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Title: Abraham Lincoln's Lost Speech, May 29, 1856 - A Souvenir of the Eleventh Annual Lincoln Dinner of the - Republican Club of the City of New York, at the Waldorf, - February 12, 1897
Author: Lincoln, Abraham
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Abraham Lincoln's Lost Speech, May 29, 1856 - A Souvenir of the Eleventh Annual Lincoln Dinner of the - Republican Club of the City of New York, at the Waldorf, - February 12, 1897" ***

 The DeVinne Press certifies that this copy of Lincoln’s Lost Speech
 is one of an edition of Five Hundred copies printed from type in the
 month of February, 1897.



  MAY 29, 1856




  Copyright, 1896, by SARAH A. WHITNEY




                ARTHUR L. MERRIAM.

  First Vice-President.        Second Vice-President.
    ELLIS H. ROBERTS.            W. M. K. OLCOTT.

              Third Vice-President.
                  LOUIS STERN.

  Recording Secretary.        Corresponding Secretary.
    JOHN A. DUTTON.              JAMES L. WANDLING.

                J. EDGAR LEAYCRAFT.


  FOR 1897

              ELIHU ROOT, Chairman.

     Treasurer.                 Secretary.


                                Ex Officio.

_The lost speech of Abraham Lincoln was delivered at the first
Republican State Convention of Illinois, at Bloomington, on the 29th
of May, 1856. The excitement caused among the audience by the speech
was so great that the reporters forgot to take their notes, and for
many years it was generally supposed that no record of the speech had
been preserved. It appears, however, that Mr. H. C. Whitney, then
a young lawyer of Illinois, did take notes of the speech, which he
preserved; and after a lapse of forty years they were transcribed and
were published in “McClure’s Magazine” for September, 1896, together
with a letter from Mr. Joseph Medill, of the “Chicago Tribune,” who was
present at the Convention and confirms the accuracy of Mr. Whitney’s

_By the kind consent of Mr. Whitney, and through the courtesy of Mr. S.
S. McClure, the speech is now reproduced by the Republican Club of the
City of New York as a souvenir of Lincoln for its Annual Dinner on the
12th of February, 1897._



MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN: I was over at--[Cries of “Platform!” “Take
the platform!”] I say, that while I was at Danville Court, some of our
friends of anti-Nebraska got together in Springfield and elected me as
one delegate to represent old Sangamon with them in this convention,
and I am here certainly as a sympathizer in this movement and by
virtue of that meeting and selection. But we can hardly be called
delegates strictly, inasmuch as, properly speaking, we represent
nobody but ourselves. I think it altogether fair to say that we have
no anti-Nebraska party in Sangamon, although there is a good deal of
anti-Nebraska feeling there; but I say for myself, and I think I may
speak also for my colleagues, that we who are here fully approve of
the platform and of all that has been done [A voice: “Yes!”]; and even
if we are not regularly delegates, it will be right for me to answer
your call to speak. I suppose we truly stand for the public sentiment
of Sangamon on the great question of the repeal, although we do not
yet represent many numbers who have taken a distinct position on the

We are in a trying time--it ranges above mere party--and this movement
to call a halt and turn our steps backward needs all the help and good
counsels it can get; for unless popular opinion makes itself very
strongly felt, and a change is made in our present course, _blood
will flow on account of Nebraska, and brother’s hand will be raised
against brother_! [The last sentence was uttered in such an earnest,
impressive, if not indeed tragic, manner as to make a cold chill creep
over me. Others gave a similar experience.]

I have listened with great interest to the earnest appeal made to
Illinois men by the gentleman from Lawrence [James S. Emery] who has
just addressed us so eloquently and forcibly. I was deeply moved by
his statement of the wrongs done to free-State men out there. I think
it just to say that all true men North should sympathize with them,
and ought to be willing to do any possible and needful thing to right
their wrongs. But we must not promise what we ought not, lest we be
called on to perform what we cannot; we must be calm and moderate, and
consider the whole difficulty, and determine what is possible and just.
We must not be led by excitement and passion to do that which our sober
judgments would not approve in our cooler moments. We have higher
aims; we will have more serious business than to dally with temporary

We are here to stand firmly for a principle--to stand firmly for a
right. We know that great political and moral wrongs are done, and
outrages committed, and we denounce those wrongs and outrages, although
we cannot, at present, do much more. But we desire to reach out beyond
those personal outrages and establish a rule that will apply to all,
and so prevent any future outrages.

We have seen to-day that every shade of popular opinion is represented
here, with _Freedom_, or rather _Free-Soil_, as the basis. We have come
together as in some sort representatives of popular opinion against
the extension of slavery into territory now free in fact as well as
by law, and the pledged word of the statesmen of the nation who are
now no more. We come--we are here assembled together--to protest as
well as we can against a great wrong, and to take measures, as well
as we now can, to make that wrong right; to place the nation, as far
as it may be possible now, as it was before the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise; and the plain way to do this is to restore the Compromise,
and to demand and determine that _Kansas shall be free_! [Immense
applause.] While we affirm, and reaffirm, if necessary, our devotion to
the principles of the Declaration of Independence, let our practical
work here be limited to the above. We know that there is not a perfect
agreement of sentiment here on the public questions which might be
rightfully considered in this convention, and that the indignation
which we all must feel cannot be helped; but all of us must give up
something for the good of the cause. There is one desire which is
uppermost in the mind, one wish common to us all--to which no dissent
will be made; and I counsel you earnestly to bury all resentment, to
sink all personal feeling, make all things work to a common purpose in
which we are united and agreed about, and which all present will agree
is absolutely necessary--which _must_ be done by any rightful mode
if there be such: _Slavery must be kept out of Kansas!_ [Applause.]
The test--the pinch--is right there. If we lose Kansas to freedom, an
example will be set which will prove fatal to freedom in the end. We,
therefore, in the language of the _Bible_, must “lay the axe to the
root of the tree.” Temporizing will not do longer; now is the time for
decision--for firm, persistent, resolute action. [Applause.]

The Nebraska bill, or rather Nebraska law, is not one of wholesome
legislation, but was and is an act of legislative usurpation, whose
result, if not indeed intention, is to make slavery national; and
unless headed off in some effective way, we are in a fair way to see
this land of boasted freedom converted into a land of slavery in fact.
[Sensation.] Just open your two eyes, and see if this be not so. I
need do no more than state, to command universal approval, that almost
the entire North, as well as a large following in the border States,
is radically opposed to the planting of slavery in free territory.
Probably in a popular vote throughout the nation nine-tenths of the
voters in the free States, and at least one-half in the border States,
if they could express their sentiments freely, would vote NO on such an
issue; and it is safe to say that two-thirds of the votes of the entire
nation would be opposed to it. And yet, in spite of this overbalancing
of sentiment in this free country, we are in a fair way to see Kansas
present itself for admission as a slave State. Indeed, it is a felony,
by the local law of Kansas, to deny that slavery exists there even now.
By every principle of law, a negro in Kansas is free; yet the _bogus_
legislature makes it an infamous crime to tell him that he is free![1]

The party lash and the fear of ridicule will overawe justice and
liberty; for it is a singular fact, but none the less a fact, and
well known by the most common experience, that men will do things
under the terror of the party lash that they would not on any account
or for any consideration do otherwise; while men who will march up
to the mouth of a loaded cannon without shrinking will run from the
terrible name of “Abolitionist,” even when pronounced by a worthless
creature whom they, with good reason, despise. For instance--to press
this point a little--Judge Douglas introduced his anti-Nebraska bill
in January; and we had an extra session of our legislature in the
succeeding February, in which were seventy-five Democrats; and at a
party caucus, fully attended, there were just three votes, out of the
whole seventy-five, for the measure. But in a few days orders came on
from Washington, commanding them to approve the measure; the party
lash was applied, and it was brought up again in caucus, and passed
by a large majority. The masses were against it, but party necessity
carried it; and it was passed through the lower house of Congress
against the will of the people, for the same reason. Here is where the
greatest danger lies--that, while we profess to be a government of
law and reason, law will give way to violence on demand of this awful
and crushing power. Like the great Juggernaut--I think that is the
name--the great idol, it crushes everything that comes in its way, and
makes a--or as I read once, in a black-letter law book, “a slave is a
human being who is legally not a _person_ but a _thing_.” And if the
safeguards to liberty are broken down, as is now attempted, when they
have made _things_ of all the free negroes, how long, think you, before
they will begin to make _things_ of poor white men? [Applause.] Be not
deceived. Revolutions do not go backward. The founder of the Democratic
party declared that _all_ men were created equal. His successor in
the leadership has written the word “white” before men, making it
read “all _white_ men are created equal.” Pray, will or may not the
Know-nothings, if they should get in power, add the word “protestant,”
making it read “_all protestant white men_”?

Meanwhile the hapless negro is the fruitful subject of reprisals in
other quarters. John Pettit, whom Tom Benton paid his respects to,
you will recollect, calls the immortal Declaration “a self-evident
lie”; while at the birthplace of freedom--in the shadow of Bunker
Hill and of the “cradle of liberty,” at the home of the Adamses and
Warren and Otis--Choate, from our side of the house, dares to fritter
away the birthday promise of liberty by proclaiming the Declaration
to be “a string of glittering generalities”; and the Southern Whigs,
working hand in hand with pro-slavery Democrats, are making Choate’s
theories practical. Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, mindful of the
moral element in slavery, solemnly declared that he “trembled for his
country when he remembered that God is just”; while Judge Douglas,
with an insignificant wave of the hand, “don’t care whether slavery is
voted up or voted down.” Now, if slavery is right, or even negative, he
has a right to treat it in this trifling manner. But if it is a moral
and political wrong, as all Christendom considers it to be, how can he
answer to God for this attempt to spread and fortify it? [Applause.]

But no man, and Judge Douglas no more than any other, can maintain
a negative, or merely neutral, position on this question; and,
accordingly, he avows that the Union was made _by_ white men and _for_
white men and their descendants. As matter of fact, the first branch of
the proposition is historically true; the government was made by white
men, and they were and are the superior race. This I admit. But the
corner-stone of the government, so to speak, was the declaration that
“_all_ men are created equal,” and all entitled to “life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness.” [Applause.]

And not only so, but the framers of the Constitution were particular
to keep out of that instrument the word “slave,” the reason being
that slavery would ultimately come to an end, and they did not wish
to have any reminder that in this free country human beings were ever
prostituted to slavery. [Applause.] Nor is it any argument that we are
superior and the negro inferior--that he has but one talent while we
have ten. Let the negro possess the little he has in independence; if
he has but one talent, he should be permitted to keep the little he
has. [Applause.] But slavery will endure no test of reason or logic;
and yet its advocates, like Douglas, use a sort of bastard logic,
or noisy assumption, it might better be termed, like the above, in
order to prepare the mind for the gradual, but none the less certain,
encroachments of the Moloch of slavery upon the fair domain of freedom.
But however much you may argue upon it, or smother it in soft phrases,
slavery can only be maintained by force--by violence. The repeal of the
Missouri Compromise was by violence. It was a violation of both law and
the sacred obligations of honor, to overthrow and trample underfoot
a solemn compromise, obtained by the fearful loss to freedom of one
of the fairest of our Western domains. Congress violated the will and
confidence of its constituents in voting for the bill; and while public
sentiment, as shown by the elections of 1854, demanded the restoration
of this compromise, Congress violated its trust by refusing, simply
because it had the force of numbers to hold on to it. And murderous
violence is being used now, in order to force slavery on to Kansas; for
it cannot be done in any other way. [Sensation.]

The necessary result was to establish the rule of violence--force,
instead of the rule of law and reason; to perpetuate and spread
slavery, and, in time, to make it general. We see it at both ends
of the line. In Washington, on the very spot where the outrage was
started, the fearless Sumner is beaten to insensibility, and is now
slowly dying; while senators who claim to be gentlemen and Christians
stood by, countenancing the act, and even applauding it afterward in
their places in the Senate. Even Douglas, our man, saw it all and was
within helping distance, yet let the murderous blows fall unopposed.
Then, at the other end of the line, at the very time Sumner was being
murdered, Lawrence was being destroyed for the crime of Freedom. It
was the most prominent stronghold of liberty in Kansas, and must give
way to the all-dominating power of slavery. Only two days ago, Judge
Trumbull found it necessary to propose a bill in the Senate to prevent
a general civil war and to restore peace in Kansas.

We live in the midst of alarms; anxiety beclouds the future; we expect
some new disaster with each newspaper we read. Are we in a healthful
political state? Are not the tendencies plain? Do not the signs of the
times point plainly the way in which we are going? [Sensation.]

In the early days of the Constitution slavery was recognized, by South
and North alike, as an evil, and the division of sentiment about it
was not controlled by geographical lines or considerations of climate,
but by moral and philanthropic views. Petitions for the abolition of
slavery were presented to the very first Congress by Virginia and
Massachusetts alike. To show the harmony which prevailed, I will state
that a fugitive slave law was passed in 1793, with no dissenting voice
in the Senate, and but seven dissenting votes in the House. It was,
however, a wise law, moderate, and, under the Constitution, a just
one. Twenty-five years later, a more stringent law was proposed and
defeated; and thirty-five years after that, the present law, drafted
by Mason of Virginia, was passed by Northern votes. I am not, just
now, complaining of this law, but I am trying to show how the current
sets; for the proposed law of 1817 was far less offensive than the
present one. In 1774 the Continental Congress pledged itself, without a
dissenting vote, to wholly discontinue the slave trade, and to neither
purchase nor import any slave; and less than three months before the
passage of the Declaration of Independence, the same Congress which
adopted that Declaration unanimously resolved “that _no slave be
imported into any of the thirteen United Colonies_.” [Great applause.]

On the second day of July, 1776, the draft of a Declaration of
Independence was reported to Congress by the committee, and in it
the slave trade was characterized as “an execrable commerce,” as “a
piratical warfare,” as the “opprobrium of infidel powers,” and as “a
cruel war against human nature.” [Applause.] All agreed on this except
South Carolina and Georgia, and in order to preserve harmony, and from
the necessity of the case, these expressions were omitted. Indeed,
abolition societies existed as far south as Virginia; and it is a
well-known fact that Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lee, Henry, Mason,
and Pendleton were qualified abolitionists, and much more radical on
that subject than we of the Whig and Democratic parties claim to be
to-day. On March 1, 1784, Virginia ceded to the confederation all its
lands lying northwest of the Ohio River. Jefferson, Chase of Maryland,
and Howell of Rhode Island, as a committee on that and territory
thereafter _to be ceded_, reported that no slavery should exist after
the year 1800. Had this report been adopted, not only the Northwest,
but Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi also would have
been free; but it required the assent of nine States to ratify it.
North Carolina was divided, and thus its vote was lost; and Delaware,
Georgia, and New Jersey refused to vote. In point of fact, as it was,
it was assented to by six States. Three years later, on a square vote
to exclude slavery from the Northwest, only one vote, and that from New
York, was against it. And yet, thirty-seven years later, five thousand
citizens of Illinois out of a voting mass of less than twelve thousand,
deliberately, after a long and heated contest, voted to introduce
slavery in Illinois; and, to-day, a large party in the free State of
Illinois are willing to vote to fasten the shackles of slavery on the
fair domain of Kansas, notwithstanding it received the dowry of freedom
long before its birth as a political community. I repeat, therefore,
the question: Is it not plain in what direction we are tending?
[Sensation.] In the colonial time, Mason, Pendleton, and Jefferson were
as hostile to slavery in Virginia as Otis, Ames, and the Adamses were
in Massachusetts; and Virginia made as earnest an effort to get rid of
it as old Massachusetts did. But circumstances were against them, and
they failed; but not that the good will of its leading men was lacking.
Yet within less than fifty years Virginia changed its tune, and made
negro-breeding for the cotton and sugar States one of its leading
industries. [Laughter and applause.]

In the Constitutional Convention, George Mason of Virginia made a
more violent abolition speech than my friends Lovejoy or Codding
would desire to make here to-day--a speech which could not be safely
repeated anywhere on Southern soil in this enlightened year. But while
there were some differences of opinion on this subject even then,
discussion was allowed; but as you see by the Kansas slave code, which,
as you know, is the Missouri slave code merely ferried across the
river, it is a felony to even express an opinion hostile to that foul
blot in the land of Washington and the Declaration of Independence.

In Kentucky--my State--in 1849, on a test vote, the mighty influence
of Henry Clay and many other good men there could not get a symptom
of expression in favor of gradual emancipation on a plain issue of
marching toward the light of civilization with Ohio and Illinois; but
the State of Boone and Hardin and Henry Clay, with a _nigger_ under
each arm, took the black trail toward the deadly swamps of barbarism.
Is there--can there be--any doubt about this thing? And is there any
doubt that we must all lay aside our prejudices and march, shoulder to
shoulder, in the great army of Freedom? [Applause.]

Every Fourth of July our young orators all proclaim this to be “the
land of the _free_ and the home of the brave!” Well, now, when you
orators get that off next year, and maybe this very year, how would
you like some old grizzled farmer to get up in the grove and deny it?
[Laughter.] How would you like that? But suppose Kansas comes in as a
slave State, and all the “border ruffians” have barbecues about it, and
free-State men come trailing back to the dishonored North, like whipped
dogs with their tails between their legs, it is--ain’t it?--evident
that this is no more the “land of the free”; and if we let it go so,
we won’t dare to say “home of the brave” out loud. [Sensation and

Can any man doubt that, even in spite of the people’s will, slavery
will triumph through violence, unless that will be made manifest
and enforced? Even Governor Reeder claimed at the outset that the
contest in Kansas was to be fair, but he got his eyes open at last;
and I believe that, as a result of this moral and physical violence,
Kansas will soon apply for admission as a slave State. And yet we
can’t mistake that the people don’t want it so, and that it is a land
which is free both by natural and political law. _No law, is free
law!_ Such is the understanding of all Christendom. In the Somerset
case, decided nearly a century ago, the great Lord Mansfield held that
slavery was of such a nature that it must take its rise in _positive_
(as distinguished from _natural_) law; and that in no country or age
could it be traced back to any other source. Will some one please tell
me where is the _positive_ law that establishes slavery in Kansas? [A
voice: “The _bogus_ laws.”] Aye, the _bogus_ laws! And, on the same
principle, a gang of Missouri horse-thieves could come into Illinois
and declare horse-stealing to be legal [laughter], and it would be
just as legal as slavery is in Kansas. But by express statute, in the
land of Washington and Jefferson, we may soon be brought face to face
with the discreditable fact of showing to the world by our acts that we
prefer slavery to freedom--darkness to light! [Sensation.]

It is, I believe, a principle in law that when one party to a
contract violates it so grossly as to chiefly destroy the object
for which it is made, the other party may rescind it. I will ask
Browning if that ain’t good law. [Voices: “Yes!”] Well, now if that
be right, I go for rescinding the whole, entire Missouri Compromise
and thus turning Missouri into a free State; and I should like
to know the difference--should like for any one to point out the
difference--between _our_ making a free State of Missouri and _their_
making a slave State of Kansas. [Great applause.] There ain’t one bit
of difference, except that our way would be a great mercy to humanity.
But I have never said--and the Whig party has never said--and those
who oppose the Nebraska bill do not as a body say, that they have
any intention of interfering with slavery in the slave States. Our
platform says just the contrary. We allow slavery to exist in the slave
States,--not because slavery is right or good, but from the necessities
of our Union. We grant a fugitive slave law because it is so “nominated
in the bond”; because our fathers so stipulated--had to--and we are
bound to carry out this agreement. But they did not agree to introduce
slavery in regions where it did not previously exist. On the contrary,
they said by their example and teachings that they did not deem it
expedient--did not consider it right--to do so; and it is wise and
right to do just as they did about it [Voices: “Good!”], and that is
what we propose--not to interfere with slavery where it exists (we have
never tried to do it), and to give them a reasonable and efficient
fugitive slave law. [A voice: “No!”] I say YES! [Applause.] It was part
of the bargain, and I’m for living up to it; but I go no further; I’m
not bound to do more, and I won’t agree any further. [Great applause.]

We, here in Illinois, should feel especially proud of the provision
of the Missouri Compromise excluding slavery from what is now Kansas;
for an Illinois man, Jesse B. Thomas, was its father. Henry Clay,
who is credited with the authorship of the Compromise in general
terms, did not even vote for that provision, but only advocated the
ultimate admission by a second compromise; and Thomas was, beyond all
controversy, the real author of the “slavery restriction” branch of the
Compromise. To show the generosity of the Northern members toward the
Southern side: on a test vote to exclude slavery from Missouri, ninety
voted not to exclude, and eighty-seven to exclude, every vote from the
slave States being ranged with the former and fourteen votes from the
free States, of whom seven were from New England alone; while on a vote
to exclude slavery from what is now Kansas, the vote was one hundred
and thirty-four _for_, to forty-two _against_. The scheme, as a whole,
was, of course, a Southern triumph. It is idle to contend otherwise,
as is now being done by the Nebraskaites; it was so shown by the votes
and quite as emphatically by the expressions of representative men.
Mr. Lowndes of South Carolina was never known to commit a political
mistake; his was the great judgment of that section; and he declared
that this measure “would restore tranquillity to the country--a
result demanded by every consideration of discretion, of moderation,
of wisdom, and of virtue.” When the measure came before President
Monroe for his approval, he put to each member of his cabinet this
question: “Has Congress the constitutional power to prohibit slavery
in a Territory?” And John C. Calhoun and William H. Crawford from
the South, equally with John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Rush, and Smith
Thompson from the North, alike answered, “_Yes!_” without qualification
or equivocation; and this measure, of so great consequence to the
South, was passed; and Missouri was, by means of it, finally enabled
to knock at the door of the Republic for an open passage to its brood
of slaves. And, in spite of this, Freedom’s share is about to be taken
by violence--by the force of misrepresentative votes, not called for
by the popular will. What name can I, in common decency, give to this
wicked transaction? [Sensation.]

But even then the contest was not over; for when the Missouri
constitution came before Congress for its approval, it forbade any
free negro or mulatto from entering the State. In short, our Illinois
“black laws” were hidden away in their constitution [Laughter],
and the controversy was thus revived. Then it was that Mr. Clay’s
talents shone out conspicuously, and the controversy that shook the
Union to its foundation was finally settled to the satisfaction of
the conservative parties on both sides of the line, though not to the
extremists on either, and Missouri was admitted by the small majority
of six in the lower House. How great a majority, do you think, would
have been given had Kansas also been secured for slavery? [A voice: “A
majority the other way.”] “A majority the other way,” is answered. Do
you think it would have been safe for a Northern man to have confronted
his constituents after having voted to consign both Missouri and Kansas
to hopeless slavery? And yet this man Douglas, who misrepresents his
constituents and who has exerted his highest talents in that direction,
will be carried in triumph through the State and hailed with honor
while applauding that act. [Three groans for “_Dug!_”] And this shows
whither we are tending. This thing of slavery is more powerful than
its supporters--even than the high priests that minister at its altar.
It debauches even our greatest men. It gathers strength, like a rolling
snowball, by its own infamy. Monstrous crimes are committed in its
name by persons collectively which they would not dare to commit as
individuals. Its aggressions and encroachments almost surpass belief.
In a despotism, one might not wonder to see slavery advance steadily
and remorselessly into new dominions; but is it not wonderful, is it
not even alarming, to see its steady advance in a land dedicated to the
proposition that “all men are created equal”? [Sensation.]

It yields nothing itself; it keeps all it has, and gets all it can
besides. It really came dangerously near securing Illinois in 1824; it
did get Missouri in 1821. The first proposition was to admit what is
now Arkansas _and_ Missouri as one slave State. But the territory was
divided, and Arkansas came in, without serious question, as a slave
State; and afterwards Missouri, not as a sort of equality, _free_, but
also as a slave State. Then we had Florida and Texas; and now Kansas
is about to be forced into the dismal procession. [Sensation.] And so
it is wherever you look. We have not forgotten--it is but six years
since--how dangerously near California came to being a slave State.
Texas is a slave State, and four other slave States may be carved from
its vast domain. And yet, in the year 1829, slavery was abolished
throughout that vast region by a royal decree of the then sovereign of
Mexico. Will you please tell me by what _right_ slavery exists in Texas
to-day? By the same right as, and no higher or greater than, slavery
is seeking dominion in Kansas: by political force--peaceful, if that
will suffice; by the torch (as in Kansas) and the bludgeon (as in the
Senate chamber), if required. And so history repeats itself; and even
as slavery has kept its course by craft, intimidation, and violence in
the past, so it will persist, in my judgment, until met and dominated
by the will of a people bent on its restriction.

We have, this very afternoon, heard bitter denunciations of Brooks
in Washington, and Titus, Stringfellow, Atchison, Jones, and Shannon
in Kansas--the battle-ground of slavery. I certainly am not going to
advocate or shield them; but they and their acts are but the necessary
outcome of the Nebraska law. We should reserve our highest censure for
the authors of the mischief, and not for the catspaws which they use. I
believe it was Shakespeare who said, “Where the offence lies, there let
the axe fall”; and, in my opinion, this man Douglas and the Northern
men in Congress who advocate “Nebraska” are more guilty than a thousand
Joneses and Stringfellows, with all their murderous practices, can be.

We have made a good beginning here to-day. As our Methodist friends
would say, “I feel it is good to be here.” While extremists may find
some fault with the moderation of our platform, they should recollect
that “the battle is not always to the strong, nor the race to the
swift.” In grave emergencies, moderation is generally safer than
radicalism; and as this struggle is likely to be long and earnest,
we must not, by our action, repel any who are in sympathy with us in
the main, but rather win all that we can to our standard. We must not
belittle nor overlook the facts of our condition--that we are new and
comparatively weak, while our enemies are entrenched and relatively
strong. They have the administration and the political power; and,
right or wrong, at present they have the numbers. Our friends who urge
an appeal to arms with so much force and eloquence, should recollect
that the government is arrayed against us, and that the numbers are now
arrayed against us as well; or, to state it nearer to the truth, they
are not yet expressly and affirmatively for us; and we should repel
friends rather than gain them by anything savoring of revolutionary
methods. As it now stands, we must appeal to the sober sense and
patriotism of the people. We will make converts day by day; we will
grow strong by calmness and moderation; we will grow strong by the
violence and injustice of our adversaries. And, unless truth be a
mockery and justice a hollow lie, we will be in the majority after a
while, and then the revolution which we will accomplish will be none
the less radical from being the result of pacific measures. The battle
of freedom is to be fought out on principle. Slavery is a violation of
the eternal right. We have temporized with it from the necessities of
our condition; but _as sure as God reigns and school children read_
[Immense applause lasting some time.] One of our greatest difficulties
is, that men who _know_ that slavery is a detestable crime and ruinous
to the nation, are compelled, by our peculiar condition and other
circumstances, to advocate it concretely, though damning it in the
raw. Henry Clay was a brilliant example of this tendency; others of
our purest statesmen are compelled to do so; and thus slavery secures
actual support from those who detest it at heart. Yet Henry Clay
perfected and forced through the Compromise which secured to slavery a
great State as well as a political advantage; not that he hated slavery
less, but that he loved the whole Union more. As long as slavery
profited by his great Compromise, the hosts of pro-slavery could not
sufficiently cover him with praise; but now that this Compromise stands
in their way--

  ... they never mention him,
    His name is never heard:
  Their lips are now forbid to speak
    That once familiar word.

They have slaughtered one of his most cherished measures, and his ghost
would arise to rebuke them. [Great applause.]

Two years ago, at Springfield, Judge Douglas avowed that Illinois came
into the Union as a slave State, and that slavery was weeded out by
the operation of his great, patent, everlasting principle of “popular
sovereignty.” [Laughter.] Well, now, that argument must be answered,
for it has a little grain of truth at the bottom. I do not mean that
it is true in essence, as he would have us believe. It could not be
essentially true if the ordinance of ’87 was valid. But, in point of
fact, there were some degraded beings called slaves in Kaskaskia and
the other French settlements when our first State constitution was
adopted; that is a fact, and I don’t deny it. Slaves were brought here
as early as 1720, and were kept here in spite of the ordinance of 1787
against it. But slavery did not thrive here. On the contrary, under
the influence of the ordinance, the number _decreased_ fifty-one from
1810 to 1820; while under the influence of _squatter_ sovereignty,
right across the river in Missouri, they _increased_ seven thousand
two hundred and eleven in the same time; and slavery finally faded
out in Illinois, under the influence of the law of freedom, while it
grew stronger and stronger in Missouri, under the law or practice of
“popular sovereignty.” In point of fact, there were but one hundred
and seventeen slaves in Illinois one year after its admission, or one
to every four hundred and seventy of its population;[2] or, to state
it in another way, if Illinois was a slave State in 1820, so were New
York and New Jersey much greater slave States from having had greater
numbers, slavery having been established there in very early times. But
there is this vital difference between all these States and the judge’s
Kansas experiment: that they sought to disestablish slavery which had
been already established, while the judge seeks, so far as he can, to
disestablish freedom, which had been established there by the Missouri
Compromise. [Voices: “Good!”]

Now, let us harmonize, my friends, and appeal to the moderation and
patriotism of the people; to the sober second thought; to the awakened
public conscience. The repeal of the sacred Missouri Compromise has
installed the weapons of violence: the bludgeon, the incendiary
torch, the death-dealing rifle, the bristling cannon--the weapons
of kingcraft, of the Inquisition, of ignorance, of barbarism, of
oppression. We see its fruits in the dying bed of the heroic Sumner;
in the ruins of the “Free State” hotel; in the smoking embers of the
“Herald of Freedom”; in the free-State Governor of Kansas chained to a
stake on freedom’s soil like a horse-thief, for the crime of freedom.
[Applause.] We see it in Christian statesmen, and Christian newspapers,
and Christian pulpits applauding _the cowardly act of a low bully_,
[Sensation and applause.] We note our political demoralization in the
catch-words that are coming into such common use; on the one hand,
“freedom-shriekers,” and sometimes “freedom-screechers” [Laughter];
and, on the other hand, “border ruffians,” and that fully deserved.
And the significance of catch-words cannot pass unheeded, for they
constitute a sign of the times. Everything in this world “jibes ” in
with everything else, and all the fruits of this Nebraska bill are like
the poisoned source from which they come. I will not say that we may
not sooner or later be compelled to meet force by force; but the time
has not yet come, and if we are true to ourselves, may never come. Do
not mistake that the ballot is stronger than the bullet. Therefore let
the legions of slavery use bullets; but let us wait patiently till
November, and fire ballots at them in return; and by that peaceful
policy I believe we shall ultimately win. [Applause.]

It was by that policy that here in Illinois the early fathers fought
the good fight, and gained the victory. In 1824 the free men of our
State, led by Governor Coles (who was President Madison’s private
secretary), determined that those beautiful groves should never reëcho
the dirge of one who has no title to himself. By their resolute
determination, the winds that sweep across our broad prairies shall
never cool the parched brow, nor shall the unfettered streams that
bring joy and gladness to our free soil water the tired feet, of a
_slave_; but so long as those heavenly breezes and sparkling streams
bless the land, or the groves and their fragrance or their memory
remain, the humanity to which they minister SHALL BE FOREVER FREE!
[Great applause.] Palmer, Yates, Williams, Browning, and some more in
this convention came from Kentucky to Illinois (instead of going to
Missouri), not only to better their conditions, but also to get away
from slavery. They have said so to me, and it is understood among us
Kentuckians that we don’t like it one bit. Now, can we, mindful of
the blessings of liberty which the early men of Illinois left to us,
refuse a like privilege to the free men who seek to plant Freedom’s
banner on our Western outposts? [“No! No!”] Should we not stand by our
neighbors who seek to better their conditions in Kansas and Nebraska?
[“Yes! Yes!”] Can we as Christian men, and strong and free ourselves,
wield the sledge or hold the iron which is to manacle anew an already
oppressed race? [“No! No!”] “Woe unto them,” it is written, “that
decree unrighteous decrees and that write grievousness which they
have prescribed.” Can we afford to sin any more deeply against human
liberty? [“No! No!”]

One great trouble in the matter is, that slavery is an insidious and
crafty power, and gains equally by open violence of the brutal as well
as by sly management of the peaceful. Even after the ordinance of 1787,
the settlers in Indiana and Illinois (it was all one government then)
tried to get Congress to allow slavery temporarily, and petitions to
that end were sent from Kaskaskia, and General Harrison, the Governor,
urged it from Vincennes, the capital. If that had succeeded, good-by
to liberty here. But John Randolph of Virginia made a vigorous report
against it; and although they persevered so well as to get three
favorable reports for it, yet the United States Senate, with the aid
of some slave States, finally _squelched_ it for good. [Applause.] And
that is why this hall is to-day a temple for free men instead of a
negro livery-stable. [Great applause and laughter.] Once let slavery
get planted in a locality, by ever so weak or doubtful a title, and in
ever so small numbers, and it is like the Canada thistle or Bermuda
grass--you can’t root it out. You yourself may detest slavery; but your
neighbor has five or six slaves, and he is an excellent neighbor,
or your son has married his daughter, and they beg you to help save
their property, and you vote against your interest and principles to
accommodate a neighbor, hoping that your vote will be on the losing
side. And others do the same; and in those ways slavery gets a sure
foot-hold. And when that is done the whole mighty Union--the force
of the Nation is committed to its support. And that very process
is working in Kansas to-day. And you must recollect that the slave
property is worth a billion of dollars; while free-State men must
work for sentiment alone. Then there are “blue lodges”--as they call
them--everywhere doing their secret and deadly work.

It is a very strange thing, and not solvable by any moral law that I
know of, that if a man loses his horse, the whole country will turn
out to help hang the thief; but if a man but a shade or two darker
than I am is himself stolen, the same crowd will hang one who aids
in restoring him to liberty. Such are the inconsistencies of slavery,
where a horse is more sacred than a man; and the essence of _squatter_
or popular sovereignty--I don’t care how you call it--is that if one
man chooses to make a slave of another, no third man shall be allowed
to object. And if you can do this in free Kansas, and it is allowed to
stand, the next thing you will see is ship-loads of negroes from Africa
at the wharf at Charleston; for one thing is as truly lawful as the
other; and these are the bastard notions we have got to stamp out, else
they will stamp us out. [Sensation and applause.]

The Union is undergoing a fearful strain; but it is a stout old
ship, and has weathered many a hard blow, and “the stars in their
courses,” aye, an invisible power, greater than the puny efforts of
men, will fight for us. But we ourselves must not decline the burden
of responsibility, nor take counsel of unworthy passions. Whatever
duty urges us to do or to omit, must be done or omitted; and the
recklessness with which our adversaries break the laws, or counsel
their violation, should afford no example for us. Therefore, let us
revere the Declaration of Independence; let us continue to obey the
Constitution and the laws; let us keep step to the music of the Union.
Let us draw a cordon, so to speak, around the slave States, and the
hateful institution, like a reptile poisoning itself, will perish by
its own infamy. [Applause.]

But we cannot be free men if this is, by our national choice, to be a
land of slavery. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for
themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.
[Loud applause.]

Did you ever, my friends, seriously reflect upon the speed with which
we are tending downwards? Within the memory of men now present the
leading statesmen of Virginia could make genuine, red-hot abolitionist
speeches in old Virginia; and, as I have said, now even in “free
Kansas” it is a crime to declare that it is “free Kansas.” The very
sentiments that I and others have just uttered would entitle us, and
each of us, to the ignominy and seclusion of a dungeon; and yet I
suppose that, like Paul, we were “free born.” But if this thing is
allowed to continue, it will be but one step further to impress the
same rule in Illinois. [Sensation.]

The conclusion of all is, that we must restore the Missouri Compromise.
We must highly resolve that _Kansas must be free_! [Great applause.] We
must reinstate the birthday promise of the Republic; we must reaffirm
the Declaration of Independence; we must make good in essence as well
as in form Madison’s avowal that “the word _slave_ ought not to appear
in the Constitution”; and we must even go further, and decree that
only local law, and not that time-honored instrument, shall shelter a
slaveholder. We must make this a land of liberty in fact, as it is in
name. But in seeking to attain these results--so indispensable if the
liberty which is our pride and boast shall endure--we will be loyal to
the Constitution and to the “flag of our Union,” and no matter what our
grievance--even though Kansas shall come in as a slave State; and no
matter what theirs--even if we shall restore the Compromise--WE WILL
YOU SHA’N’T!!! [This was the climax; the audience rose to its feet _en
masse_, applauded, stamped, waved handkerchiefs, threw hats in the air,
and ran riot for several minutes. The arch-enchanter who wrought this
transformation looked, meanwhile, like the personification of political

But let us, meanwhile, appeal to the sense and patriotism of the
people, and not to their prejudices; let us spread the floods of
enthusiasm here aroused all over these vast prairies, so suggestive
of freedom. Let us commence by electing the gallant soldier [Colonel
Bissell] governor, who stood for the honor of our State alike on the
plains and amidst the chaparral of Mexico and on the floor of Congress,
while he defied the Southern Hotspur; and that will have a greater
moral effect than all the border ruffians can accomplish in all their
raids on Kansas. There is both a power and a magic in popular opinion.
To that let us now appeal; and while, in all probability, no resort to
force will be needed, our moderation and forbearance will stand us in
good stead when, if ever, WE MUST MAKE AN APPEAL TO BATTLE AND TO THE
GOD OF HOSTS!! [Immense applause and a rush for the orator.]


[1] Statutes of Kansas, 1855, Chapter 151, Sec. 12. If any free person,
by speaking or by writing, assert or maintain that persons have not
the right to hold slaves in this Territory, or shall introduce into
this Territory, print, publish, write, circulate ... any book, paper,
magazine, pamphlet, or circular containing any denial of the right of
persons to hold slaves in this Territory, such person shall be deemed
guilty of _felony_, and punished by imprisonment at hard labor for a
term of not less than two years.

Sec. 13. No person who is conscientiously opposed to holding slaves, or
who does not admit the right to hold slaves in this Territory, shall
sit as a juror on the trial of any prosecution for any violation of any
Sections of this Act.

[2] It is singular that Mr. Lincoln, usually so accurate, should have
been entirely mistaken in his statistics at this point.--H. C. W.


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

  Archaic or alternate spelling has been retained from the original.

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