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

Speech at Greenville, Illinois [1]

September 13, 1858

In a most able manner did Mr. Lincoln clear up and refute the charges that he was an Abolitionist, and an Amalgamationist, and in favor of placing negroes upon a social and political equality with the whites. He asserted positively, and proved conclusively by his former acts and speeches that he was not in favor of interfering with slavery in the States where it exists, nor ever had been. That he was not even in favor of abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, unless a majority of the people of the District should be in favor of it, and remuneration should be made to masters who might be unwilling to give up their slaves without compensation; and even then he would want it done gradually. He also showed clearly, what nobody but the Democrats deny, that slavery is a great moral, social, and political evil, and was so looked upon by all the fathers of the Government---that the institution was considered a foul blot on the Nation, which would at some future day be removed. Mr. Lincoln said he had always believed as the fathers did, that it would in the course of time be entirely removed from our country, until the new policy of nationalizing it had been set on foot. Since that time he had believed it would either become alike lawful in all the States, or that eventually, in God's own good time and way, it would finally disappear. But whether it should ever become extinct or not, he was in favor of living up to all the guarantees of the Constitution. Whatever constitutional rights the slaveholders might have, he was in favor of protecting them.

On the other hand, he was opposed to the new doctrine that the Constitution carries slavery into all the Territories, and protects it there against the wishes of the people. It had always, until lately, been held that slavery was a creature of positive local legislation, and did not legally exist anywhere, in the absence of such legislation. Yet he admitted that practically it would exist where there was no legislation in regard to it; that it had been so planted where ever it has existed. That it would be taken into new Territories, and there permitted to remain, until legislation would become necessary to protect it, when such legislation would be enacted, and it would thereby become legalized.


[1]   Greenville Advocate, September 16, 1858.