Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 2.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
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Page  525

Speech at Clinton, Illinois [1]

July 27, 1858

In the evening, in compliance with the earnest wishes of his many friends here, Mr. Lincoln addressed the people at the Court House yard. At the commencement of his speech the people were scattered over the town, but they soon began to pour in, and in a short time the yard north of the Court House was crowded with an attentive audience of ladies and gentlemen. Mr. Lincoln began in his own plain, straight-forward manner, by calling attention to Mr. Douglas' plan of the campaign, and his ready observance of the Mormon precept: ``Sound your own horn, for behold if you sound not your own horn, your horn shall not be sounded.'' He then alluded to the immense credit which Douglas claimed for his discovery and advocacy of ``squatter sovereignty.'' He said that Mr. Douglas claimed the confidence of the people on the ground that he had initiated the policy of giving the people the right → of governing themselves, and he enquired whether in the practice of that much boasted Douglas policy, the people of Kansas had not really less control of their own affairs than the people of any state or Territory in the whole history of the world! To this pointed enquiry the people responded with hearty cheers and cries of ``good.'' He then showed that so far as experience can afford evidence, squatter sovereignty is a failure. After a withering allusion to the angelic temper, which Douglas had displayed in his speech, Mr. Lincoln, ``is all I want, and I only ask my friends and all who are eager for the truth, that when they hear me represented as saying or meaning anything strange, they will turn to my own words and examine for themselves. I do not wish Douglas to put words into my mouth. I do not wish him to construe my words as he pleases, and then represent me as meaning what he wishes me to mean, but I do wish the people to read and judge for themselves.'' Mr. Lincoln then proceeded to treat the conspiracy charge which Douglas had so furiously denied in the afternoon. He said that he had made the charge deliberately and calmly, believing when he did so that the evidence of a thousand corroborating circumstances fully bore him out. When he saw a number of men engaged in pursuing a similar work, when he saw that their efforts all tended in the same direction, that each was performing a necessary part, andPage  526 that the combined labors of all had the effect of building an edifice, he did not believe that the coincidence occurred by chance, but that there was a preconceived plan, a common design running through the whole of it. He had never made the charge nor pretended to make it upon any knowledge that he had personally, apart from the evidence before the public; nay, he had told the public repeatedly why, and on what grounds he brought the charge. Douglas might → pretend honesty and try to impress upon the minds of his hearers by the affected indignation with which he denied the charge, but when he, (Lincoln) saw Mr. Douglas filling so prominent a part in the movement towards the nationalization of slavery---when he saw the important sphere which he had performed in the common design, he could not resist the conclusion ``that Douglas either was a conspirator or the dupe of conspirators.'' At this point the audience testified its approval by tremendous cheering. Mr. Lincoln then referred to the charge that Douglas brought against him of being sectional in his policy and associates. ``Now,'' said Mr. Lincoln, ``I have merely to say, that inasmuch as the party to which I belong extends at least over all the free states, and commands a majority of them, and even extends into the South; and inasmuch as Mr. Douglas cannot command one Congressional District, north or south, east or west, outside of Illinois, which, I ask, best deserves to be termed sectional, he or I?'' (Cheers) Mr. Lincoln then addressed himself to the matter of the Dred Scott decision, and came down with crushing force, upon the decision and those who maintained it. In reply to the allegation of Douglas that a man who would give an opinion on a case before his election to a judgeship, which case he would afterwards be called upon to decide, must be a man utterly unworthy of respect; he declared that on that point Douglas was the best possible authority, inasmuch as he was elected upon the merits of a pre-judged case to the Supreme bench of Illinois. And Mr. Lincoln was prepared to prove by the declarations of hundreds of living men that Douglas himself had often publicly approved of the action of the Democratic party, and General Jackson in over-riding the decision of the Supreme Court in the affair of the United States Bank. Mr. Lincoln then proceeded to consider the question of slavery extension; he declared that he hated slavery, but that he did not consider that the public had any right → to interfere with the institution where it existed under state laws. He did not believe that the white man held a right to deprive the negro of the little which God had given him; but he did not consider that therefore, the distinctPage  527 races must be socially and politically equal. But for the sake of millions of the free laborers of the north,---for the sake of the poor white man of the South, and, for the sake of the eternal prosperity of the Union, he was opposed to slavery extending one inch beyond its present limits.

He then referred to the lies which had been circulated concerning his vote in Congress concerning the supplies to the soldiers in the Mexican War. He said that he was opposed to that war on principle, but that on every motion to grant extra pay, votes of thanks, land warrants, or supplies, he had invariably voted ``yes.'' We hope that every one who listened to the gross falsehoods of Mr. Lincoln's enemies will examine the records for themselves, and there find the truth of what Mr. Lincoln says. At the conclusion of his speech he was greeted by tremendous cheers.


[1]   Clinton Central Transcript, July 30, 1858. Douglas spoke in the afternoon, and Lincoln was in the audience.

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