Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 1.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Protest in Illinois Legislature on Slavery [1]

March 3, 1837

The following protest was presented to the House, which was read and ordered to be spread on the journals, to wit:

``Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passedPage  75 both branches of the General Assembly at its present session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of the same. [2]

They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy; but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than to abate its evils.

They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power, under the constitution, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different States.

They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power, under the constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; but that that power ought not to be exercised unless at the request of the people of said District.

The difference between these opinions and those contained in the said resolutions, is their reason for entering this protest.''



Representatives from the county of Sangamon.


[1]   House Journal, Tenth General Assembly, First Session, pp. 817-18.

[2]   The General Assembly had received from the States of Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, New York, and Connecticut ``Memorials . . . relative to the existence of domestic slavery . . .'' A joint select committee of both houses reported to the House on January 12, 1837, deeply deploring ``the unfortunate condition of our fellow men, whose lots are cast in thraldom in a land of liberty and peace,'' but holding that ``the arm of the General Government has no power to strike their fetters from them,'' and spurning indignantly ``an interference with the rights of property in other States.'' Following a diatribe against abolition societies, the committee recommended the adoption of the following resolutions: ``Resolved by the General Assembly of the State of Illinois, That we highly disapprove of the formation of abolition societies, and of the doctrines promulgated by them. ``Resolved, That the right of property in slaves, is sacred to the slave-holding States by the Federal Constitution, and that they cannot be deprived of that right without their consent. ``Resolved, That the General Government cannot abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, against the consent of the citizens of said District without a manifest breach of good faith. ``Resolved, That the Governor be requested to transmit to the States of Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, New York, and Connecticut, a copy of the foregoing report and resolutions.'' (Ibid., pp. 243-44.)

Considerable debate ensued and numerous amendments were offered, but no details of the debate, nor details of the amendments, are recorded in the Journal except those offered from the floor on the final reporting of the resolutions. Lincoln moved to amend the amendment proposed by the committee to the third resolution by inserting after the word ``Congress,'' the following: ``Unless the people of the said District petition for the same.'' The motion failed and after further debate the resolutions ``as amended'' were finally passed by the House on January 20. The Senate concurred on January 25. The resolutions as amended are not printed in the Journal of the House, but the degree to which the general sentiment of the resolutions was modified seems not to have impressed Lincoln and Stone, who presented their protest on March 3, after otherPage  76 weighty legislation (notably the bill to remove the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield) had been safely passed.

[3]   Daniel Stone was a Whig lawyer of Springfield, Illinois. Upon resigning his seat in the legislature after the adjournment of the session, he was succeeded by Edward D. Baker, elected at a special election on July 1.