Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 3.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
September 17, 1859

Mr. Lincoln directed the greater part of his speech to demonstrate the falsity of the assumption contained in the question in Senator Douglas' Magazine essay, by which he seeks to make the framers of this government consider slavery a desirable feature in the material out of which the Union was formed.

Mr. Lincoln met this assumption by a condensed statement of the facts in the history of the government, going to show that the framers of the government found slavery existing when the constitution was formed, and got along with it as well as they could in accomplishing the Union of the States, contemplating and expecting the advent of the period when slavery in the United States should no longer exist.

He referred to the limitation of the time for the continuance of the slave trade, by which the supply of slaves should be cut off---to the fact that the word slave does not occur in the constitution, for the reason given at the period of its formation, that when, in after times, slavery should cease to exist, no one should know from the language of the constitution itself, that slavery had ever existed in the United States. We cannot attempt to follow Mr. Lincoln in his statement of facts and arguments in exposing thePage  437 false assumption of Senator Douglas, but Mr. L. showed conclusively that instead of desiring that we should have a Union made up of free and slave States, as a sort of happy admixture of political elements, the framers of our government regarded the removal of slavery as only a question of time, and that at some day, not far distant, the people among whom it existed would get rid of it.

Mr. Lincoln referred to the assertion of Mr. Douglas that the ordinance of 1787 had never made a free State, and that Ohio had been made free solely by the action of its own people. Mr. Lincoln spoke of the difficulty of getting rid of slavery wherever it gained a foothold. He spoke of the trouble which encompassed the formation of a free constitution in a territory where there were slaves held as property, and attributed the untrammelled action of the Convention which framed the constitution of Ohio in 1802 to the fact, that the Ordinance of 1787 had prohibited the ingress of slaves, and so had relieved the question of a free constitution of all embarrassment.

In connection with the action of the people of Ohio, Mr. Lincoln referred to what is said of the influence of climate and soil in inviting slave labor to agricultural pursuits. He contended that the soil and climate of Ohio were just as favorable to the employment of slave labor as were the soil and climate of Kentucky. And yet without the Ordinance of 1787 Kentucky was made a slave State, and with the Ordinance Ohio was made a free State.

Mr. Lincoln closed with an eloquent defence of the rights of free labor. [2] The free white men had a right to claim that the new territories into which they and their children might go to seek a livelihood should be preserved free and clear of the incumbrance of slavery, and that no laboring white man should be placed in a position where, by the introduction of slavery into the territories, he would be compelled to toil by the side of a slave.