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The campaign of 1859. His Cincinnati Speech. Dividing the Union.
and bear in mind always that you have as good hearts in your bosoms as other people, or as we claim to have, and treat you accordingly. We mean to marry your girls when we have a chance—the white ones I mean—and I have the honor to inform you that I once did get a chance in that way. “I have told you what we mean to do. I want to know, now, when that thing takes place, what you mean to do. I often hear it intimated that you mean to divide the Union whenever a Republican, or any thing like it, is elected President of the United States. [A voice, ‘That is so."] ‘That is so,” one of them says. I wonder if he is a Kentuckian 7 [A voice, ‘He is a Douglas man.'] Well, then, I want to know what you are going to do with your half of it? Are you going to split the Ohio down through, and push your half off a piece o Or are you going to keep it right alongside of us outrageous fellows 7 Or are you going to build up a wall some way between your country and ours, by which that movable property of yours can't come over here any more, and you lose it 7 Do you think you can better yourselves on that subject, by leaving us here under no obligation whatever to return those specimens of your movable property that come hither ? You have divided the Union because we would not do right with you, as you think, upon that subject; when we cease to be under obligations to do any thing for you, how much better off do you think you will be 7 Will you make war upon us and kill us all 2 Why, gentlemen, I think you are as gallant and as brave men as live; that you can fight as bravely in a good cause, man for man, as any other people living ; that you have shown yourselves capable of this upon various occasions; but, man for man, you are not better than we are, and there are not so many of you as there are of us. You will never make much of a hand at whipping us. If we were fewer in numbers than you, I think that you could whip us; if we were equal it would
His Cincinnati Speech. Wisits the East. Cooper Institute Speech.
likely be a drawn battle; but being inferior in numbers, you will make nothing by attempting to master us. “I say that we must not interfere with the institution of Slavery in the States where it exists, because the Constitution forbids it, and the general welfare does not require us to do so. We must not withhold an efficient fugitive slave law because the Constitution requires us, as I understand it, not to withhold such a law, but we must prevent the outspreading of the institution, because neither the constitution nor the general welfare requires us to extend it. We must prevent the revival of the African slave-trade and the enacting by Congress of a Territorial slave code. We must prevent each of these things being done by either Congresses or Courts. THE PEOPLE of THESE UNITED STATES ARE THE RIGHTFUL MASTERs of BOTH CONGRESSES AND CourTs, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert that Constitution.” In the spring of 1860, Mr. Lincoln yielded to the urgent calls which came to him from the East for his aid in the exciting canvasses then in progress in that section, and spoke at various places in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, and also in New York city, and was everywhere warmly welcomed by immense audiences. Without doubt, one of the greatest speeches of his life was that delivered by him in the Cooper Institute, in New York, on the 27th of February, 1860, in the presence of a crowded assembly which received him with the most enthusiastic demonstrations. We subjoin a full report of this masterly analysis of men and measures. After being introduced in highly complimentary terms by the venerable William Cullen Bryant, who presided on the occasion, he proceeded:
“MR. PRESIDENT AND FELLow CITIZENS OF NEW York:— The facts with which I shall deal this evening are mainly old and familiar; nor is there any thing new in the general use I shall make of them. If there shall be any novelty, it will
His Speech at Cooper Institute. The Fathers of the Constitution.
be in the mode of presenting the facts, and the inferences and observations following that presentation. “In his speech last autumn, at Columbus, Ohio, as reported in The New York Times, Senator Douglas said: “‘Our fathers, when they framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better than we do now.” “I fully indorse this and I adopt it as a text for this discourse. I so adopt it because it furnishes a precise and agreed starting point for the discussion between Republicans and that wing of Democracy headed by Senator Douglas. It simply leaves the inquiry: “What was the understanding those fathers had of the questions mentioned ?” “What is the frame of Government under which we live 7 “The answer must be : “The Constitution of the United States.” That Constitution consists of the original, framed in 1787 (and under which the present Government first went into operation), and twelve subsequently framed amendments, the first ten of which were framed in 1789. “Who were our fathers that framed the Constitution ? I suppose the ‘thirty-nine' who signed the original instrument may be fairly called our fathers who framed that part of the present Government. It is almost exactly true to say they framed it, and it is altogether true to say they fairly represented the opinion and sentiment of the whole nation at that time. Their names being familiar to nearly all, and accessible to quite all, need not now be repeated. “I take these ‘thirty-nine,' for the present, as being “our fathers who framed the Government under which we live.” “What is the question which, according to the text, those fathers understood just as well, and even better than we do now Ż “It is this: Does the proper division of local from federal authority, or any thing in the Constitution, forbid our Federal Government control as to slavery in our Federal Territories 7
38 LIFE OF ABRAHAM LIN COLN.
Speech at the Cooper Institute. Slavery and the Federal Government.
“Upon this, Douglas holds the affirmative, and Republicans the negative. This affirmative and denial form an issue; and this issue—this question—is precisely what the text declares our fathers understood better than we. “Let us now inquire whether the ‘thirty-nine,” or any of them, ever acted upon this question; and if they did, how they acted upon it—how they expressed that better understanding. “In 1784 — three years before the Constitution — the United States then owning the Northwestern Territory, and no other—the Congress of the Confederation had before them the question of prohibiting slavery in that Territory; and four of the ‘thirty-nine' who afterward framed the Constitution were in that Congress, and voted on that question. Of these, Roger Sherman, Thomas Mifflin, and Hugh Williamson voted for the prohibition—thus showing that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor any thing else, properly forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory. The other of the four—James McHenry—voted against the prohibition, showing that, for some cause, he thought it improper to vote for it. “In 1787, still before the Constitution, but while the Convention was in session framing it, and while the Northwestern Territory still was the only territory owned by the United States—the same question of prohibiting slavery in the territory again came before the Congress of the Confederation; and three more of the ‘thirty-nine' who afterward signed the Constitution, were in that Congress, and voted on the question. They were William Blount, William Few, and Abraham Baldwin; and they all voted for the prohibition —thus showing that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor any thing else, properly forbids the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory. This time the prohibition became a law,
Speech at the Cooper Institute. Slavery in the Territories.
being part of what is now well known as the Ordinance of '87. “The question of federal control of slavery in the territories, seems not to have been directly before the Convention which framed the original Constitution; and hence it is not recorded that the ‘thirty-nine' or any of them, while engaged on that instrument, expressed any opinion on that precise question. “In 1789, by the First congress which sat under the Constitution, an act was passed to enforce the Ordinance of ’87, including the prohibition of slavery in the North-western Territory. The bill for this act was reported by one of the ‘thirty-nine,” Thomas Fitzsimmons, then a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. It went through all its stages without a word of opposition, and finally passed both branches without yeas and nays, which is equivalent to an unanimous passage. In this Congress there were sixteen of the ‘thirty-nine' fathers who framed the original Constitution. They were John Langdon, Nicholas Gilman, Wm. S. Johnson, Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, Thos. Fitzsimmons, William Few, Abraham Baldwin, Rufus King, William Patterson, George Clymer, Richard Bassett, George Read, Pierce Butler, Daniel Carrol, James Madison. “This shows that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor any thing in the Constitution, properly forbade Congress to prohibit slavery in the federal territory; else both their fidelity to correct principle, and their oath to support the Constitution, would have constrained them to oppose the prohibition. “Again, George Washington, another of the ‘thirty-nine,’ was then President of the United States, and, as such, approved and signed the bill, thus completing its validity as a law, and thus showing that, in his understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor any thing in the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in Federal territory.