Abraham LincolnThis 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
  • opposition to the U.S. war of aggression against Mexico
  • thoroughness researching history of legal issues on slavery.
    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:
    • "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong,"

    • "although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery is a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself."

    • "I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle, and making exceptions to it—where will it stop."

    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). "Military emacipation was a mainstream practice, whether sanctioned [valid] by the . . . laws of war or by the war powers clause of the Constitution," he says in The Scorpion's Sting: Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2014), Chapter 4, p 156. "Freeing slaves as a 'military necessity' in waritme was an ancient practice, familiar to the histories of Greece and Rome, the African continent, Latin America and the United States," p 13. Military Emancipation had occurred during the American Revolution (pp 105-131, 147, 158-159), the War of 1812 (pp 131-147, 159), and the Seminole War (pp 146-152, 155, 157, 159).
    As per Lincoln's pattern of legal-research thoroughness, this 1854 speech offers background from the pre-War era.

  • [In interim, pending completion of this site,
    you can obtain this book via your local library,
    full citation at bottom.]

    Abraham Lincoln's Speech at Peoria, Illinois,
    In Reply to Senator Douglas,
    16 October 1854
    (7:00 - 10:00 pm)

    On Monday, October 16 [at 2:00 pm], Senator Douglas, by appointment, addressed a large audience at Peoria. When he closed [after 5:00 pm] he was greeted with six hearty cheers, and the band in attendance played a stirring air.

    The crowd then began to call for Lincoln, who, as Judge Douglas [Stephen Douglas, 'Judge' being his honorary title as he was now a Senator] had announced, was by agreement to answer him. Mr. Lincoln took the stand and said:

    I do not rise to speak now [about 5:10 p.m.] if I can stipulate with the audience to meet me here at half-past six or at seven o'clock. It is now several minutes past five, and Judge Douglas has spoken over three hours. If you hear me at all, I wish you
    This speech, together with one delivered twelve days before at Springfield, made Lincoln a power in national politics. He had had little to do with politics since the expiration of his 1847-1849 term in Congress, but the [1854] repeal of the Missouri Compromise [of 1820] aroused him to instant action. The 1820 law had "allowed" slavery in Missouri but prohibited it in all territory west of Missouri or north of the line 36° 30'. The repeal of the 1820 law in 1854 combined with Congressional insistence on the fugitive slave act [1850] wrought up public feeling to the highest pitch. When closely studied the Peoria speech reveals germs of many of the powerful arguments elaborated by Lincoln later in his career.


    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.

    The Judge [Stephen Douglas, 'Judge' being his honorary title as he was now a Senator] has already informed you that he is to have an hour to reply to me.   I doubt not but you have been a little surprised to learn that I have consented to give one of his high reputation and known ability this advantage of me. Indeed, my consenting to it, though reluctant, was not wholly unselfish, for I suspected, if it were understood that the Judge was entirely done, you Democrats would leave and not hear me; but by giving him the close, I felt confident you would stay for the fun of hearing him skin me. [!!]

    Abraham Lincoln

    The audience signified their assent to the arrangement, and adjourned to seven o'clock P. M., at which time they reassembled, and Mr. Lincoln spoke substantially as follows:

    The [1854] repeal of the [1820] Missouri Compromise, and the propriety of its restoration, constitute the subject of what I am about to say. As I desire to present my own connected view of this subject, my remarks will not be specifically an answer to Judge Douglas; yet, as I proceed, the main points he has presented will arise, and will receive such respectful attention as I may be


    able to give them.

    I wish further to say that I do not propose to question the patriotism or to assail the motives of any man or class of men, but rather to confine myself strictly to the naked merits of the question. I also wish to be no less than national in all the positions I may take, and whenever I take ground which others have thought or may think, narrow, sectional, and dangerous to the Union, I hope to give a reason which will appear sufficient, at least to some, why I think differently.

    Sen. Charles Sumner, LL.D., was also taking the "national" view, in his "Freedom National, Slavery Sectional," Cong Globe, 32d Cong, 1st Sess, App, pp 1102-1114 (26 Aug 1852).
    Note also the "national" view at the Radical Abolitionist Convention (26-28 June 1855).

    And as this subject is no other than part and parcel of the larger general question of domestic slavery, I wish to make and to keep the distinction between

  • the existing institution


  • the extension of it,
  • so broad and so clear that no honest man can misunderstand me, and no dishonest one successfully misrepresent me.

    In order to have a clear understanding of what the Missouri Compromise is, a short history of the preceding kindred subjects will perhaps be proper.

    When we established our independence [in the Revolution, 1776-1783], we did not own or claim the country to which this compromise applies. Indeed, strictly speaking, the Confederacy [a now obsolete synonym for the United States] then owned no country at all; the States respectively owned the country within their limits, and some of them owned territory beyond their strict State limits.

  • Virginia thus
  • -192-

    owned the Northwestern Territory—the country [land area] out of which the principal part of Ohio, all Indiana, all Illinois, all Michigan, and all Wisconsin have since been formed. She also owned (perhaps within her then limits [border]) what has since been formed into the State of Kentucky.

  • North Carolina thus owned what is now the State of Tennessee;

  • and South Carolina and Georgia owned, in separate parts, what are now
    Mississippi and Alabama.

  • Connecticut, I think, owned the little remaining part of Ohio, being the
    same where they now send [Joshua] Giddings [a then famous abolitionist]
    to Congress, and beat all creation in making cheese.
  • These territories, together with the States themselves, constitute all the country over which the Confederacy [U.S.A.] then claimed any sort of jurisdiction. We were then living under the [1781] Articles of Confederation, which were superseded by the Constitution several years afterward [1789].

    The question of ceding the territories to the General Government was set on foot.

    Thomas Jefferson

    Mr. [Thomas] Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and otherwise a chief actor in the Revolution; then a delegate in Congress; afterward, twice President; who was, is, and perhaps will continue to be, the most distinguished politician of our history; a Virginian by birth and continued residence, and withal a slaveholder,—conceived the idea of taking that occasion to


    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

    Congress accepted the cession with the condition; and the first ordinance (which the acts of Congress were then called) for the government of the Territory provided that slavery should never be permitted therein. This is the famed "Ordinance of '87," so often spoken of.

    Thenceforward for sixty-one years, and until, in 1848, the last scrap of this Territory came into the Union as the State of Wisconsin, all parties acted in quiet obedience to this ordinance. It is now what Jefferson foresaw and intended—the happy home of teeming millions of free, white, prosperous people, and no slave among them.

    Thus, with the author of the Declaration of Independence, the policy of prohibiting slavery in new territory originated. Thus, away back to the Constitution, in the pure, fresh, free breath of the Revolution, the State of Virginia and the National Congress put that policy into practice. Thus, through more than sixty of the best years of the republic, did that policy steadily work to
    1Mr. Lincoln afterward authorized the correction of the error into which the report here falls, with regard to the prohibition being made a condition of the deed. It was not a condition.—N. and H.


    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.

    But now new light breaks upon us. Now Congress declares this ought never to have been, and the like of it must never be again. The sacred right of self-government is grossly violated by it. We even find some men who drew their first breath—and every other breath of their lives—under this very restriction, now live in dread of absolute suffocation if they should be restricted in the "sacred right" of taking slaves to Nebraska.

    That perfect liberty they [slavers] sigh for—the liberty of making slaves of other people—Jefferson never thought of, their own fathers never thought of, they never thought of themselves, a year ago. How fortunate for them they did not sooner become sensible of their great misery!

    Oh, how difficult it is [for us honest Yankees] to treat with respect such [psychotic] assaults upon all we have ever really held sacred!

    But to return to history.

    In 1803 we purchased what was then called Louisiana, of France. It included the present States of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa; also the Territory of Minnesota, and the present bone of contention, Kansas and Nebraska. Slavery already existed among the French at New Orleans, and to some extent at St. Louis. In 1812 Loui-


    [David] Wilmot, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, moved as an amendment, "Provided, that in any territory thus acquired there shall never be slavery."

    This is the origin of the far-famed Wilmot proviso. It created a great flutter; but it stuck like wax, was voted into the bill, and the bill passed with it through the House. The Senate, however, adjourned without final action on it, and so both appropriation and proviso were lost for the time.

    The war continued, and at the next session the President renewed his request for the appropriation, enlarging the amount, I think, to three millions. Again came the proviso, and defeated the measure. Congress adjourned again, and the war went on.

    In December, 1847, the new Congress assembled. I was in the lower House that term [and immediately spoke against the aggression against Mexico]. The Wilmot proviso, or the principle of it, was constantly coming up in some shape or other, and I think I may venture to say I voted for it at least forty times during the short time I was there. The Senate, however, held it in check [refused to pass it], and it never became a law.

    In the spring of 1848 a treaty of peace was made with Mexico, by which we obtained that portion of her country which now constitutes the Territories of New Mexico and Utah, and the present State of California.

    By this treaty the Wilmot proviso was defeated, in so far as it was intended to be a condition of the


    acquisition of territory. Its friends, however, were still determined to find some way to restrain slavery from getting into the new country.

    Ed. Note: For background, see, e.g.,
  • William Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery (New York: William Harned Pub, 1852), pp 306-307
  • Lewis Tappan, et al., Proceedings of Convention (June 1855), pp 37-38.
  • This new acquisition [the territories conqured from Mexico] lay directly west of our old purchase from France, and extended west to the Pacific Ocean, and was so situated that if the Missouri line should be extended straight west, the new country would be divided by such extended line, leaving some north and some south of it.

    On Judge Douglas's motion, a bill, or provision of a bill, passed the Senate to so extend the Missouri [Compromise] line [the Mason-Dixon Line, to expand slavery].

    The proviso men in the House, including myself, voted it down, because, by implication, it gave up the southern part to slavery, while we were bent on having it all free.

    In the fall of 1848 the gold-mines were discovered in California. This attracted people to it with unprecedented rapidity, so that on, or soon after, the meeting of the new Congress in December, 1849, she already had a population of nearly a hundred thousand, had called a convention, formed a State Constitution excluding slavery, and was knocking for admission into the Union.

    The proviso men, of course, were for letting her in, but the Senate, always true to the other side, would not consent to her admission, and there California stood, kept out of the Union because she would not let slavery into her borders. Under all the circumstances, perhaps, this


    [pp 202-219]

    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.

    It is not climate then, that will keep slavery out of these Territories. Is there anything in the peculiar nature of the country? Missouri adjoins these Territories by her entire western boundary, and slavery is already within every one of her western counties.

    I have even heard it said that there are more slaves in proportion to whites in the northwestern county of Missouri, than within any other county in the State. Slavery pressed entirely up to the old western boundary of the State, and when rather recently a part of that boundary at the northwest was moved out a little farther west, slavery followed on quite up to the new line.

    Now when the restriction is removed, what is to prevent it from going still farther? Climate will not, no peculiarity of the country will, nothing in nature will. Will the disposition of the people prevent it? Those nearest the scene are all in favor of the extension. The Yankees who are op-


    posed to it may be most numerous; but, in military phrase, the battle-field is too far from their base of operations.

    Abraham Lincoln

    But it is said, there now [1854] is no [statute] law in Nebraska on the subject of slavery, and that, in such case, taking a slave there operates his freedom.

    That is good book-law [Ed. Note: common law], but is not the rule of actual practice.

    Ed. Note: Grade school education was then so high, everyone could understand this law data reference. Children then did understand it! See Lewis Tappan, et al, Proceedings (1855), p 12.
    Lincoln was making the same point as had Samuel Hopkins, D.D., Dialogue (Norwich: J.P. Spooner, 1776).
    "Common law," the "book law" referenced here, is incorporated by reference in the Bill of Rights, the Seventh Amendment.
    "Lincoln was a fine lawyer who knew full well that the United States . . . Constitution [precluded] slavery [thus in the Gettysburg Address] he began, 'Four score and seven years ago, our [U.S. founding] fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.' Thus Lincoln wrapped the Union in the rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence, which emphasized freedom even while many of its signers were slaveowners," see Prof. James W. Loewen (History Prof, Univ of Vermont), Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (NY: The New Press, 1995), Chapter 6, p 176 [Background and Context].

    Whatever slavery is it has been first introduced [as a "practice"] without [contrary to] law. The oldest laws we find concerning it are not laws introducing it, but regulating it as an already existing thing.

    Ed. Note: As slavery was always unconstitutional, no jurisdiction could have even conducted a vote to establish slavery. Voting to violate the Constitution is not allowed.
    “The [effect of the Constitution is] to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no election.” West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette, 319 US 624, 638; 63 S Ct 1178; 87 L Ed 1628 (1943). See also like result in Romer v Evans, 517 US 620; 116 S Ct 1620; 134 L Ed 2d 855 (1996).
    And, slavery also violated the Bill of Rights. "The Bills of Rights in the American Constitutions have not been drafted for the introduction of new law, but to secure old [already existing] principles against abrogation or violation; they are conservatory rather than reformatory." Weimer v Bunbury, 30 Mich 291; 1874 Mich. LEXIS 168 (1874).

    A white man takes his slave to Nebraska [or any slave area] now.
  • Who will inform the negro that he is free? [as can't legally read and write]

  • Who will take [help] him before [to] court to test the question of [verify] his freedom?
  • In ignorance of his [already existing] legal emancipation [rights] he is kept chopping, splitting, and plowing [enslaved, treated as an untermenschen].

    Ed. Note: Others were saying likewise:
  • Gerrit Smith, Letter of Gerrit Smith to Hon. Henry Clay (New York: American
    Anti-Slavery Society, 1839), p 19 (15 years earlier)
  • George Mellen, Unconstitutionality of Slavery (Boston: Saxton & Pierce, 1841),
    pp 431-432, (13 years earlier)
  • Lysander Spooner, Unconstitutionality of Slavery (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1845),
    p 23 (9 years earlier).

    The South banned teaching slaves to read and write, lest they learn their rights, of which they were deliberately kept ignorant.
    Lincoln was destined to be the one to end that ignorance, via actions including the "Emancipation Proclamation."
    The basis for slavers' banning reading by slaves includes the slaver / creationist dogma that blacks were not human but instead a separate species.
    Notice Lincoln's skill with words while trying to prevent the Civil War, a trial-lawyer type skill that fooled abolitionists, but sadly, not the slavers!
  • Others are brought, and move on in the same track. At last, if ever the time for voting comes on the question of slavery, the institution already, in fact, exists in the country, and cannot well be removed. The fact of its presence, and the difficulty of its removal, will carry the vote in its favor.

    Ed. Note: The same is true with tobacco emissions. The spewing of such emissions is begun without law authorization. But once started, it is difficult to get stopped. Reasons include addiction, the tobacco taboo, and anti-health tobacco pusher lobbying.

    Keep it out until a vote is taken, and a vote in favor of it cannot be got in any population of forty thousand on earth, who have been drawn together by the ordinary motives of emigration and settlement. To get slaves into the Territory simultaneously with the whites in the incipient stages of settlement


    is the precise stake played for and won in this Nebraska measure.

    The question is asked us: "If slaves will go in [Ed. Note: be imported illegally by slavers] notwithstanding the general principle of law liberates them, why would they not equally go in against positive statute law—go in, even if the Missouri restriction were maintained!"

    I answer, because it takes a much bolder man to venture in with his property in the latter case than in the former; because the positive congressional enactment [Ed. Note: meaning, the 1787 slavery ban] is known to and respected by all, or nearly all, whereas the negative principle that no law is free law is not much known except among lawyers.

    Ed. Note: The concept of "no law is free law" refers to the fact that slavery was never allowed, unless a specific written law was passed legalizing it.
    Even if a written law legalizing slavery had been passed, and none were, it would have been unconstitutional. For background on why this is so, see, e.g., Lewis Tappan, et al., Proceedings of Convention (New York, 1855), pp 10-11.
    Note that the language of the Thirteenth Amendment was “not the language of repeal; it does not acknowledge that slavery ever rested upon statute law, or upon right; but it denies its authority longer to exist.” McElvain v Mudd, 44 Ala 48; 4 Am Rep 106, (Jan 1870) (Dissent by J. Peters, ¶23).

    We have some experience of this practical difference.

    Ed. Note: Referring to how people behave when there is a slavery ban, vs when no law exists, i.e., slavery is not legalized. The "practical difference" between the two is what Lincoln will be stating next.

    In spite of the ordinance of '87, a few negroes were brought into Illinois, and held in a state of quasi-slavery, not enough, however, to carry a vote of the people in favor of the institution when they came to form a constitution. But into the adjoining Missouri country, where there was no ordinance of '87—was no restriction, they were carried ten times, nay, a hundred times, as fast, and actually made a slave State. This is fact—naked fact.

    Another lullaby argument is that taking slaves to new countries does not increase their number, does not make any one slave who would otherwise be free. There is some truth in this, and I am glad of it; but it is not wholly true. The


    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.

    If this be so, the opening of new countries to the institution increases the demand for and augments the price of slaves, and so does, in fact, make slaves of freemen, by causing them to be brought from Africa and sold into bondage.

    But however this may be, we know the opening of new countries to slavery tends to the perpetuation of the institution, and so does keep men in slavery who would otherwise be free. This result we do not feel like favoring, and we are under no legal obligation to suppress our feelings in this respect.

    Equal justice to the South, it is said, requires us to consent to the extension of slavery to new countries. That is to say, inasmuch as you do not object to my taking my hog to Nebraska, therefore I must not object to you taking your slave. Now, I admit that this is perfectly logical, if there is no difference between hogs and negroes. But while you thus require me to deny


    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.

    The great majority South, as well as North, have human sympathies, of which they can no more divest themselves than they can of their sensibility to physical pain. These sympathies in the bosoms of the Southern people manifest, in many ways, their sense of the wrong of slavery, and their consciousness that, after all, there is humanity in the negro.

    If they deny this, let me address them a few plain questions. In 1820 you joined the North, almost unanimously, in declaring the African slave-trade piracy, and in annexing to it the punishment of death.

    Why did you do this? If you did not feel that it was wrong, why did you join in providing that men should be hung for it?

    The practice was no more than bringing wild negroes from Africa to such as would buy them. But you never thought of hanging men for catching and selling wild horses, wild buffaloes, or wild bears.

    Again, you have among you a sneaking individual of the class of native tyrants known as the "Slave-Dealer." He watches your neces-


    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.

    If you are obliged to deal with him, you try to get through the job without so much as touching him. It is common with you to join [shake] hands with the men you meet, but with the slave-dealer you avoid the ceremony—instinctively shrinking from the snaky contact. If he grows rich and retires from business, you still remember him, and still keep up the ban of non-intercourse upon him and his family. Now why is this? You do not so treat the man who deals in corn, cotton, or tobacco.

    And yet again. There are in the United States and Territories, including the District of Columbia, 433,643 free blacks. At five hundred dollars per head they are worth over two hundred millions of dollars. How comes this vast amount of property to be running about without owners? We do not see free horses or free cattle running at large. How is this? All these free blacks are the descendants of slaves, or have been slaves themselves; and they would


    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.

    Another important objection to this application of the right of self-government is that it enables the first few to deprive the succeeding many of a free exercise of the right of self-government. The first few may get slavery in, and the subsequent many cannot easily get it out.

    How common is the remark now in the slave States, "If we were only clear of our slaves, how much better it would be for us." They are actually deprived of the privilege of governing themselves as they would, by the action of a very few in the beginning. The same thing was true of the whole nation at the time our Constitution was formed.

    Whether slavery shall go into Nebraska, or other new Territories, is not a matter of exclusive concern to the people who may go there. The whole nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these Territories. We want them for homes of free white people. This they cannot be, to any considerable extent, if slavery shall be planted within them. Slave States are places for poor white people to remove from, not to remove to.

    Ed. Note: Note the depopulation, white flight, from the slave state of
    Virginia, cited by Alvan Stewart, Legal Argument (1845), pp 49-50.
  • Rev. John Rankin, Letters (1823) pp 64-65
  • Lewis Tappan, Address to Non-slaveholders (1843) pp 5-8
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe, in Key (1853), pp 129 and 184.
  • Rev. George B. Cheever, God Against Slavery (1857), pp 168-169.
  • Rev. John Fee, Antislavery Manual (1851), p 146
  • Sen. Charles Sumner, Barbarism of Slavery (1860), pp 143-145.
  • New free States are the places for poor people to go to, and better their con-


    dition. For this use the nation needs these Territories.

    Still further: there are constitutional relations between the slave and free States which are degrading to the latter. We are under legal obligations to catch and return their runaway slaves to them: a sort of dirty, disagreeable job, which, I believe, as a general rule, the slaveholders will not perform for one another.

    Then again, in the control of the government—the management of the partnership affairs—they [the slave states] have greatly the advantage of us [the free states]. By the Constitution each State has two senators, each has a number of representatives in proportion to the number of its people, and each has a number of presidential electors equal to the whole number of its senators and representatives together.

    But in ascertaining the number of the people for this purpose [representation in House of Representatives], five slaves are counted as being equal to three whites. The slaves do not vote; they are only counted and so used as to swell the influence of the white peopled votes.

    The practical effect of this is more aptly shown by a comparison of the States of South Carolina and Maine. South Carolina has six representatives, and so has Maine; South Carolina has eight presidential electors, and so has Maine. This is precise equality so far; and of course they are equal in senators, each having two. Thus in the


    control of the government the two States are equals precisely.

    But how are they in the number of their white people? Maine has 581,813, while South Carolina has 274,567; Maine has twice as many as South Carolina, and 32,679 over. Thus, each white man in South Carolina is more than the double of any man in Maine. This is all because South Carolina, besides her free people, has 384,984 slaves. The South Carolinian has precisely the same advantage over the white man in every other free State as well as in Maine. He is more than the double of any one of us in this crowd.

    Ed. Note: Other abolitionists also cited the South's disproportionate
    political power, e.g.,
  • Gerrit Smith, Letter (1839), p 26
  • Lewis Tappan, Address (1843), pp 50-52
  • Rev. William Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery (1852), p 224
  • Charles Sumner, Barbarism of Slavery (1860), p 230.
    Modern term: "red states" vs "blue states."
  • The same advantage, but not to the same extent, is held by all the citizens of the slave States over those of the free; and it is an absolute truth, without an exception, that there is no voter in any slave State, but who has more legal power in the government than any voter in any free State.

    There is no instance of exact equality; and the disadvantage is against us the whole chapter through. This principle, in the aggregate, gives the slave States in the present Congress twenty additional representatives, being seven more than the whole majority by which they passed the Nebraska bill.

    Now all this is manifestly unfair; yet I do not mention it to complain of it, in so far as it is already settled. It is in the Constitution, and


    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.

    But when I am told I must leave it altogether to other people to say whether new partners are to be bred up and brought into the firm, on the same degrading terms against me, I respectfully demur. I insist that whether I shall be a whole man, or only the half of one, in comparison with others, is a question in which I am somewhat concerned, and one which no other man can have a sacred right of deciding for me.

    If I am wrong in this—if it really be a sacred right of self-government in the man who shall go to Nebraska to decide whether he will be the equal of me or the double of me, then, after he shall have exercised that right, and thereby shall have reduced me to a still smaller fraction of a man than I already am, I should like for some gentleman, deeply skilled in the mysteries of sacred rights, to provide himself with a microscope, and peep about, and find out, if he can, what has become of my sacred rights. They will surely be too small for detection with the naked eye.

    Finally, I insist that if there is anything which it is the duty of the whole people to never intrust to any hands but their own, that thing is the preservation and perpetuity of their own liberties and institutions. And if they shall think,


    I particularly object to the new position which the avowed principle of this Nebraska law gives to slavery in the body politic. I object to it because it assumes that there can be moral right in the enslaving of one man by another. I object to it as a dangerous dalliance for a free people—a sad evidence that, feeling prosperity, we forget right; that liberty, as a principle, we have ceased to revere. I object to it because the fathers of the republic eschewed and rejected it. The argument of "necessity" was the only argument they ever admitted in favor of slavery; and so far, and so far only, as it carried them did they ever go. They found the institution existing among us, which they could not help, and they cast blame upon the British king for having permitted its introduction.

    Before the Constitution they prohibited its introduction into the Northwestern Territory, the only country we owned then free from it. At the framing and adoption of the Constitution, they forbore to so much as mention the word "slave" or "slavery" in the whole instrument. In the provision for the recovery of fugitives, the slave is spoken of as a "person held to service or labor." In that prohibiting the abolition of the African slave-trade for twenty years, that trade is spoken of as "the migration or importation of such persons as any of the States


    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.

    In 1794 they prohibited an outgoing slave-trade—that is, the taking of slaves from the United States to sell. In 1798 they prohibited the bringing of slaves from Africa into the Mississippi Territory, this Territory then comprising what are now the States of Mississippi and Alabama. This was ten years before they had the authority to do the same thing as to the States existing at the adoption of the Constitution. In 1800 they prohibited American citizens from trading in slaves between foreign countries, as, for instance, from Africa to Brazil. In 1803 they passed a law in aid of one or two slave-State laws, in restraint of the internal slave-trade. In 1807, in apparent hot haste,


    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.

    But now it is to be transformed into a "sacred right." Nebraska brings it forth, places it on the highroad to extension and perpetuity, and with a pat on its back says to it, "Go, and God speed you." Henceforth it is to be the chief jewel of the nation—the very figurehead of the ship of state. Little by little, but steadily as man's march to the grave, we have been giving up the old for the new faith. Near eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a "sacred right of self-government." These principles cannot


    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.

    Fellow-countrymen, Americans, South as well as North, shall we make no effort to arrest this? Already the liberal party throughout the world express the apprehension "that the one retrograde institution in America is undermin-


    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.

    If the Nebraska bill is the real author of the benevolent works, it is rather deplorable that it has for so long a time ceased working altogether. Is there not some reason to suspect that it was the principle of the Revolution, and not the principle of the Nebraska bill, that led to emancipation in these old States? Leave it to the people of these old emancipating States, and I am quite certain they will decide that neither that nor any other good thing ever did or ever will come of the Nebraska bill.

    In the course of my main argument, Judge Douglas interrupted me to say that the principle of the Nebraska bill was very old; that it originated when God made man, and placed good and evil before him, allowing him to choose for himself, being responsible for the choice he should make. At the time I thought this was merely playful, and I answered it accordingly. But in his reply to me he renewed


    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.

    But this argument strikes me as not a little remarkable in another particular—in its strong resemblance to the old argument for the "divine right of kings."
  • By the latter, the [supposedly "God-ordained"] king is to do just as he pleases with his white subjects, being responsible to God alone.

  • By the former, the white man is to do just as he pleases with his black slaves, being responsible to God alone.
  • The two things are precisely alike, and it is but natural that they should find similar arguments to sustain them.

    I had argued that the application of the principle of self-government, as contended for, would require the revival of the African slave-trade; that no argument could be made in favor of a man's right to take slaves to Nebraska, which could not be equally well made in favor of his right to bring them from the coast of Africa. The judge replied that the Constitution requires the suppression of the foreign slave-trade, but does not require the prohibition of


    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)
    Background Site

    Other Lincoln Quotes
    Abraham LincolnElecting 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.
  • With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. [See p 195, supra.]

  • Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name—liberty.

  • And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.

  • The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among us human creatures." (18 April 1864).

  • 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.,
  • "Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858"
  • "Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power," by Oxford Prof. Richard J. Carwardine (Knopf), and review, "The Scripture-Engaging Lincoln," by Mark Noll, in Christianity Today Magazine (# 5) p 66 (May 2006)
  • Burrus M. Carnahan, Act of Justice: Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the Law of War (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2007)
  • Robert Thompson, "Review of Carnahan, Burrus M., Act of Justice: Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the Law of War." H-CivWar, H-Net Reviews (December 2008).
  • 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:
  • Jackson said, "if this thing [nullification, secession] goes on our country will be like a bag of meal [cereal] with both ends open. Pick it up and it will run out," p 609.

  • "No state or states has a right to secede . . . therefore [an attempt] means insurrection and war . . . I will be sustained by congress . . . I will have the [Southern insurrection] leaders arrested and arraigned for treason," p 610.

  • "The Union must be preserved, without blood if this be possible, but it must be preserved at all hazards and at any price," p 611.

  • Disunionist state action is an "impractical absurdity." "If this [disunion] doctrine had been established at an earlier day, the Union would have been dissolved in its infancy . . . . Admit this doctrine . . . and . . . every [U.S.] law . . . may be annulled. I consider, then, the [alleged state's so-called nullification / secession] power [1] incompatible with the existence of the Union, [2] contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, [3] unauthorized by its spirit, [4] inconsistent with every principle on which it was 612founded and [5] destructive of the great object for which it was formed," pp 611-612.

  • "The constitution . . . forms a government not a league. . . . To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union is to say that the United States is not a nation," p 612.

  • "Fellow-citizens . . . let me admonish you. . . . I have no discretionary power on the subject. . . . Those who told you that you might [take the ongoing so-called "states' rights'" action] deceived you. . . . Their object is disunion. . . . Disunion by armed force is treason. Are you really ready to bear its guilt? If you are, on the heads of the instigators of the act be dreadful consequences. . . . [I, as President] cannot . . . avoid the performance of [my Union-preserving] duty," p 612.

  • The South's policy "would destroy all confidence in our government both at home and abroad. . . I expect soon to hear that a civil war has commenced." Jackson in 1832-1833 already did "not expect that [anything can] prevent an open rupture," p 617.

  • Jackson's reaction to the South's treatment of a ship's flag, flying it upside down, was "for this indignity to the flag she [the ship] ought to have been instantly sunk, no matter who owned or commanded her," p 617.

  • Jackson "asked Congress [then in session] for [immediate] authority [within seven days!] to use military force. But what if Congress, in that short time, should fail to convey the power requested? Andrew Jackson was ready for the contingency. He would take unto himself the power, stretching the Constitution to suit the needs of the case. 'The preservation of the Union is the supreme law,'" p 617.

  • "Should congress fail to act [and armed rebellion occur] . . . I [will be] warning them [rebels] to disperse, should they fail to comply I will . . . in ten or fifteen days at farthest [most] have in [the South] ten to fifteen thousand well organized troops well equipped for the field, and twenty thousand, or thirty, more in their interior. I have a tender [offer] of volunteers [so can thus] march two hundred thousand men in forty days to quell any and every insurrection that might arise," p 618.

  • If a State Governor would resist, "I would arrest him at the head of his troops . . .," p 618.

  • "I repeat to the union men, fear not, the union will be preserved," p 618.

  • Jackson made speedy arrangements "for thirty-five thousand men 'ready to march at a moment's warning,'" p 619.

  • But success came too suddenly. "South Carolina had yielded. Jackson's awesome mobilization had been too much for the [rebels'] nerves," p 621.

  • Jackson said, "Nullification and secession are for the present, I think, effectively, and forever put down. But the coalition . . . and . . . coadjutators [instigators] in the south and wouthwest portends no good, but much evil," p 621. Thus "the . . . crisis had ended more tamely than Jackson had reckoned on. 'I thought I [would] have to hang some of them & [would] have done it,'" p 621.

  • Jackson "knew the real issue to be slavery—as yet untouched and almost unavowed." "Jackson saw that the viper he had set out to kill was only scotched. 'The nullifers in the south intend [sometime in future] to blow up [raise] a storm on the slave question. . . . This ought to be met, for be assured [that] these [Southern] men would do any act to destroy this union and form a southern confederacy bounded, north, by the Potomac river,'" p 622.

  • As later with Lincoln, an effort had also been made to assassinate Jackson, p 608.

  • "As time furnished a clearer perspective of these scenes, many who had been in the thick of them came to believe that, had the resolute old man [Jackson] had his way with South Carolina in 1833, our national annals would have have borne fewer blood stains in the end. Among these was Henry Clay who lived to regret the day he had stayed the upraised arm of Andrew Jackson," p 622.
  • Lincoln carefully studied this matter, "pored over the" material at the time, and "read it again before composing his [4 March 1861] inaugural address," p 612.
    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.
    Abraham Lincoln Resource Center
    Lincoln's Speech vs U.S. War of
    Aggression against Mexico
    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.

    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.

    2. That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Federal Constitution,

    "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

    "no person should be deprived of life, liberty
    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.

    16 July 2006

    Dear Editor:

    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?!