repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and the propriety of
its restoration, constitute the subject of what I am about
I desire to present my own connected view of this subject,
my remarks will not be, specifically, an answer to Judge
Douglas; yet, as I proceed, the main points he has presented
will arise, and will receive such respectful attention
as I may be able to give them.
wish further to say, that I do not propose to question
the patriotism, or to assail the motives of any man, or
class of men; but rather to strictly confine myself to
the naked merits of the question.
also wish to be no less than National in all the positions
I may take; and whenever I take ground which others have
thought, or may think, narrow, sectional and dangerous
to the Union, I hope to give a reason, which will appear
sufficient, at least to some, why I think differently.
as this subject is no other, than part and parcel of the
larger general question of domestic-slavery, I wish to
MAKE and to KEEP the distinction between the EXISTING
institution, and the EXTENSION of it, so broad, and so
clear, that no honest man can misunderstand me, and no
dishonest one, successfully misrepresent me.
order to [get?] a clear understanding of what the Missouri
Compromise is, a short history of the preceding kindred
subjects will perhaps be proper. When we established our
independence, we did not own, or claim, the country to
which this compromise applies. Indeed, strictly speaking,
the confederacy then owned no country at all; the States
respectively owned the country within their limits; and
some of them owned territory beyond their strict State
limits. Virginia thus owned the North-Western territory---the
country out of which the principal part of Ohio, all Indiana,
all Illinois, all Michigan and all Wisconsin, have since
been formed. She also owned (perhaps within her then limits)
what has since been formed into the State of Kentucky.
North Carolina thus owned what is now the State of Tennessee;
and South Carolina and Georgia, in separate parts, owned
what are now Mississippi and Alabama. Connecticut, I think,
owned the little remaining part of Ohio---being the same
where they now send Giddings to Congress, and beat all
creation at making cheese. These territories, together
with the States themselves, constituted all the country
over which the confederacy then claimed any sort of jurisdiction.
We were then living under the Articles of Confederation,
which were superceded by the Constitution several years
afterwards. The question of ceding these territories to
the general government was set on foot. Mr. Jefferson,
the author of the Declaration of Independence, and otherwise
a chief actor in the revolution; then a delegate in Congress;
afterwards twice President; who was, is, and perhaps will
continue to be, the most distinguished politician of our
history; a Virginian by birth and continued residence,
and withal, a slave-holder; conceived the idea of taking
that occasion, to prevent slavery ever going into the
north-western territory. He prevailed on the Virginia
Legislature to adopt his views, and to cede the territory,
making the prohibition of slavery therein, a condition
of the deed. Congress accepted the cession, with the condition;
and in the first Ordinance (which the acts of Congress
were then called) for the government of the territory,
provided that slavery should never be permitted therein.
This is the famed ordinance of '87 so often spoken of.
Thenceforward, for sixty-one years, and until in 1848,
the last scrap of this territory came into the Union as
the State of Wisconsin, all parties acted in quiet obedience
to this ordinance. It is now what Jefferson foresaw and
intended---the happy home of teeming millions of free,
white, prosperous people, and no slave amongst them.
with the author of the Declaration of Independence, the
policy of prohibiting slavery in new territory originated.
Thus, away back of the constitution, in the pure fresh,
free breath of the revolution, the State of Virginia,
and the National congress put that policy in practice.
Thus through sixty odd of the best years of the republic
did that policy steadily work to its great and beneficent
end. And thus, in those five states, and five millions
of free, enterprising people, we have before us the rich
fruits of this policy.
now new light breaks upon us. Now congress declares this
ought never to have been; and the like of it, must never
be again. The sacred right of self government is grossly
violated by it! We even find some men, who drew their
first breath, and every other breath of their lives, under
this very restriction, now live in dread of absolute suffocation,
if they should be restricted in the "sacred right"
of taking slaves to Nebraska. That perfect liberty they
sigh for---the liberty of making slaves of other people---Jefferson
never thought of; their own father never thought of; they
never thought of themselves, a year ago. How fortunate
for them, they did not sooner become sensible of their
great misery! Oh, how difficult it is to treat with respect,
such assaults upon all we have ever really held sacred.
to return to history. In 1803 we purchased what was then
called Louisiana, of France. It included the now states
of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa; also the territory
of Minnesota, and the present bone of contention, Kansas
and Nebraska. Slavery already existed among the French
at New Orleans; and, to some extent, at St. Louis. In
1812 Louisiana came into the Union as a slave state, without
controversy. In 1818 or '19, Missouri showed signs of
a wish to come in with slavery. This was resisted by northern
members of Congress; and thus began the first great slavery
agitation in the nation. This controversy lasted several
months, and became very angry and exciting; the House
of Representatives voting steadily for the prohibition
of slavery in Missouri, and the Senate voting as steadily
against it. Threats of breaking up the Union were freely
made; and the ablest public men of the day became seriously
alarmed. At length a compromise was made, in which, like
all compromises, both sides yielded something. It was
a law passed on the 6th day of March, 1820, providing
that Missouri might come into the Union with slavery,
but that in all the remaining part of the territory purchased
of France, which lies north of 36 degrees and 30 minutes
north latitude, slavery should never be permitted. This
provision of law, is the Missouri Compromise. In excluding
slavery North of the line, the same language is employed
as in the Ordinance of '87. It directly applied to Iowa,
Minnesota, and to the present bone of contention, Kansas
and Nebraska. Whether there should or should not, be slavery
south of that line, nothing was said in the law; but Arkansas
constituted the principal remaining part, south of the
line; and it has since been admitted as a slave state
without serious controversy. More recently, Iowa, north
of the line, came in as a free state without controversy.
Still later, Minnesota, north of the line, had a territorial
organization without controversy. Texas principally south
of the line, and West of Arkansas; though originally within
the purchase from France, had, in 1819, been traded off
to Spain, in our treaty for the acquisition of Florida.
It had thus become a part of Mexico. Mexico revolutionized
and became independent of Spain. American citizens began
settling rapidly, with their slaves in the southern part
of Texas. Soon they revolutionized against Mexico, and
established an independent government of their own, adopting
a constitution, with slavery, strongly resembling the
constitutions of our slave states. By still another rapid
move, Texas, claiming a boundary much further West, than
when we parted with her in 1819, was brought back to the
United States, and admitted into the Union as a slave
state. There then was little or no settlement in the northern
part of Texas, a considerable portion of which lay north
of the Missouri line; and in the resolutions admitting
her into the Union, the Missouri restriction was expressly
extended westward across her territory. This was in 1845,
only nine years ago.
originated the Missouri Compromise; and thus has it been
respected down to 1845. And even four years later, in
1849, our distinguished Senator, in a public address,
held the following language in relation to it:
Missouri Compromise had been in practical operation for
about a quarter of a century, and had received the sanction
and approbation of men of all parties in every section
of the Union. It had allayed all sectional jealousies
and irritations growing out of this vexed question, and
harmonized and tranquilized the whole country. It had
given to Henry Clay, as its prominent champion, the proud
sobriquet of the 'Great Pacificator' and by that title
and for that service, his political friends had repeatedly
appealed to the people to rally under his standard, as
a presidential candidate, as the man who had exhibited
the patriotism and the power to suppress, an unholy and
treasonable agitation, and preserve the Union. He was
not aware that any man or any party from any section of
the Union, had ever urged as an objection to Mr. Clay,
that he was the great champion of the Missouri Compromise.
On the contrary, the effort was made by the opponents
of Mr. Clay, to prove that he was not entitled to the
exclusive merit of that great patriotic measure, and that
the honor was equally due to others as well as to him,
for securing its adoption---that it had its origin in
the hearts of all patriotic men, who desired to preserve
and perpetuate the blessings of our glorious Union---an
origin akin that of the constitution of the United States,
conceived in the same spirit of fraternal affection, and
calculated to remove forever, the only danger, which seemed
to threaten, at some distant day, to sever the social
bond of union. All the evidences of public opinion at
that day, seemed to indicate that this Compromise had
been canonized in the hearts of the American people, as
a sacred thing which no ruthless hand would ever be reckless
enough to disturb."
do not read this extract to involve Judge Douglas in an
inconsistency. If he afterwards thought he had been wrong,
it was right for him to change. I bring this forward merely
to show the high estimate placed on the Missouri Compromise
by all parties up to so late as the year 1849.
going back a little, in point of time, our war with Mexico
broke out in 1846. When Congress was about adjourning
that session, President Polk asked them to place two millions
of dollars under his control, to be used by him in the
recess, if found practicable and expedient, in negotiating
a treaty of peace with Mexico, and acquiring some part
of her territory. A bill was duly got up, for the purpose,
and was progressing swimmingly, in the House of Representatives,
when a member by the name of David Wilmot, a democrat
from Pennsylvania, moved as an amendment "Provided
that in any territory thus acquired, there shall never
is the origin of the far-famed 'Wilmot Proviso.' It created
a great flutter; but it stuck like wax, was voted into
the bill, and the bill passed with it through the House.
The Senate, however, adjourned without final action on
it and so both appropriation and proviso were lost, for
the time. The war continued, and at the next session,
the president renewed his request for the appropriation,
enlarging the amount, I think, to three million. Again
came the proviso; and defeated the measure. Congress adjourned
again, and the war went on. In Dec., 1847, the new congress
assembled. I was in the lower House that term. The "Wilmot
Proviso" or the principle of it, was constantly coming
up in some shape or other, and I think I may venture to
say I voted for it at least forty times; during the short
term I was there. The Senate, however, held it in check,
and it never became law. In the spring of 1848 a treaty
of peace was made with Mexico; by which we obtained that
portion of her country which now constitutes the territories
of New Mexico and Utah, and the now state of California.
By this treaty the Wilmot Proviso was defeated, as so
far as it was intended to be, a condition of the acquisition
of territory. Its friends however, were still determined
to find some way to restrain slavery from getting into
the new country. This new acquisition lay directly West
of our old purchase from France, and extended west to
the Pacific ocean---and was so situated that if the Missouri
line should be extended straight West, the new country
would be divided by such extended line, leaving some North
and some South of it. On Judge Douglas' motion a bill,
or provision of a bill, passed the Senate to so extend
the Missouri line. The Proviso men in the House, including
myself, voted it down, because by implication, it gave
up the Southern part to slavery, while we were bent on
having it all free.
the fall of 1848 the gold mines were discovered in California.
This attracted people to it with unprecedented rapidity,
so that on, or soon after, the meeting of the new congress
in Dec., 1849, she already had a population of nearly
a hundred thousand, had called a convention, formed a
state constitution, excluding slavery, and was knocking
for admission into the Union. The Proviso men, of course
were for letting her in, but the Senate, always true to
the other side would not consent to her admission. And
there California stood, kept out of the Union, because
she would not let slavery into her borders. Under all
the circumstances perhaps this was not wrong. There were
other points of dispute, connected with the general question
of slavery, which equally needed adjustment. The South
clamored for a more efficient fugitive slave law. The
North clamored for the abolition of a peculiar species
of slave trade in the District of Columbia, in connection
with which, in view from the windows of the capitol, a
sort of negro-livery stable, where droves of negroes were
collected, temporarily kept, and finally taken to Southern
markets, precisely like droves of horses, had been openly
maintained for fifty years. Utah and New Mexico needed
territorial governments; and whether slavery should or
should not be prohibited within them, was another question.
The indefinite Western boundary of Texas was to be settled.
She was received a slave state; and consequently the farther
West the slavery men could push her boundary, the more
slave country they secured. And the farther East the slavery
opponents could thrust the boundary back, the less slave
ground was secured. Thus this was just as clearly a slavery
question as any of the others.
points all needed adjustment; and they were all held up,
perhaps wisely to make them help to adjust one another.
The Union, now, as in 1820, was thought to be in danger;
and devotion to the Union rightfully inclined men to yield
somewhat, in points where nothing else could have so inclined
them. A compromise was finally effected. The south got
their new fugitive-slave law; and the North got California,
(the far best part of our acquisition from Mexico,) as
a free State. The south got a provision that New Mexico
and Utah, when admitted as States, may come in with or
without slavery as they may then choose; and the north
got the slave-trade abolished in the District of Columbia.
The north got the western boundary of Texas, thence further
back eastward than the south desired; but, in turn, they
gave Texas ten millions of dollars, with which to pay
her old debts. This is the Compromise of 1850.
the Presidential election of 1852, each of the great political
parties, democrats and whigs, met in convention, and adopted
resolutions endorsing the compromise of '50; as a "finality,"
a final settlement, so far as these parties could make
it so, of all slavery agitation. Previous to this, in
1851, the Illinois Legislature had indorsed it.
this long period of time Nebraska had remained, substantially
an uninhabited country, but now emigration to, and settlement
within it began to take place. It is about one third as
large as the present United States, and its importance
so long overlooked, begins to come into view. The restriction
of slavery by the Missouri Compromise directly applies
to it; in fact, was first made, and has since been maintained,
expressly for it. In 1853, a bill to give it a territorial
government passed the House of Representatives, and, in
the hands of Judge Douglas, failed of passing the Senate
only for want of time. This bill contained no repeal of
the Missouri Compromise. Indeed, when it was assailed
because it did not contain such repeal, Judge Douglas
defended it in its existing form. On January 4th, 1854,
Judge Douglas introduces a new bill to give Nebraska territorial
government. He accompanies this bill with a report, in
which last, he expressly recommends that the Missouri
Compromise shall neither be affirmed nor repealed.
long the bill is so modified as to make two territories
instead of one; calling the Southern one Kansas.
about a month after the introduction of the bill, on the
judge's own motion, it is so amended as to declare the
Missouri Compromise inoperative and void; and, substantially,
that the People who go and settle there may establish
slavery, or exclude it, as they may see fit. In this shape
the bill passed both branches of congress, and became
is the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. The foregoing
history may not be precisely accurate in every particular;
but I am sure it is sufficiently so, for all the uses
I shall attempt to make of it, and in it, we have before
us, the chief material enabling us to correctly judge
whether the repeal of the Missouri Compromise is right
think, and shall try to show, that it is wrong; wrong
in its direct effect, letting slavery into Kansas and
Nebraska---and wrong in its prospective principle, allowing
it to spread to every other part of the wide world, where
men can be found inclined to take it.
declared indifference, but as I must think, covert real
zeal for the spread of slavery, I can not but hate. I
hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery
itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example
of its just influence in the world---enables the enemies
of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as
hypocrites---causes the real friends of freedom to doubt
our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many
really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with
the very fundamental principles of civil liberty---criticising
the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there
is no right principle of action but self-interest.
proceeding, let me say I think I have no prejudice against
the Southern people. They are just what we would be in
their situation. If slavery did not now exist amongst
them, they would not introduce it. If it did now exist
amongst us, we should not instantly give it up. This I
believe of the masses north and south. Doubtless there
are individuals, on both sides, who would not hold slaves
under any circumstances; and others who would gladly introduce
slavery anew, if it were out of existence. We know that
some southern men do free their slaves, go north, and
become tip-top abolitionists; while some northern ones
go south, and become most cruel slave-masters.
southern people tell us they are no more responsible for
the origin of slavery, than we; I acknowledge the fact.
When it is said that the institution exists; and that
it is very difficult to get rid of it, in any satisfactory
way, I can understand and appreciate the saying. I surely
will not blame them for not doing what I should not know
how to do myself. If all earthly power were given me,
I should not know what to do, as to the existing institution.
My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and
send them to Liberia,---to their own native land. But
a moment's reflection would convince me, that whatever
of high hope, (as I think there is) there may be in this,
in the long run, its sudden execution is impossible. If
they were all landed there in a day, they would all perish
in the next ten days; and there are not surplus shipping
and surplus money enough in the world to carry them there
in many times ten days. What then? Free them all, and
keep them among us as underlings? Is it quite certain
that this betters their condition? I think I would not
hold one in slavery, at any rate; yet the point is not
clear enough for me to denounce people upon. What next?
Free them, and make them politically and socially, our
equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if
mine would, we well know that those of the great mass
of white people will not. Whether this feeling accords
with justice and sound judgment, is not the sole question,
if indeed, it is any part of it. A universal feeling,
whether well or ill-founded, can not be safely disregarded.
We can not, then, make them equals. It does seem to me
that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted;
but for their tardiness in this, I will not undertake
to judge our brethren of the south.
they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge
them, not grudgingly, but fully, and fairly; and I would
give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their
fugitives, which should not, in its stringency, be more
likely to carry a free man into slavery, than our ordinary
criminal laws are to hang an innocent one.
all this; to my judgment, furnishes no more excuse for
permitting slavery to go into our own free territory,
than it would for reviving the African slave trade by
law. The law which forbids the bringing of slaves from
Africa; and that which has so long forbid the taking them
to Nebraska, can hardly be distinguished on any moral
principle; and the repeal of the former could find quite
as plausible excuses as that of the latter.
arguments by which the repeal of the Missouri Compromise
is sought to be justified, are these:
that the Nebraska country needed a territorial government.
that in various ways, the public had repudiated it, and
demanded the repeal; and therefore should not now complain
lastly, that the repeal establishes a principle, which
is intrinsically right.
will attempt an answer to each of them in its turn. First,
then, if that country was in need of a territorial organization,
could it not have had it as well without as with the repeal?
Iowa and Minnesota, to both of which the Missouri restriction
applied, had, without its repeal, each in succession,
territorial organizations. And even, the year before,
a bill for Nebraska itself, was within an ace of passing,
without the repealing clause; and this in the hands of
the same men who are now the champions of repeal. Why
no necessity then for the repeal? But still later, when
this very bill was first brought in, it contained no repeal.
But, say they, because the public had demanded, or rather
commanded the repeal, the repeal was to accompany the
organization, whenever that should occur.
I deny that the public ever demanded any such thing---ever
repudiated the Missouri Compromise---ever commanded its
repeal. I deny it, and call for the proof. It is not contended,
I believe, that any such command has ever been given in
express terms. It is only said that it was done in principle.
The support of the Wilmot Proviso, is the first fact mentioned,
to prove that the Missouri restriction was repudiated
in principle, and the second is, the refusal to extend
the Missouri line over the country acquired from Mexico.
These are near enough alike to be treated together. The
one was to exclude the chances of slavery from the whole
new acquisition by the lump; and the other was to reject
a division of it, by which one half was to be given up
to those chances. Now whether this was a repudiation of
the Missouri line, in principle, depends upon whether
the Missouri law contained any principle requiring the
line to be extended over the country acquired from Mexico.
I contend it did not. I insist that it contained no general
principle, but that it was, in every sense, specific.
That its terms limit it to the country purchased from
France, is undenied and undeniable. It could have no principle
beyond the intention of those who made it. They did not
intend to extend the line to country which they did not
own. If they intended to extend it, in the event of acquiring
additional territory, why did they not say so? It was
just as easy to say, that "in all the country west
of the Mississippi, which we now own, or may hereafter
acquire there shall never be slavery," as to say,
what they did say; and they would have said it if they
had meant it. An intention to extend the law is not only
not mentioned in the law, but is not mentioned in any
contemporaneous history. Both the law itself, and the
history of the times are a blank as to any principle of
extension; and by neither the known rules for construing
statutes and contracts, nor by common sense, can any such
principle be inferred.
fact showing the specific character of the Missouri law---showing
that it intended no more than it expressed---showing that
the line was not intended as a universal dividing line
between free and slave territory, present and prospective---north
of which slavery could never go---is the fact that by
that very law, Missouri came in as a slave state, north
of the line. If that law contained any prospective principle,
the whole law must be looked to in order to ascertain
what the principle was. And by this rule, the south could
fairly contend that inasmuch as they got one slave state
north of the line at the inception of the law, they have
the right to have another given them north of it occasionally---now
and then in the indefinite westward extension of the line.
This demonstrates the absurdity of attempting to deduce
a prospective principle from the Missouri Compromise line.
we voted for the Wilmot Proviso, we were voting to keep
slavery out of the whole Missouri [Mexican?] acquisition;
and little did we think we were thereby voting, to let
it into Nebraska, laying several hundred miles distant.
When we voted against extending the Missouri line, little
did we think we were voting to destroy the old line, then
of near thirty years standing. To argue that we thus repudiated
the Missouri Compromise is no less absurd than it would
be to argue that because we have, so far, forborne to
acquire Cuba, we have thereby, in principle, repudiated
our former acquisitions, and determined to throw them
out of the Union! No less absurd than it would be to say
that because I may have refused to build an addition to
my house, I thereby have decided to destroy the existing
house! And if I catch you setting fire to my house, you
will turn upon me and say I INSTRUCTED you to do it! The
most conclusive argument, however, that, while voting
for the Wilmot Proviso, and while voting against the EXTENSION
of the Missouri line, we never thought of disturbing the
original Missouri Compromise, is found in the facts, that
there was then, and still is, an unorganized tract of
fine country, nearly as large as the state of Missouri,
lying immediately west of Arkansas, and south of the Missouri
Compromise line; and that we never attempted to prohibit
slavery as to it. I wish particular attention to this.
It adjoins the original Missouri Compromise line, by its
northern boundary; and consequently is part of the country,
into which, by implication, slavery was permitted to go,
by that compromise. There it has lain open ever since,
and there it still lies. And yet no effort has been made
at any time to wrest it from the south. In all our struggles
to prohibit slavery within our Mexican acquisitions, we
never so much as lifted a finger to prohibit it, as to
this tract. Is not this entirely conclusive that at all
times, we have held the Missouri Compromise as a sacred
thing; even when against ourselves, as well as when for
Douglas sometimes says the Missouri line itself was, in
principle, only an extension of the line of the ordinance
of '87---that is to say, an extension of the Ohio river.
I think this is weak enough on its face. I will remark,
however that, as a glance at the map will show, the Missouri
line is a long way farther South than Page the Ohio; and
that if our Senator, in proposing his extension, had stuck
to the principle of jogging southward, perhaps it might
not have been voted down so readily.
next it is said that the compromises of '50 and the ratification
of them by both political parties, in '52, established
a new principle, which required the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise. This again I deny. I deny it, and demand the
proof. I have already stated fully what the compromises
of '50 are. The particular part of those measures, for
which the virtual repeal of the Missouri compromise is
sought to be inferred (for it is admitted they contain
nothing about it, in express terms) is the provision in
the Utah and New Mexico laws, which permits them when
they seek admission into the Union as States, to come
in with or without slavery as they shall then see fit.
Now I insist this provision was made for Utah and New
Mexico, and for no other place whatever. It had no more
direct reference to Nebraska than it had to the territories
of the moon. But, say they, it had reference to Nebraska,
in principle. Let us see. The North consented to this
provision, not because they considered it right in itself;
but because they were compensated---paid for it. They,
at the same time, got California into the Union as a free
State. This was far the best part of all they had struggled
for by the Wilmot Proviso. They also got the area of slavery
somewhat narrowed in the settlement of the boundary of
Texas. Also, they got the slave trade abolished in the
District of Columbia. For all these desirable objects
the North could afford to yield something; and they did
yield to the South the Utah and New Mexico provision.
I do not mean that the whole North, or even a majority,
yielded, when the law passed; but enough yielded, when
added to the vote of the South, to carry the measure.
Now can it be pretended that the principle of this arrangement
requires us to permit the same provision to be applied
to Nebraska, without any equivalent at all? Give us another
free State; press the boundary of Texas still further
back, give us another step toward the destruction of slavery
in the District, and you present us a similar case. But
ask us not to repeat, for nothing, what you paid for in
the first instance. If you wish the thing again, pay again.
That is the principle of the compromises of '50, if indeed
they had any principles beyond their specific terms---it
was the system of equivalents.
if Congress, at that time, intended that all future territories
should, when admitted as States, come in with or without
slavery, at their own option, why did it not say so? With
such an universal provision, all know the bills could
not have passed. Did they, then---could they---establish
a principle contrary to their own intention? Still further,
if they intended to establish the principle that wherever
Congress had control, it should be left to the people
to do as they thought fit with slavery why did they not
authorize the people of the District of Columbia at their
adoption to abolish slavery within these limits? I personally
know that this has not been left undone, because it was
unthought of. It was frequently spoken of by members of
Congress and by citizens of Washington six years ago;
and I heard no one express a doubt that a system of gradual
emancipation, with compensation to owners, would meet
the approbation of a large majority of the white people
of the District. But without the action of Congress they
could say nothing; and Congress said ``no.'' In the measures
of 1850 Congress had the subject of slavery in the District
expressly in hand. If they were then establishing the
principle of allowing the people to do as they please
with slavery, why did they not apply the principle to
it is claimed that by the Resolutions of the Illinois
Legislature, passed in 1851, the repeal of the Missouri
compromise was demanded. This I deny also. Whatever may
be worked out by a criticism of the language of those
resolutions, the people have never understood them as
being any more than an endorsement of the compromises
of 1850; and a release of our Senators from voting for
the Wilmot Proviso. The whole people are living witnesses,
that this only, was their view. Finally, it is asked "If
we did not mean to apply the Utah and New Mexico provision,
to all future territories, what did we mean, when we,
in 1852, endorsed the compromises of '50?"
myself, I can answer this question most easily. I meant
not to ask a repeal, or modification of the fugitive slave
law. I meant not to ask for the abolition of slavery in
the District of Columbia. I meant not to resist the admission
of Utah and New Mexico, even should they ask to come in
as slave States. I meant nothing about additional territories,
because, as I understood, we then had no territory whose
character as to slavery was not already settled. As to
Nebraska, I regarded its character as being fixed, by
the Missouri compromise, for thirty years---as unalterably
fixed as that of my own home in Illinois. As to new acquisitions
I said "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
When we make new acquaintances, [acquisitions?] we will,
as heretofore, try to manage them some how. That is my
answer. That is what I meant and said; and I appeal to
the people to say, each for himself, whether that was
not also the universal meaning of the free States.
now, in turn, let me ask a few questions. If by any, or
all these matters, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise
was commanded, why was not the command sooner obeyed?
Why was the repeal omitted in the Nebraska bill of 1853?
Why was it omitted in the original bill of 1854? Why,
in the accompanying report, was such a repeal characterized
as a departure from the course pursued in 1850? and its
continued omission recommended?
am aware Judge Douglas now argues that the subsequent
express repeal is no substantial alteration of the bill.
This argument seems wonderful to me. It is as if one should
argue that white and black are not different. He admits,
however, that there is a literal change in the bill; and
that he made the change in deference to other Senators,
who would not support the bill without. This proves that
those other Senators thought the change a substantial
one; and that the Judge thought their opinions worth deferring
to. His own opinions, therefore, seem not to rest on a
very firm basis even in his own mind---and I suppose the
world believes, and will continue to believe, that precisely
on the substance of that change this whole agitation has
conclude then, that the public never demanded the repeal
of the Missouri compromise.
now come to consider whether the repeal, with its avowed
principle, is intrinsically right. I insist that it is
not. Take the particular case. A controversy had arisen
between the advocates and opponents of slavery, in relation
to its establishment within the country we had purchased
of France. The southern, and then best part of the purchase,
was already in as a slave state. The controversy was settled
by also letting Missouri in as a slave State; but with
the agreement that within all the remaining part of the
purchase, North of a certain line, there should never
be slavery. As to what was to be done with the remaining
part south of the line, nothing was said; but perhaps
the fair implication was, that it should come in with
slavery if it should so choose. The southern part, except
a portion heretofore mentioned, afterwards did come in
with slavery, as the State of Arkansas. All these many
years since 1820, the Northern part had remained a wilderness.
At length settlements began in it also. In due course,
Iowa, came in as a free State, and Minnesota was given
a territorial government, without removing the slavery
restriction. Finally the sole remaining part, North of
the line, Kansas and Nebraska, was to be organized; and
it is proposed, and carried, to blot out the old dividing
line of thirty-four years standing, and to open the whole
of that country to the introduction of slavery. Now, this,
to my mind, is manifestly unjust. After an angry and dangerous
controversy, the parties made friends by dividing the
bone of contention. The one party first appropriates her
own share, beyond all power to be disturbed in the possession
of it; and then seizes the share of the other party. It
is as if two starving men had divided their only loaf;
the one had hastily swallowed his half, and then grabbed
the other half just as he was putting it to his mouth!
me here drop the main argument, to notice what I consider
rather an inferior matter. It is argued that slavery will
not go to Kansas and Nebraska, in any event. This is a
palliation---a lullaby. I have some hope that it will
not; but let us not be too confident. As to climate, a
glance at the map shows that there are five slave States---Delaware,
Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri---and also
the District of Columbia, all north of the Missouri compromise
line. The census returns of 1850 show that, within these,
there are 867,276 slaves---being more than one-fourth
of all the slaves in the nation.
is not climate, then, that will keep slavery out of these
territories. Is there any thing in the peculiar nature
of the country? Missouri adjoins these territories, by
her entire western boundary, and slavery is already within
every one of her western counties. I have even heard it
said that there are more slaves, in proportion to whites,
in the north western county of Missouri, than within any
county of the State. Slavery pressed entirely up to the
old western boundary of the State, and when, rather recently,
a part of that boundary, at the north-west was moved out
a little farther west, slavery followed on quite up to
the new line. Now, when the restriction is removed, what
is to prevent it from going still further? Climate will
not. No peculiarity of the country will---nothing in nature
will. Will the disposition of the people prevent it? Those
nearest the scene, are all in favor of the extension.
The yankees, who are opposed to it may be more numerous;
but in military phrase, the battle-field is too far from
their base of operations.
it is said, there now is no law in Nebraska on the subject
of slavery; and that, in such case, taking a slave there,
operates his freedom. That is good book-law; but is not
the rule of actual practice. Wherever slavery is, it has
been first introduced without law. The oldest laws we
find concerning it, are not laws introducing it; but regulating
it, as an already existing thing. A white man takes his
slave to Nebraska now; who will inform the negro that
he is free? Who will take him before court to test the
question of his freedom? In ignorance of his legal emancipation,
he is kept chopping, splitting and plowing. Others are
brought, and move on in the same track. At last, if ever
the time for voting comes, on the question of slavery,
the institution already in fact exists in the country,
and cannot well be removed. The facts of its presence,
and the difficulty of its removal will carry the vote
in its favor. Keep it out until a vote is taken, and a
vote in favor of it, can not be got in any population
of forty thousand, on earth, who have been drawn together
by the ordinary motives of emigration and settlement.
To get slaves into the country simultaneously with the
whites, in the incipient stages of settlement, is the
precise stake played for, and won in this Nebraska measure.
question is asked us, "If slaves will go in, notwithstanding
the general principle of law liberates them, why would
they not equally go in against positive statute law?---go
in, even if the Missouri restriction were maintained?"
I answer, because it takes a much bolder man to venture
in, with his property, in the latter case, than in the
former---because the positive congressional enactment
is known to, and respected by all, or nearly all; whereas
the negative principle that no law is free law, is not
much known except among lawyers. We have some experience
of this practical difference. In spite of the Ordinance
of '87, a few negroes were brought into Illinois, and
held in a state of quasi slavery; not enough, however
to carry a vote of the people in favor of the institution
when they came to form a constitution. But in the adjoining
Missouri country, where there was no ordinance of '87---was
no restriction---they were carried ten times, nay a hundred
times, as fast, and actually made a slave State. This
is fact---naked fact.
LULLABY argument is, that taking slaves to new countries
does not increase their number---does not make any one
slave who otherwise would be free. There is some truth
in this, and I am glad of it, but it [is] not WHOLLY true.
The African slave trade is not yet effectually suppressed;
and if we make a reasonable deduction for the white people
amongst us, who are foreigners, and the descendants of
foreigners, arriving here since 1808, we shall find the
increase of the black population out-running that of the
white, to an extent unaccountable, except by supposing
that some of them too, have been coming from Africa. If
this be so, the opening of new countries to the institution,
increases the demand for, and augments the price of slaves,
and so does, in fact, make slaves of freemen by causing
them to be brought from Africa, and sold into bondage.
however this may be, we know the opening of new countries
to slavery, tends to the perpetuation of the institution,
and so does KEEP men in slavery who otherwise would be
free. This result we do not FEEL like favoring, and we
are under no legal obligation to suppress our feelings
in this respect.
justice to the south, it is said, requires us to consent
to the extending of slavery to new countries. That is
to say, inasmuch as you do not object to my taking my
hog to Nebraska, therefore I must not object to you taking
your slave. Now, I admit this is perfectly logical, if
there is no difference between hogs and negroes. But while
you thus require me to deny the humanity of the negro,
I wish to ask whether you of the south yourselves, have
ever been willing to do as much? It is kindly provided
that of all those who come into the world, only a small
percentage are natural tyrants. That percentage is no
larger in the slave States than in the free. The great
majority, south as well as north, have human sympathies,
of which they can no more divest themselves than they
can of their sensibility to physical pain. These sympathies
in the bosoms of the southern people, manifest in many
ways, their sense of the wrong of slavery, and their consciousness
that, after all, there is humanity in the negro. If they
deny this, let me address them a few plain questions.
In 1820 you joined the north, almost unanimously, in declaring
the African slave trade piracy, and in annexing to it
the punishment of death. Why did you do this? If you did
not feel that it was wrong, why did you join in providing
that men should be hung for it? The practice was no more
than bringing wild negroes from Africa, to sell to such
as would buy them. But you never thought of hanging men
for catching and selling wild horses, wild buffaloes or
you have amongst you, a sneaking individual, of the class
of native tyrants, known as the "SLAVE-DEALER."
He watches your necessities, and crawls up to buy your
slave, at a speculating price. If you cannot help it,
you sell to him; but if you can help it, you drive him
from your door. You despise him utterly. You do not recognize
him as a friend, or even as an honest man. Your children
must not play with his; they may rollick freely with the
little negroes, but not with the "slave-dealer's
children". If you are obliged to deal with him, you
try to get through the job without so much as touching
him. It is common with you to join hands with the men
you meet; but with the slave dealer you avoid the ceremony---instinctively
shrinking from the snaky contact. If he grows rich and
retires from business, you still remember him, and still
keep up the ban of non-intercourse upon him and his family.
Now why is this? You do not so treat the man who deals
in corn, cattle or tobacco.
yet again; there are in the United States and territories,
including the District of Columbia, 433,643 free blacks.
At $500 per head they are worth over two hundred millions
of dollars. How comes this vast amount of property to
be running about without owners? We do not see free horses
or free cattle running at large. How is this? All these
free blacks are the descendants of slaves, or have been
slaves themselves, and they would be slaves now, but for
SOMETHING which has operated on their white owners, inducing
them, at vast pecuniary sacrifices, to liberate them.
What is that SOMETHING? Is there any mistaking it? In
all these cases it is your sense of justice, and human
sympathy, continually telling you, that the poor negro
has some natural right to himself---that those who deny
it, and make mere merchandise of him, deserve kickings,
contempt and death.
now, why will you ask us to deny the humanity of the slave?
and estimate him only as the equal of the hog? Why ask
us to do what you will not do yourselves? Why ask us to
do for nothing, what two hundred million of dollars could
not induce you to do?
one great argument in the support of the repeal of the
Missouri Compromise, is still to come. That argument is
"the sacred right of self government." It seems
our distinguished Senator has found great difficulty in
getting his antagonists, even in the Senate to meet him
fairly on this argument---some poet has said
rush in where angels fear to tread."
the hazzard of being thought one of the fools of this
quotation, I meet that argument---I rush in, I take that
bull by the horns.
trust I understand, and truly estimate the right of self-government.
My faith in the proposition that each man should do precisely
as he pleases with all which is exclusively his own, lies
at the foundation of the sense of justice there is in
me. I extend the principles to communities of men, as
well as to individuals. I so extend it, because it is
politically wise, as well as naturally just; politically
wise, in saving us from broils about matters which do
not concern us. Here, or at Washington, I would not trouble
myself with the oyster laws of Virginia, or the cranberry
laws of Indiana.
doctrine of self government is right---absolutely and
eternally right---but it has no just application, as here
attempted. Or perhaps I should rather say that whether
it has such just application depends upon whether a negro
is not or is a man. If he is not a man, why in that case,
he who is a man may, as a matter of self-government, do
just as he pleases with him. But if the negro is a man,
is it not to that extent, a total destruction of self-government,
to say that he too shall not govern himself? When the
white man governs himself that is self-government; but
when he governs himself, and also governs another man,
that is more than self-government---that is despotism.
If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches
me that "all men are created equal;" and that
there can be no moral right in connection with one man's
making a slave of another.
Douglas frequently, with bitter irony and sarcasm, paraphrases
our argument by saying "The white people of Nebraska
are good enough to govern themselves, but they are not
good enough to govern a few miserable negroes!!"
I doubt not that the people of Nebraska are, and will
continue to be as good as the average of people elsewhere.
I do not say the contrary. What I do say is, that no man
is good enough to govern another man, without that other's
consent. I say this is the leading principle---the sheet
anchor of American republicanism. Our Declaration of Independence
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. That to secure
these rights, governments are instituted among men, DERIVING
THEIR JUST POWERS FROM THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED."
have quoted so much at this time merely to show that according
to our ancient faith, the just powers of governments are
derived from the consent of the governed. Now the relation
of masters and slaves is, PRO TANTO, a total violation
of this principle. The master not only governs the slave
without his consent; but he governs him by a set of rules
altogether different from those which he prescribes for
himself. Allow ALL the governed an equal voice in the
government, and that, and that only is self government.
it not be said I am contending for the establishment of
political and social equality between the whites and blacks.
I have already said the contrary. I am not now combating
the argument of NECESSITY, arising from the fact that
the blacks are already amongst us; but I am combating
what is set up as MORAL argument for allowing them to
be taken where they have never yet been---arguing against
the EXTENSION of a bad thing, which where it already exists,
we must of necessity, manage as we best can.
support of his application of the doctrine of self-government,
Senator Douglas has sought to bring to his aid the opinions
and examples of our revolutionary fathers. I am glad he
has done this. I love the sentiments of those old-time
men; and shall be most happy to abide by their opinions.
He shows us that when it was in contemplation for the
colonies to break off from Great Britain, and set up a
new government for themselves, several of the states instructed
their delegates to go for the measure PROVIDED EACH STATE
SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO REGULATE ITS DOMESTIC CONCERNS IN
ITS OWN WAY. I do not quote; but this in substance. This
was right. I see nothing objectionable in it. I also think
it probable that it had some reference to the existence
of slavery amongst them. I will not deny that it had.
But had it, in any reference to the carrying of slavery
into NEW COUNTRIES? That is the question; and we will
let the fathers themselves answer it.
same generation of men, and mostly the same individuals
of the generation, who declared this principle---who declared
independence---who fought the war of the revolution through---who
afterwards made the constitution under which we still
live---these same men passed the ordinance of '87, declaring
that slavery should never go to the north-west territory.
I have no doubt Judge Douglas thinks they were very inconsistent
in this. It is a question of discrimination between them
and him. But there is not an inch of ground left for his
claiming that their opinions---their example---their authority---are
on his side in this controversy.
is not Nebraska, while a territory, a part of us? Do we
not own the country? And if we surrender the control of
it, do we not surrender the right of self-government?
It is part of ourselves. If you say we shall not control
it because it is ONLY part, the same is true of every
other part; and when all the parts are gone, what has
become of the whole? What is then left of us? What use
for the general government, when there is nothing left
for it [to] govern?
you say this question should be left to the people of
Nebraska, because they are more particularly interested.
If this be the rule, you must leave it to each individual
to say for himself whether he will have slaves. What better
moral right have thirty-one citizens of Nebraska to say,
that the thirty-second shall not hold slaves, than the
people of the thirty-one States have to say that slavery
shall not go into the thirty-second State at all?
if it is a sacred right for the people of Nebraska to
take and hold slaves there, it is equally their sacred
right to buy them where they can buy them cheapest; and
that undoubtedly will be on the coast of Africa; provided
you will consent to not hang them for going there to buy
them. You must remove this restriction too, from the sacred
right of self-government. I am aware you say that taking
slaves from the States of Nebraska, does not make slaves
of freemen; but the African slave-trader can say just
as much. He does not catch free negroes and bring them
here. He finds them already slaves in the hands of their
black captors, and he honestly buys them at the rate of
about a red cotton handkerchief a head. This is very cheap,
and it is a great abridgement of the sacred right of self-government
to hang men for engaging in this profitable trade!
important objection to this application of the right of
self-government, is that it enables the first FEW, to
deprive the succeeding MANY, of a free exercise of the
right of self-government. The first few may get slavery
IN, and the subsequent many cannot easily get it OUT.
How common is the remark now in the slave States---"If
we were only clear of our slaves, how much better it would
be for us." They are actually deprived of the privilege
of governing themselves as they would, by the action of
a very few, in the beginning. The same thing was true
of the whole nation at the time our constitution was formed.
slavery shall go into Nebraska, or other new territories,
is not a matter of exclusive concern to the people who
may go there. The whole nation is interested that the
best use shall be made of these territories. We want them
for the homes of free white people. This they cannot be,
to any considerable extent, if slavery shall be planted
within them. Slave States are places for poor white people
to remove FROM; not to remove TO. New free States are
the places for poor people to go to and better their condition.
For this use, the nation needs these territories.
further; there are constitutional relations between the
slave and free States, which are degrading to the latter.
We are under legal obligations to catch and return their
runaway slaves to them---a sort of dirty, disagreeable
job, which I believe, as a general rule the slave-holders
will not perform for one another. Then again, in the control
of the government---the management of the partnership
affairs---they have greatly the advantage of us. By the
constitution, each State has two Senators---each has a
number of Representatives; in proportion to the number
of its people---and each has a number of presidential
electors, equal to the whole number of its Senators and
Representatives together. But in ascertaining the number
of the people, for this purpose, five slaves are counted
as being equal to three whites. The slaves do not vote;
they are only counted and so used, as to swell the influence
of the white people's votes. The practical effect of this
is more aptly shown by a comparison of the States of South
Carolina and Maine. South Carolina has six representatives,
and so has Maine; South Carolina has eight presidential
electors, and so has Maine. This is precise equality so
far; and, of course they are equal in Senators, each having
two. Thus in the control of the government, the two States
are equals precisely. But how are they in the number of
their white people? Maine has 581,813---while South Carolina
has 274,567. Maine has twice as many as South Carolina,
and 32,679 over. Thus each white man in South Carolina
is more than the double of any man in Maine. This is all
because South Carolina, besides her free people, has 384,984
slaves. The South Carolinian has precisely the same advantage
over the white man in every other free State, as well
as in Maine. He is more than the double of any one of
us in this crowd. The same advantage, but not to the same
extent, is held by all the citizens of the slave States,
over those of the free; and it is an absolute truth, without
an exception, that there is no voter in any slave State,
but who has more legal power in the government, than any
voter in any free State. There is no instance of exact
equality; and the disadvantage is against us the whole
chapter through. This principle, in the aggregate, gives
the slave States, in the present Congress, twenty additional
representatives---being seven more than the whole majority
by which they passed the Nebraska bill.
all this is manifestly unfair; yet I do not mention it
to complain of it, in so far as it is already settled.
It is in the constitution; and I do not, for that cause,
or any other cause, propose to destroy, or alter, or disregard
the constitution. I stand to it, fairly, fully, and firmly.
when I am told I must leave it altogether to OTHER PEOPLE
to say whether new partners are to be bred up and brought
into the firm, on the same degrading terms against me.
I respectfully demur. I insist, that whether I shall be
a whole man, or only, the half of one, in comparison with
others, is a question in which I am somewhat concerned;
and one which no other man can have a sacred right of
deciding for me. If I am wrong in this---if it really
be a sacred right of self-government, in the man who shall
go to Nebraska, to decide whether he will be the EQUAL
of me or the DOUBLE of me, then after he shall have exercised
that right, and thereby shall have reduced me to a still
smaller fraction of a man than I already am, I should
like for some gentleman deeply skilled in the mysteries
of sacred rights, to provide himself with a microscope,
and peep about, and find out, if he can, what has become
of my sacred rights! They will surely be too small for
detection with the naked eye.
I insist, that if there is ANY THING which it is the duty
of the WHOLE PEOPLE to never entrust to any hands but
their own, that thing is the preservation and perpetuity,
of their own liberties, and institutions. And if they
shall think, as I do, that the extension of slavery endangers
them, more than any, or all other causes, how recreant
to themselves, if they submit the question, and with it,
the fate of their country, to a mere hand-full of men,
bent only on temporary self-interest. If this question
of slavery extension were an insignificant one---one having
no power to do harm---it might be shuffled aside in this
way. But being, as it is, the great Behemoth of danger,
shall the strong gripe of the nation be loosened upon
him, to entrust him to the hands of such feeble keepers?
have done with this mighty argument, of self-government.
Go, sacred thing! Go in peace.
Nebraska is urged as a great Union-saving measure. Well
I too, go for saving the Union. Much as I hate slavery,
I would consent to the extension of it rather than see
the Union dissolved, just as I would consent to any GREAT
evil, to avoid a GREATER one. But when I go to Union saving,
I must believe, at least, that the means I employ has
some adaptation to the end. To my mind, Nebraska has no
hath no relish of salvation in it."
is an aggravation, rather, of the only one thing which
ever endangers the Union. When it came upon us, all was
peace and quiet. The nation was looking to the forming
of new bonds of Union; and a long course of peace and
prosperity seemed to lie before us. In the whole range
of possibility, there scarcely appears to me to have been
any thing, out of which the slavery agitation could have
been revived, except the very project of repealing the
Missouri compromise. Every inch of territory we owned,
already had a definite settlement of the slavery question,
and by which, all parties were pledged to abide. Indeed,
there was no uninhabited country on the continent, which
we could acquire; if we except some extreme northern regions,
which are wholly out of the question. In this state of
case, the genius of Discord himself, could scarcely have
invented a way of again getting [setting?] us by the ears,
but by turning back and destroying the peace measures
of the past. The councils of that genius seem to have
prevailed, the Missouri compromise was repealed; and here
we are, in the midst of a new slavery agitation, such,
I think, as we have never seen before.
is responsible for this? Is it those who resist the measure;
or those who, causelessly, brought it forward, and pressed
it through, having reason to know, and, in fact, knowing
it must and would be so resisted? It could not but be
expected by its author, that it would be looked upon as
a measure for the extension of slavery, aggravated by
a gross breach of faith. Argue as you will, and long as
you will, this is the naked FRONT and ASPECT, of the measure.
And in this aspect, it could not but produce agitation.
Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man's nature---opposition
to it, is [in?] his love of justice. These principles
are an eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision
so fiercely, as slavery extension brings them, shocks,
and throes, and convulsions must ceaselessly follow. Repeal
the Missouri compromise---repeal all compromises---repeal
the declaration of independence---repeal all past history,
you still can not repeal human nature. It still will be
the abundance of man's heart, that slavery extension is
wrong; and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth
will continue to speak.
structure, too, of the Nebraska bill is very peculiar.
The people are to decide the question of slavery for themselves;
but WHEN they are to decide; or HOW they are to decide;
or whether, when the question is once decided, it is to
remain so, or is it to be subject to an indefinite succession
of new trials, the law does not say, Is it to be decided
by the first dozen settlers who arrive there? or is it
to await the arrival of a hundred? Is it to be decided
by a vote of the people? or a vote of the legislature?
or, indeed by a vote of any sort? To these questions,
the law gives no answer. There is a mystery about this;
for when a member proposed to give the legislature express
authority to exclude slavery, it was hooted down by the
friends of the bill. This fact is worth remembering. Some
yankees, in the east, are sending emigrants to Nebraska,
to exclude slavery from it; and, so far as I can judge,
they expect the question to be decided by voting, in some
way or other. But the Missourians are awake too. They
are within a stone's throw of the contested ground. They
hold meetings, and pass resolutions, in which not the
slightest allusion to voting is made. They resolve that
slavery already exists in the territory; that more shall
go there; that they, remaining in Missouri will protect
it; and that abolitionists shall be hung, or driven away.
Through all this, bowie-knives and six-shooters are seen
plainly enough; but never a glimpse of the ballot-box.
And, really, what is to be the result of this? Each party
WITHIN, having numerous and determined backers WITHOUT,
is it not probable that the contest will come to blows,
and bloodshed? Could there be a more apt invention to
bring about collision and violence, on the slavery question,
than this Nebraska project is? I do not charge, or believe,
that such was intended by Congress; but if they had literally
formed a ring, and placed champions within it to fight
out the controversy, the fight could be no more likely
to come off, than it is. And if this fight should begin,
is it likely to take a very peaceful, Union-saving turn?
Will not the first drop of blood so shed, be the real
knell of the Union?
Missouri Compromise ought to be restored. For the sake
of the Union, it ought to be restored. We ought to elect
a House of Representatives which will vote its restoration.
If by any means, we omit to do this, what follows? Slavery
may or may not be established in Nebraska. But whether
it be or not, we shall have repudiated---discarded from
the councils of the Nation---the SPIRIT of COMPROMISE;
for who after this will ever trust in a national compromise?
The spirit of mutual concession---that spirit which first
gave us the constitution, and which has thrice saved the
Union---we shall have strangled and cast from us forever.
And what shall we have in lieu of it? The South flushed
with triumph and tempted to excesses; the North, betrayed,
as they believe, brooding on wrong and burning for revenge.
One side will provoke; the other resent. The one will
taunt, the other defy; one agrees [aggresses?], the other
retaliates. Already a few in the North, defy all constitutional
restraints, resist the execution of the fugitive slave
law, and even menace the institution of slavery in the
states where it exists.
a few in the South, claim the constitutional right to
take to and hold slaves in the free states---demand the
revival of the slave trade; and demand a treaty with Great
Britain by which fugitive slaves may be reclaimed from
Canada. As yet they are but few on either side. It is
a grave question for the lovers of the Union, whether
the final destruction of the Missouri Compromise, and
with it the spirit of all compromise will or will not
embolden and embitter each of these, and fatally increase
the numbers of both.
restore the compromise, and what then? We thereby restore
the national faith, the national confidence, the national
feeling of brotherhood. We thereby reinstate the spirit
of concession and compromise---that spirit which has never
failed us in past perils, and which may be safely trusted
for all the future. The south ought to join in doing this.
The peace of the nation is as dear to them as to us. In
memories of the past and hopes of the future, they share
as largely as we. It would be on their part, a great act---great
in its spirit, and great in its effect. It would be worth
to the nation a hundred years' purchase of peace and prosperity.
And what of sacrifice would they make? They only surrender
to us, what they gave us for a consideration long, long
ago; what they have not now, asked for, struggled or cared
for; what has been thrust upon them, not less to their
own astonishment than to ours.
it is said we cannot restore it; that though we elect
every member of the lower house, the Senate is still against
us. It is quite true, that of the Senators who passed
the Nebraska bill, a majority of the whole Senate will
retain their seats in spite of the elections of this and
the next year. But if at these elections, their several
constituencies shall clearly express their will against
Nebraska, will these senators disregard their will? Will
they neither obey, nor make room for those who will?
even if we fail to technically restore the compromise,
it is still a great point to carry a popular vote in favor
of the restoration. The moral weight of such a vote can
not be estimated too highly. The authors of Nebraska are
not at all satisfied with the destruction of the compromise---an
endorsement of this PRINCIPLE, they proclaim to be the
great object. With them, Nebraska alone is a small matter---to
establish a principle, for FUTURE USE, is what they particularly
future use is to be the planting of slavery wherever in
the wide world, local and unorganized opposition can not
prevent it. Now if you wish to give them this endorsement---if
you wish to establish this principle---do so. I shall
regret it; but it is your right. On the contrary if you
are opposed to the principle---intend to give it no such
endorsement---let no wheedling, no sophistry, divert you
from throwing a direct vote against it.
men, mostly whigs, who condemn the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise, nevertheless hesitate to go for its restoration,
lest they be thrown in company with the abolitionist.
Will they allow me as an old whig to tell them good humoredly,
that I think this is very silly? Stand with anybody that
stands RIGHT. Stand with him while he is right and PART
with him when he goes wrong. Stand WITH the abolitionist
in restoring the Missouri Compromise; and stand AGAINST
him when he attempts to repeal the fugitive slave law.
In the latter case you stand with the southern disunionist.
What of that? you are still right. In both cases you are
right. In both cases you oppose [expose?] the dangerous
extremes. In both you stand on middle ground and hold
the ship level and steady. In both you are national and
nothing less than national. This is good old whig ground.
To desert such ground, because of any company, is to be
less than a whig---less than a man---less than an American.
particularly object to the NEW position which the avowed
principle of this Nebraska law gives to slavery in the
body politic. I object to it because it assumes that there
CAN be MORAL RIGHT in the enslaving of one man by another.
I object to it as a dangerous dalliance for a few [free?]
people---a sad evidence that, feeling prosperity we forget
right---that liberty, as a principle, we have ceased to
revere. I object to it because the fathers of the republic
eschewed, and rejected it. The argument of "Necessity"
was the only argument they ever admitted in favor of slavery;
and so far, and so far only as it carried them, did they
ever go. They found the institution existing among us,
which they could not help; and they cast blame upon the
British King for having permitted its introduction. BEFORE
the constitution, they prohibited its introduction into
the north-western Territory---the only country we owned,
then free from it. AT the framing and adoption of the
constitution, they forbore to so much as mention the word
"slave" or "slavery" in the whole
instrument. In the provision for the recovery of fugitives,
the slave is spoken of as a "PERSON HELD TO SERVICE
OR LABOR." In that prohibiting the abolition of the
African slave trade for twenty years, that trade is spoken
of as "The migration or importation of such persons
as any of the States NOW EXISTING, shall think proper
to admit," &c. These are the only provisions
alluding to slavery. Thus, the thing is hid away, in the
constitution, just as an afflicted man hides away a wen
or a cancer, which he dares not cut out at once, lest
he bleed to death; with the promise, nevertheless, that
the cutting may begin at the end of a given time. Less
than this our fathers COULD not do; and NOW [MORE?] they
WOULD not do. Necessity drove them so far, and farther,
they would not go. But this is not all. The earliest Congress,
under the constitution, took the same view of slavery.
They hedged and hemmed it in to the narrowest limits of
1794, they prohibited an out-going slave-trade---that
is, the taking of slaves FROM the United States to sell.
1798, they prohibited the bringing of slaves from Africa,
INTO the Mississippi Territory---this territory then comprising
what are now the States of Mississippi and Alabama. This
was TEN YEARS before they had the authority to do the
same thing as to the States existing at the adoption of
1800 they prohibited AMERICAN CITIZENS from trading in
slaves between foreign countries---as, for instance, from
Africa to Brazil.
1803 they passed a law in aid of one or two State laws,
in restraint of the internal slave trade.
1807, in apparent hot haste, they passed the law, nearly
a year in advance to take effect the first day of 1808---the
very first day the constitution would permit---prohibiting
the African slave trade by heavy pecuniary and corporal
1820, finding these provisions ineffectual, they declared
the trade piracy, and annexed to it, the extreme penalty
of death. While all this was passing in the general government,
five or six of the original slave States had adopted systems
of gradual emancipation; and by which the institution
was rapidly becoming extinct within these limits.
we see, the plain unmistakable spirit of that age, towards
slavery, was hostility to the PRINCIPLE, and toleration,
ONLY BY NECESSITY.
NOW it is to be transformed into a "sacred right."
Nebraska brings it forth, places it on the high road to
extension and perpetuity; and, with a pat on its back,
says to it, "Go, and God speed you." Henceforth
it is to be the chief jewel of the nation---the very figure-head
of the ship of State. Little by little, but steadily as
man's march to the grave, we have been giving up the OLD
for the NEW faith. Near eighty years ago we began by declaring
that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning
we have run down to the other declaration, that for SOME
men to enslave OTHERS is a "sacred right of self-government."
These principles can not stand together. They are as opposite
as God and mammon; and whoever holds to the one, must
despise the other. When Pettit, in connection with his
support of the Nebraska bill, called the Declaration of
Independence "a self-evident lie" he only did
what consistency and candor require all other Nebraska
men to do. Of the forty odd Nebraska Senators who sat
present and heard him, no one rebuked him. Nor am I apprized
that any Nebraska newspaper, or any Nebraska orator, in
the whole nation, has ever yet rebuked him. If this had
been said among Marion's men, Southerners though they
were, what would have become of the man who said it? If
this had been said to the men who captured Andre, the
man who said it, would probably have been hung sooner
than Andre was. If it had been said in old Independence
Hall, seventy-eight years ago, the very door-keeper would
have throttled the man, and thrust him into the street.
no one be deceived. The spirit of seventy-six and the
spirit of Nebraska, are utter antagonisms; and the former
is being rapidly displaced by the latter.
countrymen---Americans south, as well as north, shall
we make no effort to arrest this? Already the liberal
party throughout the world, express the apprehension "that
the one retrograde institution in America, is undermining
the principles of progress, and fatally violating the
noblest political system the world ever saw." This
is not the taunt of enemies, but the warning of friends.
Is it quite safe to disregard it---to despise it? Is there
no danger to liberty itself, in discarding the earliest
practice, and first precept of our ancient faith? In our
greedy chase to make profit of the negro, let us beware,
lest we "cancel and tear to pieces" even the
white man's charter of freedom.
republican robe is soiled, and trailed in the dust. Let
us repurify it. Let us turn and wash it white, in the
spirit, if not the blood, of the Revolution. Let us turn
slavery from its claims of "moral right," back
upon its existing legal rights, and its arguments of "necessity."
Let us return it to the position our fathers gave it;
and there let it rest in peace. Let us re-adopt the Declaration
of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy,
which harmonize with it. Let north and south---let all
Americans---let all lovers of liberty everywhere---join
in the great and good work. If we do this, we shall not
only have saved the Union; but we shall have so saved
it, as to make, and to keep it, forever worthy of the
saving. We shall have so saved it, that the succeeding
millions of free happy people, the world over, shall rise
up, and call us blessed, to the latest generations.
Springfield, twelve days ago, where I had spoken substantially
as I have here, Judge Douglas replied to me---and as he
is to reply to me here, I shall attempt to anticipate
him, by noticing some of the points he made there.
commenced by stating I had assumed all the way through,
that the principle of the Nebraska bill, would have the
effect of extending slavery. He denied that this was INTENDED,
or that this EFFECT would follow.
will not re-open the argument upon this point. That such
was the intention, the world believed at the start, and
will continue to believe. This was the COUNTENANCE of
the thing; and, both friends and enemies, instantly recognized
it as such. That countenance can not now be changed by
argument. You can as easily argue the color out of the
negroes' skin. Like the "bloody hand" you may
wash it, and wash it, the red witness of guilt still sticks,
and stares horribly at you.
he says, congressional intervention never prevented slavery,
any where---that it did not prevent it in the north west
territory, now [nor?] in Illinois---that in fact, Illinois
came into the Union as a slave State---that the principle
of the Nebraska bill expelled it from Illinois, from several
old States, from every where.
this is mere quibbling all the way through. If the ordinance
of '87 did not keep slavery out of the north west territory,
how happens it that the north west shore of the Ohio river
is entirely free from it; while the south east shore,
less than a mile distant, along nearly the whole length
of the river, is entirely covered with it?
that ordinance did not keep it out of Illinois, what was
it that made the difference between Illinois and Missouri?
They lie side by side, the Mississippi river only dividing
them; while their early settlements were within the same
latitude. Between 1810 and 1820 the number of slaves in
Missouri INCREASED 7,211; while in Illinois, in the same
ten years, they DECREASED 51. This appears by the census
returns. During nearly all of that ten years, both were
territories---not States. During this time, the ordinance
forbid slavery to go into Illinois; and NOTHING forbid
it to go into Missouri. It DID go into Missouri, and did
NOT go into Illinois. That is the fact. Can any one doubt
as to the reason of it?
he says, Illinois came into the Union as a slave State.
Silence, perhaps, would be the best answer to this flat
contradiction of the known history of the country. What
are the facts upon which this bold assertion is based?
When we first acquired the country, as far back as 1787,
there were some slaves within it, held by the French inhabitants
at Kaskaskia. The territorial legislation, admitted a
few negroes, from the slave States, as indentured servants.
One year after the adoption of the first State constitution
the whole number of them was---what do you think? just
117---while the aggregate free population was 55,094---about
470 to one. Upon this state of facts, the people framed
their constitution prohibiting the further introduction
of slavery, with a sort of guaranty to the owners of the
few indentured servants, giving freedom to their children
to be born thereafter, and making no mention whatever,
of any supposed slave for life. Out of this small matter,
the Judge manufactures his argument that Illinois came
into the Union as a slave State. Let the facts be the
answer to the argument.
principles of the Nebraska bill, he says, expelled slavery
from Illinois? The principle of that bill first planted
it here---that is, it first came, because there was no
law to prevent it---first came before we owned the country;
and finding it here, and having the ordinance of '87 to
prevent its increasing, our people struggled along, and
finally got rid of it as best they could.
the principle of the Nebraska bill abolished slavery in
several of the old States. Well, it is true that several
of the old States, in the last quarter of the last century,
did adopt systems of gradual emancipation, by which the
institution has finally become extinct within their limits;
but it MAY or MAY NOT be true that the principle of the
Nebraska bill was the cause that led to the adoption of
these measures. It is now more than fifty years, since
the last of these States adopted its system of emancipation.
If Nebraska bill is the real author of these benevolent
works, it is rather deplorable, that he has, for so long
a time, ceased working all together. Is there not some
reason to suspect that it was the principle of the REVOLUTION,
and not the principle of Nebraska bill, that led to emancipation
in these old States? Leave it to the people of those old
emancipating States, and I am quite sure they will decide,
that neither that, nor any other good thing, ever did,
or ever will come of Nebraska bill.
the course of my main argument, Judge Douglas interrupted
me to say, that the principle [of] the Nebraska bill was
very old; that it originated when God made man and placed
good and evil before him, allowing him to choose for himself,
being responsible for the choice he should make. At the
time I thought this was merely playful; and I answered
it accordingly. But in his reply to me he renewed it,
as a serious argument. In seriousness then, the facts
of this proposition are not true as stated. God did not
place good and evil before man, telling him to make his
choice. On the contrary, he did tell him there was one
tree, of the fruit of which, he should not eat, upon pain
of certain death. I should scarcely wish so strong a prohibition
against slavery in Nebraska.
this argument strikes me as not a little remarkable in
another particular---in its strong resemblance to the
old argument for the "Divine right of Kings."
By the latter, the King is to do just as he pleases with
his white subjects, being responsible to God alone. By
the former the white man is to do just as he pleases with
his black slaves, being responsible to God alone. The
two things are precisely alike; and it is but natural
that they should find similar arguments to sustain them.
had argued, that the application of the principle of self-government,
as contended for, would require the revival of the African
slave trade---that no argument could be made in favor
of a man's right to take slaves to Nebraska, which could
not be equally well made in favor of his right to bring
them from the coast of Africa. The Judge replied, that
the constitution requires the suppression of the foreign
slave trade; but does not require the prohibition of slavery
in the territories. That is a mistake, in point of fact.
The constitution does NOT require the action of Congress
in either case; and it does AUTHORIZE it in both. And
so, there is still no difference between the cases.
regard to what I had said, the advantage the slave States
have over the free, in the matter of representation, the
Judge replied that we, in the free States, count five
free negroes as five white people, while in the slave
States, they count five slaves as three whites only; and
that the advantage, at last, was on the side of the free
in the slave States, they count free negroes just as we
do; and it so happens that besides their slaves, they
have as many free negroes as we have, and thirty-three
thousand over. Thus their free negroes more than balance
ours; and their advantage over us, in consequence of their
slaves, still remains as I stated it.
reply to my argument, that the compromise measures of
1850, were a system of equivalents; and that the provisions
of no one of them could fairly be carried to other subjects,
without its corresponding equivalent being carried with
it, the Judge denied out-right, that these measures had
any connection with, or dependence upon, each other. This
is mere desperation. If they have no connection, why are
they always spoken of in connection? Why has he so spoken
of them, a thousand times? Why has he constantly called
them a SERIES of measures? Why does everybody call them
a compromise? Why was California kept out of the Union,
six or seven months, if it was not because of its connection
with the other measures? Webster's leading definition
of the verb "to compromise" is "to adjust
and settle a difference, by mutual agreement with concessions
of claims by the parties." This conveys precisely
the popular understanding of the word compromise. We knew,
before the Judge told us, that these measures passed separately,
and in distinct bills; and that no two of them were passed
by the votes of precisely the same members. But we also
know, and so does he know, that no one of them could have
passed both branches of Congress but for the understanding
that the others were to pass also. Upon this understanding
each got votes, which it could have got in no other way.
It is this fact, that gives to the measures their true
character; and it is the universal knowledge of this fact,
that has given them the name of compromise so expressive
of that true character.
had asked "If in carrying the provisions of the Utah
and New Mexico laws to Nebraska, you could clear away
other objection, how can you leave Nebraska 'perfectly
free' to introduce slavery BEFORE she forms a constitution---during
her territorial government?---while the Utah and New Mexico
laws only authorize it WHEN they form constitutions, and
are admitted into the Union?" To this Judge Douglas
answered that the Utah and New Mexico laws, also authorized
it BEFORE; and to prove this, he read from one of their
laws, as follows: "That the legislative power of
said territory shall extend to all rightful subjects of
legislation consistent with the constitution of the United
States and the provisions of this act."
it is perceived from the reading of this, that there is
nothing express upon the subject; but that the authority
is sought to be implied merely, for the general provision
of "all rightful subjects of legislation." In
reply to this, I insist, as a legal rule of construction,
as well as the plain popular view of the matter, that
the EXPRESS provision for Utah and New Mexico coming in
with slavery if they choose, when they shall form constitutions,
is an EXCLUSION of all implied authority on the same subject---that
Congress, having the subject distinctly in their minds,
when they made the express provision, they therein expressed
their WHOLE meaning on that subject.
Judge rather insinuated that I had found it convenient
to forget the Washington territorial law passed in 1853.
This was a division of Oregon, organizing the northern
part, as the territory of Washington. He asserted that,
by this act, the ordinance of '87 theretofore existing
in Oregon, was repealed; that nearly all the members of
Congress voted for it, beginning in the H.R., with Charles
Allen of Massachusetts, and ending with Richard Yates,
of Illinois; and that he could not understand how those
who now oppose the Nebraska bill, so voted then, unless
it was because it was then too soon after both the great
political parties had ratified the compromises of 1850,
and the ratification therefore too fresh, to be then repudiated.
I had seen the Washington act before; and I have carefully
examined it since; and I aver that there is no repeal
of the ordinance of '87, or of any prohibition of slavery,
in it. In express terms, there is absolutely nothing in
the whole law upon the subject---in fact, nothing to lead
a reader to THINK of the subject. To my judgment, it is
equally free from every thing from which such repeal can
be legally implied; but however this may be, are men now
to be entrapped by a legal implication, extracted from
covert language, introduced perhaps, for the very purpose
of entrapping them? I sincerely wish every man could read
this law quite through, carefully watching every sentence,
and every line, for a repeal of the ordinance of '87 or
any thing equivalent to it.
point on the Washington act. If it was intended to be
modelled after the Utah and New Mexico acts, as Judge
Douglas, insists, why was it not inserted in it, as in
them, that Washington was to come in with or without slavery
as she may choose at the adoption of her constitution?
It has no such provision in it; and I defy the ingenuity
of man to give a reason for the omission, other than that
it was not intended to follow the Utah and New Mexico
laws in regard to the question of slavery.
Washington act not only differs vitally from the Utah
and New Mexico acts; but the Nebraska act differs vitally
from both. By the latter act the people are left ``perfectly
free'' to regulate their own domestic concerns, &c.;
but in all the former, all their laws are to be submitted
to Congress, and if disapproved are to be null. The Washington
act goes even further; it absolutely prohibits the territorial
legislation [legislature?], by very strong and guarded
language, from establishing banks, or borrowing money
on the faith of the territory. Is this the sacred right
of self-government we hear vaunted so much? No sir, the
Nebraska bill finds no model in the acts of '50 or the
Washington act. It finds no model in any law from Adam
till today. As Phillips says of Napoleon, the Nebraska
act is grand, gloomy, and peculiar; wrapped in the solitude
of its own originality; without a model, and without a
shadow upon the earth.
the course of his reply, Senator Douglas remarked, in
substance, that he had always considered this government
was made for the white people and not for the negroes.
Why, in point of mere fact, I think so too. But in this
remark of the Judge, there is a significance, which I
think is the key to the great mistake (if there is any
such mistake) which he has made in this Nebraska measure.
It shows that the Judge has no very vivid impression that
the negro is a human; and consequently has no idea that
there can be any moral question in legislating about him.
In his view, the question of whether a new country shall
be slave or free, is a matter of as utter indifference,
as it is whether his neighbor shall plant his farm with
tobacco, or stock it with horned cattle. Now, whether
this view is right or wrong, it is very certain that the
great mass of mankind take a totally different view. They
consider slavery a great moral wrong; and their feelings
against it, is not evanescent, but eternal. It lies at
the very foundation of their sense of justice; and it
cannot be trifled with. It is a great and durable element
of popular action, and, I think, no statesman can safely
Senator also objects that those who oppose him in this
measure do not entirely agree with one another. He reminds
me that in my firm adherence to the constitutional rights
of the slave States, I differ widely from others who are
co-operating with me in opposing the Nebraska bill; and
he says it is not quite fair to oppose him in this variety
of ways. He should remember that he took us by surprise---astounded
us---by this measure. We were thunderstruck and stunned;
and we reeled and fell in utter confusion. But we rose
each fighting, grasping whatever he could first reach---a
scythe---a pitchfork---a chopping axe, or a butcher's
cleaver. We struck in the direction of the sound; and
we are rapidly closing in upon him. He must not think
to divert us from our purpose, by showing us that our
drill, our dress, and our weapons, are not entirely perfect
and uniform. When the storm shall be past, he shall find
us still Americans; no less devoted to the continued Union
and prosperity of the country than heretofore.
the Judge invokes against me, the memory of Clay and of
Webster. They were great men; and men of great deeds.
But where have I assailed them? For what is it, that their
life-long enemy, shall now make profit, by assuming to
defend them against me, their life-long friend? I go against
the repeal of the Missouri compromise; did they ever go
for it? They went for the compromise of 1850; did I ever
go against them? They were greatly devoted to the Union;
to the small measure of my ability, was I ever less so?
Clay and Webster were dead before this question arose;
by what authority shall our Senator say they would espouse
his side of it, if alive? Mr. Clay was the leading spirit
in making the Missouri compromise; is it very credible
that if now alive, he would take the lead in the breaking
of it? The truth is that some support from whigs is now
a necessity with the Judge, and for thus it is, that the
names of Clay and Webster are now invoked. His old friends
have deserted him in such numbers as to leave too few
to live by. He came to his own, and his own received him
not, and Lo! he turns unto the Gentiles.
A word now as to the Judge's desperate assumption that
the compromises of '50 had no connection with one another;
that Illinois came into the Union as a slave state, and
some other similar ones. This is no other than a bold
denial of the history of the country. If we do not know
that the Compromises of '50 were dependent on each other;
if we do not know that Illinois came into the Union as
a free state---we do not know any thing. If we do not
know these things, we do not know that we ever had a revolutionary
war, or such a chief as Washington. To deny these things
is to deny our national axioms, or dogmas, at least; and
it puts an end to all argument. If a man will stand up
and assert, and repeat, and re-assert, that two and two
do not make four, I know nothing in the power of argument
that can stop him. I think I can answer the Judge so long
as he sticks to the premises; but when he flies from them,
I can not work an argument into the consistency of a maternal
gag, and actually close his mouth with it. In such a case
I can only commend him to the seventy thousand answers
just in from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.
Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler.