« PreviousContinue »
If they had only pledged their judicial opinion that such right is affirmed in the instrument by implication, it would be open to others to show that neither the word “slave “slavery” is to be found in the Constitution, nor the word “property” even, in any connection with language alluding to the things slave or slavery, and that, wherever in that instrument the slave is alluded to, he is called a “person ;” and wherever his master's legal right in relation to him is alluded to, it is spoken of as “service or labor due,"
“debt" payable in service or labor. Also it would be open to show, by contemporaneous history, that this mode of alluding to slaves and slavery, instead of speaking of them, was employed on purpose to exclude from the Constitution the idea that there could be property in man.
To show all this is easy and certain.
When this obvious mistake of the judges shall be brought to their notice, is it not reasonable to expect that they will withdraw the mistaken statement, and reconsider the conclusion based upon it ?
And then it is to be remembered that “our fathers, who framed the government under which we live,” - the men who made the Constitution, decided this same constitutional question in our favor long ago, - decided it without a division among themselves, when making the decision ; without division among themselves about the meaning of it after it was made, and, so far as any evidence is left, without basing it upon any mistaken statement of facts.
Under all these circumstances, do you really feel yourselves justified to break up this Government, unlesş such a court decision as yours is shall be at once submitted to, as a conclusive and final rule of political action ? But
you will not abide the election of a Republican President. In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us !
That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “ Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you; and then you will be a murderer!” To be sure, what the robber demanded of me
- my money own; and I had a clear right to keep it; but it was no more my own than my vote is my own; and threat of death to me to extort my money, and threat of destruction to the Union to extort my vote, can scarcely be distinguished in principle.
A few words now to Republicans. It is exceedingly desirable that all parts of this great Confederacy shall be at peace, and in harmony, one with another. Let us Republicans do our part to have it so. Even though much provoked, let us do nothing through passion and ill-temper. Even though the Southern people will not so much as listen to us, let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them if, in our deliberate view of our duty, we possibly can. Judging by all they say and do, and by the subject and nature of their controversy with us, let us determine, if we can, what will satisfy them.
Will they be satisfied if the Territories be unconditionally surrendered to them? We know they will not. In all their present complaints against us, the Territories are scarcely mentioned. Invasions and insurrections are the rage now.
Will it satisfy them if, in the future, we have nothing to do with invasions and insurrections? We know it will not. We so know because we know we never had any thing to do with invasions and insurrections; and yet this total abstaining does not exempt us from the charge and the denunciation.
The question recurs, what will satisfy them ? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must, somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This we know by experience is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.
These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly, — done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated: we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Douglas's new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free-State Constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.
I am quite aware they do not state their case precisely in this way. Most of them would probably say to us, “ Let us alone, do nothing to us, and say what you please about slavery." But we do let them alone, have never disturbed them; so that, after all, it is what we say which dissatisfies them. They will continue to accuse us of doing until we cease saying.
I am also aware they have not as yet, in terms, demanded the overthrow of our Free-State constitutions. Yet those constitutions declare the wrong of slavery with more solemn emphasis than do all other sayings against it; and when all these other sayings shall have been silenced, the overthrow of these constitutions will be demanded, and nothing be left to resist the demand. It is nothing to the contrary, that they do not demand the whole of this just now. Demanding what they do, and for the reason they do, they can voluntarily stop nowhere short of this consummation. IIolding, as they do, that slavery is morally right, and socially elevating, they cannot cease to demand a full national recognition of it, as a legal right and a social blessing.
Nor can we justifiably withhold this on any ground, save our conviction that slavery is wrong. If slavery is right, all words, acts, laws, and constitutions against it are themselves wrong, and should be silenced and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly object to its nationality, its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon its extension, its enlargement. All they ask, we could readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask, they could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right, and our thinking it wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them ? Can we cast our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this?
Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the national Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States ?
If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored, - contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man, such as a policy of “don't care” on a question about which all true men do care, such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous, to repentance,
such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.
Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government, nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.
The next morning “ The Tribune” presented a report of the speech, but, in doing so, said, “the tones, the gestures, the kindling eye, and the mirth-provoking look defy the reporter's skill. . . . No man ever before made such an impression on his first appeal to a New York audience.” - The Evening Post” said, “We have made room for Mr. Lincoln's speech, notwithstanding the pressure of other matters; and our readers will see that it was well worthy of the deep attention with which it was heard.” For the publication of such arguments the editor was “tempted to wish" that his columns “ were indefinitely elastic.” And these are but fair evidences of the general tone of the press.
Mr. Lincoln was much annoyed, after his return home, wy the allegation that he had sold a "political speech," and had been generally governed by mercenary motives in his Eastern trip. Being asked to explain it, he answered as follows:
SPRINGFIELD, April 6, 1860. C. F. McNeill, Esq.
Dear Sir, Reaching home yesterday, I found yours of the 23d March, enclosing a slip from “ The Middleport Press.” It is not true that I ever charged any thing for a political speech in my life; but this much is true. Last October I was requested by letter to deliver some sort of speech in Mr. Beecher's church in Brooklyn, - $200 being offered in the first letter. I wrote that I could do it in February, provided they would take a political speech if I could find time to get up no other. They agreed; and subsequently I informed them the speech would have to be a political one. When I reached New York, I, for the first, learned that the place was changed to
Cooper Institute.” I made the speech, and left for New Hampshire, where I have a son at school, neither asking for pay nor having any offered me. Three days after, a check for $200 was sent to me at N.H.; and I took it, and did not know it was wrong. My understanding now is, though I knew nothing of it at the time, that they did charge for admittance at the Cooper Institute, and that they took in more than twice $200.
I have made this explanation to you as a friend ; but I wish no explanation made to our enemies. What they want is a squabble and a fuss : and that they can have if we explain ; and they cannot have it if we don't.
When I returned through New York from New England, I was told by the gentlemen who sent me the check, that a drunken vagabond in the club, having learned something about the $200, made the exhibition out of which “ The Herald” manufactured the article quoted by “ The Press ” of your town.
My judgment is, and therefore my request is, that you give no denial, and no explanations. Thanking you for your kind interest in the matter, I remain
From New York Mr. Lincoln travelled into New England, to visit his son Robert, who was a student at Harvard; but he was overwhelmed with invitations to address Republican meetings. In Connecticut he spoke at Hartford, Norwich, New Haven, Meriden, and Bridgeport; in Rhode Island, at Woonsocket; in New Hampshire, at Concord and Manchester Everywhere the people poured out in multitudes, and the press lavished encomiums. Upon his speech at Manchester, “ The Mirror,” a neutral paper, passed the following criticisms of his style of oratory, -- criticisms familiar enough to the people of his own State : * He spoke an hour and a half with great fairness, great apparent candor, and with wonderful interest. He did not abuse the South, the administration, or the Democrats, or indulge in any personalities, with the exception of a few hits at Douglas's notions. He is far from prepossessing in personal appearance, and his voice is disagreeable ; and yet he wins your attention and good-will from the start. He indulges in no flowers of rhetoric, no eloquent passages. He is not a wit, a humorist, or a clown; yet so great a vein of pleasantry and good-nature pervades what he says, gilding over a deep current of practical argument, he keeps his hearers in a smiling mood, with their mouths open ready to swallow all he says. His sense of the ludicrous is very keen; and an exhibition of that is the clincher of all his arguments,
not the ludicrous acts of persons, but ludicrous ideas. Hence he is never offensive, and steals away willingly into his train of belief persons who were opposed to him. For the first half-hour his opponents would agree with every word he uttered ; and from that point he began to lead them off little by little, until it seemed as if he had got them all into his fold. He displays more shrewdness, more knowledge of the masses of mankind, than any public speaker we have heard since Long Jim Wilson left for California.'
On the morning after the Norwich speech, Mr. Lincoln was met, or is said to have been met, in the cars by a preacher, one Gulliver, - a name suggestive of fictions.
a Gulliver says he told Mr. Lincoln that he thought his speech “the most remarkable one he ever heard.” Lincoln doubted his sincerity ; but Gulliver persisted. “Indeed, sir,” said he, “ I learned more of the art of public speaking last evening than