|This site reprints Abraham Lincoln's three-hour 16 Oct 1854 Speech at Peoria, Illinois. It was part of a seven hour election debate that day. This was in the era when most Americans were still educated on U.S. history and constitutional law issues, before education's later deterioration, i.e., before the "sound bites" era.
During the pre-Civil War slavery era, Abraham Lincoln became prominent due to his
The English King's Bench (equivalent to our Supreme Court) had declared slavery unconstitutional in 1772, in the case of Somerset v Stewart, Lofft 1-18; 20 Howell's 1, 79-82; 98 Eng Rep 499-510 (22 June 1772).
The Somerset precedent was to be followed in the U.S.A. "because the precedent had become part of American common law."—William M. Wiecek, "Somerset's Case," Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, Leonard W. Levy and Kenneth L. Karst, eds. (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2000), Vol 5, pp 2451-2452. The Bill of Rights, the Seventh Amendment, specifically commands compliance with "common law."
But slavers were disobeying. Wherefore, some abolitionists, e.g., James Otis (1761), John Adams (pre-1776), Samuel May (1836), Salmon P. Chase (1837), Gerrit Smith (1839), George Mellen (1841), Alvan Stewart (1845), Lysander Spooner (1845), Benjamin Shaw (1846), Horace Mann (1849), Joel Tiffany (1849), William Goodell (1852), Edward C. Rogers (1855), William E. Whiting, LL.D., et al. (1855), Rep. Amos P. Granger (1856), and Frederick Douglass (1860), provided analyses showing unconstitutionality of what they [slavers] were doing.
These abolitionists showed that pursuant to common law, case-law precedents, constitutional, bill of rights, anti-kidnaping law, and other legal principles, slavery was unconstitutional and illegal. Lincoln agreed with them.
Note the incident of white slavery in 1815 with which the young Abraham Lincoln was familiar, a "sailors-escaped-slavery" first-person dramatic narrative, by Captain James Riley (1777-1840), Sufferings in Africa: The Astonishing Account of a New England Sea Captain Enslaved by North African Arabs (New York: T.& W. Mercein, 1817) (links below).
Preparatory to reading this site, a familiarity with the constitutional-law overview data would be helpful to you.
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) knew this law. He also, in speaking to laymen, focused on the history of the events. This site reprints his 16 October 1854 speech at Peoria, Illinois. There he refers to the common law, Constitution's, etc., etc., etc. bans on slavery.
This material is significant (though admitting that these provisos were then being ignored by slavers), in referring to the already-existing bans of slavery. They show that Lincoln knew slavery to be already unconstitutional, no 'Thirteenth Amendment' needed. Click here for that reference of his.
In this era, it was well-known, unlike now, that pro-slavery Southerners opposed 'states' rights.' Why? Northern states were passing state habeas corpus laws (aka 'Personal Liberty Laws') to prevent kidnappings, illegal enslavings! (Of course, habeas corpus is also in the federal Constitution!) Southern slavers were initiating federal action to overrule the Northern "states' rights - personal liberty" habeas corpus laws.
The modern 'states' rights' mythology of modern neo-Confederate Southerners was, in that era, known to be false. People then knew the South to be ANTI 'states' rights' on this subject.
The modern version of the "South as pro-'states' rights'" myth, simply continues the old pre-War manipulation of Southern 'poor white trash.'
Many moral whites had fled, or were fleeing, from the South.
Lincoln's legal and history analyses must be understood in this context. To help you with context, here are other pertinent words of his:
Many realized where it would end: in white slavery as the South intended. Others, e.g., John Rankin (1823), Edward C. Rogers (1855), George B. Cheever (1856), shared Lincoln's concern.
The Declaration of Independence had, by its comprehensive wording, abolished slavery.
Lincoln had served in Congress in the 1840's, with Alexander H. Stephens, later Confederate Vice-President. Stephens, like other Confederates, identified slavery as the sole issue of the Civil War.
In the 1860 election, the pro-slavery candidate running against Abraham Lincoln was Vice-President John Breckinridge. “Breckinridge was pledged to take” “pro-slavery actions. He certainly would have appointed pro-slavery justices to . . . the Supreme Court. . . . Breckinridge also favored the admission of New Mexico and other national territories . . . as slave states, so the balance between free and slave states would have been permanently destroyed. [Also a factor] was the determination of Breckinridge [advocates] to extend the empire of slavery by purchasing, or conquering, Cuba. . . . a Breckinridge victory would have assured that the United States remained a slaveholding nation.” Reference: History Prof. David Herbert Donald, “1860: The Road Not Taken,” 35 Smithsonian (#7) 54-56 (October 2004). The choice was clear: expansionism, including white slavery: yes or no.
The slavery-expansionism side came very close to victory. The 1860 election was barely won by Lincoln. Breckinridge nearly won. He came in second in the rigged Electoral College. (The remaining two candidates, Bell and Douglas, received a few Electoral votes each). The Electoral College is rigged to favor the South. About 50,000 votes different, in say one state, New York, would have meant that Lincoln would NOT have had a majority in the Electoral College. Prof. Donald points out that under the Constitution, the House of Representatives decides. The House votes, not by representative, but by state. As in 1824, it could easily have been that the second-place winner (Breckinridge) would have been chosen. Then slavery expansionism, with all that entails, would have succeeded.
Lincoln became President 4 March 1861, taking an oath to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution means what it says, not what government practice or courts (even the Supreme Court) may pretend it means. Wuebker v James, 58 NYS2d 671, 677 (1944). Therefore, Lincoln's taking the oath of office did not mean he supported, e.g., the Dred Scott decision. He did not; he believed it wrong, and he'd appoint judges to reverse it.
Lincoln would later, as President, 1 January 1863, issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He carefully made it constitutional, legal, by precisely wording it as a purely military order in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief (Constitution, Article 2 § 2). Lincoln knew the C-in-C power in this regard, citing it by saying on 13 September 1862, "as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, in time of war, I suppose I have a right to take any measure which may best subdue the enemy," cited in Coll. Works of Lincoln, vol. V, p 421.
See also a pertinent legal reference book of the era, that Lincoln read, by William E. Whiting, LL.D., The War Powers of the President, and the Legislative Powers of Congress in Relation to Rebellion, Treason and Slavery (Boston: John L. Shorey, 1862) (citing the power to abolish slavery in war-time enemy territory).
A parallel modern analysis “Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation, and the Supreme Court,” in Brian R. Dirck, ed. Lincoln Emancipated: The President and the Politics of Race (DeKalb: Northern Illinois Univ Press, 2007), corroborates. The review by Prof. Craig Buettinger cites, e.g., Lincoln's approach as “the unified strategy of a trial lawyer [in view of] the threat of the Taney court. Lincoln could count on proslavery [Chief Justice] Taney to exalt property rights, as he did in Dred Scott [v Sandford, 60 US 393 (1857)], and deny executive powers, as he ruled in [Ex parte] Merryman [17 F. Cas. 144 (1861)]. Readily envisioning a test case making its way before the Court, Lincoln constructed his policies accordingly. His insistence on compensation and the exemption of areas not in rebellion were legal maneuvers to thwart any antiemancipation decision that would revitalize slavery. As Allen C. Guelzo aptly comments in the foreword to this volume, Lincoln was determined to make emancipation 'Taney-proof' (p. x).” “Lincoln was a progressive thinker who necessarily trimmed his policies to get by the societal racism, the Chief Justice [Taney], and the proslavery, border-state Unionists.”
It is well-established in law (everybody knows this legal doctrine including the greenest recruit!) that armies can constitutionally, legally, capture enemy personnel and confiscate enemy property, e.g., weapons, supplies, indeed, whatever the enemy uses to make, supply, or continue war.
As the Confederacy was using slaves for military purposes to carry on the war effort, C-in-C Lincoln could and did legally, constitutionally, direct at least as much capturing and enemy-weakening action as any private, corporal, or sergeant on the scene!
Lincoln carefully worded the Emancipation Proclamation to be a typical military order, capturing / confiscating "property" (freeing slaves) in enemy territory or battle staging areas!
Nonetheless, Southerners denounced Lincoln for authorizing this standard military action! So the Emancipation Proclamation's legality, pertinence, or effect became an issue in a number of lawsuits in Southern state courts, see details and case list at our overview site.
The Proclamation was an order proprio vigore, what it said it was, a war measure effective progressively by force of arms.
A Southern court specifically ruled the Emancipation Proclamation a war measure, and a valid one. A Southern court upheld its constitutionality, and noted that pursuant to international law (cited in authoritative texts of the era, e.g., Henry Wheaton, Elements of International Law: 2nd annotated ed. by William Beach Lawrence [London: S. Low, 1863], p 604, specifically cited by Dorris v Grace, 24 Ark 326 [Dec 1866]), a nation at war can legally take any measure to strengthen itself or weaken its enemy, Buie v Parker, 63 NC 131, 146 (Jan 1869).
The Proclamation had substantial impact; it "immediately freed thousands of slaves, eventually hundreds of thousands, and ultimately millions," says researcher James Oakes (30 March 2009).
As per Lincoln's pattern of legal-research thoroughness, this 1854 speech offers background from the pre-War era.
In Reply to Senator Douglas,
16 October 1854
(7:00 - 10:00 pm)
to hear me through. It will take me as long as it has taken him. That will carry us beyond eight o'clock at night. Now, every one of you who can remain that long can just as well get his supper, meet me at seven, and remain an hour or two later.
able to give them.
so broad and so clear that no honest man can misunderstand me, and no dishonest one successfully misrepresent me.
prevent slavery ever going into the Northwestern Territory. He prevailed on the Virginia legislature to adopt his views, and to cede the Territory, making the prohibition of slavery therein a condition of the deed.1
its great and beneficent end. And thus, in those five States, and in five millions of free, enterprising people, we have before us the rich fruits of this policy.
[David] Wilmot, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, moved as an amendment, "Provided, that in any territory thus acquired there shall never be slavery."
acquisition of territory. Its friends, however, were still determined to find some way to restrain slavery from getting into the new country.
mate, a glance at the map shows that there are five slave States—Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri, and also the District of Columbia, all north of the Missouri Compromise line. The census returns of 1850 show that within these there are eight hundred and sixty-seven thousand two hundred and seventy-six slaves, being more than one fourth of all the slaves in the nation.
posed to it may be most numerous; but, in military phrase, the battle-field is too far from their base of operations.
is the precise stake played for and won in this Nebraska measure.
African slave-trade is not yet effectually suppressed; and if we make a reasonable deduction for the white people among us who are foreigners and the descendants of foreigners arriving here since 1808, we shall find the increase of the black population outrunning that of the white to an extent unaccountable, except by supposing that some of them, too, have been coming from Africa.
the humanity of the negro, I wish to ask whether you of the South, yourselves, have ever been willing to do as much? It is kindly provided that of all those who come into the world only a small percentage are natural tyrants. That percentage is no larger in the slave States than in the free.
sities, and crawls up to buy your slave, at a speculating price. If you cannot help it, you sell to him; but if you can help it, you drive him from your door. You despise him utterly. You do not recognize him as a friend, or even as an honest man. Your children must not play with his; they may rollick freely with the little negroes, but not with the slave-dealer's children.
cotton handkerchief a head. This is very cheap, and it is a great abridgment of the sacred right of self-government to hang men for engaging in this profitable trade.
dition. For this use the nation needs these Territories.
control of the government the two States are equals precisely.
I do not for that cause, or any other cause, propose to destroy, or alter, or disregard the Constitution. I stand to it, fairly, fully, and firmly.
now existing shall think proper to admit," etc. These are the only provisions alluding to slavery. Thus the thing is hid away in the Constitution, just as an afflicted man hides away a wen or cancer which he dares not cut out at once lest he bleed to death,—with the promise, nevertheless, that the cutting may begin at a certain time. Less than this our fathers could not do, and more they would not do. Necessity drove them so far, and further they would not go. But this is not all. The earliest Congress under the Constitution took the same view of slavery. They hedged and hemmed it in to the narrowest limits of necessity.
they passed the law, nearly a year in advance,—to take effect the first day of 1808, the very first day the Constitution would permit,—prohibiting the African slave-trade by heavy pecuniary and corporal penalties. In 1820, finding these provisions ineffectual, they declared the slave-trade piracy, and annexed to it the extreme penalty of death. While all this was passing in the General Government, five or six of the original slave States had adopted systems of gradual emancipation, by which the institution was rapidly becoming extinct within their limits. Thus we see that the plain, unmistakable spirit of that age toward slavery was hostility to the principle and toleration only by necessity.
stand together. They are as opposite as God and Mammon; and whoever holds to the one must despise the other. When Pettit, in connection with his support of the Nebraska bill, called the Declaration of Independence "a self-evident lie," he only did what consistency and candor require all other Nebraska men to do. Of the forty-odd Nebraska senators who sat present and heard him, no one rebuked him. Nor am I apprised that any Nebraska newspaper, or any Nebraska orator, in the whole nation has ever yet rebuked him. If this had been said among Marion's men, Southerners though they were, what would have become of the man who said it? If this had been said to the men who captured Andre, the man who said it would probably have been hung sooner than Andre was. If it had been said in old Independence Hall seventy-eight years ago, the very doorkeeper would have throttled the man and thrust him into the street. Let no one be deceived. The spirit of seventy-six and the spirit of Nebraska are utter antagonisms; and the former is being rapidly displaced by the latter.
it is true that several of the old States, in the last quarter of the last century, did adopt systems of gradual emancipation by which the institution has finally become extinct within their limits; but it may or may not be true that the principle of the Nebraska bill was the cause that led to the adoption of these measures. It is now more than fifty years since the last of these States adopted its system of emancipation.
as a serious argument. In seriousness, then, the facts of this proposition are not true as stated. God did not place good and evil before man, telling him to make his choice. On the contrary, he did tell him there was one tree of the fruit of which he should not eat, upon pain of certain death. I should scarcely wish so strong a prohibition against slavery in Nebraska.
Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln
edited by John G. Nicolay and John Hay © 1894
(New York: Francis D. Tandy Co, © 1905)
Volume II, pp 190-262)
Online Works by Lincoln
|Address at Cooper Institute 27 Feb 1860, in Roy P. Basler, et al, eds, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 9 vols (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ Press, 1953), Vol III, pp 522-550. (Alternate Source of the Cooper Union Speech) (The Abraham Lincoln Association Full Text of The Collected Works)
The "Cooper Union" Speech defended the Constitution-era writers' awareness of the Constitution's anti-slavery meaning. Their view was being undermined (by Stephen Douglas), and even denied (by Henry Clay). Lincoln followed the approach of Gerrit Smith, who had likewise defended the 'Founding Fathers' (e.g., James Wilson, Benjamin Rush, and Benjamin Franklin) in his Letter to Henry Clay (1839), pp 17-18.
For text, see Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates (Mineola: Dover Publications, 2004) and Theresa Storey Hefner-Babb, "Review of Lincoln, Abraham; Douglas, Stephen A., The Lincoln-Douglas Debates." H-CivWar, H-Net Reviews. September, 2005.
Emancipation Proclamation (Document, 1862)
See Graphic by A.A. Lamb (National Gallery of Art)
Other Lincoln Quotes
Electing a pro-slavery candidate means "a course of policy leading to new wars, new acquisitions of territory, and still further extensions of slavery." (Cong Globe, 27 July 1848)
“I hate it [slavery] because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world—enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites.” (1854)
"I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor . . .? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal'. We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except Negroes'. When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics'. When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty—to [Tsarist] Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy." (24 August 1855)
After the March 1857 Dred Scott decision, Lincoln said to expect "another Supreme Court decision, declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not permit a State to exclude slavery from its limits [and] that the Supreme Court has made Illinois [and all other states] a slave state" (16 June 1858). [See Rev. George B. Cheever's similiar analysis, Iniquity (1856), pp 33-34].
"I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal." (10 July 1858)
"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." (1 August 1858)
"What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts, the guns of our war steamers, or the strength of our gallant and disciplined army. These are not our reliance against a resumption of tyranny in our fair land. All of them may be turned against our liberties, without making us stronger or weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, every where. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors." (11 September 1858)
“'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' [Matthew 12:25.] I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I 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 opponents 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.” (“House-Divided” Speech, 16 June 1858).
"It is the eternal struggle between these two principles—right and wrong—throughout the world: They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, 'You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes . . . it is the same tyrannical principle." (15 October 1858)
"The fight must go on. The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one, or even one hundred defeats." (19 November 1858)
"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it." (6 April 1859)
"I hold, if the Almighty had ever made a set of men that should do all of the eating and none of the work, he would have made them with mouths only, and no hands; and if he had ever made another class, that he intended should do all of the work and none of the eating, he would have made them without mouths and all hands."(1 July 1859)
"The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of the family relation, should be one uniting all working people, of all nations, and tongues, and kindreds." (21 March 1864)
"I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel." (4 April 1864)
"The world has never had a good definition of the word 'liberty', and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.
Compare with Samuel Johnson's wry observation in 1775, “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”
"Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally." (17 March 1865).
For additional background, see, e.g.,
The South's Reaction to Lincoln:
Attempted Revolution and Civil War
|Lincoln was nominated in May 1860 (a nomination denounced by the South) and elected in November 1860, to take office the following 4 March 1861 (not 20 January as now).
The South suspected that Lincoln would obey and enforce the anti-slavery clauses in the Constitution; and especially that pursuant to Article 2 § 3, he would "take care that the [said] laws [clauses] be faithfully executed," so (as pre-planned even before his May 1860 nomination, much less, November 1860 election), began seceding.
Jefferson Davis in his November 1858 "Farewell Speech" at Vicksburg, had said that if an abolitionist were elected two years hence, he [Jefferson Davis] favored revolution, seizing Washington, D.C., declaring the U.S. government at an end, and appealing to the "God of battles" even if the result were blood in torrents throughout the nation.—Jefferson Davis Papers (10 vols), ed. Haskell M. Monroe, Jr., et al., (Baton Rouge: Lousiana State Univ Press, 1971), Vol 6, p 228.
In December 1859, Mississippi Congressman O. R. Singleton "called for disunion and war."
Revolution, preventive war, was already in process. In December 1860, the out-going President James Buchanan [4 March 1857 - 4 March 1861] had asked Georgia Senator Robert Toombs, ". . . do you mean that I am in the midst of a revolution?" Toombs replied, "Yes, sir. More than that, you have been there for a year and have not yet found it out."
North Carolina Governor Zebulon B. Vance said, “the great popular heart [the public generally] is not now and never has been in the war. It was a case of revolution of the politicians and not the people.” Source: Steven A. Channing and Time-Life Editors, The Civil War: Confederate Ordeal: The Southern Home Front (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983, p 77.
Robert Barnwell Rhett, editor of the Charleston, S.C. Mercury, called the 9 Jan 1861 firing on the Star of the West, "the opening ball of the Revolution." He said South Carolina was honored to have shot first: "She has not hesitated to strike the first blow. . . . We would not exchange or recall that blow for millions!"
Toombs and Rhett were delegates at the politicians' "revolutionary assembly" setting up the Confederacy. Toombs was a candidate for its Presidency, before the selection of Jefferson Davis. Davis appointed Toombs as Confederate Secretary of State.
Secretary Toombs advised the 9 April 1861 Cabinet meeting considering whether to open fire at Fort Sumter, that "the firing upon that fort will inaugurate a civil war greater than any the world has yet seen." Source: William C. Davis and Time-Life Editors, The Civil War: Brother Against Brother: The War Begins (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), pp 109, 125, 127, 130, 138 respectively.
As Toombs predicted, civil war, with 10,455 battles and 1,038,222 casualties, did come.
An earlier pre-secession crisis with the same instigator state, South Carolina, had occurred in 1832-1833 under President Andrew Jackson. Lincoln carefully studied Jackson's reaction, analysis, and historical context. Background for modern readers is in Marquis Raven's The Life of Andrew Jackson (Garden City, NY: Garden City Pub Co, 1938), pp 606-622:
He thought following the Jackson precedent would work. But Southern leaders were more violent than three decades earlier under Jackson, and had pre-determined to start a revolutionary war.
In choosing Lincoln, "the Republicans chose a candidate more unbending in his commitment to Republican [pro-Union and anti-slavery] principles than anybody else they might have elected," says Stephen B. Oates, Abraham Lincoln: The Man Behind the Myths (New York: Harper & Row, 1984), Part 3, Sect. 3, p 79. "Lincoln was inflexible in his determination to prohibit slavery in the territories by national law and to save the Republic (as he put it) from returning 'class,' 'caste,' and 'despotism.' He exhorted his fellow Republicans to stand firm in their duty: to brand slavery as an evil, contain it in the South, look to the future for slavery to die a gradual death . . . ."
After the War, after the South lost, Southerners and their accessories (as in 1860) denounced Lincoln in the most outlandish ways! deliberately obscuring the slavery issue. Fortunately, there are people who expose this continuing Southern disinformation, e.g., Anna Marie Gould, "Review of the book, 'The Real Lincoln' by Thomas DiLorenzo. Gould exposes pro-Southern disinformation.
FOR FURTHER READING
Lincoln's Speech vs U.S. War of
Aggression against Mexico (1848)
Anti-slavery Lawsuit, Somerset v Stewart (1772)
Slavers' 1837-1839 Testimony of Slavery Conditions
Overview on Unconstitutionality of Slavery
G. W. F. Mellen's 1841 Unconstitutionality of Slavery
L. Spooner's 1845 Unconstitutionality of Slavery
J. Tiffany's 1849 Unconstitutionality of Slavery
J. Fee's 1851 Anti-Slavery Manual
Wm. Goodell's 1852 Slavery and Anti-Slavery
H. Stowe's 1853 History of Slavery aka Key
Lincoln's 26 June 1857 Speech
on the Dred Scott Decision
F. Douglass' 1860 Unconstitutionality of Slavery
C. Sumner's 1860 Barbarism of Slavery
H. Wilson's 1877 History of Slavepower
"Sufferings in Africa" (White Slavery, 1817)
"Sufferings in Africa" (Enslaved Sailors, 1817)
"The Death of Lincoln"
Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 31,
Iss. 181, June 1865
"Abraham Lincoln and the Rule of Law" (July 2009)
Discussion Forum, Participants Welcome
|The Republican Platform of 1860 adopted the pro-freedom concept above-described. See Charles W. Johnson (ed)., Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions (Minneapolis: 1893), pp 131-133.
The South had been warned by Kentucky Rep. Underwood in 1842, “The dissolution of the Union will be the dissolution of slavery.”
THE REPUBLICAN PLATFORM OF 1860
|Resolved, That we, the delegated representatives of the Republican electors of the United Stages, in Convention assembled, in discharge of the duty we owe to our constituents and to our country, unite in the following declarations:
1. That the history of the nation during the last four years [1856-1860], has fully established the propriety and necessity of the organization and perpetuation of the Republican party, and that the causes which called it into existence are permanent in their nature, and now, more than ever before, demand its peaceful and constitutional triumph.
"That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"is essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions; and that the Federal Constitution, the Rights of the States, and the Union of the States must and shall be preserved.
3. That to the Union of the States this nation owes its unprecedented increase in population, its surprising development of material resources, its rapid augmentation of wealth, its happiness at home and its honor abroad; and we hold in abhorrence all schemes for disunion, come from whatever source they may. . . .
4. That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of powers on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depends; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.
5. That the present Democratic Administration [of James Buchanan] has far exceeded our worst apprehensions, in its measureless subserviency to the exactions of a sectional interest. . . .
6. That the people justly view with alarm the reckless extravagance which pervades every department of the Federal Government; that a return to rigid economy and accountability is indispensable to arrest the systematic plunder of the public treasury by favored partisans. . . .
7. That the new [Taney] dogma that the Constitution, of its own force, carries slavery into any or all of the territories of the United States, is a dangerous political heresy, at variance with the explicit provisions of that instrument itself, with contemporaneous exposition, and with legislative and judicial precedent; is revolutionary in its tendency, and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country.
8. That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is, that of freedom: That as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that
or property, without due process of law,"
it becomes our duty, by legislation, whenever such legislation is necessary, to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any territory of the United States.
9. That we brand the recent reopening of the African slave trade, under the cover of our national flag, aided by perversions of judicial power, as a crime against humanity and a burning shame to our country and age; and we call upon Congress to take prompt and efficient measures for the total and final suppression of that execrable traffic.
10. That in the recent vetoes, by their Federal Governors, of the acts of the legislatures of Kansas and Nebraska, prohibiting slavery in those territories, we find a practical illustration of the boasted Democratic principle of Non-Intervention and Popular Sovereignty embodied in the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and a demonstration of the deception and fraud involved therein.
11. That Kansas should, of right, be immediately admitted as a State under the Constitution recently formed and adopted by her people, and accepted by the House of Representatives.
12. That, while providing revenue for the support of the general government by duties upon imports, sound policy requires such an adjustment of these imposts as to encourage the development of the industrial interests of the whole country; and we commend that policy of national exchanges, which secures to the working men liberal wages, to agriculture remunerating prices, to mechanics and manufacturers an adequate reward for their skill, labor, and enterprise, and to the nation commercial prosperity and independence.
13. That we protest against any sale or alienation to others of the public lands held by actual settlers, and against any view of the free homestead policy which regards the settlers as paupers or suppliants for public bounty; and we demand the passage by Congress of the complete and satisfactory homestead measure which has already passed the House.
14. That the Republican party is opposed to any change in our naturalization laws or any State legislation by which the rights of citizenship hitherto accorded to immigrants from foreign lands shall be abridged or impaired; and in favor of giving a full and efficient protection to the rights of all classes of citizens, whether native or naturalized, both at home and abroad.
15. That appropriations by Congress for river and harbor improvements of a national character, required for the accommodation and security of an existing commerce, are authorized by the Constitution, and justified by the obligation of Government to protect the lives and property of its citizens.
16. That a railroad to the Pacific Ocean is imperatively demanded by the interests of the whole country; that the Federal Government ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction; and that, as preliminary thereto, a daily overland mail should be promptly established.
|For background on deterioration in the modern era, see, e.g., Michael Parenti, Ph.D., Make-Believe Media: The Politics of Entertainment (Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1991) (To the powers that be: "Popular ignorance is not without its functions. Those at the top prefer that people know little about history's potentially troublesome lessons," Chapter 4, p 58. Re television, "televiewing hurts academic performance, lowers reading levels, erodes linguistic powers, diminishes ability to handle abstract symbols, and shortens the attention span of the young," Chapter 10, p 164.
TV's constant image changes are "thereby conditioning the mind to an endless flicker of changing pictures rather than developing its ability to give protracted attention to one thing. Television is not the medium for coveying sophisticated [complex, abstract] ideas or developing . . . cognitive habiits and intellectual discipline. . . . Rather, it encourages passivity in the viewer and a kind of unthinking receptivity to quick images [a] mind-pulverizing curriculum," pp 164-165.
Accordingly, "the media are filled with themes and images that are decidedly political," Chapter 11, p 177. "Reading was [in the nineteenth century] a form of both recreation and learning. . . . the media's baneful effects on public discourse are today readily apparent [in the 21st century]. One need only compare the [above seven-hour] Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1854, in which [abstract, legalese, and historical] ideas and arguments were given prolonged and complex treatment, with the televised presidential debates of today in which well-coached, image-conscious candidates are given two minutes to respond to contextless questions presented by journalists who specialize in superfical presentations," p 179. "By eating up our leisure time, fragmenting our attention, and keeping us from reading, the entertainment media retard our capacity and willingness to handle complicated ideas and engage in serious discourse [without having to] outshout each other in order to finish a sentence," p 179.
See also our sites on education deterioration and on the media role in censorship on a key modern subject, a slavery-era legacy, tobacco.
In this election year (primary in August, general in November), during the 'sound-byte' era, it's hard to recall the 'good ole days' of election campaigns. You saddle your horse, you ride for miles, you go to the all-day 'whistle-stop,' in say 1854. You listen to a three hour lecture on obscure Constitutional Law and History, the pro-slavery side.
Then you break for lunch, water your horse, chat with fellow attendees. Then you listen to Abrham Lincoln's three-hour rebuttal of the slavery side, his "Peoria Speech," with him citing obscure legal doctrines such as "book law," which everybody back then knew referred to the Seventh Amendment and related legal doctrines including the "common law"! You take another break, then you listen to the one-hour closing rebuttal. You then chat with attendees, finally you saddle up your horse, and you go home to ponder and do the day's chores!
Or say in 1860, you read the Lincoln campaign brochure equivalent of a 120 page book explaining the evils of slavery, in terms of barbarism, constitutional law, statutory law, and common law, and precise details of adverse impact of slavery in terms of impairing or deteriorating commerce, morals, marriage, families, education, churches, libraries, freedom of the press, personal safety, traveler safety due to the South's high crime rate and dueling, and the aforesaid rights including as enforced via habeas corpus.
Ah, for those old days! with people better educated, and Northerners well able with an eighth grade education to understand all the above issues and cause-and-effect interactions better than most people nowadays with a so-called "college degree"! And with an attention span measured in hours, not seconds!
So when candidates such as Lincoln cited and elaborated on such matters as listed above, the reaction was not a blank look, a stare, the deer-in-the-headlights look, and a "what?" or an "it's over my head," or an "I'm bored"!! Or, "the Seventh Amendment, what's that? I've only heard about the Second Amendment!" And "'common law,' nobody ever heard of that!"
And people were actually willing to read in depth before voting! So candidates knew to issue book-length statements on their positions, not the superficial one-page mailings that now clutter our mail-boxes! or the sound-bytes that clutter our radio and TV!
Those days are gone, aren't they?!