The Times and their Duties.
Delivered at the Dedication of the "Union Wigwam" at Springfield, Ill., on Wednesday evening, Sept. 21st, 1864.
MR. PRESIDENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
When night has usurped the blaze and realms of day — when thick fogs and blacker mists roll up against our shores, baffling and cheating the eye that would fain look through, common prudence compels us, from our patriotic watch towers, to throw out the blazing, glistening calcium lights over the dark, deep waste of things below, in search of some low black craft stealthily and silently creeping along the beach, filled with bomb and shell, things intended for our common ruin. In a great political contest, amidst bloody [unknown]ars, it is a most sacred duty resting on ALL men, who must share in the common ruin or common glory of the land, to rouse themselves and elevate their reasons — to reflect on their varied experiences in the present or past times, in order to discover the cause of this distressed, disjointed state of things. It shall be my duty here and now to lift your reasons to this elevated ground, and hold them there that you may discern the pirate craft — the cause of war — this war — thus enabling you to blow the same heavenward or — otherward, by shot and bomb and shell.
The gravest and highest duty which an American citizen owes to himself and country in times like these, especially those who aspire to teach, and educate the masses what to do and how to do it, is to be eminently sincere, honest, and approximate to absolute truth as near as his human nature will, in its imperfections, permit him. The country must not be ruined by a superficial, polished lie, but must be saved in all its integrity, if need be, with the hardest, keenest, roughest truths. With this idea and pledge let us at all times discuss the many questions on which the present canvass turns.
In 1860, and before that time and since, in doors and out doors, on boxes, stumps and other stands, the leading, honest and intelligent Republicans taught that there was in nature, deep rooted town, an antagonism — a hate — a strife, between liberty and slavery. This was then their theory, new reduced to demonstration. The Republicans, then said, and the Unionists now repeat it, that liberty and slavery are deadly enemies — antagonistic — eternal opposites; and that this great coming struggle, now fully come, between the North and South — rather between the nation and traitors — would be and is but an expression — a manifestation of the great underlying law — the struggle for existence between freedom and serfdom. The rebellion is but a struggle, a battle on a grand scale for the life of liberty or the death of slavery. Freedom on this continent must rule and reign supreme, or it must cease to exist here; and it or slavery, one or the other, must perish against the wall. This western continent from pole to pole is not broad and wide enough and deep enough in time, nor is the great globe itself large enough to contain these two antagonistic and now co-existent antagonisms. One or the other must by a decree of nature cease to exist, and the other opposite become universal. It is simply a question of the sufficiency of time, as to which, freedom or slavery, shall die. Who does not here and now ardently wish and hope that liberty may be universal for all men, be their home, color or condition what it may? Who does not wish in his nature, in his soul, that slavery may die, and die right soon? Who does not sympathize with justice in the struggle? American citizens, where are your hopes and wishes in this great contest? Answer in November. Let there be no fallacious and hollow truce in order to prepare for further and deeper war. Away with slavery! Let it die, aid it, assist it, by all your nature, to die from this time onward to the end.
It is necessary here to fully explain why it is that a dread antagonism — a hate, exists between these two elements. The facts, the laws of it do not seem to be well known or logically understood by the great mass of our people; and hence let me try and plainly show the causes of the conflict between the two — justice and unjustice — liberty and slavery. Firstly then, what is liberty? It is the natural and divine right of each man, let his accidents be what they may, to think, will and act just as he wishes and pleases, working out his own happiness in his own way, subject alone to the equal rights of every other man, be his accidents what they may. It is the right given by nature to each and to all men, to govern self, and not other men. Liberty is the right of reason to freely go in search of the utmost and highest happiness of man, body and soul, moving of the straight paths, in the quickest time, and with the loss of the least power, limited alone by the equal rights of every other man. This is liberty and the sublimest forces of our individuality — heaven's highest economy given to man. This is the natural altribute, the sum and substance of man, and if he possess it he will sympathize with him, who has it not; and if philanthropic he will give it material aids. Man will overthrow kingdoms and states to possess it. Liberty in man is instinctive, intuitive, and is as vital and as eternal as the race, and can alone be extinguished there but the annihilation of the race — the total and complete destruction of all men. Good men love it, and the race worship it. Liberty is the free and unchained soul of intelligence at full play along the lines and paths of man's highest reason, seeking his highest happiness, his grandest inspiration in moments of his universal lore.
Secondly, what is slavery? It is the inward feeling of inequality and hate towards the natural and equal rights of man, their substance and manhood. This feeling grows and develops into the abstract denial by words of these natural rights, and thence, thirdly, it grows and develops into governing other men contrary to and against their will. It is the denial and destruction of the natural and inalienable rights of man, to think, to will and to act as free men wish to do. Slavery has no sympathy for justice in that line, and hence erects injustice into his domestic legal code. It allows no free will and free act, and denies that all men have a right to seek their own happiness in their own way. It claims to own the free soul and prohibits it, unless for the master's good, to freely romp and play along the lines and paths of its own highest happiness through its highest reason. Slavery is a concrete pledge, a practical pledge to the inauguration and perpetuation of injustice. Is not this slavery, and is it not an enemy to liberty? Come, be honest and answer. Liberty moves upward and slavery strikes it down. Hence this war was commenced, and is carried on under and by force of this law. I have heard Senators in the United States Senate declare that the war was commenced because, and ONLY because, the Republicans elected the man of their choice. Do you believe this? Can any sane and honest man believe or think it? Some considerable charity I have, but when I hear such declarations I in my mind say, though I do not express it, "a fool or a knave." The contest lies as far back as the time when the first Dutch vessel brought the first negro slave to America — nay, when God made the reason of man. Go to infinite creation, and there find the causes of this rebellion. Go there to and the antagonism. Go there to complain and whine. The race of man has always said, and it will continue always to repeat it, here and everywhere, TO LIBERTY, what Fidelity said in ages now long gone by: LIBERTY — "entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge: Thy people shall be my people, and thy God shall be my God."
Freedom and Slavery now have their great struggle for existence; they are at war and have each other by the throat. This was predicted as early as 1854 by the Republicans. From these first and primitive truths, the antagonisms between opposites, it was often, openly and repeatedly declared over and over again in 1860, before and since that time, that slavery was an individual ferocious avarice; that when it saw, or supposed it saw, some free man filled with duties and sympathies, stood between the master and his slave, pleading for the oppressed, that the master to have free use, control and work of his slave, would strike down, and crush, and kill that man. The human heart has the instincts of property deep grown down in it. Hence it is natural to strike down those who would rob us of it, and so far let us have a respect for the implanted feeling. When applied to slavery it is nature cruelly perverted. Therefore from this first and primal truth, it was in 1860, before that time and since, often openly and repeatedly proclaimed, on stump, box and other stand, over and over again, that slavery in this country was a national ferocious avarice; that when it saw, or supposed it saw, some free men, the nation, filled with duties and allegiance to man, stood between the masters and their slaves — stood in the way to the enjoyment and full work of the slave, sympathizing with the oppressed, that that system would strike down and crush those free men, the nation and the government, the constitution and the rights of men everywhere. This was theory, it may be, in 1860, but what is it now? This was and is natural, and no man need be surprised at it — no sensible man was. Man instinctively loves property, and hence let us respect that law so far, whilst we hate it when applied to property in the mind and body of man.
If you will rise through these regular gradations of thought from the first and primal truths in nature, up to the highest and grandest principles there, you will find that this great globe itself is not large enough to contain the first and primal principles of Liberty and Slavery. You will perceive that wherever man exists, who has not his freedom, there will be hope, hate and war. God has written this in our nature, and what He has done let no man dare undo. Hope of right, hate of wrong, right thought, right actions even in war are the eternally persistent forces that conserve our individual, natural and national liberties. These may be feeble, it may be in a single man, but are omnipotent in the heart and arm and soul of the race of man. Let no insane, or other democratic dunce, disregard this great fact of nature — these laws. The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind to powder. It is the clear perception and full comprehension of these facts and laws by the President of the United States, that makes him utter in his all-to-whom-it-may-concern proclamation that the total extinction of slavery is an indispensable condition to peace or propositions therefor. It is humane, just and wise.
The Union platform, as opposed to the disunion one at Chicago, announced that Liberty is the natural and inalienable right of all men, and that an honorable, solid and permanent peace can be secured and maintained alone by the total and eternal destruction of slavery in these United States. This Union platform, as distinguished from the disunion one, gives its sanction to liberty for all men throughout the world, taking no note of the accidents of any man. This is truly democratic, and Justice and Liberty are at once its inspiration and its power. By its courage and sagacity — aye, by its humanity, it ends the war in peace, preserving Constitutional, Union and National liberty to man within its influence. It crushes the treason of force by the loyalty of the war power. The first and second sections read thus:
"Resolved, That it is the highest duty of every American citizen to maintain, against all their enemies, the integrity of the constitution and laws of the United States; and that, laying aside all differences and political opinions, we pledge ourselves, as Union men, animated by a common sentiment, and aiming at a common object, to do everything in our power to aid the government in quelling by force of arms the rebellion now raging against its authority, and bringing to the punishment due to their crimes the rebels and traitors arrayed against it. [Prolonged applause.]"
"Resolved, That we approve the determination of the Government of the United States not to compromise with rebels, or to offer any terms of peace except such as may be based upon an unconditional surrender of their hostility and a return to their just allegiance to the Constitution and laws of the United States; and that we call upon the Government to maintain this position, and to prosecute the war with the utmost possible vigor, to the complete suppression of the rebellion, in full reliance upon the self-sacrifices, the patriotism, the heroic valor, and the undying devotion of the American people to their country and its free institutions. [Applause.]"
These resolutions have the ring of the true metal in them.
Let us now compare this platform of the Union men with the cowardly peace platform of the Democracy. What is the disunion platform? Let us see it and read it and understand it, that we may analyze it, know it and comprehend its tendencies. The disunion democratic platform is chiefly made out of Washington Hunt's resolution, which reads as follows:
"RESOLVED, That in the future, as in the past, we will adhere with unswerving fidelity to the Union and Constitution, and insist on maintaining our national unity as the only solid foundation of our strength, security and happiness as a people, and as a frame work of government equally conducive to the welfare and prosperity of all the State, both Northern and Southern. And with a view to terminate the present bloody conflict, and restore the blessings of peace, we are in favor of an armistice, and earnest, honorable efforts to adjust the terms of settlement, and a union on the basis of the Constitution of the United States. And for the final solution of all difficulties we would recommend a convention of States to revise the constitution and adopt such amendments and modifications as seem necessary, more fully to secure to each State the enjoyment of all its rights and the undisturbed control of all its domestic concerns, according to the original intent and purpose of the Federal compact."
The words — the substantial ones — are "fidelity to the Union and the Constitution, insist on maintaining our national unity, adjust the terms of a settlement and a union on the basis of the Constitution, and recommend a convention to revise the Constitution, adopt such amendments for domestic concerns." A close attention to this resolution, and a candid analysis of it will enable you, each for himself, to understand the disunion Chicago platform that grew out of it. What is the disunion platform? The two sections of the true and corrected platform read thus:
"RESOLVED, That in the future, as in the past, we will adhere with unswerving fidelity to the Union under the Constitution, as the only solid foundation of our strength, security and happiness as a people, and as a framework of government equally conducive to the welfare and prosperity of all the States, both Northern and Southern."
"RESOLVED, That this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretence of a military necessity or war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired — justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States." — Chicago Times, Sept. 1.
Read this platform over and over till you understand its true spirit and intent. Let me fairly take it to pieces and show you the intent. Remember the Hunt resolution read "maintain the Union and the Constitution, and insist on our national unity." Remember that the platform adopted at Chicago reads otherwise, and drops the words "the Union and the Constitution," and inserts "the Union under the Constitution:" it wholly drops the words "insist on national unity." The father of disunion, nullification, and secession — John C. Calhoun — contended that this government was a simple federation of States, having no nationaltiy, the pride and power and glory of the nation. Mr. Webster contended that our government was a national Union.
Again, let us go back — read it for yourselves — to the Hunt resolution. It in substance says: The Democracy, the disunion wing, want and will maintain a settlement of our difficulties and have a "Union on the basis of the Constitution."
Read the Chicago platform — not the false one — it says: That peace may be restored "on the basis of the Federal Union of the States," not the people of the nation. Our Constitution says — "We, the people." The disunion platform makes other changes, and drops other words, whilst it retains the substance, in party, showing the true intent and meaning of it, most clearly.
Now let me ask some questions. Why do the disunion Democracy drop the word "the Union and Constitution"? Why drop the whole expression "and insist on our national unity"? Why drop the words — adjust the terms of a settlement, and "a union on the basis of the Constitution of the United States"? Why insert, in the platform of the Democracy at Chicago — under the Constitution in place of and the Constitution? Why insert in the disunion platform this — "that peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States"? — and why declare in both Hunt's resolution and the Chicago platform, for peace and convention? A true answer can be given, in my opinion, to all these questions. The disunion Democracy do not want a national Union, but a Calhoun federated system bottomed on a union of the States, allowing the doctrine of the right of secession to its fullest extent, judging from the wording of the platform. If this is not so, why drop the words "national Union, a settlement and a Union on the basis of the Constitution"? And why insert the words — "peace on the basis — not of our present nationl Union and Constitution — of a federal Union of the States"? Why does each — Hunt's resolution and the Democratic platform — howl for peace and a convention to have peace on, &c.? Because they want another Constitution, another form of government, giving further, addition and enlarged guarantees to slavery, with expansive future powers and rights to the domestic institution. These, in may opinion, candidly speaking, is the true intent and meaning of the Democratic platform, judging it by itself — words, and history of it, and the men who made it.
Again — some honest, but I think simple, Democrats contend with me, that if the South will not lay down their arms and acknowledge the Union and the Constitution as they are, or were, that then by force of just implications in their platform the Democracy will crush them out by arms, and war. This may be the individual feelings of the man, but by the Democratic disunion platform it is impossible, because the platform openly declares that "war is a failure." Whilst passing, pray let me ask — Why it is a failure? It is a failure, if it is one, because of disunion Democratic treason. As a party the democracy are opposed to war even to save the Union. War is not the democratic policy: it is peace, cowardly peace with disunion. Will they restore the national Union and the Constitution as they are, or were, by war? No. It is a failure — and want a union of States instead of the people.
So much for the implication of war, as argued by some Democrats in the event that the rebels will not lay down their arms. The Democracy say they want peace — so do all Southern rebels. But can they have peace? The Democracy want peace — say, if you please, on the integrity of the national Union. Is this peace probable — nay, possible, on Jeff. Davis' conditions? What does he say? He says substantially to all comers:
"The war must go on till the last man in this generation falls in his tracks, and his children seize his musket and fight our battle, unless you acknowledge our right to self-government. We are fighting for Independence, and that or extermination we will have!"
Here, then, are Davis' conditions. The Democratic conditions are — say national Union with the Constitution as it is, or was. Here are irreconcilable ideas and conditions. What shall the Democracy and Jeff. Davis do? Both are tired of war, and it is a failure at each end, as said. What will they do? Why, have peace on the basis of a federal Union of the States, and not of the people of the nation. To this end — this base end will the Northern disunion Democracy come at last.
On any other basis than independence — a total and eternal separation from the North under our present national Union and Constitution. Jeff. Davis says he will war till the last man falls in the ditch. No sane man will dare deny that the South have struck out for their independence, boldly and manfully. Will they come back under our present national Constitution and Union, and abide with us, by the whines of the Northern Democracy. This is believed by some peculiar men — at least they say so. Let us see the probability. If their own Southern bankruptcy — their wide-extended and deep distress, their thousands and thousands of widows and orphans, whose many, many million tears bedew and drench the ground over which Jeff. Davis drags his cannon and marches his legions of brave and patient men to death — if the heart-moving, the soul-stirring eloquence of Southern universal woe does not reach them — in the name of common sense will they come back under our old Union and Constitution, and abide with us by a few Democratic tears, thrown out, ejected out by the force of avarice and want of office. The South understand the Northern Democracy, and scorn them; it is justly merited. In fact and truth, judging by what we ourselves would do if we were southern — we would, if we had courage, strength and endurance to get, hold, and maintain our independence, then we would never, never, lay down our arms — never accept the national Union and Constitution. No — never. Having once risked all, and having burried near a million of our people, we could not lose the grand opportunity for independence. Will not the South so act? Are they fools or cowards? If the South has not the courage, strength and endurance to get, hold, and maintain their independence, then they will lay down their arms and accept the old national Union and Constitution, and abide with us. This is natural, is it now? They will not compromise if they have the power to accomplish their ends; and if they have it not, they will succumb. Hence why compromise, except on the Union, Constitution and the laws? If the rebels will lay down their arms, they can, this night, have peace — national Union, with the old Constitution, under the Administration.
The compromise on the basis of the Federal Union of the States, is what the disunion Democracy North and South want. If further proof is needed to prove the true intent and meaning of the platform, let me ask the following questions:
Did not Vallandigham commit a wrong in the North? For that wrong was he not self-banished to the South? Did he not rove and move with the traitors there and learn their demands? Did he not escape to Canada? Did he not meet the traitors, Clay and Halcomb, there? Did he not escape and come to Ohio? Did he not go to Chicago? Did he not there make a speech? Was he not on the committee which drafted the platform? Did not Jeff. Davis plant Pendleton square on the platform? Did not the army of Gen. Lee echo back the huzzas of the Chicago Democrats? and were not these but the weaker echoes of the bursting bomb-shot against the walls of Fort Sumter in 1861 by traitors?
Why do I utter these things against the Democracy? Because I understand their human nature. They know they have lost all political power in the Northern loyal States. The South has lost its like power in the North. The Democracy is not free from the elements of human nature, though low that nature is sometimes. We toil, and do what we do from motives. Where power — the dollar — the spoils are, there will the Democracy be likewise and also. Compromise on the basis of federal Union of the States, giving further and other and additional guarantees to slavery — will get office — power — the dollar — the spoils, and ineffable disgrace — in all coming time. What now, you who are on the watch-tower, do you discover? Two pirate crafts — one Compromise — on additional rights to slavery: and one a now Government, founded on the federal Union of the States? Blow them up, my friends, with shot and shell and bomb, and send them heavenward or hellward. To these compromises, I, in advance, pledge to the Democracy my individual treason now, and what is more, my heart's blood, if needed. I am in earnest, and will execute my pledge. Take notice, and mark it!
I have been for peace — am now for peace. My nature is instinctively against war, and for peace — peace. I was for peace, 1st, because I saw Democratic treason and civil war amongst us. 2dly, knowing, or believing that war has hitherto been a failure, if failure it was, because of Democratic treason; and thirdly, with many other reasons not now expressed, knowing that we were fighting a gallant, brave and generous people, twelve million strong, thinking it was not probable we could crush them out with a divided North, I say I was for peace. But rather than have the compromises handed to us by the Southern and Northern Democracy, I am for war, war, war, till the cause of the rebellion — slavery — is totally and forever abolished. These reasons make me address you to-night in this dedicatory speech.
You who want peace — permanent peace, though through force or war if necessary, and national union with our old time-honored Constitution — you who love universal liberty for all men in this great republic — you who know what duty is and bear allegiance to God — go, instantly go, and vote for Lincoln and Johnson — vote for hope to the brave soldier and the gallant war, led on by Gen. Grant, Admiral Farragut and others. This is the Union ticket. We have no right in this great contest to freeze ourselves up to an indifference block — a do-nothing point. We owe a duty to man from which none can be discharged this side the grave. We owe a duty to the National Union and Constitution which protect and defend us. We owe a duty to the noble, brave and gallant men in the field; and above all we owe an allegiance to liberty, justice and our Maker. Rise up then to a knowledge of the importance of this conflict this night, and execute your duties. I will to the best of my ability.
In conclusion, this may not be the proper time or place to discuss the question of the unity or diversity of the races of men — nor prove or disprove their common humanity — a common nature derived from one father. It is however the proper time and place — the very time and place — to discuss the causes of the war — the causes of treason to the republic, and the rights of man. What is the cause of this war, I ask. All human reasons — all human experiences — the facts of this rebellion, the last voice of philosophy — all — all proclaim, that slavery and slavery alone is the cause. This war is a dread struggle for the life of Liberty, the death of Slavery — or the life of Slavery, the death of Liberty. In this contest then no man has a right to stand idly by, indifferent as to the results. We, my fellow Unionists, have sacred duties to perform. Let us as Unionists, and as unprejudiced American citizens, brothers of the North and South, watch and critically examine our own acts, and deeds, and records, and see if we have not committed some unconstitutional acts, inflicting wounds and wrongs to the liberties of the white man of the north as well as south. Stand for constitutions and laws, loftily above all party ties and injustice, and give liberty to all and defend it for all. If any men, white men or black men, now are deprived of justice and liberty without good cause on due process of law, let us rise to the level of justice, and protest against it in the name of liberty and a violated constitution, even should this protest be against this administration. Remember, the wheel of fortune may turn, and what you will not grant and do now, this same may be meeted out to you. Democrats, remember Kansas. Unionists remember now. Vengeance, through revolutions, comes by alternations, ever growing stronger, fiercer and more bitter. We are by creation and birth, by life and law, in duty bound to do man the utmost good in all particulars, and no man any wrong whatever. Let us now and here, for all time and everywhere, each for himself and all for each, kneel down on our own soil, given to us on which to strike for man's destiny, with our liberty, the right of man in justice to work out his own happiness in his own way through his highest reason, unchained and unfettered, and once more pledge our lives, our fortunes and sacred honors as our fathers did, with all our fidelity, true faith and allegiance bear to liberty, never forgetting, ever remembering, that each created thing is but a link in the infinite chain of creation, rising by regular gradations from the lowest and humblest to the grandest and highest being, swinging to and from the world of matter to our other home, from the known to the unknown shores — beating here and there backward and forward, tick — tick — tick — keeping the progress of the ages on the dial plate of God, thence to be reflected back, heaven's sublimest revelations to man.