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

Fragments: Notes for Speeches [1]

[c. September, 1859?]


What will Douglas do now? He does not quite know himself. Like a skilful gambler he will play for all the chances. His firstPage  398 wish is to be the nominee of the Charleston convention, without any new test. The democratic party proper do not wish to let it go just that way. They are thinking of getting up a Slave code test for him. They better not. Their true policy is to let him into the convention, beat him then, and give him no plausable excuse to bolt the nomination. But if they press the Slave code test upon him, he will not take it; but, as in the case of Lecompton, will appeal to the North on his bravery in opposing it. True the logic of his position, as an indorser of the Dred Scott decision imperatively requires him to go the Slave code. Honestly believing in that decision, he can not, without perjury, refuse to go the Slave code. But he will refuse. He never lets the logic of principle, displace the logic of success. And then, when he thus turns again to the North, we shall have the Lecompton phase of politics reproduced on a larger scale. It will then be a question whether the Republican party of the Nation shall make him President, in magnanamous gratitude for having opposed a Slave code, just as it was, last year, a question whether the Illinois Republicans should re-elect him Senator, in magnanamous gratitude for having opposed Lecompton. Some larger gentlemen will then have a chance of swallowing the same pill which they somewhat persistently prescribed for us little fellows last year. I hope they will not swallow it. For the sake of the cause, rather than the men, I hope they will not swallow it. The Republican cause can not live by Douglas' position. His position, whether for or against a slave code, for or against Lecompton, leads inevitably to the nationalizing and perpetuity of slavery, and the Republican cause can not live by it. Dallying with Douglas is, at best, for Republicans, only loss of labor, and loss of time. Wander with him however long, at last they must turn back and strike for a policy, which shall deal with slavery as a wrong, restrain it's enlargement, and look to its termination.


The effort to prove that our fathers who framed the government under which we live, understood that a proper division of local from federal authority, and some provision of the constitution, both forbid the federal government to control slavery in the federal teritories, is as if, when a man stands before you, so that you see him, and lay your hand upon him, you should go about examining his tracks, and insisting therefrom, that he is not present, but somewhere else. They did, through the federal government, control slavery in the federal teritories. They did the identical thing, which D. insists they understood they ought not to do.

Page  399[III]

Negro equality! Fudge!! How long, in the government of a God, great enough to make and maintain this Universe, shall there continue knaves to vend, and fools to gulp, so low a piece of demagougeism as this.


[1]   AD, owned by Norman B. Frost, Washington, D.C. Mr. Frost writes (letter to the editor, April 19, 1948) as follows: ``At the time he gave the notes to me, they were in an envelope bearing on the outside the following in Mr. Robert Lincoln's handwriting: `A. L. Douglas Speech Notes.''' Unable to find any particular speech in which the fragments occur verbatim, the editors have supplied a probable date based on the contents of the first and second fragments. The earliest similar reference to the contents of the first fragment is in Lincoln's letter to Lyman Trumbull, December 11, 1858, supra, and Lincoln may well have used this fragment at any time during 1859 or the early months of 1860. The second fragment with its reference to Douglas' article in Harper's for September, 1859, at the earliest would seem to be contemporary with the speech at Columbus, Ohio, September 16, 1859, in which Lincoln makes much the same point concerning Douglas' phrase about the ``fathers who framed the government under which we live.'' But Lincoln continued to refer to Douglas' article and Columbus speech in the speeches in Kansas in December, 1859, and made of the argument a major theme in his address at Cooper Institute, February 27, 1860. The third fragment might well have been jotted down at any time between December, 1858, and March, 1860.