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"Remember that at the time the Declaration was put forth, every one of the Thirteen Colonies were slaveholding colonies, every man who signed that Declaration represented slaveholding constituents. Did those signers mean by that act to charge themselves and all their constituents with having violated the law of God in holding the negro in an inferior condition to the white man? And yet, if they included negroes in that term, they were bound, as conscientious men, that day and that hour, not only to have abolished Slavery throughout the land, but to have conferred political rights and privileges on the negro, and elevated him to an equality with the white man. The Declaration of Independence only included the white people of the United States."
On the same evening, at Springfield, the Republican candidate, while admitting that negroes are not "our equal in color," thus again spoke for the comprehensive humanity of the Declaration :
"I adhere to the Declaration of Independence. If Judge Douglas and his friends are not willing to stand by it, let them come up and amend it. Let them make it read, that all men are created equal except negroes. Let us have it decided, whether the Declaration of Independence, in this blessed year of 1858, shall be thus amended. In his construction of the Declaration last year, he said it only meant that Americans in America were equal to Englishmen in England. Then, when I pointed out to him that by that rule he excludes the Germans, the Irish, the Portuguese, and all the other people who have come amongst us since the Revolution, he reconstructs his construction. In his last speech he tells us it meant Europeans. I press him a little further, and ask if it meant to include the Russians in Asia. Or does he mean to exclude that vast population from the prin
1 Political Debates, pp. 51, 52.
ciples of our Declaration of Independence? I expect erelong he will introduce another amendment to his definition. He is not at all particular. . . . . It may draw white men down, but it must not lift negroes up."1
Words like these are gratefully remembered. They make the Declaration, what the Fathers intended, no mean proclamation of oligarchic egotism, but a charter and freehold for all mankind.
At Ottawa, August 21st, Mr. Douglas, still excluding the colored men from the Declaration, exclaimed:
"I believe this Government was made on the white basis. I believe it was made by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever." 2
Again the Republican champion took up the strain.
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. To my thinking, Judge Douglas is, by his example and vast influence, doing that very thing in this community, when he says that the negro has nothing in the Declaration of Independence." 8
At Jonesboro', September 15th, Mr. Douglas once more assailed the rights of the colored race.
"I am aware that all the Abolition lecturers that you find travelling about through the country are in the habit 1 Political Debates, p. 63. 8 Ibid., p. 83.
2 Ibid., p. 71.
of reading the Declaration of Independence to prove that all men were created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Mr. Lincoln is very much in the habit of following in the track of Lovejoy in this particular, by reading that part of the Declaration of Independence to prove that the negro was endowed by the Almighty with the inalienable right of equality with white men. Now I say
to you, my fellow-citizens, that, in my opinion, the signers of the Declaration had no reference to the negro whatever, when they declared all men to be created equal.” 1
At Galesburg, October 7th, his faithful opponent answered:
"The Judge has alluded to the Declaration of Independence, and insisted that negroes are not included in that Declaration, and that it is a slander upon the framers of that instrument to suppose that negroes were meant therein; and he asks you, Is it possible to believe that Mr. Jefferson, who penned the immortal paper, could have supposed himself applying the language of that instrument to the negro race, and yet held a portion of that race in slavery? Would he not at once have freed them? I only have to remark upon this part of the Judge's speech, that I believe the entire records of the world, from the date of the Declaration of Independence up to within three years ago, may be searched in vain for one single affirmation from one single man, that the negro was not included in the Declaration. And I will remind Judge Douglas and this audience, that, while Mr. Jefferson was the owner of slaves, as undoubtedly he was, in speaking upon this very subject, he used the strong language, that 'he trembled for his country when he remembered that God was just."" 2
1 Political Debates, p. 116.
2 Ibid., p. 178.
And at Alton, October 15th, he renewed this same testimony.
"I assert that Judge Douglas and all his friends may search the whole records of the country, and it will be a matter of great astonishment to me, if they shall be able to find that one human being three years ago had ever uttered the astounding sentiment that the term 'all men' in the Declaration did not include the negro. Do not let me be misunderstood. I know that more than three years ago there were men, who, finding this assertion constantly in the way of their schemes to bring about the ascendency and perpetuation of Slavery, denied the truth of it. I know that Mr. Calhoun, and all the politicians of his school, denied the truth of the Declaration. I know that it ran along in the mouth of some Southern men for a period of years, ending at last in that shameful, though rather forcible, declaration of Pettit, of Indiana, upon the floor of the United States Senate, that the Declaration of Independence was, in that respect, a self-evident lie,' rather than a self-evident truth. But I say, with a perfect knowledge of all this hawking at the Declaration without directly attacking it, that three years ago there never had lived a man who had ventured to assail it in the sneaking way of pretending to believe it, and then asserting it did not include the negro."
In another speech, during the same political contest, the champion spoke immortal words. After setting forth the sublime opening of the Declaration by our fathers, he said:
"This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the universe. This was their lofty and wise and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures, - yes, Gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man.”
1 Political Debates, p. 225.
Then, lifted by his cause, he appealed to his fellowcountrymen in tones of pathetic eloquence:
"Think nothing of me, take no thought for the political fate of any man whomsoever, but come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence. You may do anything with me you choose, if you will but heed these sacred principles. You may not only defeat me for the Senate, but you may take me and put me to death. While pretending
no indifference to earthly honors, I do claim to be actuated in this contest by something higher than an anxiety for office. I charge you to drop every paltry and insignificant thought for any man's success. It is nothing. I am nothing. Judge Douglas is nothing. But do not destroy that immortal emblem of humanity, the Declaration of American Independ ence."
Thus, at that early day, before war had overshadowed the land, was he ready for the sacrifice. "Take me and put me to death," said he, "but do not destroy that immortal emblem of humanity, the Declaration of American Independence." He has been put to death by the enemies of the Declaration; but, though dead, he will continue to guard that great title-deed of the human race.
The debate ended. An immense vote was cast. There were 126,084 votes for the Republican candidates, 121,940 for the Douglas candidates, and 5,091 for the Lecompton candidates, another class of Democrats; but the supporters of Mr. Douglas had a majority of eight on joint ballot in the Legislature, and he was reelected to the Senate.
Again returned to his profession, our champion cherished the Declaration. To the Republicans of Boston, who had invited him to unite with them in celebrating
1 Crosby's Life of Lincoln, pp. 32, 33.