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In the Hodges letter Mr. Lincoln states that the views of slavery which he expressed in that famous aphorism were such as he had held during his entire life. His speeches and letters in which he refers to that subject bear witness to the correctness of that statement. At the time of the birth of the republican party in Illinois, on the 29th of May, 1856, in the first state convention of that party, Mr. Lincoln said: "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 children read, that black foul lie can never be consecrated into God's hallowed truth.

. . Can we as Christian men, and strong and free ourselves, wield the sledge or hold the iron which is to manacle anew an already oppressed race? 'Woe unto them, it is written, 'that decree unrighteous decrees and that write grievousness which they have prescribed.'

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not themselves, and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.” 5

It was a very unusual expression of his dislike for slavery, coupled with his unwillingness to interfere with it where it constitutionally existed, which led him in the Bloomington speech to say: “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.” Federal Edition, The Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. II., p. 273.

Similar in character were the declarations of Mr. Lincoln respecting slavery in his debates with Douglas and in his speeches and letters at that time. With characteristic candor he expressed his appreciation of the difficulties encountered by our fathers in dealing with slavery and his sympathy with the people who, by inheritance, came into the possession of property in slaves, but for slavery itself he had no words of sympathy or palliation. Ir. language as strong as he could command, upon all suitable occasions, he declared slavery to be morally and unquestionably wrong.

5 Lincoln, the Citizen, p. 327, and Federal Edition, Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. II., pp. 267-270.

Equally pronounced and unyielding was Mr. Lincoln in the zeal and determination with which to the very limit of rightful conservatism


It was sometimes difficult to reconcile his well-known hostility to slavery with his vigilance in shielding that institution from the assaults of its enemies. But with his intense abhorrence of slavery there was the most profound and conscientious reverence for civil government and for the constitution and laws of the nation. Mr. Lincoln was temperamentally conservative and his native gifts of reverence and religious regard for obligation were by his attitudes and activities developed into great strength and firmness. On the 27th of January, 1837, when he was only twenty-eight years old, in a lyceum address at Springfield, Illinois, he said:

"Let every American, every lover of liberty, every wellwisher to his posterity swear by the blood of the Revolution never to violate in the least particular the laws of the country, and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the constitution and laws let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honorlet every man remember that to violate the law is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own and his children's liberty. Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in primers, spelling-books, and in almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, 'n short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay of all sexes and tongues and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars." •

At the time of this address Mr. Lincoln was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, and only a few days later he caused to be spread upon the journal of that body the famous Lincoln-Stone Protest already referred to, in which he was careful to unite with the declaration against slavery the statement of belief that Congress had under the constitution, "no power to interfere with slavery in the different states;" and that the assertion of its power to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia was connected with the proviso that only "at the request of the people of that district” should that power be exercised. Thus very early in his public career did Mr. Lincoln show evidence of that temperamental conservatism which was so marked a feature of him during his Presidency

During the period of Mr. Lincoln's retirement from public life, from 1848 to 1854, there was great growth of antislavery sentiment throughout the free states, and when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in 1854 brought him into the arena, hostility to slavery was at a white heat and extreme methods of dealing with that institution were being widely and ably advocated. But Mr. Lincoln remained unyielding in his opposition to any and all interference with slavery in the states where it existed either by the people of other states or by the general government.

This is very remarkable in view of the furious battle in which he was at that time engaged to prevent the extension of slavery in territory consecrated forever to freedom by laws as binding, and covenants as sacred as it was possible for man to make. By a wide and plentiful distribution of literature and by stirring appeals from the platform and pulpit, there had been kindled fires of antagonism to slavery which sprang into sweeping flames when the hand of violence was laid upon

& Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. I., PP. 42-3.


the Missouri Compromise and Kansas and Nebraska were open to the entrance of slavery. It is no wonder that in the wild tumult of that hour some of the champions of freedom advocated a resort to extreme measures of resistance and retaliation, and it is passing strange that Mr. Lincoln was not swayed in the slightest degree by the fierce storms of excitement and passion that swept over the nation and arose to its greatest violence in Illinois and other states adjacent to the territory into which slavery was seeking to enter.

With seeming reluctance, yet without hesitation, Mr. Lincoln turned away from his coveted and congenial retirement and joined in the movement against the extension of slavery. An unwonted luster shone in his eye and his wonderful voice took on new qualities of strength and expression. With characteristic calmness and restraint he confronted Douglas at Chicago, when the latter returned from Washington, and a few days later, on the 16th of October, 1854, at Peoria, he delivered a speech of marvelous power, which immediately placed him at the forefront of the antislavery movement in Illinois and made him one of its leaders in the nation. In that Peoria speech Mr. Lincoln gave the most graphic and realistic picture anywhere to be found of the battles against the extension of slavery during the early autumn months of that memorable year. In reply to the claims of Douglas that there was not perfect agreement among the forces that were opposing him, Mr. Lincoln said: "He (Douglas) should remember that he took us by surprise—astounded us by this measure. We were thunderstruck and stunned, and we reeled and fell in utter confusion. But we rose, each fighting, grasping whatever he could first reach—a scythe, a pitchfork, a chopping ax, or a butcher's cleaver. We struck in the direction of the sound, and we were rapidly closing in upon him. He must not think to divert us from our purpose by showing us that our drill, our dress, and our weapons are not entirely perfect and uniform. When the storm shall be past he shall find us still Americans, no less devoted to the continued union and prosperity of the country than heretofore." ?

In all of this startling description of those early battles is seen Mr. Lincoln's rare fitness for leadership in a great moral and civic struggle. Called from his repose as by a fire-bell in the night, and rushing into the fierce conflict he did not, for a moment, lose his mental poise nor turn his eyes from the pole star of national unity and constitutional obligation. In the midst of the wild excitement and mingling with the conflicting and confusing calls to action which rang out upon the air, his familiar voice was heard saying: "When they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them—not grudgingly, but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives which should not in its stringency be more likely to carry a free man into slavery than our ordinary criminal laws are to hang an innocent one." 8

At another point in that Peoria speech, after explaining the arrangement by which a white man in a slave state had twice as much influence in the government as did a white man in a free state, he said: “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." !

On the 24th of August, 1855, in a letter to his close friend, Joshua F. Speed, whose views were not at that time in accord with Mr. Lincoln, he said: “You ought rather to appreciate how much the great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution and the Union." 10

* Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, VOL II., p. 260. 8 Ibid., p. 207. 9 Ibid., pp. 234-235. 10 Ibid., p. 282.

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