughout the world depend upon the perpetuity of the American Union. But while I believe that my mode of preserving the Union is a very different one from that of Mr. Lincoln, I believe that the Union can only be preserved by maintaining inviolate the Constitution of the United States as our fathers have made it. That Constitution guarantees to the people of every State the right to have slavery or not have it; to have negroes or not have them; to have Maine liquor laws or not have them; to have just such institutions as they choose, each State being left free to decide for itself. The framers of that Constitution never conceived the idea that uniformity in the domestic institutions of the different States was either desirable or possible. They well understood that the laws and institutions which would be well adapted to the granite hills of New Hampshire, would be unfit for the rice plantations of South Carolina; they well understood that each one of the thirteen States had distinct and separate interests, and required distinct and separate local laws and local institutions. And in view of that fact they provided that each State should retain its sovereign power within its own limits, with the right to make just such laws and just such institutions as it saw proper, under the belief that no two of them would be alike. If they had supposed that uniformity was desirable and possible, why did they provide for a separate Legislature for each State? Why did they not blot out State sovereignty and State Legislatures, and give all the power to Congress, in order that the laws might be uniform? For the very reason that uniformity, in their opinion, was neither desirable nor possible. We have increased from thirteen States to thirty-two States, and just in proportion as the number of States increases and our territory expands, there will be a still greater variety and dissimilarity of climate, of production and of interest, requiring a corresponding dissimilarity and variety in the local laws and institutions adapted thereto. The laws that are necessary in the mining regions of California, would be totally useless and vicious on the prairies of Illinois; the laws that would suit the lumber regions of Maine or of Minnesota, would be totally useless and valueless in the tobacco regions of Virginia and Kentucky; the laws which would suit the manufacturing districts of New England, would be totally unsuited to the planting regions of the Carolinas, of Georgia, and of Louisiana. Each State is supposed to have interests separate and distinct from each and every other, and hence must have laws different from each and every other State, in order that its laws shall be adapted to the condition and necessities of the people. Hence I insist that our institutions rest on the theory that there shall be dissimilarity and variety in the local laws and institutions of the different States instead of all being uniform; and you find, my friends, that Mr. Lincoln and myself differ radically and totally on the fundamental principles of this Government. He goes for consolidation, for uniformity in our local institutions, for blotting out State rights and State sovereignty, and consolidating all the power in the Federal Government, for converting these thirty-two sovereign States into one Empire, and making uniformity throughout the length and breadth of the land. On the other hand, I go for maintaining the authority of the Federal Government within the limits marked out by the Constitution, and then for maintaining and preserving the sovereignty of each and all of the States of the Union, in order that each State may regulate and adopt its own local institutions in its own way, without interference from any power whatsoever. Thus you find there is a distinct issue of principles—principles irreconcilable—between Mr. Lincoln and myself. He goes for consolidation and uniformity in our Government. I go for maintaining the confederation of the sovereign States under the Constitution, as our fathers made it, leaving each State at liberty to manage its own affairs and own internal institutions.
Mr. Lincoln makes another point upon me, and rests his whole case upon these two points. His last point is, that he will wage a warfare upon the Supreme Court of the United States because of the Dred Scott decision. He takes occasion, in his speech made before the Republican Convention, in my absence, to arraign me, not only for having expressed my acquiescence in that decision, but to charge me with being a conspirator with that court in devising that decision three years before Dred Scott ever thought of commencing a suit for his freedom. The object of his speech was to convey the idea to the people that the court could not be trusted, that the late President could not be trusted, that the present one could not be trusted, and that Mr. Douglas could not be trusted; that they were all conspirators in bringing about that corrupt decision, to which Mr. Lincoln is determined he will never yield a willing obedience.
He makes two points upon the Dred Scott decision. The first is that he objects to it because the court decided that negroes descended of slave parents are not citizens of the United States; and secondly, because they have decided that the Act of Congress, passed 8th of March, 1820, prohibiting slavery in all of the Territories north of 36° 30’, was unconstitutional and void, and hence did not have effect in emancipating a slave brought into that Territory. And he will not submit to that decision. He says that he will not fight the Judges or the United States Marshals in order to liberate Dred Scott, but that he will not respect that decision, as a rule of law binding on this country, in the future. Why not? Because, he says, it is unjust. How is he going to remedy it? Why, he says he is going to reverse it. How? He is going to take an appeal. To whom is he going to appeal? The Constitution of the United States provides that the Supreme Court is the ultimate tribunal, the highest judicial tribunal on earth; and Mr. Lincoln is going to appeal from that. To whom? I know he appealed to the Republican State Convention of Illinois, and I believe that Convention reversed the decision; but I am not aware that they have yet carried it into effect. How are they going to make that reversal effectual? Why, Mr. Lincoln tells us in his late Chicago speech. He explains it as clear as light. He says to the people of Illinois that if you elect him to the Senate he will introduce a bill to reenact the law which the Court pronounced unconstitutional. [Shouts of laughter, and voices, “Spot the law.”] Yes, he is going to spot the law. The court pronounces that law, prohibiting slavery, unconstitutional and void, and Mr. Lincoln is going to pass an act reversing that decision and making it valid. I never heard before of an appeal being taken from the Supreme Court to the Congress of the United States to reverse its decision. I have heard of appeals being taken from Congress to the Supreme Court to declare a statute void. That has been done from the earliest days of Chief Justice Marshall, down to the present time.
The Supreme Court of Illinois does not hesitate to pronounce an Act of the Legislature void, as being repugnant to the Constitution, and the Supreme Court of the United States is vested by the Constitution with that very power. The Constitution says that the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in the Supreme Court, and such inferior courts as Congress shall, from time to time, ordain and establish. Hence it is the province and duty of the Supreme Court to pronounce judgment on the validity and constitutionality of an Act of Congress. In this case they have done so, and Mr. Lincoln will not submit to it, and he is going to reverse it by another Act of Congress of the same tenor. My opinion is that Mr. Lincoln ought to be on the Supreme Bench himself, when the Republicans get into power, if that kind of law knowledge qualifies a man for the bench. But Mr. Lincoln intimates that there is another mode by which he can reverse the Dred Scott decision. How is that? Why, he is going to appeal to the people to elect a President who will appoint judges who will reverse the Dred Scott decision. Well, let us see how that is going to be done. First, he has to carry on his sectional organization, a party confined to the Free States, making war upon the slaveholding States until he gets a Republican President elected. [“He never will, sir.”] I do not believe he ever will. But suppose he should; when that Republican President shall have taken his seat (Mr. Seward, for instance), will he then proceed to appoint judges? No! he will have to wait until the present judges die before he can do that, and perhaps his four years would be out before a majority of these judges found it agreeable to die; and it is very possible, too, that Mr. Lincoln’s senatorial term would expire before these judges would be accommodating enough to die. If it should so happen I do not see a very great prospect for Mr. Lincoln to reverse the Dred Scott decision. But suppose they should die, then how are the new judges to be appointed? Why, the Republican President is to call upon the candidates and catechise them, and ask them, “How will you decide this case if I appoint you judge?” Suppose, for instance, Mr. Lincoln to be a candidate for a vacancy on the Supreme Bench to fill Chief Justice Taney’s place and when he applied to Seward, the latter would say, “Mr. Lincoln, I cannot appoint you until I know how you will decide the Dred Scott case?” Mr. Lincoln tells him, and then asks him how he will decide Tom Jones’s case, and Bill Wilson’s case, and thus catechises the judge as to how he will decide any case which may arise before him. Suppose you get a Supreme Court composed of such judges, who have been appointed by a partisan President upon their giving pledges how they would decide a case before it arose,—what confidence would you have in such a court?
Would not your Court be prostituted beneath the contempt of all mankind? What man would feel that his liberties were safe, his right of person or property was secure, if the Supreme Bench, that august tribunal, the highest on earth, was brought down to that low, dirty pool wherein the judges are to give pledges in advance how they will decide all the questions which may be brought before them? It is a proposition to make that Court the corrupt, unscrupulous tool of a political party. But Mr. Lincoln cannot conscientiously submit, he thinks, to the decision of a court composed of a majority of Democrats. If he cannot, how can he expect us to have confidence in a court composed of a majority of Republicans, selected for the purpose of deciding against the Democracy, and in favor of the Republicans? The very proposition carries with it the demoralization and degradation destructive of the judicial department of the Federal Government.
I say to you, fellow-citizens, that I have no warfare to make upon the Supreme Court because of the Dred Scott decision. I have no complaints to make against that Court, because of that decision. My private opinions on some points of the case may have been one way and on other points of the case another; in some things concurring with the Court and in others dissenting; but what have my private opinions in a question of law to do with the decision after it has been pronounced by the highest judicial tribunal known to the Constitution? You, sir [addressing the chairman], as an eminent lawyer, have a right to entertain your opinions on any question that comes before the court and to appear before the tribunal and maintain them boldly and with tenacity until the final decision shall have been pronounced, and then, sir, whether you are sustained or overruled your duty as a lawyer and a citizen is to bow in deference to that decision. I intend to yield obedience to the decisions of the highest tribunals in the land in all cases whether their opinions are in conformity with my views as a lawyer or not. When we refuse to abide by judicial decisions what protection is there left for life and property? To whom shall you appeal? To mob law, to partisan caucuses, to town meetings, to revolution? Where is the remedy when you refuse obedience to the constituted authorities? I will not stop to inquire whether I agree or disagree with all the opinions expressed by Judge Taney or any other judge. It is enough for me to know that the decision has been made. It has been made by a tribunal appointed by the Constitution to make it; it was a point within their jurisdiction, and I am bound by it.
But, my friends, Mr. Lincoln says that this Dred Scott decision destroys the doctrine of popular sovereignty, for the reason that the Court has decided that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in the Territories, and hence he infers that it would decide that the Territorial Legislatures could not prohibit slavery there. I will not stop to inquire whether the Court will carry the decision that far or not. It would be interesting as a matter of theory, but of no importance in practice; for this reason, that if the people of a Territory want slavery they will have it, and if they do not want it they will drive it out, and you cannot force it on them. Slavery cannot exist a day in the midst of an unfriendly people with unfriendly laws. There is truth and wisdom in a remark made to me by an eminent southern Senator, when speaking of this technical right to take slaves into the Territories. Said he, “I do not care a fig which way the decision shall be, for it is of no particular consequence; slavery cannot exist a day or an hour in any Territory or State unless it has affirmative laws sustaining and supporting it, furnishing police regulations and remedies, and an omission to furnish them would be as fatal as a constitutional prohibition. Without affirmative legislation in its favor slavery could not exist any longer than a new-born infant could survive under the heat of the sun, on a barren rock, without protection. It would wilt and die for the want of support.” So it would be in the Territories. See the illustration in Kansas. The Republicans have told you, during the whole history of that Territory, down to last winter, that the pro-slavery party in the Legislature had passed a pro-slavery code, establishing and sustaining slavery in Kansas, but that this pro-slavery Legislature did not truly represent the people, but was imposed upon them by an invasion from Missouri; and hence the Legislature was one way and the people another. Granting all this, and what has been the result? With laws supporting slavery, but the people against, there are not as many slaves in Kansas today as there were on the day the Nebraska bill passed and the Missouri Compromise was repealed. Why? Simply because slave owners knew that if they took their slaves into Kansas, where a majority of the people were opposed to slavery, that it would soon be abolished, and they would lose their right of property in consequence of taking them there. For that reason they would not take or keep them there. If there had been a majority of the people in favor of slavery and the climate had been favorable, they would have taken them there, but the climate not being suitable, the interest of the people being opposed to it, and a majority of them against it, the slave owner did not find it profitable to take his slaves there, and consequently there are not as many slaves there to-day as on the day the Missouri Compromise was repealed. This shows clearly that if the people do not want slavery they will keep it out, and if they do want it they will protect it.
You have a good illustration of this in the Territorial history of this State. You all remember that by the Ordinance of 1787, slavery was prohibited in Illinois; yet you all know, particularly you old settlers, who were here in territorial times, that the Territorial Legislature, in defiance of that Ordinance, passed a law allowing you to go into Kentucky, buy slaves and bring them into the Territory, having them sign indentures to serve you and your posterity ninety-nine years, and their posterity thereafter to do the same. This hereditary slavery was introduced in defiance of the Act of Congress. That was the exercise of popular sovereignty,—the right of a Territory to decide the question for itself in defiance of the Act of Congress. On the other hand, if the people of a Territory are hostile to slavery they will drive it out. Consequently, this theoretical question raised upon the Dred Scott decision, is worthy of no consideration whatsoever, for it is only brought into these political discussions and used as a hobby upon which to ride into office, or out of which to manufacture political capital.
But Mr. Lincoln’s main objection to the Dred Scott decision I have reserved for my conclusion. His principal objection to that decision is that it was intended to deprive the negro of the rights of citizenship in the different States of the Union. Well, suppose it was—and there is no doubt that that was its legal effect—what is his objection to it? Why, he thinks that a negro ought to be permitted to have the rights of citizenship. He is in favor of negro citizenship, and opposed to the Dred Scott decision, because it declares that a negro is not a citizen, and hence is not entitled to vote. Here I have a direct issue with Mr. Lincoln. I am not in favor of negro citizenship. I do not believe that a negro is a citizen or ought to be a citizen. I believe that this Government of ours was founded, and wisely founded, upon the white basis. It was made by white men for the benefit of white men and their posterity, to be executed and managed by white men. I freely concede that humanity requires us to extend all the protection, all the privileges, all the immunities, to the Indian and the negro which they are capable of enjoying consistent with the safety of society. You may then ask me what are those rights, what is the nature and extent of the rights which a negro ought to have? My answer is that this is a question for each State and each Territory to decide for itself. In Illinois we have decided that a negro is not a slave, but we have at the same time determined that he is not a citizen and shall not enjoy any political rights. I concur in the wisdom of that policy and am content with it. I assert that the sovereignty of Illinois had a right to determine that question as we have decided it, and I deny that any other State has a right to interfere with us or call us to account for that decision. In the State of Maine they have decided by their Constitution that the negro shall exercise the elective franchise and hold office on an equality with the white man. Whilst I do not concur in the good sense or correct taste of that decision on the part of Maine, I have no disposition to quarrel with her. It is her business and not ours. If the people of Maine desire to be put on an equality with the negro, I do not know that anybody in this State will attempt to prevent it. If the white people of Maine think a negro their equal, and that he has a right to come and kill their vote by a negro vote, they have a right to think so, I suppose, and I have no disposition to interfere with them. Then, again, passing over to New York, we find in that State they have provided that a negro may vote provided he holds $250 worth of property, but that he shall not unless he does; that is to say, they will allow a negro to vote if he is rich, but a poor fellow they will not allow to vote. In New York they think a rich negro is equal to a white man. Well, that is a matter of taste with them. If they think so in that State, and do not carry the doctrine outside of it and propose to interfere with us, I have no quarrel to make with them. It is their business. There is a great deal of philosophy and good sense in a saying of Fridley of Kane. Fridley had a lawsuit before a justice of the peace, and the justice decided it against him. This he did not like, and standing up and looking at the justice for a moment, “Well, Squire,” said he, “if a man chooses to make a darnation fool of himself I suppose there is no law against it.” That is all I have to say about these negro regulations and this negro voting in other States where they have systems different from ours. If it is their wish to have it so, be it so. There is no cause to complain. Kentucky has decided that it is not consistent with her safety and her prosperity to allow a negro to have either political rights or his freedom, and hence she makes him a slave. That is her business, not mine. It is her right under the Constitution of the country. The sovereignty of Kentucky, and that alone, can decide that question, and when she decides it there is no power on earth to which you can appeal to reverse it. Therefore, leave Kentucky as the Constitution has left her, a sovereign, independent State, with the exclusive right to have slavery or not, as she chooses, and so long as I hold power I will maintain and defend her rights against any assaults from whatever quarter they may come.
I will never stop to inquire whether I approve or disapprove of the domestic institutions of a State. I maintain her sovereign rights. I defend her sovereignty from all assault, in the hope that she will join in defending us when we are assailed by any outside power. How are we to protect out sovereign rights to every other State to decide the question for itself. Let Kentucky, or South Carolina, or any other State, attempt to interfere in Illinois, and tell us that we shall establish slavery, in order to make it uniform, according to Mr. Lincoln’s proposition, throughout the Union; let them come here and tell us that we must and shall have slavery, and I will call on you to follow me, and shed the last drop of our heart’s blood in repelling the invasion and chastising their insolence. And if we would fight for our reserved rights and sovereign power in our own limits, we must respect the sovereignty of each other State.
Hence, you find that Mr. Lincoln and myself come to a direct issue on this whole doctrine of slavery. He is going to wage a war against it everywhere, not only in Illinois, but in his native State of Kentucky. And why? Because he says that the Declaration of Independence contains this language: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” and he asks whether that instrument does not declare that all men are created equal. Mr. Lincoln then goes on to say that that clause of the Declaration of Independence includes negroes. [“I say not.”] Well, if you say not, I do not think you will vote for Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln goes on to argue that the language “all men” included the negroes, Indians, and all inferior races.
In his Chicago speech he says, in so many words, that it includes the negroes, that they were endowed by the Almighty with the right of equality with the white man, and therefore that that right is divine—a right under the higher law; that the law of God makes them equal to the white man, and therefore that the law of the white man cannot deprive them of that right. This is Mr. Lincoln’s argument. He is conscientious in his belief. I do not question his sincerity; I do not doubt that he, in his conscience, believes that the Almighty made the negro equal to the white man. He thinks that the negro is his brother. I do not think that the negro is any kin of mine at all. And here is the difference between us. I believe that the Declaration of Independence, in the words “all men are created equal,” was intended to allude only to the people of the United States, to men of European birth or descent, being white men; that they were created equal, and hence that Great Britain had no right to deprive them of their political and religious privileges; but the signers of that paper did not intend to include the Indian or the negro in that declaration; for if they had would they not have been bound to abolish slavery in every State and Colony from that day? Remember, too, that at the time the Declaration was put forth, every one of the thirteen colonies was a slaveholding colony; every man who signed that Declaration represented slaveholding constituents. Did those signers mean by that act to charge themselves, and all their constituents with having violated the law of God, in holding the negro in an inferior condition to the white man? And yet, if they included negroes in that term, they were bound, as conscientious men, that day and that hour, not only to have abolished slavery throughout the land, but to have conferred political rights and privileges on the negro, and elevated him to an equality with the white man. [“They did not do it.”] I know they did not do it, and the very fact that they did not shows that they did not understand the language they used to include any but the white race. Did they mean to say that the Indian, on this continent, was created equal to the white man, and that he was endowed by the Almighty with inalienable rights—rights so sacred that they could not be taken away by any Constitution or law that man could pass? Why, their whole action toward the Indian showed that they never dreamed that they were bound to put him on an equality. I am not only opposed to negro equality, but I am opposed to Indian equality. I am opposed to putting the coolies, now importing into this country, on an equality with us, or putting the Chinese or any inferior race on an equality with us. I hold that the white race, the European race, I care not whether Irish, German, French, Scotch, English, or to what nation they belong, so they are the white race, to be our equals. And I am for placing them, as our fathers did, on an equality with us. Emigrants from Europe, and their descendants, constitute the people of the United States. The Declaration of Independence only included the white people of the United States. The Constitution of the United States was framed by the white people, it ought to be administered by them, leaving each State to make such regulations concerning the negro as it chooses, allowing him political rights or not, as it chooses, and allowing him civil rights or not, as it may determine for itself.
Let us carry out those principles, and we will have peace and harmony in the different States. But Mr. Lincoln’s conscientious scruples on this point govern his actions, and I honor him for following them, although I abhor the doctrine which he preaches. His conscientious scruples lead him to believe that the negro is entitled by divine right to the civil and political privileges of citizenship on an equality with the white man.
For that reason he says he wishes the Dred Scott decision reversed. He wishes to confer those privileges of citizenship on the negro. Let us see how he will do it. He will first be called upon to strike out of the Constitution of Illinois that clause which prohibits free negroes and slaves from Kentucky or any other State coming into Illinois. When he blots out that clause, when he lets down the door or opens the gate for all the negro population to flow in and cover our prairies, until in midday they will look dark and black as night—when he shall have done this, his mission will yet be unfulfilled. Then it will be that he will apply his principles of negro equality, that is, if he can get the Dred Scott decision reversed in the meantime. He will then change the Constitution again, and allow negroes to vote and hold office, and will make them eligible to the Legislature, so that thereafter they can have the right men for United States Senators. He will allow them to vote to elect the Legislature, the Judges and the Governor, and will make them eligible to the office of Judge and Governor, or to the Legislature. He will put them on an equality with the white man. What then? Of course, after making them eligible to the judiciary, when he gets Cuffee elevated to the bench, he certainly will not refuse his judge the privilege of marrying any woman he may select! I submit to you whether these are not the legitimate consequences of his doctrine? If it be true, as he says, that by the Declaration of Independence and by divine law, the negro is created the equal of the white man; if it be true that the Dred Scott decision is unjust and wrong, because it deprives the negro of citizenship and equality with the white man,—then does it not follow that if he had the power he would make negroes citizens, and give them all the rights and all the privileges of citizenship on an equality with white men? I think that is the inevitable conclusion. I do not doubt Mr. Lincoln’s conscientious conviction on the subject, and I do not doubt that he will carry out that doctrine if he ever has the power; but I resist it because I am utterly opposed to any political amalgamation or any other amalgamation on this continent. We are witnessing the result of giving civil and political rights to inferior races in Mexico, in Central America, in South America, and in the West India Islands. Those young men who went from here to Mexico, to fight the battles of their country in the Mexican war, can tell you the fruits of negro equality with the white man. They will tell you that the result of that equality is social amalgamation, demoralization, and degradation, below the capacity for self-government.
My friends, if we wish to preserve this Government we must maintain it on the basis on which it was established, to wit: the white basis. We must preserve the purity of the race not only in our politics but in our domestic relations. We must then preserve the sovereignty of the States, and we must maintain the Federal Union by preserving the Federal Constitution inviolate. Let us do that, and our Union will not only be perpetual but may extend until it shall spread over the entire continent.
Fellow-citizens, I have already detained you too long. I have exhausted myself and wearied you, and owe you an apology for the desultory manner in which I have discussed these topics. I will have an opportunity of addressing you again before the November election comes off. I come to you to appeal to your judgment as American citizens, to take your verdict of approval or disapproval upon the discharge of my public duty and my principles as compared with those of Mr. Lincoln. If you conscientiously believe that his principles are more in harmony with the feelings of the American people and the interests and honor of the Republic, elect him. If, on the contrary, you believe that my principles are more consistent with those great principles upon which our fathers framed this Government, then I shall ask you to so express your opinion at the polls. I am aware that it is a bitter and severe contest, but I do not doubt what the decision of the people of Illinois will be. I do not anticipate any personal collision between Mr. Lincoln and myself. You all know that I am an amiable, good-natured man, and I take great pleasure in bearing testimony to the fact that Mr. Lincoln is a kind-hearted, amiable, good-natured gentleman, with whom no man has a right to pick a quarrel, even if he wanted one. He is a worthy gentleman. I have known him for twenty-five years, and there is no better citizen, and no kinder-hearted man. He is a fine lawyer, possesses high ability, and there is no objection to him, except the monstrous revolutionary doctrines with which he is identified and which he conscientiously entertains, and is determined to carry out if he gets the power.
He has one element of strength upon which he relies to accomplish his object, and that is his alliance with certain men in this State claiming to be Democrats, whose avowed object is to use their power to prostrate the Democratic nominees. He hopes he can secure the few men claiming to be friends of the Lecomption Constitution, and for that reason you will find he does not say a word against the Lecompton Constitution or its supporters. He is as silent as the grave upon that subject. Behold Mr. Lincoln courting Lecompton votes, in order that he may go to the Senate as the representative of Republican principles! You know that that alliance exists. I think you will find that it will ooze out before the contest is over. It must be a contest of principle. Either the radical Abolition principles of Mr. Lincoln must be maintained, or the strong, constitutional, national Democratic principles with which I am identified must be carried out. I shall be satisfied whatever way you decide. I have been sustained by the people of Illinois with a steadiness, a firmness and an enthusiasm which makes my heart overflow with gratitude. If I was now to be consigned to private life, I would have nothing to complain of. I would even then owe you a debt of gratitude which the balance of my life could not repay. But, my friends, you have discharged every obligation you owe to me. I have been a thousand times paid by the welcome you have extended to me since I have entered the State on my return home this time. Your reception not only discharges all obligations, but it furnishes inducement to renewed efforts to serve you in the future. If you think Mr. Lincoln will do more to advance the interests and elevate the character of Illinois than myself, it is your duty to elect him; if you think he would do more to preserve the peace of the country and perpetuate the Union than myself, then elect him. I leave the question in your hands, and again tender you my profound thanks for the cordial and heartfelt welcome tendered to me this evening.