Page images

what the constitution says we may do, and insomuch as there must necessarily be differences of opinion among men, the constitution requires every man to vote, not for the person somebody else has selected, but the man he himself prefers to have elected. Well, they say that they must nevertheless take offense, and we ask them why, if this is right? “Why, yes, so far you are all right,” say they. “Why, then, will you dissolve ?” They reply: “We will dissolve because that Mr. Lincoln and a republican congress will commit aggressions upon us after they are elected.” " Very well,” we say, “but is it not prudent—is it not reasonableto wait for them to be elected first, and then to commit the aggres. sions, or attempt to commit them ?” They answer, “No; we can. not afford to wait for the overt act, because that overt act may never be committed, and if it shall be committed we shall have become so much demoralized that we cannot resist after that." Well, I will not argue the latter point, for I do believe better of them than they proclaim of themselves. I know their humanity, their spirit, their courage and their chivalry, and I know enough of human nature to know also, that he that waits until an overt act is committed before he strikes back, will be able to recover his rights a thousand times sooner than he who strikes before any overt act is committed.

But why shall we expect that the president, Mr. Lincoln, and his cabinet, and the congress, will commit aggressions against the slave states? They cannot do it constitutionally, and what they cannot constitutionally do cannot be done. Besides, who are these men who are destined to commit these unconstitutional aggressions ? They are citizens of the United States, chosen by their fellow citizens, as, if not altogether the best, yet from the best of every part of these United States. Are they less likely to be honest, and just, and wise, and prudent statesmen than the men selected from the same constituency who have heretofore been chosen to fill the same places? Aye, they tell us this republican party is driven on by enthusiasts, and madmen, and fanatics, and these will control instead of being restrained by their associates. This republican party that next Tuesday is to elect Abraham Lincoln president of the United States, what will it be but a majority of the American people? If it is less than that it cannot elect anybody, and if it elects any body it will be precisely the same American people that has tolerated the government in the abuse of constitutional powers, out of tenderness to the south and to the slave states, for a period of fifty years. It will be as forbearing still as it can be, and maintain the principles of freedom, and to maintain those principles as I have already shown yon, involves no action of the government in any unconstitutional mode.

The election of a chief magistrate of a great republic of thirty millions brings every party and every interest to use the best arguments to sustain its cause that it has. We give them the arguments which have been submitted to you so often here, and which I have attempted to renew to-night. They give us in return—what?. Denunciation and threat. Well, these are not a very effective, they are not a very logical form of argument, but they are not to be blamed who use them for that--they are all the arguments they have. And what is it our duty to do? To threaten back again? To fulminate menace for menace and denunciation for denunciation ? No; but to listen and hear with patience, with kindness, with fraternal feeling and sympathy. For we do expect them to hear our arguments, and our arguments are much harder to bear than theirs. I do not think these threats before election are evidences of revolu. tion or disunion after the election, for the simple reason that I have always found that the man who does intend to strike a fatal blow does not give notice so long beforehand. And for ten, aye, twenty years, these threats have been renewed, in the same language and in the same form, about the first day of November every four years, when it happened to come before the day of the presidential election.

I do not doubt but that these southern statesinen and politicians think they are going to dissolve the Union, but I think they are going to do no such thing; and I will tell you in a very few words why. He who in this country thinks that this government and this constitution can be torn down, and that this Union of states can be dissolved, has no faith—first, in the constitution; he has no faith in the Union, no faith in the people of the states, no faith in the people of the Union, no faith in their loyalty, no faith in reason, no faith in justice, no faith in truth, no faith in virtue. I am not unwilling to see the members of that class of the American people brought up, so that we may see them altogether. For my part, I, on the contrary, have faith in the constitution, faith in the Union, faith in the people of the states, faith in the people of the Union, faith in freedomn, faith in justice, faith in virtue, and faith in humanity. The

constitution and the Union have stood eighty years only upon the foundation of such a faith existing among the American people. It will stand and survive this presidential election, and forty presidential elections after; aye, I trust a hundred and a thousand, because the people, since the government was established, have grown wiser, more just, bumane and virtuous than they were when it was established


It has been said that Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana and Florida and South Carolina will go out, and then the Union will be dissolved. They say, "you will not try to take us back; you will not dare to imbrue your hands in brothers' blood to reëstablish by force of conquest a Union which we have repudiated and dissolved.” They are right. We do not propose to do any such thing. If it were possible I should like to see the experiment of old Massachusetts going out and endeavoring to carry Plymouth rock with her, or I would like to see New York go out and carry the harbor and Catskill mountains with her. What do you think the rest of the states would say? I think they would fold their arms and see whether they behaved themselves, and they would let them stay out just as long as they behaved themselves. Well, what would they do if they got out and did not behave themselves? If New York should levy taxes and imposts, and instead of paying them into the national exchequer should keep them on her own account, that would not be behaving well. Those who think that for nothing or for any imaginary cause, the Union is to be dissolved or destroyed, have no idea of the nature of the government under which they live, or of the character of the people. Go on, then, and do duty. The lesson of public life is one that is easy to be learned. It resolves itself simply into this-to ascertain, as you always can, what, in the day in which you live, is the great work for the welfare of mankind; do that work fearlessly, in the love of your fellow men and in the fear of God, and the Union will survive you and me and your posterity for a thousand years,

Extract from a speech at La Crosse, Wis., Sept. 14, 1860.




The question, looking through this election to-morrow, and for ward through many elections, presses home upon us,—whatever may be the result, auspicious as I am almost sure it will be, shall freedom, justice and humanity ultimately and in the end prevail; are these republican institutions of ours safe and permanent? I have sought and entered the hall of prophecy. I may not tell you just where it stands, but this much I can say, that its entrance is through native forest shades, from the water's edge of a deep and flowing river. I entered it

, not irreverently, not unconscious of the presumption of attempting to explore the will of the God whose rule, however men may deny or profess, is higher law. The two gigantic figures, Time and Destiny, which guarded the approach to the altar, seemed to relax their grim features as I passed, and the one dropped his scythe, and the other balanced for a moment the hour glass which he held in his hand. I learned from the oracle that the powers above favor the perpetuation of these institutions, and that they are never to fall by the hand of any foreign enemy; that they are to be saved or to be lost by the action of the American people; that a great danger, a danger that has been long gathering, is at this very moment being passed, and that this danger once passed, there is assurance of long life, aye, of immortality to the institutions of American freedom. I asked for a sign, but the oracle replied to me, "why do this generation look for a sign? I say unto you that no sign shall be given to this generation, but a rule shall be given to them adequate to every emergency, and that rule is, let the American people rule their own spirit.”

This people are buman, and because they are human, they have accidental and temporary interests and passions and prejudices to mislead them; but also, because they are human, they have reason to conduct them through all temptations and all perils, in the way of wisdom. A mysterious Providence has permitted, does always permit, error to exist everywhere, cotemporaneously with truthi, wrong with right, freedom with slavery; and between these different powers there is always an irrepressible conflict. That conflict is the trial of human virtue; a triumph of the good over the bad constitutes the perfection of human nature. Slavery was probably essential to the success of the institutions of republicanism. That continually provoking conflict, as continually stimulated virtue, and the love of freedom. The fathers, rejecting the sinister counsels of interest and suppressing passions and prejudice, surveyed the continent when they established our government, and they adopted the policy which alone was possible. They could not extirpate slavery at a blow. Probably it had been unwise if they had attempted it; but they had adopted a policy marked equally by sagacity and by benevolence, which is told in a very few words. Its effect was to be the abridgment of the power and duration of slavery by practicable, peaceful means, and the invigoration and ultimate establishment of universal freedom. How this was to be done, requires as few words to tell. The African slave trade, which was then exercised in bringing slaves to do the cultivation of the whole continent—and if it had continued, would have covered the land with savage Africans stolen from their native land was to be abolished after twenty years, during which time the American people miglit, as they could, procure supplies of free labor from oppressed and groaning Europe, to supply its place. The states were encouraged and stimulatedato provide, by acts of gradual emancipation, for the removal of slavery altogether. The whole of the public domain, then unoccupied, lying northwest of the Ohio river, was set apart exclusively for freedom, and for the erection of new and future free states. Free emigration from all the nations of Europe, of wbatever faith or language, was invited by the permission given to the emigrant to pledge his labor for a term of years, so that he might pay the cost of his passage. And to all these was added that boon of boons, that offer, the richest that any nation ever had to give, –an equal citizenship by naturalization to the immigrant of whatever race or name, or lineage, with the native born.

You see how simple this system was. Mark, now, while I tell you in a few words how effective it was. Within twenty years the African slave trade ceased, and never until one year ago did the soil

« PreviousContinue »