Skip to main content

Full text of "Abraham Lincoln's lost speech, May 29, 1856"

See other formats


3 3433 07952434 8 

!li Lincoln's Los 

■i-^ pi ,o 





The DeVinne Press certifies that this copy 
of Lincoln's Lost Speech is one of an edi- 
tion of Five Hundred copies printed from 
type in the month of February, 1897, 

TV-' -ibV^ YOR 



MAY 29, 1856 







PUBLIC LlSii-Ul\^ 


Copyright, 1896, by Sarah A. Whitney 



Of the City of New York 


First Vice-President. Second Vice-President. 


Third Vice-President. 


Recording Secretary. Corresponding Secretary. 






(i^v For '897 

K ELIHU ROOT, Chairman. 


^ Treasurer. Secretary. 



Ex Officio. 

rHE lost speech of Abraham Lincoln 
was delivered at the first Republican 
State Convention of Illinois, at Blootnington, 
on the 2gth of May, 1 8 §6. The excite- 
ment caused among the audience by the speech 
was so great that the reporters forgot to take 
their notes, and for many years it was gen- 
erally supposed that no record of the speech 
had been preserved. It appears, however, 
that Mr. H. C. Whitney, then a young 
lawyer of Illinois, did take notes of the 
speech, which he preserved; and after a lapse 
of forty years they were transcribed and 
were published in ''McC lures Magazine'' 
for September, i8g6, together with a letter 
from Mr. Joseph Me dill, of the " Chicago 
Tribune," who was present at the Conven- 
tion atid confirms the accuracy of Mr. Whit- 
ney s report. 

By the kijid consent of Mr. Whitney, and 
through the courtesy of Mr. S. S. McClure, 
the speech is now reproduced by the Repub- 
lican Club of the City of New York as a 
souvenir of Lincoln for its Annual Dinner 
on the 1 2th of February, iSgj. 


R. Chairman and Gen- 
tlemen : I was over at 
— [Cries of " Platform ! " 
''Take the platform !"] 
I say, that while I was 
at Danville Court, some of our friends of 
anti-Nebraska got together in Springfield 
and elected me as one delegate to repre- 
sent old Sangamon with them in this 
convention, and I am here certainly as a 
sympathizer in this movement and by 
virtue of that meeting and selection. But 
we can hardly be called delegates strictly, 
inasmuch as, properly speaking, we repre- 
2 9 

Lincoln's Lost Speech 

sent nobody but ourselves. I think it 
altogether fair to say that we have no 
anti-Nebraska party in Sangamon, al- 
though there is a good deal of anti-Ne- 
braska feeling there ; but I say for myself, 
and I think I may speak also for my col- 
leagues, that we who are here fully ap- 
prove of the platform and of all that has 
been done [A voice : " Yes ! "] ; and even 
if we are not regularly delegates, it will 
be right for me to answer your call to 
speak. I suppose we truly stand for the 
public sentiment of Sangamon on the 
great question of the repeal, although we 
do not yet represent many numbers who 
have taken a distinct position on the ques- 

We are in a trying time — it ranges 
above mere party — and this movement to 
call a halt and turn our steps backward 
needs all the help and good counsels it 
can get; for unless popular opinion makes 
itself very strongly felt, and a change is 
made in our present course, blood will Jlow 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

on account of Nebraska^ and brother s hand 
will be raised against brother ! [The last 
sentence was uttered in such an earnest, 
impressive, if not indeed tragic, manner 
as to make a cold chill creep over me. 
Others gave a similar experience.] 

I have listened w^ith great interest to the 
earnest appeal made to Illinois men by 
the gentleman from Lawrence [James S. 
Emery] who has just addressed us so elo- 
quently and forcibly. I was deeply moved 
by his statement of the wrongs done to 
free-State men out there. I think it just 
to say that all true men North should sym- 
pathize with them, and ought to be will- 
ing to do any possible and needful thing 
to right their wrongs. But we must not 
promise what we ought not, lest we be 
called on to perform what we cannot; we 
must be calm and moderate, and consider 
the whole difficulty, and determine what 
is possible and just. We must not be led 
by excitement and passion to do that which 
our sober judgments would not approve in 

1 1 

Lincoln s Lost Speech 

our cooler moments. We have higher 
aims; we will have more serious business 
than to dally with temporary measures. 

We are here to stand firmly for a prin- 
ciple — to stand firmly for a right. We 
know that great political and moral wrongs 
are done, and outrages committed, and we 
denounce those wrongs and outrages, al- 
though we cannot, at present, do much 
more. But we desire to reach out be- 
yond those personal outrages and establish 
a rule that will apply to all, and so prevent 
any future outrages. 

We have seen to-day that every shade 
of popular opinion is represented here, with 
Freedofn, or rather Free- Soil, as the basis. 
We have come together as in some sort 
representatives of popular opinion against 
the extension of slavery into territory now 
free in fact as well as by law, and the 
pledged word of the statesmen of the na- 
tion who are now no more. We come — 
we are here assembled together — to pro- 
test as well as we can against a great 


Lincoln's Lost Speech 

wrong, and to take measures, as well as 
we now can, to make that wrong right ; to 
place the nation, as far as it may be possi- 
ble now, as it was before the repeal of 
the Missouri Compromise ; and the plain 
way to do this is to restore the Compro- 
mise, and to demand and determine that 
Kansas shall be free ! [Immense applause.] 
While we affirm, and reaffirm, if necessary, 
our devotion to the principles of the Dec- 
laration of Independence, let our practical 
work here be limited to the above. We 
know that there is not a perfect agreement 
of sentiment here on the public questions 
which might be rightfully considered in 
this convention, and that the indignation 
which we all must feel cannot be helped; 
but all of us must give up something for 
the good of the cause. There is one de- 
sire which is uppermost in the mind, one 
wish common to us all — to which no dis- 
sent will be made ; and I counsel you ear- 
nestly to bury all resentment, to sink all 
personal feeling, make all things work to 


Lincoln's Lost Speech 

a common purpose in which we are united 
and agreed about, and which all present 
will agree is absolutely necessary — which 
must be done by any rightful mode if there 
be such : Slavery jnust be kept out of Kan- 
sas! [Applause.] The test — the pinch — 
is right there. If we lose Kansas to free- 
dom, an example will be set which will 
prove fatal to freedom in the end. We, 
therefore, in the language of the Bible, 
must "lay the axe to the root of the tree." 
Temporizing will not do longer; now is 
the time for decision — for firm, persistent, 
resolute action. [Applause.] 

The Nebraska bill, or rather Nebraska 
law, is not one of wholesome legislation, 
but was and is an act of legislative usur- 
pation, whose result, if not indeed inten- 
tion, is to make slavery national ; and 
unless headed off in some effective way, 
we are in a fair way to see this land of 
boasted freedom converted into a land 
of slavery in fact. [Sensation.] Just open 
your two eyes, and see if this be not so. 

Lincolris Lost Speech 

I need do no more than state, to command 
universal approval, that almost the entire 
North, as well as a large following in the 
border States, is radically opposed to the 
planting of slavery in free territory. Prob- 
ably in a popular vote throughout the 
nation nine-tenths of the voters in the free 
States, and at least one-half in the border 
States, if they could express their senti- 
ments freely, would vote NO on such an 
issue ; and it is safe to say that two-thirds 
of the votes of the entire nation would be 
opposed to it. And yet, in spite of this 
overbalancing of sentiment in this free 
country, we are in a fair way to see Kan- 
sas present itself for admission as a slave 
State. Indeed, it is a felony, by the local 
law of Kansas, to deny that slavery exists 
there even now. By every principle of 
law, a negro in Kansas is free ; yet the 
bogus legislature makes it an infamous 
crime to tell him that he is free ! ^ 

1 Statutes of Kansas, 1855, Chapter 151, Sec. 12. If any- 
free person, by speaking or by writing, assert or maintain 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

The party lash and the fear of ridicule 
will overawe justice and liberty ; for it is 
a singular fact, but none the less a fact, 
and well known by the most common ex- 
perience, that men will do things under 
the terror of the party lash that they 
would not on any account or for any con- 
sideration do otherwise ; while men who 
will march up to the mouth of a loaded 
cannon without shrinking will run from 
the terrible name of " Abolitionist," even 
when pronounced by a worthless creature 
whom they, with good reason, despise. 
For instance — to press this point a little 
— Judge Douglas introduced his anti-Ne- 

that persons have not the right to hold slaves in this Terri- 
tory, or shall introduce into this Territory, print, publish, 
write, circulate . . . any book, paper, magazine, pam- 
phlet, or circular containing any denial of the right of per- 
sons to hold slaves in this Territory, such person shall be 
deemed guilty o^ felony, and punished by imprisonment at 
hard labor for a term of not less than two years. 

Sec, 13. No person who is conscientiously opposed to hold- 
ing slaves, or who does not admit the right to hold slaves in 
this Territory, shall sit as a juror on the trial of any prose- 
cution for any violation of any Sections of this Act. 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

braska bill in January ; and we had an 
extra session of our legislature in the suc- 
ceeding February, in which were seventy- 
five Democrats; and at a party caucus, 
fully attended, there were just three votes, 
out of the whole seventy-five, for the 
measure. But in a few days orders came 
on from Washington, commanding them 
to approve the measure; the party lash 
was applied, and it was brought up again 
in caucus, and passed by a large majority. 
The masses were against it, but party 
necessity carried it; and it was passed 
through the lower house of Congress 
against the will of the people, for the 
same reason. Here is where the greatest 
danger lies — that, while we profess to be 
a government of law and reason, law will 
give way to violence on demand of this 
awful and crushing power. Like the 
great Juggernaut — I think that is the 
name — the great idol, it crushes every- 
thing that comes in its way, and makes a 
— or as I read once, in a black-letter law 

3 17 

Lincoln s Lost Speech 

book, "a slave is a human being who is 
legally not a person but a thing.''' And if 
the safeguards to liberty are broken down, 
as is now attempted, when they have made 
things of all the free negroes, how long, 
think you, before they will begin to make 
things of poor white men ? [Applause.] 
Be not deceived. Revolutions do not go 
backward. The founder of the Demo- 
cratic party declared that all men were 
created equal. His successor in the lead- 
ership has written the word "white" be- 
fore men, making it read " all white men 
are created equal." Pray, will or may not 
the Know-nothings, if they should get in 
power, add the word " protestant," mak- 
ing it read *'^ all protestant white men''? 

Meanwhile the hapless negro is the 
fruitful subject of reprisals in other quar- 
ters. John Pettit, whom Tom Benton 
paid his respects to, you will recollect, calls 
the immortal Declaration "a self-evident 
lie"; while at the birthplace of freedom 
— in the shadow of Bunker Hill and of 


Lincoln s Lost speech 

the "cradle of liberty," at the home 
of the Adamses and Warren and Otis — 
Choate, from our side of the house, dares 
to fritter away the birthday promise of lib- 
erty by proclaiming the Declaration to be 
"a string of glittering generalities"; and 
the Southern Whigs, working hand in hand 
with pro-slavery Democrats, are making 
Choate's theories practical. Thomas Jef- 
ferson, a slaveholder, mindful of the moral 
element in slavery, solemnly declared that 
he "trembled for his country when he re- 
membered that God is just"; while Judge 
Douglas, with an insignificant wave of the 
hand, *' don't care whether slavery is voted 
up or voted down." Now, if slavery is 
right, or even negative, he has a right to 
treat it in this trifling manner. But if 
it is a moral and political wrong, as all 
Christendom considers it to be, how can 
he answer to God for this attempt to spread 
and fortify it ? [Applause.] 

But no man, and Judge Douglas no 
more than any other, can maintain a nega- 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

tive, or merely neutral, position on this 
question ; and, accordingly, he avows that 
the Union was made by white men andy^r 
white men and their descendants. As mat- 
ter of fact, the first branch of the proposi- 
tion is historically true ; the government 
was made by white men, and they were 
and are the superior race. This I admit. 
But the corner-stone of the government, 
so to speak, was the declaration that "tf// 
men are created equal," and all entitled to 
"life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." 

And not only so, but the framers of 
the Constitution were particular to keep 
out of that instrument the word "slave," 
the reason being that slavery would ulti- 
mately come to an end, and they did not 
wish to have any reminder that in this 
free country human beings were ever pros- 
tituted to slavery. [Applause.] Nor is it 
any argument that we are superior and 
the negro inferior — that he has but one 
talent while we have ten. Let the negro 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

possess the little he has in independence ; 
if he has but one talent, he should be 
permitted to keep the little he has. 
[Applause.] But slavery will endure no 
test of reason or logic ; and yet its advo- 
cates, like Douglas, use a sort of bastard 
logic, or noisy assumption, it might better 
be termed, like the above, in order to pre- 
pare the mind for the gradual, but none 
the less certain, encroachments of the 
Moloch of slavery upon the fair domain 
of freedom. But however much you may 
argue upon it, or smother it in soft phrases, 
slavery can only be maintained by force — 
by violence. The repeal of the Missouri 
Compromise was by violence. It was a 
violation of both law and the sacred obli- 
gations of honor, to overthrow and trample 
underfoot a solemn compromise, obtained 
by the fearful loss to freedom of one of 
the fairest of our Western domains. Con- 
gress violated the will and confidence of 
its constituents in voting for the bill; and 
while public sentiment, as shown by the 


Liincolri s Lost Speech 

elections of 1854, demanded the restora- 
tion of this compromise, Congress violated 
its trust by refusing, simply because it had 
the force of numbers to hold on to it. 
And murderous violence is being used 
now, in order to force slavery on to Kan- 
sas; for it cannot be done in any other 
way. [Sensation.] 

The necessary result was to establish 
the rule of violence — force, instead of the 
rule of law and reason ; to perpetuate and 
spread slavery, and, in time, to make it 
general. We see it at both ends of the 
line. In Washington, on the very spot 
where the outrage was started, the fearless 
Sumner is beaten to insensibility, and is 
now slowly dying ; while senators who 
claim to be gentlemen and Christians 
stood by, countenancing the act, and even 
applauding it afterward in their places in 
the Senate. Even Douglas, our man, saw 
it all and was within helping distance, yet 
let the murderous blows fall unopposed. 
Then, at the other end of the line, at the 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

very time Sumner was being murdered, 
Lawrence was being destroyed for the 
crime of Freedom. It was the most prom- 
inent stronghold of Hberty in Kansas, 
and must give way to the all-dominating 
power of slavery. Only two days ago, 
Judge Trumbull found it necessary to 
propose a bill in the Senate to prevent a 
general civil war and to restore peace in 

We live in the midst of alarms ; anxiety 
beclouds the future ; we expect some new 
disaster with each newspaper we read. 
Are we in a healthful political state } Are 
not the tendencies plain ? Do not the 
signs of the times point plainly the way 
in which we are going ? [Sensation.] 

In the early days of the Constitution 
slavery was recognized, by South and 
North alike, as an evil, and the division 
of sentiment about it was not controlled 
by geographical lines or considerations of 
climate, but by moral and philanthropic 
views. Petitions for the abolition of slav- 

Lincoln s Lost Speech 

ery were presented to the very first Con- 
gress by Virginia and Massachusetts ahke. 
To show the harmony which prevailed, I 
will state that a fugitive slave law was 
passed in 1793, with no dissenting voice 
in the Senate, and but seven dissenting 
votes in the House. It was, however, a 
wise law, moderate, and, under the Con- 
titution, a just one. Twenty-five years 
later, a more stringent law was proposed 
and defisated; and thirty-five years after 
that, the present law, drafted by Mason of 
Virginia, was passed by Northern votes. 
I am not, just now, complaining of this 
law, but I am trying to show how the 
current sets ; for the proposed law of 
1 8 17 was far less offensive than the pres- 
ent one. In 1774 the Continental Con- 
gress pledged itself, without a dissenting 
vote, to wholly discontinue the slave trade, 
and to neither purchase nor import any 
slave ; and less than three months before 
the passage of the Declaration of Indepen- 
dence, the same Congress which adopted 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

that Declaration unanimously resolved 
" that no slave be imported into any of the 
thirteen United Colonic s'' [Great applause.] 
On the second day of July, 1776, the 
draft of a Declaration of Independence 
was reported to Congress by the commit- 
tee, and in it the slave trade was charac- 
terized as "an execrable commerce," as 
"a piratical warfare," as the "opprobrium 
of infidel powers," and as "a cruel war 
against human nature." [Applause.] All 
agreed on this except South Carolina and 
Georgia, and in order to preserve har- 
mony, and from the necessity of the case, 
these expressions were omitted. Indeed, 
abolition societies existed as far south as 
Virginia; and it is a well-known fact 
that Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lee, 
Henry, Mason, and Pendleton were quali- 
fied abolitionists, and much more radical 
on that subject than we of the Whig and 
Democratic parties claim to be to-day. 
On March i, 1784, Virginia ceded to the 
confederation all its lands lying northwest 

4 25 

Lincoln s Lost Speech 

of the Ohio River. Jefferson, Chase of 
Maryland, and Howell of Rhode Island, as 
a committee on that and territory there- 
after to be ceded, reported that no slavery 
should exist after the year 1800. Had 
this report been adopted, not only the 
Northwest, but Kentucky, Tennessee, Ala- 
bama, and Mississippi also would have 
been free; but it required the assent of 
nine States to ratify it. North Carolina 
was divided, and thus its vote was lost; 
and Delaware, Georgia, and New Jersey 
refused to vote. In point of fact, as it 
was, it was assented to by six States. 
Three years later, on a square vote to ex- 
clude slavery from the Northwest, only 
one vote, and that from New York, was 
against it. And yet, thirty-seven years 
later, five thousand citizens of Illinois out 
of a voting mass of less than twelve thou- 
sand, deliberately, after a long and heated 
contest, voted to introduce slavery in Illi- 
nois; and, to-day, a large party in the 
free State of Illinois are willing to vote to 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

fasten the shackles of slavery on the fair 
domain of Kansas, notwithstanding it re- 
ceived the dowry of freedom long before 
its birth as a political community. I re- 
peat, therefore, the question : Is it not 
plain in what direction we are tending? 
[Sensation.] In the colonial time. Mason, 
Pendleton, and Jefferson were as hostile 
to slavery in Virginia as Otis, Ames, and 
the Adamses were in Massachusetts; and 
Virginia made as earnest an effort to get 
rid of it as old Massachusetts did. But 
circumstances were against them, and they 
failed; but not that the good will of its 
leading men was lacking. Yet within less 
than fifty years Virginia changed its tune, 
and made negro-breeding for the cotton 
and sugar States one of its leading indus- 
tries. [Laughter and applause.] 

In the Constitutional Convention, 
George Mason of Virginia made a more 
violent abolition speech than my friends 
Lovejoy or Codding would desire to make 
here to-day — a speech which could not 


Lincolris Lost Speech 

be safely repeated anywhere on Southern 
soil in this enlightened year. But while 
there were some differences of opinion on 
this subject even then, discussion was al- 
lowed; but as you see by the Kansas slave 
code, which, as you know, is the Mis- 
souri slave code merely ferried across the 
river, it is a felony to even express an 
opinion hostile to that foul blot in the 
land of Washington and the Declaration 
of Independence. [Sensation.] 

In Kentucky — my State — in 1849, ^^ 
a test vote, the mighty influence of Henry 
Clay and many other good men there 
could not get a symptom of expression in 
favor of gradual emancipation on a plain 
issue of marching toward the light of 
civilization with Ohio and Illinois ; but 
the State of Boone and Hardin and Henry 
Clay, with a nigger under each arm, took 
the black trail toward the deadly swamps 
of barbarism. Is there — can there be — 
any doubt about this thing? And is there 
any doubt that we must all lay aside our 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

prejudices and march, shoulder to shoul- 
der, in the great army of Freedom ? [Ap- 

Every Fourth of July our young orators 
all proclaim this to be "the land of the 
free and the home of the brave ! " Well, 
now, when you orators get that off next 
year, and maybe this very year, how 
would you like some old grizzled farmer 
to get up in the grove and deny it? 
[Laughter.] How would you like that ? 
But suppose Kansas comes in as a slave 
State, and all the " border ruffians " have 
barbecues about it, and free-State men 
come trailing back to the dishonored 
North, like whipped dogs with their tails 
between their legs, it is — ain't it? — evi- 
dent that this is no more the " land of the 
free " ; and if we let it go so, we won't 
dare to say " home of the brave " out 
loud. [Sensation and confusion.] 

Can any man doubt that, even in spite 
of the people's will, slavery will triumph 
through violence, unless that will be made 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

manifest and enforced? Even Governor 
Reeder claimed at the outset that the con- 
test in Kansas was to be fair, but he got 
his eyes open at last; and I believe that, 
as a result of this moral and physical vio- 
lence, Kansas will soon apply for admis- 
sion as a slave State. And yet we can't 
mistake that the people don't want it so, 
and that it is a land which is free both by 
natural and political law. No law^ is free 
law I Such is the understanding of all 
Christendom. In the Somerset case, de- 
cided nearly a century ago, the great Lord 
Mansfield held that slavery was of such a 
nature that it must take its rise in posi- 
tive (as distinguished from natural) law; 
and that in no country or age could it be 
traced back to any other source. Will 
some one please tell me where is the posi- 
tive law that establishes slavery in Kan- 
sas .? [A voice: "The bogus laws."] Aye, 
the bogus laws ! And, on the same prin- 
ciple, a gang of Missouri horse-thieves 
could come into Illinois and declare horse- 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

stealing to be legal [laughter], and it 
would be just as legal as slavery is in Kan- 
sas. But by express statute, in the land 
of Washington and Jefferson, we may 
soon be brought face to face with the dis- 
creditable fact of showing to the world by 
our acts that we prefer slavery to freedom 

— darkness to light! [Sensation.] 

It is, I believe, a principle in law that 
when one party to a contract violates it so 
grossly as to chiefly destroy the object for 
which it is made, the other party may re- 
scind it. I will ask Browning if that ain't 
good law. [Voices: "Yes!"] Well, now 
if that be right, I go for rescinding the 
whole, entire Missouri Compromise and 
thus turning Missouri into a free State; 
and I should like to know the difference 

— should like for any one to point out the 
difference — between our making a free 
State of Missouri and their making a slave 
State of Kansas. [Great applause.] There 
ain't one bit of diflference, except that our 
way would be a great mercy to humanity. 


Lincoln's Lost Speech 

But I have never said — and the Whig 
party has never said — and those who op- 
pose the Nebraska bill do not as a body 
say, that they have any intention of inter- 
fering with slavery in the slave States. 
Our platform says just the contrary. We 
allow slavery to exist in the slave States, — 
not because slavery is right or good, but 
from the necessities of our Union. We 
grant a fugitive slave law because it is so 
"nominated in the bond"; because our 
fathers so stipulated — had to — and we 
are bound to carry out this agreement. 
But they did not agree to introduce slav- 
ery in regions where it did not previously 
exist. On the contrary, they said by their 
example and teachings that they did not 
deem it expedient — did not consider it 
right — to do so; and it is wise and right 
to do just as they did about it [Voices: 
"Good!"], and that is what we propose 
— not to interfere with slavery where it 
exists (we have never tried to do it), and 
to give them a reasonable and efficient 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

fugitive slave law. [A voice: "No!"] I 
say YES! [Applause.] It was part of the 
bargain, and I 'm for living up to it; but 
I go no further; I 'm not bound to do 
more, and I won't agree any further. 
[Great applause.] 

We, here in Illinois, should feel espe- 
cially proud of the provision of the Mis- 
souri Compromise excluding slavery from 
what is now Kansas; for an Illinois man, 
Jesse B. Thomas, was its father. Henry 
Clay, who is credited with the authorship 
of the Compromise in general terms, did 
not even vote for that provision, but only 
advocated the ultimate admission by a sec- 
ond compromise; and Thomas was, be- 
yond all controversy, the real author of 
the "slavery restriction" branch of the 
Compromise. To show the generosity of 
the Northern members toward the South- 
ern side: on a test vote to exclude slavery 
from Missouri, ninety voted not to ex- 
clude, and eighty-seven to exclude, every 
vote from the slave States being ranged 

5 33 

Lincoln s Lost Speech 

with the former and fourteen votes from 
the free States, of whom seven were from 
New England alone; while on a vote to 
exclude slavery from what is now Kansas, 
the vote was one hundred and thirty-four 
/or, to forty-two against. The scheme, 
as a whole, was, of course, a Southern 
triumph. It is idle to contend otherwise, 
as is now being done by the Nebraskaites ; 
it was so shown by the votes and quite as 
emphatically by the expressions of repre- 
sentative men. Mr. Lowndes of South 
Carolina was never known to commit a 
political mistake; his was the great judg- 
ment of that section ; and he declared 
that this measure " would restore tranquil- 
lity to the country — a result demanded by 
every consideration of discretion, of mod- 
eration, of wisdom, and of virtue." When 
the measure came before President Mon- 
roe for his approval, he put to each mem- 
ber of his cabinet this question : ** Has 
Congress the constitutional power to pro- 
hibit slavery in a Territory?" And John 


Lincoln s Lost speech 

C. Calhoun and William H. Crawford 
from the South, equally with John Quincy 
Adams, Benjamin Rush, and Smith Thomp- 
son from the North, alike answered, " Tes ! " 
without qualification or equivocation ; and 
this measure, of so great consequence to 
the South, was passed ; and Missouri was, 
by means of it, finally enabled to knock 
at the door of the Republic for an open 
passage to its brood of slaves. And, in 
spite of this. Freedom's share is about to 
be taken by violence — by the force of 
misrepresentative votes, not called for by 
the popular will. What name can I, in 
common decency, give to this wicked 
transaction? [Sensation.] 

But even then the contest was not over ; 
for when the Missouri constitution came 
before Congress for its approval, it forbade 
any free negro or mulatto from entering 
the State. In short, our Illinois " black 
laws " were hidden away in their constitu- 
tion [Laughter], and the controversy was 
thus revived. Then it was that Mr. Clay's 

Lincoln s Lost Speech 

talents shone out conspicuously, and the 
controversy that shook the Union to its 
foundation was finally settled to the satis- 
faction of the conservative parties on both 
sides of the line, though not to the ex- 
tremists on either, and Missouri was ad- 
mitted by the small majority of six in the 
lower House. How great a majority, do 
you think, would have been given had 
Kansas also been secured for slavery ? [A 
voice: "A majority the other way. "J *'A 
majority the other way," is answered. Do 
you think it would have been safe for a 
Northern man to have confronted his con- 
stituents after having voted to consign both 
Missouri and Kansas to hopeless slavery ? 
And yet this man Douglas, who misrep- 
resents his constituents and who has ex- 
erted his highest talents in that direction, 
will be carried in triumph through the 
State and hailed with honor while ap- 
plauding that act. [Three groans tor 
*'Z)z/^/"] And this shows whither we 
are tending. This thing of slavery is 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

more powerful than its supporters — even 
than the high priests that minister at its 
altar. It debauches even our greatest men. 
It gathers strength, like a rolling snow- 
ball, by its own infamy. Monstrous crimes 
are committed in its name-by persons col- 
lectively which they would not dare to 
commit as individuals. Its aggressions 
and encroachments almost surpass belief. 
In a despotism, one might not wonder to 
see slavery advance steadily and remorse- 
lessly into new dominions; but is it not 
wonderful, is it not even alarming, to see 
its steady advance in a land dedicated to 
the proposition that **all men are created 
equal"? [Sensation. I 

It yields nothing itself; it keeps all it 
has, and gets all it can besides. It really 
came dangerously near securing Illinois in 
1824; it did get Missouri in 1821. The 
first proposition was to admit what is now 
Arkansas and Missouri as one slave State. 
But the territory was divided, and Arkan- 
sas came in, without serious question, as a 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

slave State ; and afterwards Missouri, not 
as a sort of equality, yr^^, but also as a slave 
State. Then we had Florida and Texas ; 
and now Kansas is about to be forced into 
the dismal procession. [Sensation.] And 
so it is wherever you look. We have not 
forgotten — it is but six years since — how 
dangerously near California came to being 
a slave State. Texas is a slave State, and 
four other slave States may be carved from 
its vast domain. And yet, in the year 
1829, slavery was abolished throughout 
that vast region by a royal decree of the 
then sovereign of Mexico. Will you please 
tell me by what right slavery exists in 
Texas to-day ? By the same right as, and 
no higher or greater than, slavery is seeking 
dominion in Kansas : by political force — 
peaceful, if that will suffice ; by the torch 
(as in Kansas) and the bludgeon (as in 
the Senate chamber), if required. And 
so history repeats itself; and even as slav- 
ery has kept its course by craft, intimida- 
tion, and violence in the past, so it will 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

persist, in my judgment, until met and 
dominated by the will of a people bent on 
its restriction. 

We have, this very afternoon, heard bit- 
ter denunciations of Brooks in Washing- 
ton, and Titus, Stringfellow, Atchison, 
Jones, and Shannon in Kansas — the bat- 
tle-ground of slavery. I certainly am not 
going to advocate or shield them ; but they 
and their acts are but the necessary out- 
come of the Nebraska law. We should 
reserve our highest censure for the authors 
of the mischief, and not for the catspaws 
which they use. I believe it was Shake- 
speare who said, " Where the offence lies, 
there let the axe fall " ; and, in my opinion, 
this man Douglas and the Northern men 
in Congress who advocate "Nebraska" 
are more guilty than a thousand Joneses 
and Stringfellows, with all their murder- 
ous practices, can be. [Applause.] 

We have made a good beginning here 
to-day. As our Methodist friends would 
say, " I feel it is good to be here." While 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

extremists may find some fault with the 
moderation of our platform, they should 
recollect that "the battle is not always to 
the strong, nor the race to the swift." In 
grave emergencies, moderation is generally 
safer than radicalism ; and as this strug- 
gle is likely to be long and earnest, we 
must not, by our action, repel any who are 
in sympathy with us in the main, but rather 
win all that we can to our standard. We 
must not belittle nor overlook the facts of 
our condition — that we are new and com- 
paratively weak, while our enemies are 
entrenched and relatively strong. They 
have the administration and the political 
power ; and, right or wrong, at present 
they have the numbers. Our friends who 
urge an appeal to arms with so much force 
and eloquence, should recollect that the 
government is arrayed against us, and that 
the numbers are now arrayed against us as 
well ; or, to state it nearer to the truth, 
they are not yet expressly and affirmatively 
for us ; and we should repel friends rather 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

than gain them by anything savoring of 
revolutionary methods. As it novi^ stands, 
we must appeal to the sober sense and 
patriotism of the people. We will make 
converts day by day ; we will grow strong 
by calmness and moderation; we will 
grow strong by the violence and injustice 
of our adversaries. And, unless truth be 
a mockery and justice a hollow lie, we 
will be in the majority after a while, and 
then the revolution which we will ac- 
complish will be none the less radical 
from being the result of pacific measures. 
The battle of freedom is to be fought out 
on principle. Slavery is a violation of the 
eternal right. We have temporized with 
it from the necessities of our condition ; 
but as sure as God reigns and school chil- 
dren read that black foul lie can 

LOWED TRUTH ! [Immense applause last- 
ing some time.] One of our greatest 
difficulties is, that men who know that 
slavery is a detestable crime and ruinous to 
6 41 

Lincoln s Lost Speech 

the nation, are compelled, by our peculiar 
condition and other circumstances, to ad- 
vocate it concretely, though damning it 
in the raw. Henry Clay was a brilliant 
example of this tendency; others of our 
purest statesmen are compelled to do so ; 
and thus slavery secures actual support 
from those who detest it at heart. Yet 
Henry Clay perfected and forced through 
the Compromise which secured to slavery 
a great State as well as a political advan- 
tage; not that he hated slavery less, but 
that he loved the whole Union more. As 
long as slavery profited by his great Com- 
promise, the hosts of pro-slavery could not 
sufficiently cover him with praise ; but 
now that this Compromise stands in their 
way — 

. . . they never mention him. 

His name is never heard : 
Their lips are now forbid to speak 

That once familiar word. 

They have slaughtered one of his most 
cherished measures, and his ghost would 
arise to rebuke them. [Great applause.] 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

Two years ago, at Springfield, Judge 
Douglas avowed that Illinois came into 
the Union as a slave State, and that slav- 
ery was weeded out by the operation of 
his great, patent, everlasting principle of 
"popular sovereignty." [Laughter.] Well, 
now, that argument must be answered, for 
it has a little grain of truth at the bottom. 
I do not mean that it is true in essence, 
as he would have us believe. It could 
not be essentially true if the ordinance of 
'87 was valid. But, in point of fact, there 
were some degraded beings called slaves 
in Kaskaskia and the other French settle- 
ments when our first State constitution 
was adopted; that is a fact, and I don't 
deny it. Slaves were brought here as 
early as 1720, and were kept here in spite 
of the ordinance of 1787 against it. But 
slavery did not thrive here. On the con- 
trary, under the influence of the ordinance, 
the number decreased fifty-one from i 8 1 o 
to 1820; while under the influence of 
squatter sovereignty, right across the river 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

in Missouri, they increased seven thousand 
two hundred and eleven in the same time ; 
and slavery finally faded out in Illinois, 
under the influence of the law of freedom, 
while it grew stronger and stronger in 
Missouri, under the law or practice of 
"popular sovereignty." In point of fact, 
there were but one hundred and seventeen 
slaves in Illinois one year after its admis- 
sion, or one to every four hundred and 
seventy of its population ; ^ or, to state it in 
another way, if Illinois was a slave State 
in 1820, so were New York and New 
Jersey much greater slave States from 
having had greater numbers, slavery hav- 
ing been established there in very early 
times. But there is this vital difference 
between all these States and the judge's 
Kansas experiment: that they sought to 
disestablish slavery which had been already 
established, while the judge seeks, so far 

1 It is singular that Mr. Lincoln, usually so accurate, 
should have been entirely mistaken in his statistics at this 
point.— H. C. W. 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

as he can, to disestablish freedom, which 
had been established there by the Missouri 
Compromise. [Voices: "Good!"] 

Now, let us harmonize, my friends, and 
appeal to the moderation and patriotism 
of the people; to the sober second thought; 
to the awakened public conscience. The 
repeal of the sacred Missouri Compromise 
has installed the weapons of violence : the 
bludgeon, the incendiary torch, the death- 
dealing rifle, the bristling cannon — the 
weapons of kingcraft, of the Inquisition, 
of ignorance, of barbarism, of oppression. 
We see its fruits in the dying bed of the 
heroic Sumner; in the ruins of the "Free 
State" hotel; in the smoking embers of 
the " Herald of Freedom " ; in the free- 
State Governor of Kansas chained to a 
stake on freedom's soil like a horse-thief, 
for the crime of freedom. [Applause.] 
We see it in Christian statesmen, and 
Christian newspapers, and Christian pul- 
pits applauding the cowardly act of a low 



Lincolris Lost Speech 


BLOW. [Sensation and applause.] We 
note our political demoralization in the 
catch-words that are coming into such 
common use; on the one hand, "free- 
dom-shriekers," and sometimes " freedom- 
screechers " [Laughter] ; and, on the 
other hand, " border ruffians," and that 
fully deserved. And the significance of 
catch-words cannot pass unheeded, for 
they constitute a sign of the times. Every- 
thing in this world "jibes " in with every- 
thing else, and all the fruits of this Ne- 
braska bill are like the poisoned source 
from which they come. I will not say 
that we may not sooner or later be com- 
pelled to meet force by force; but the 
time has not yet come, and if we are true 
to ourselves, may never come. Do not 
mistake that the ballot is stronger than 
the bullet. Therefore let the legions of 
slavery use bullets ; but let us wait patiently 
till November, and fire ballots at them 
in return; and by that peaceful policy 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

I believe we shall ultimately win. [Ap- 

It was by that policy that here in Illi- 
nois the early fathers fought the good fight, 
and gained the victory. In 1824 the free 
men of our State, led by Governor Coles 
(who was President Madison's private sec- 
retary), determined that those beautiful 
groves should never reecho the dirge of 
one who has no title to himself. By their 
resolute determination, the winds that 
sweep across our broad prairies shall never 
cool the parched brow, nor shall the un- 
fettered streams that bring joy and glad- 
ness to our free soil water the tired feet, 
of a slave ; but so long as those heavenly 
breezes and sparkling streams bless the 
land, or the groves and their fragrance or 
their memory remain, the humanity to 
which they minister shall be forever 
FREE ! [Great applause.] Palmer, Yates, 
Williams, Browning, and some more in 
this convention came from Kentucky to 
Illinois (instead of going to Missouri), not 


Lincoin's Lost Speech 

only to better their conditions, but also to 
get away from slavery. They have said so 
to me, and it is understood among us Ken- 
tuckians that we don't like it one bit. 
Now, can we, mindful of the blessings of 
liberty which the early men of Illinois left 
to us, refuse a like privilege to the free 
men who seek to plant Freedom's banner 
on our Western outposts ? ["No! No!"] 
Should we not stand by our neighbors who 
seek to better their conditions in Kansas 
and Nebraska? ["Yes! Yes!"] Can we 
as Christian men, and strong and free our- 
selves, wield the sledge or hold the iron 
which is to manacle anew an already op- 
pressed race? ["No! No!"] "Woe 
unto them," it is written, "that decree 
unrighteous decrees and that write griev- 
ousness which they have prescribed." Can 
we afford to sin any more deeply against 
human liberty? ["No! No!"] 

One great trouble in the matter is, that 
slavery is an insidious and crafty power, 
and gains equally by open violence of the 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

brutal as well as by sly management of the 
peaceful. Even after the ordinance of 
1787, the settlers in Indiana and Illinois 
(it was all one government then) tried to 
get Congress to allow slavery temporarily, 
and petitions to that end were sent from 
Kaskaskia, and General Harrison, the 
Governor, urged it from Vincennes, the 
capital. If that had succeeded, good-by to 
liberty here. But John Randolph of Vir- 
ginia made a vigorous report against it ; 
and although they persevered so well as to 
get three favorable reports for it, yet the 
United States Senate, with the aid of some 
slave States, finally squelched it for good. 
[Applause.] And that is why this hall is 
to-day a temple for free men instead of a 
negro livery-stable. [Great applause and 
laughter.] Once let slavery get planted 
in a locality, by ever so weak or doubtful 
a title, and in ever so small numbers, and 
it is like the Canada thistle or Bermuda 
grass — you can't root it out. You yourself 
may detest slavery ; but your neighbor has 

7 49 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

five or six slaves, and he is an excellent 
neighbor, or your son has married his 
daughter, and they beg you to help save 
their property, and you vote against your 
interest and principles to accommodate a 
neighbor, hoping that your vote will be on 
the losing side. And others do the same; 
and in those ways slavery gets a sure foot- 
hold. And when that is done the whole 
mighty Union — the force of the Nation 
is committed to its support. And that 
very process is working in Kansas to-day. 
And you must recollect that the slave 
property is worth a billion of dollars; 
while free-State men must work for sen- 
timent alone. Then there are **blue 
lodges" — as they call them — every- 
where doing their secret and deadly work. 
It is a very strange thing, and not solv- 
able by any moral law that I know of, 
that if a man loses his horse, the whole 
country will turn out to help hang the 
thief; but if a man but a shade or two 
darker than I am is himself stolen, the 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

same crowd will hang one who aids in re- 
storing him to liberty. Such are the in- 
consistencies of slavery, where a horse is 
more sacred than a man; and the essence 
oi squatter or popular sovereignty — I don't 
care how you call it — is that if one man 
chooses to make a slave of another, no 
third man shall be allowed to object. And 
if you can do this in free Kansas, and it 
is allowed to stand, the next thing you 
will see is ship-loads of negroes from 
Africa at the wharf at Charleston; for one 
thing is as truly lawful as the other; and 
these are the bastard notions we have got 
to stamp out, else they will stamp us out. 
[Sensation and applause.] 

The Union is undergoing a fearful strain ; 
but it is a stout old ship, and has weathered 
many a hard blow, and "the stars in their 
courses," aye, an invisible power, greater 
than the puny efforts of men, will fight for 
us. But we ourselves must not decline the 
burden of responsibility, nor take counsel 
of unworthy passions. Whatever duty urges 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

us to do or to omit, must be done or 
omitted; and the recklessness with which 
our adversaries break the laws, or counsel 
their violation, should afford no example 
for us. Therefore, let us revere the Dec- 
laration of Independence; let us continue 
to obey the Constitution and the laws; let 
us keep step to the music of the Union. 
Let us draw a cordon, so to speak, around 
the slave States, and the hateful institution, 
like a reptile poisoning itself, will perish 
by its own infamy. [Applause.] 

But we cannot be free men if this is, by 
our national choice, to be a land of slav- 
ery. Those who deny freedom to others 
deserve it not for themselves; and, under 
the rule of a just God, cannot long retain 
it. [Loud applause.] 

Did you ever, my friends, seriously re- 
flect upon the speed with which we are 
tending downwards? Within the memory 
of men now present the leading statesmen 
of Virginia could make genuine, red-hot 
abolitionist speeches in old Virginia; and, 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

as I have said, now even in "free Kansas" 
it is a crime to declare that it is "free 
Kansas." The very sentiments that I and 
others have just uttered would entitle us, 
and each of us, to the ignominy and se- 
clusion of a dungeon; and yet I suppose 
that, like Paul, we were " free born." 
But if this thing is allowed to continue, 
it will be but one step further to impress 
the same rule in Illinois. [Sensation.] 

The conclusion of all is, that we must 
restore the Missouri Compromise. We 
must highly resolve that Kansas must be 
free I [Great applause.] We must rein- 
state the birthday promise of the Repub- 
lic; we must reaffirm the Declaration of 
Independence ; we must make good in es- 
sence as well as in form Madison's avowal 
that "the word slave ought not to appear 
in the Constitution"; and we must even 
go further, and decree that only local law, 
and not that time-honored instrument, 
shall shelter a slave-holder. We must 
make this a land of liberty in fact, as it is 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

in name. But in seeking to attain these 
results — so indispensable if the liberty 
which is our pride and boast shall endure 
— we will be loyal to the Constitution 
and to the "flag of our Union," and no 
matter what our grievance — even though 
Kansas shall come in as a slave State; and 
no matter what theirs — even if we shall 
restore the Compromise — we will say 
TO THE Southern disunionists, We 
won't go out of the Union, and you 
SHA'N'T!!! [This was the cHmax; the 
audience rose to its feet en masse^ ap- 
plauded, stamped, waved handkerchiefs, 
threw hats in the air, and ran riot for sev- 
eral minutes. The arch-enchanter who 
wrought this transformation looked, mean- 
while, like the personification of political 

But let us, meanwhile, appeal to the 
sense and patriotism of the people, and 
not to their prejudices; let us spread the 
floods of enthusiasm here aroused all over 
these vast prairies, so suggestive of free- 


Lincoln s Lost Speech 

dom. Let us commence by electing the 
gallant soldier [Colonel Bissell] governor, 
who stood for the honor of our State alike 
on the plains and amidst the chaparral of 
Mexico and on the floor of Congress, 
while he defied the Southern Hotspur; 
and that will have a greater moral effect 
than all the border ruffians can accomplish 
in all their raids on Kansas. There is 
both a power and a magic in popular 
opinion. To that let us now appeal ; and 
while, in all probability, no resort to force 
will be needed, our moderation and for- 
bearance will stand us in good stead when, 
if ever, we must make an appeal to 


[Immense applause and a rush for the