Speech of Hon. Abraham Lincoln at Ottawa [CONCLUDED]
Aug. 31, 1858.
This is a part of the speech. You must excuse me of reading the entire article of the Washington Union; as Mr. Stuart read it for Mr. Douglas. The Judge goes on and sums up, as I think correctly:
Mr. President, you here find several distinct propositions advanced boldly by the Washington Union editorially and apparently authoritatively, and every man who questions any of these is denounced as an Abolitionist, a Free Soiler, a fanatic. The propositions are, first, that the primary object of all government at its original institutions is the protection of person and property; second that the Constitution of United States declares that the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in several States; and that, therefore, thirdly, all State laws, whether organic or otherwise, which prohibit the citizens of other States from settling in another with their slave property, and especially declaring it forfeited, are direct violations of original intention of the Government and Constitution of the United States; and fourth, as the emancipation of slaves of the northern states was a gross outrage on the right of property, inasmuch as it was done involuntarily done on the part of the owner.
Remember that this article was published in the Union on the 17th November, and on the 11th appeared the first article giving the adhesion of the Union to the Lecompton constitution. It was in these words:
"KANSAS AND HER CONSTITUTION -- The vexed questions settled. The problem is solved. The dread point of danger is passed. All serious trouble to Kansas affairs is over and gone" --
And a column, nearly, of the same sort. Then, when you come to look into the Lecompton Constitution, you find the same doctrine incorporated in it which was put forth editorially in the Union. What is it?
"Article 7, Section 1. The right of property is before and higher than any constitutional sanction; and the right of owner of a slave to such slave and its increase is the same and as inviolable as the right of the owner of any property whatever."
Then in the schedule is a provision that the constitution may be amended after 1861 by a two-thirds vote.
" But no alteration shall be made to affect the right of property in the ownership of slaves."
It will be seen by these clauses in the Lecompton constitution that they are identical in sprit with that authoritative article in the Washington Union of the day previous to its endorsement of this Constitution.
I pass over some portions of speech, and I hope that any one of who feels interested in this matter will read the entire section of the speech, and see whether I do the Judge injustice. He proceeds:
"When I saw that article in the Union of the 17th of November, followed by the glorification of the Lecompton constitution on the 18th of November, and this clause in the constitution asserting the doctrine that a State has no right to prohibit slavery within its limits, I saw that there was a fatal blow being struck at the sovereignty of the States of this Union."
I stop the quotation there, again requesting that it may all be read. I have read all of the portion I desire to comment upon. What is this charge that the Judge thinks I must have a very corrupt heart to make? It was a purpose on the part of certain high functionaries to make it impossible for the people of one State to prohibit the people of any other State from entering it with their "property," so called and making it a slave State. In other words it was a charge implying a design to make the institution of slavery national. And now I ask your attention to what Judge Douglas has himself done here. I know he made that part of the speech as a reason why he has refused to vote for a certain man for public printer, but when we get at it, the charge itself is the very one I made against him, that he thinks I am so corrupt for uttering. Now whom does he make that charge against? Does he make it against that newspaper editor merely? No; he says it is identical in spirit with Lecompton Constitution and so the framers of the Constitution are brought in with the editor of the newspaper in that "fatal blow being struck." He did not call it a "conspiracy." In his language it is a "fatal blow being struck," I will change my expression and call it a " fatal blow being struck." [Cheers and laughter.] We see the charge made not merely against the editor of the Union but all the framers of Lecompton Constitution; and not only so but the article was an authoritative article. By whose authority? Is there any question but he means it was by the authority of the President, and his Cabinet -- the administration?
Is there any sort of question but he means to make that charge? Then there are the editors of the Union, the framers of the Lecompton Constitution, the President of the United States and his Cabinet, and all supporters of Lecompton Constitution in Congress and out of Congress, who are all involved in this "fatal blow being struck." I commend to Judge Douglas' the question of how corrupt a man's heart must be to make such a charge? (Vociferous cheering.)
Now, my friends, I have but one branch of the subject, in the little time I have left, to which to call your attention, and as I shall come to a close at the end of that branch, it is probable that I shall not occupy all the time allotted to me. Although on these questions I would like to talk twice as long as I have, I could not enter upon another head and discuss it properly with out running over my time. I ask the attention of the people here assembled and elsewhere, to the course that Judge Douglas is pursuing every day as bearing upon this question of making slavery national. Not going back to the records, but taking the speeches he makes, the speeches he made yesterday and the day before, and makes constantly all over the country -- I ask your attention to them. In the first place, what is necessary to make the institution national? Not war. There is no danger that the people of Kentucky will shoulder their muskets and with a young nigger stuck on every bayonet march into Illinois and force them upon us. There is no danger of our going over there and making war upon them. Then what is necessary for the nationalization of slavery? It is simply the next Dred Scott decision. It is merely for the Supreme Court to decide that no State under the constitution can exclude it; just as they have already decided that under the Constitution neither Congress nor Territorial Legislature can do it. When that is decided and acquiesced in; the whole thing is done. This being true, and this being the way, as I think, that slavery is to be made national, let us consider what Judge Douglas is doing every day to that end. In the first place, let us see what influence he is exerting on the public sentiment. In this and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes possible or impossible to be executed. This must be born in mind, as also the additional fact that Judge Douglas is a man of vast influence, so great that it is tough for many men to profess to believe anything, when they once find out that Judge Douglas professes to believe it. Consider also the attitude he occupies at the head of a large party -- a party which he claims has a majority of all the voters in the country. This man sticks to a decision which forbids people of a Territory from excluding slavery, and he does so not he says it is right in itself -- he does not give any opinion on that -- but because it has been decided by the court, and being decided by the court, he is, and you are bound to take it in your political action as law -- not that he judges at all of its merits, but because a decision of the court is to him a "Thus saith the lord. " [Applause.] He places it on that ground alone, and you will bear in mind that, thus committing himself unreservedly to this decision, commits him to the next one just as firmly as to this. He did not commit himself on account of the merit or demerit of the decision, but it is a Thus saith the lord. The next decision as much as this, will be a thus saith the Lord. There is nothing that can divert or turn him away from this decision. It is nothing that I point out to him that his great prototype, Gen. Jackson, did not believe in the binding force of decisions. It is nothing to him that Jefferson did not so believe. I have said that I have often heard him approve of Jackson's course in disregarding the decision of Supreme Court pronouncing a National Bank constitutional. He says, I did not hear him say so. He denies the accuracy of my recollection. I say, he ought to know better than I, but I will make no question about this thing, though it still seems to me that I heard him say it twenty times. [Applause and laughter.] I will tell him though, that he now claims to stand on the Cincinnati platform, which affirms that Congress cannot charter a National Bank, in the teeth of the old standing decision that Congress can charter a bank. [Loud applause.] And I remind him of another piece of history, on the question of respect for judicial decisions, and it is a piece of Illinois history, belonging to the time when the large party to which Judge Douglas belonged, were displeased with a decision of the Supreme Court of Illinois, because they had declared that a Governor could not remove a Secretary of State. You will find the whole story in Ford's History of Illinois, and I know that Judge Douglas as will not deny that he was then in favor of overslaughing that decision by the mode of adding five new judges, so as to vote down the four old ones. Not only so, but it ended in the Judge's sitting down on that very bench as one of the five new judges to break down the four old ones. [Cheers and laughter.] It was in this way precisely that he got his title of Judge.
Now, when the Judge tells me that men appointed conditionally to sit as members of a court, will have to be catechised beforehand upon some subjects, I say "You know Judge; you have tried it." [Laughter.] When he says a court of this kind will lose the confidence of all men, will be prostituted and disgraced by such a proceeding, I say "You know best, Judge; you have been through the mill." [Great laughter.] But I cannot shake Judge Douglas' teeth loose from the Dred Scott decision. Like some obstinate animal (I mean no disrespect,) that will hang on when he has once got his teeth fixed, you may cut off a leg or you may tear away an arm, still he will not relax his hold. And so I may point out to the Judge, and say that he is bespattered all over, from the beginning of his political life to the present time, with attacks upon judicial decisions -- I may cut off limb after limb of his public record and strive to wrench him from a single dictum of the Court -- yet I cannot divert him from it. He hangs to the last to the Dred Scott decision. [Loud cheers.] These things show there is a purpose strong as death and eternity for which he adheres to this decision, and for which he will adhere to all other decisions of the same court. [Vociferous applause.]
A Hibernian -- Give us something besides Dred Scott.
Mr. Lincoln -- Yes; no doubt you want to hear something that don't hurt. [Laughter and applause.] Now, having spoken of the Dred Scott decision, one more word and I am done. Henry Clay, my beau ideal of a statesman, the man for whom I fought all my humble life. Henry Clay once said of a class of men who would repress all tendencies to liberty and ultimate emancipation, that they must, if they would do this, go back to the era of our independence, and muzzle the cannon which thunders its annual joyous return; they must blow out the moral lights around us; they must penetrate the human soul, and eradicate there the love of liberty; and then and not till then, could they perpetuate slavery in this country! [Loud cheers.] To my thinking, Judge Douglas is, by his example and vast influence; doing that very thing in this community, [cheers.] when he says that the negro has nothing in the Declaration of Independence. Henry Clay plainly understood the contrary. Judge Douglas is going back to the era of our Revolution, and to the extent of his ability muzzling the cannon which thunders its annual joyous return. When he invites any people willing to have slavery, to establish it, he is blowing out the moral lights around us. [Cheers.] When he says he "cares not whether slavery is voted down or voted up" -- that it is a sacred right of self government -- he is in my judgement penetrating the human soul, and eradicating the light of reason and love of liberty in this American people. [Enthusiastic and continued applause.] And now I will only say that when, by all these means and appliances, Judge Douglas shall succeed in bringing public sentiment to an exact accordance with his own views -- when these vast assemblages shall echo back all these sentiments -- when they shall come to repeat his views and to avow his principles, and to say all that he says on these mighty questions -- then it needs only the formality of the second Dred Scott decision, which he endorses in advance, to make slavery alike lawful in all the States -- old as well as new, North as well as South.
My friends, that ends the chapter. The Judge can take his half-hour.
As Mr. Lincoln retired, three cheers were proposed and given with tremendous volume -- followed by three more and then three more, extending to all parts of public square.