« AnteriorContinuar »
drawing their allegiance from the British crown, and dissolving their connection with the mother country." Why, that object having been effect. ed some eighty years ago, the Declaration is of no practical use now-mere rubbish-old wad. ding left to rot on the battle-field after the victory is won.
I understand you are preparing to celebrate the “Fourth," to-morrow week. What for? The doings of that day had no reference to the present; and quite half of you are not even descendants of those who were referred to at that day. But I suppose you will celebrate, and will even go so far as to read the Declaration. Suppose, after you read it once in the old-fash. ioned way, you read it once more with Judge Douglas's version. It will then run thus : “ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all British subjects who were on this continent eighty-one years ago, were created equal to all British subjects born and then residing in Great Britain."
And now I appeal to all-to Democrats as well as others—are you really willing that the Declaration shall thus be frittered away ?---thus left no more, at most, than an interesting me. morial of the dead past ?--thus shorn of its vitality and practical value, and left without the germ or even the suggestion of the individ tal rights of man in it?
June 16, 1858 Speech delivered at Springfield, Illinois, at the *close of the Republican State Convention by which Mr. Lincoln had been named as their candidate for United States Senator.
[The opening paragraph of this speech was prepared with the most extreme care, and prob. ably did more to influence Lincoln's political future than anything he ever wrote. His best friends thought it impolitic to utter the sentiment that the “ government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free."
For the immediate purpose of that campaign they were right, for this paragraph, in the opinion of many good judges, was the cause of Lincoln's defeat by Douglas. But the constant discussion of those sentences in the great series of joint debates with Douglas during the sum. mer and autumn brought Lincoln's views before the whole country, and was an important element in his selection as the Republican can. didate for the Presidency in 1860. The entire speech, read in the light of subsequent history, affords remarkable evidence not only of Lin. coln's shrewdness as a party leader, but of his political wisdom in the highest sense.]
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Cone vention : If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are nów far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself can. not stand." I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved do not expect the house to fall - but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the oppo. Dents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South.
Have we no tendency to the latter condition ?
Let any one who doubts carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combina. tion-piece of machinery, so to speak-com. pounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted; but also let bim study the his. tory of its construction, and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidences of
design and concert of action among its chiel architects, from the beginning.
The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the States by State constitutions, and from most of the national territory by congressional prohibition. Four days later commenced the struggle which ended in repeal. ing that congressional prohibition. This opened all the national territory to slavery, and was the first point gained.
But, so far, Congress only had acted ; and an indorsement by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable to save the point already gained and give chance for more.
This necessity had not been overlooked, but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of “squatter Sovereignty," otherwise called " sacred right of selfgovernment," which latter phrase, though ex. pressive of the only rightful basis of any gov. ernment, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this : That if any one man choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object. That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska bill itself, in the language which follows : “ It being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legis. late slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom ; but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States."
Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of “ squatter sovereignty” and “sacred right of self-government." “ But," said opposition members, "let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the Territory may exclude slavery.". “Not we,” said the friends of the measure ; and down they voted the amendment.
While the Nebraska bill was passing through Congress, a law case involving the question of a negro's freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free State and then into a Territory covered by the congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave for a long time in each, was passing through the United States Circuit Court for the District of Missouri ; and both Nebraska bill and lawsuit were brought to a decision in the same month of May, 1854. The negro's name was Dred Scott, which name now designates the der cision finally made in the case. Before the then next presidential election, the law case came to and was argued in the Supreme Court of the United States ; but the decision of it was deferred until after the election. Still, be fore the election, Senator Trumbull, on the floor of the Senate, requested the leading advocate of the Nebraska bill to state his opinion whether the people of a Territory can constitutionally exclude slavery from their limits; and the latter answered : “That is a question for the Supreme Court." Hal..