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

Speech at Dover, New Hampshire [1]

March 2, 1860

Mr. Lincoln spoke nearly two hours and we believe he would have held his audience had he spoken all night. He gave a brief sketch of the course of the democracy, in reference to the slavery question, showing how they had made it the prominent and almost the only question in National politics---how their leading statesmen had all been compelled to bow to the slave power and become its obedient vassals. In reply to the charge of sectionalism, raised against the republicans, he said, we deny it. That makes an issue, the burden of proof is upon you, the democracy. You produce your proof; and what is it? Why, that the republican party has no existence in the South. The fact is substantially true, but does it prove the issue? If it does, then in case we should, without change of principle, begin to get votes there, we should thereby cease to be sectional. There was no escape from this conclusion, and if the democracy would abide by it, they would find that the republicansPage  553 would get votes at the South this very year. Northern democrats were fond of saying to the opponents of slavery, why don't you go South and preach your doctrines where slavery exists, not oppose it here, where it does not exist. Frank Blair of Missouri, a democrat, did raise the standard of opposition in the very heart of slavery---and when he was defeated, did his brother democrats of the North sympathize with him? ``Not one of them,'' said Mr. Lincoln. Their only greeting to him was ``H-u-r-r-a-h for the D-i-m-o-c-r-a-c-y!'' The republicans were charged with being responsible for the John Brown raid, yet a Committee of Congress, with unlimited powers, had failed to implicate a single republican in his Harper's Ferry enterprise. If any republican is guilty in that matter, you, the democracy, know it or you do not know it. If you do know it, you are inexcusable not to designate the man and prove the fact. If you do not know it, you are inexcusable to assert it, and especially to persist in the assertion after you have tried and failed to make the proof. The republicans who remained steadfast to the principles of the fathers on the subject of slavery, were the conservative party, while the democracy, who insisted upon substituting something new, were the destructives. But the South were threatening to destroy the Union in the event of the election of a republican President, and were telling us that the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us. This is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, with ``stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer.'' To be sure the money which he demands is my own, and I have a clear right to keep it, but it is no more so than my vote, and the threat of death to extort my money, and the threat of destruction to the Union to extort my vote, can scarcely be distinguished in principle. To satisfy them, said Mr. Lincoln, is no easy task. We must not only cease to call slavery wrong, but we must join with them in calling it right. Silence will not be tolerated. Douglas's new sedition law must be enacted and enforced. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State Constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from the taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us. Wrong as we believe slavery to be, we should let [it] alone in the States where it exists, because its extirpation would occasion greater wrongs, but we should not, while our votes can prevent it, allow it to spread over the National Territories and over-run us in the Free States. Neither should we be diverted by trick or stratagem, by a senseless clamor about ``popular sovereignty,'' by any contrivances for groping for somePage  554 middle ground between the right and the wrong---the ``don't care'' policy of Douglas---or Union appeals to true Union men to yield to the threats of Disunionists, which was reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners but the righteous to repentance---none of these things should move or intimidate us; but having faith that right makes might, let us to the end, dare to do our duty.


[1]   Dover Inquirer, March 8, 1860.