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

Speech at Clinton, Illinois [1]

October 14, 1859

Lincoln was loudly called for and he promptly mounted the stand and responded to the call. He spoke of the purpose for which the meeting was called---the Republican triumphs lately obtained in the East and West---that many such demonstrations were being made in many places---that, perhaps, the victories would be celebrated in St. Louis, the chief mart and emporium of the South-Western Slave States, and which was thoroughly Republican in sentiment. He then spoke of the evils and disasters attending the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, by which the barriers protecting freedom and free labor were broken down and the Territories transformed into asylums for slavery and niggers, and clearlyPage  488 showed that, by this breach of a sacred compact a scope of Territory half as large as the whole United States was thrown open to the blighting influences of slavery. He pitched into the Dred Scott decision and ``my great principle'' in a truly refreshing manner, and held up to the gaze of his hearers in a way that could not fail to be visible that the Dred Scott decision and Squatter Sovereignty would not mix or affiliate---that either one principle virtually killed the other. The state and condition of political parties next occupied his attention---he reminded his hearers that in '56 a middle party (the American) was in existence, but now that organization was absorbed into both the other great parties, and that now, and only now, we could rejoice over a true and genuine Republican triumph. He then traced the beginning of the Republican party in 1854 to its present altitude of power and greatness, and in an able and masterly manner reviewed the momentous questions which now agitate the minds of our people. He alluded to the fact [2] that Judge Douglas and himself fully agreed upon one point as set forth in Douglas' Columbus Speech, viz: that the fathers of this Government understood its powers over the institution of slavery better than we do now; and he proceeded to show that the Democratic party had departed from the old landmarks; had set up a new theory and a different policy, and at their present rate of progress, would speedily make slavery a national institution, over which even the States should exercise no control. In this the Democracy were resisted and must be resisted by the Republicans; that their position was identical, so far as the slavery question is concerned, with that occupied by the founders of the Government; and referred to the recent glorious Republican victories as indicative that the good old doctrines of the fathers of the Republic would yet again prevail, and become the rule of action of the Government. ``Our position,'' says Mr. L., ``is right---our principles are good and just, but I would desire to impress on every Republican present to have patience and steadiness under all circumstances---whether defeated or successful. But I do hope that as there is a just and righteous God in Heaven, our principles will and shall prevail sooner or later.''

He closed his eloquent and masterly exposition of the true intent of our cherished and time-honored principles and the sophistries and delusions of our enemies, amid the loud, prolonged and stentorian cheering of the vast audience, that made the rafters of the court-house ring again.


[1]   Clinton Weekly Central Transcript, October 20, 1859. Lincoln was attending court at Clinton when a rally was called to celebrate the Republican victoriesPage  489

in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Minnesota. Following Lincoln, Leonard Swett and Lawrence Weldon spoke.

[2]   The remainder of this sentence and the next is identical with the report of the speech at Springfield, October 15, infra, a fact which would arouse no curiosity were it not that both sources contain the same typographical errors, which have been corrected by the editors in the present text. Possibly the Transcript, published two days later than the Journal, copied a portion of the report in the Journal, but Lincoln certainly made much the same speech at both places.