Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 2.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
September 12, 1854

He first declared that the Southern slaveholders were neither better, nor worse than we of the North, and that we of the North were no better than they. If we were situated as they are, we should act and feel as they do; and if they were situated as we are, they should act and feel as we do; and we never ought to lose sight of this fact in discussing the subject. With slavery as existing in the slave States at the time of the formation of the Union, he had nothing to do. There was a vast difference between toleratingPage  231 it there, and protecting the slaveholder in the rights granted him by the Constitution, and extending slavery over a territory already free, and uncontaminated with the institution. When our federal compact was made, almost all of the valley of the Mississippi belonged to the French, not us; and what little territory we had belonged to different States; Virginia owning almost all of what now constitutes the State of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Thomas Jefferson, being a Virginian, proposed the cession of this territory to the general government, and in carrying out the measure, had the clause especially inserted, that slavery should never be introduced into it. Kentucky belonged also to Virginia, but was settled as a part of the State of Virginia, so that slavery was carried there by the first settlers from Virginia, and was admitted into the Union with the institution as existing there. Tennessee belonged to North Carolina, and was settled by emigrants from that State, and was afterwards admitted into the Union as Kentucky was. Alabama was settled from South Carolina and admitted in a similar manner. Thus three slave States were made from territories that belonged to individual slaveholding States.

Jefferson saw the necessity of our government possessing the whole valley of the Mississippi; and though he acknowledged that our Constitution made no provision for the purchasing of territory, yet he thought that the exigency of the case would justify the measure, and the purchase was made. When the lower part of this territory comprising the State of Louisiana, wished to be admitted, the institution of slavery having existed there long before the territory was bought, she was admitted with the institution without any opposition, as a right that belonged to her citizens.

There was an old French settlement in St. Louis and vicinity, with slaves; and that territory comprising what is now the State of Missouri, was settled in part by Slaveholders. And when that territory, according to the law, gave notice that they should apply for admission into the Union, the North voted that she should not be admitted unless she framed a State Constitution excluding involuntary servitude, and they were the majority. Neither the North nor the South would yield, and the discussion became angry and endangered the peace of the Union. A compromise was made by agreeing that all territory bought of the French, north of 36 deg. 30', should be free, which secured the whole of Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota to freedom, and left the balance of the French purchase south of the line to come in as free or not, as they might choose to frame their state Constitution.

Page  232Missouri chose to come in a slave-state, and was so admitted, as was afterwards Arkansas, according to the compromise. And afterwards, when first the Democrats and afterwards the Whigs held their Conventions at Baltimore, in forming their platforms they both declared that compromise to be a ``finality,'' as to the subject of slavery, and the question of slave territory was by agreement settled forever.

There was no more agitation of the subject till near the close of our war with Mexico, when three millions were appropriated with the design that the President might purchase territory of Mexico, which resulted in our obtaining possession of California, New Mexico, and Utah. This was new territory, with which Jefferson's provision and the Missouri Compromise had nothing to do. The gold in California led to such a rush of immigration that that territory soon became filled with the requisite number of inhabitants, and they formed a constitution, and requested an admission into the Union. But the South objected because her constitution excluded slavery. This gave rise to the ``Wilmot proviso,'' no more slave territory; next the ``Omnibus bill,'' and finally what are called the ``compromise measures of 1850,'' which comprised among other things the following:

1st. The ``fugitive slave law,'' which was a concession on the part of the North to the South.

2d. California was admitted as a free State, called a concession of the South to the North.

3d. It was left with New Mexico, and Utah to decide when they became States, whether they would be free or not. This was supposed by the North to settle the question of slavery in this new territory, as the question with regard to the former territories had been settled forever.

The matter with regard to slavery was now settled, and no disturbance could be raised except by tearing up some of the Compromises with regard to the territory where it was already settled. The South had got all they claimed, and all the territory south of the compromise line had been appropriated to slavery; they had gotten and eaten their half of the loaf of bread; but all the other half had not been eaten yet; there was the extensive territory of Nebraska secured to freedom, that had not been settled yet. And the slaveholding power attempted to snatch that away. So on Jan. 4, 1854, Douglas introduced the famous Nebraska Bill, which was so constructed before its passage as to repeal the Missouri Compromise, and open all of the territory to the introduction of slavery. It was done without the consent of the people, and againstPage  233 their wishes, for if the matter had been put to vote before the people directly, whether that should be made a slave territory, they would have indignantly voted it down. But it was got up unexpectedly by the people, hurried through, and now they were called upon to sanction it.

They ought to make a strong expression against the imposition; that would prevent the consummation of the scheme. The people were the sovereigns, and the representatives their servants, and it was time to make them sensible of this truly democratic principle. They could get the Compromise restored. They were told that they could not because the Senate was Nebraska, and would be for years. Then fill the lower House with true Anti-Nebraska members, and that would be an expression of the sentiment of the people. And furthermore that expression would be heeded by the Senate. If this State should instruct Douglas to vote for the repeal of the Nebraska Bill, he must do it, for ``the doctrine of instructions'' was a part of his political creed. And he was not certain he would not be glad to vote its repeal anyhow, if it would help him fairly out of the scrape. It was so with other Senators; they will be sure to improve the first opportunity to vote its repeal. The people could get it repealed, if they resolved to do it. [2]