Lincoln as a social prophet; Freedom Fighter, 1858
Yeah yeah yeah. Yeah. And Loathing on the following program is the fourth in a series of readings on Abraham Lincoln entitled Lincoln as social prophet. The readings in commemoration of Illinois sesquicentennial are done by Marvin S. our speech instructor at Northern Illinois University. Today's reading freedom fighter 1858 Mr. S. R.. Some of us may have the belief that Abraham Lincoln hardly could have been a freedom fighter. Certainly he was not the type of activist we associate today with the word freedom fighter. He lived the life of a fighter for freedom. Nevertheless in a most profound way. The rights of all men everywhere was an idea warmly nurtured by Lincoln. And since theory in this case equality or freedom often precedes practice we are
justified in viewing Lincoln as one of the greatest freedom fighters. The peaceful protests of today are indebted then in part to the verbal protests of the social prophet from Illinois. As for the speech we will now share I want you to keep in mind that Lincoln delivered at least three addresses in 1858 on what is often called the house divided issue. That is our nation could not exist long being half slave and half free. We must become one or the other. I choose the July 17th speech instead of the June 16th to July 10th addresses because it is the most interesting of the three. This message in the evening at the Springfield Illinois state house was in reply to Senator Douglas who had spoken in the afternoon on and on the north side of Springfield. Partly by Lincoln's planning and by accident the campaigning of the two men for the United States Senate assumed the pattern of a debate July 24th Lincoln challenge Douglas to make the pattern formal and to extend it throughout Illinois. Douglass was irritated but perhaps out of
necessity he compliant. Listen now to the freedom fighter 1858 especially his insights on racial freedom some views are dated but not many. Bypassing Lincoln's opening remarks on his disadvantage in the senatorial contest that is Northern Illinois Republicans had fewer seats in the legislature than their rapidly growing population warranted. We begin with a second drawback Lincoln's lack of prominence. Senator Douglas is of worldwide renown. All the anxious politicians of his party or who have been of his party for years past have been looking upon him as certainly at no very distant date to be the president of the United States. They have seen in his round a jolly fruitful face post offices and land offices marshal ships and Cabinet appointments child ships and foreign missions bursting and sprouting out in wonderful exuberance ready to be laid hold of by their greedy hands. And as they have been gazing upon this
attractive picture so long they cannot in the little distraction that has taken place in the party bring themselves to quite give up the charming hope. But with greedy or anxiety they rush about him sustain him and give him marches triumphal entries and reception is beyond what even in the days of his highest prosperity they could have brought about in his favor. On the contrary nobody has ever expected me to be president in my poor lean lank face. Nobody has ever seen that any cabbages were sprouting out. These are disadvantages all taken together that the Republicans labor under. We have to fight this battle upon principle and upon principle alone. I am in a certain sense made the standard bearer in behalf of the Republicans. I was made so merely because there there had to be someone so placed I being in no wise preferable to any other one of the 20 50 perhaps 100 we have in the Republican ranks. Then I say we should to be distinctly understood and borne in mind that we have to fight this
battle without which many perhaps without any of the external aids which are brought to bear against us. So I hope those with whom I am surrounded have principle enough to nerve themselves for the task and leave nothing undone that can be fairly done to bring about the right result. After Senator Douglas left Washington as his movements were made known by the public prints. He tarried a considerable time in the city of New York and it was heralded that like another Napoleon he was lying by and framing the plan of his campaign. I think I have been able to see what are the material points of that plan. I will for a little while ask your attention to some of them. What I shall point out although not showing the whole plan are nevertheless the main points as I suppose they are not very numerous. The first is popular sovereignty. The second and third are attacks upon my speech made on the 16th of June. Out of these three points drawing within the range of popular sovereignty the question of the Compton Constitution he makes his principal assault upon viz his successive speeches are substantially one and the
same. Coming to the substance the first point popular sovereignty. It is to be labeled upon the cards in which he travels. Put upon the hacks he rides in to be flouted upon the arch as he passes under and the banners which wave over him. It is to be dished up in as many varieties as a French cook and produce soups from potatoes. Now if this is so great a staple of the plan of the campaign it is worth while to examine it carefully. And if we examine only a very little and do not allow ourselves to be misled we shall be able to see that the whole thing is the most errant quixotism that was ever in acted before community. What is this matter of popular sovereignty. The first thing in order to understand it is to get a good definition of what it is. And after that to see how it is supplied I suppose almost every one knows it in this controversy whatever has been said has had reference to the question of Negro slavery. We have not been in a controversy about the right of the people to govern themselves in the ordinary matters of domestic concern in the states and
territories Hance when here after I speak of popular sovereignty I wish to be understood as applying what I say to the question of slavery only and not to other minor or domestic matters of a territory or a state. Does Judge Douglas when he says that several of the past years of his life have been devoted to the question of popular sovereignty and that all the remainder of his life shall be devoted to it. Does he mean to say that he has been devoting his life to securing to the people of the territories the right to exclude slavery from the territories. If you mean so to say he means to deceive because he and everyone knows that the decision of the Supreme Court which he approves and makes special ground of attack upon me for disapproving for bids that people of a territory to exclude slavery. This covers the whole ground from the settlement of a territory until it reaches the degree of maturity in titling it to form a State Constitution. So far as all that ground is concerned the judge is not sustaining popular sovereignty but
absolutely opposing it. Well so much being disposed of what is left. Why he is contending for the right of the people when they come to make a state constitution to make it for themselves and precisely as best suits themselves. I see again this is quixotic. I defy contradiction when I declare that the judge can find no one to oppose him on that proposition. I repeat there is nobody opposing that proposition on principle. Let me not be misunderstood. I know that with reference to the Lee Compton Constitution I may be misunderstood but when you understand me correctly my proposition will be true and accurate. Nobody is opposing or has opposed the right of the people when they form a constitution to form it for themselves. The dispute was upon the question of fact whether the leat Compton Constitution had been fairly formed by the people or not. Let us see Lee Compton in the run was defeated it afterward took a sort of cooked
up shape and was passed in the English Bill. It is said by the judge that the defeat was a good and proper thing. If it was a good thing why is he entitled to more credit than others. He says I have a proneness for quoting scripture. If I should do so now it occurs that perhaps he places himself somewhat upon the ground of the parable of the lost sheep which went astray upon the mountains and when the owner of the hundred sheep found the one that was lost and threw it upon his shoulders and came home rejoicing it was said that there was more rejoicing over the one sheep that was lost and had been found than over the 1990 in the fold. The moral is applied by the Savior in this parable thus. Verily I say unto you There is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repented than over 99 just persons that need no repentance. And now if the judge claims the benefit of this parable let him repent. But he had not come up here and say I am the ONLY JUST person and you are the 1900s. Repentance before forgiveness is a provision of the Christian system. And on that condition alone will the
Republicans grant his forgiveness. I now pass from popular sovereignty and Lee Compton. I may have occasion to refer to one or both. When he was preparing his plan of campaign Napoleon like in New York as appears by two speeches I have heard him deliver since his arrival in Illinois. He gave special attention to a speech of mine delivered here on the 16th of June last. He says that he carefully read that speech. He told us that at Chicago we could go last night and he repeated it at Bloomington last night. Doubtless he repeated it again today but I did not hear him. The first two places Chicago in Bloomington I heard him. Today I did not. He said he had carefully examined that speech when he did not say but there is no reasonable doubt it was when he was in New York preparing his plan of campaign. I am glad he did read it carefully. He says it was evidently prepared with great care. I freely admit it was prepared with care. I claim not to be more free from errors than others perhaps scarcely so much.
But I was very careful not to put anything in that speech as a matter of fact or make any inferences which did not appear to me to be true and fully warrantable if I had made any mistake I was willing to be corrected if I had drawn any inference in regard to Judge Douglas or anyone else which was not warranted. I was fully prepared to modify it as soon as discovered I planted myself upon the truth and the truth only so far as I knew it or could be brought to know it. He charges in substance that I invite a war of sections that I propose all the local institutions of the different states will become consolidated and uniform. What is there in the language of that speech which expresses such purpose or bear such construction. I have again and again said that I would not enter into any of the states to disturb the institution of slavery. Judge Douglas said at Bloomington that I use language most able and ingenious for concealing what I really meant and that while I had protested against the entering into the slave
states I nevertheless did mean to go on the banks of the Ohio and throw missiles into Kentucky to disturb them and their domestic institutions. I said in that speech and I meant no more that the institution of slavery ought to be placed in the very attitude where the framers of this government placed it and left it. I do not understand that the framers of our Constitution left the people of the free States beatitude of firing bombs or shells into the slave states. I was not using that passage for the purpose for which he infers I did use it. I said. We are now far advanced into the fifth year since the policy was created for the avowed object and with the confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation under the operation of that policy that agitation is not only not ceased but has constantly augmented. In my opinion it will not cease to a crisis shall have been reached and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe that this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. It will become all one thing or all
the other. Even the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become a like lawful in all the states as well as new north as well as self. Now you all see from that quotation I did not express my wish on anything in that passage I indicated no wish or purpose of my own. I simply expressed my expectation. Cannot the judge perceive a distinction between a purpose and an expectation. I have often expressed an expectation to die but I have never expressed a wish to die. I said in Chicago now repeat that I am quite aware this government has endured half slave and ham free for 82 years. I understand that little bit of history. I express the opinion I did because I perceived or thought I perceived a new set of causes introduced. I did see it Chicago in my speech then that I do wish to see the spread of slavery arrested and to see it
placed where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction. I said that because I supposed when the public mind shall rest in that belief we shall have peace on the slavery question. I have believed and now believe the public mind did rest in that belief up to the introduction of the DE brassica bill. Although I have ever been opposed to slavery so if I rested in the hope and belief that it was in the course of ultimate extinction for that reason it had been a minor question with me. I might have been mistaken. But I had believed and now believe that the whole public mind that is the mind of the great majority had rested in that belief up to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. But upon that event I became convinced that either I had been resting in a delusion or the institution was being placed on a new basis a basis for making it perpetual national and universal. Subsequent events have greatly confirmed me in that belief. I believe that bill to be the beginning of a conspiracy for that purpose. So
believing I have since then considered that question a paramount one. So believing I have thought the public mind will never rest till the power of Congress to restrict the spread of it shall again be acknowledged and exercised on the one hand or on the other all resistance be entirely crushed out. I have expressed that opinion. And I entertain it tonight. It is denying that there is any tendency to the nationalization of slavery in the States. Mr. Brooks of South Carolina and one of his speeches when they were presenting him with Cain's silver plate gold pitchers and the like for assaulting Senator Sumner distinctly I find his opinion that when this constitution was formed it was the belief of no man that slavery would last to the present day. He said what I think that the framers of our Constitution placed the institution of slavery where the public mind rested in the hope that it was in the course of ultimate extinction. But he went on to say that the men of the present age by their experience have become wiser than the framers of the Constitution.
And the inventor of the cotton gin had made the perpetuity of slavery a necessity in this country is another piece of evidence tending to the same point. Quite recently in Virginia a man the owner of slaves made a will providing that after his death certain of his slaves should have their freedom if they should so choose and go to Liberia rather than remain in slavery. They chose to be liberated but the persons to whom they would descend as property claim them as slaves. A suit was instituted which finally came to the Supreme Court of Virginia and was there undecided against the slaves upon the ground that a Negro cannot make a choice that they had no legal power to choose. I could not perform the condition upon which their freedom depended. I do not mention this with any purpose of criticizing but it connected with the arguments as affording additional evidence of the change of sentiment upon this question of slavery and the direction of making it perpetual and national. I ike you now as I did before that there is such a tendency and I am back not merely by the
facts but by the open confession in the slave states. And now as to the judge's inference that because they wish to see slavery placed in the course of ultimate extinction placed where our fathers originally placed it I wish to annihilate the state legislatures to force the cotton to grow upon the tops of the Green Mountains to freeze ice in Florida to cut timber on the broad Illinois prairies that I'm in favor all these ridiculous and impossible things. It seems to me it is a complete answer to all this to ask it when Congress didn't have the fashion of restricting slavery from free territory when courts did have the fashion in deciding that taking a slave into a free country made him free. I see it is the official answer to ask if any of this ridiculous nonsense about consolidation and uniformity did actually follow who heard of any such thing because of the Ordinance of 87 because of the Missouri restriction because of the numerous court decisions of that character. Now as to the Dred Scott decision for Upon that he makes his last point upon me. He Brawley
takes ground in favor of that decision. This is one half the on slot and one third of the entire plan of the campaign. I am opposed to that decision in a certain sense but not in the sense which he puts on it. I say that in so far as it decided in favor of Dred Scott's master and against Dred Scott and his family. I do not propose to disturb or resist the decision. I never have proposed to do any such thing. I think that in respect for judicial authority my humble history would not suffer in a comparison with that of Judge Douglas. He would have the citizen can form his vote to that decision. The member of Congress. He is the president his use of the veto power. He would make it a rule of political action for the people and all the departments of the government. I would not by resisting it as a political rule. I disturb no right of property. Create nor disorder excite no mobs. Now I wish to know what the judge can charge upon me with respect to decisions of the Supreme Court which does not
apply in all its length breadth and proportions at his own door. The plain truth is simply this. Judge Douglas is for Supreme Court decisions when he likes them and against them when he does not like them. He is for the Dred Scott decision because it tends to nationalize slavery because it is part of the original combination for that object so happened singularly enough that I never stood opposed to a decision of the Supreme Court till this. On the contrary I have no recollection that he was ever particularly in favor of one bill this he never was in favor of any and I opposed to any bill the president won which helped to nationalize slavery. Freeman of saying I'm on Freeman of Illinois. Freeman everywhere. Judge between him and me upon this issue he says this Dred Scott case is a very small matter at most that it has no practical effect that it best or rather I suppose at worst it is but an abstraction. I submit that the proposition that that thing which
determines whether a man is free or a slave is rather concrete than abstract. I think you would have to conclude that it was if your liberty depended upon it. And so what Judge Douglas if his liberty depended upon. But suppose it was on the question of slavery over the new territories that he considers it as being merely an abstract matter. And one of no practical importance. How has the planning of slavery in new countries always been effected. It has now been decided that slavery cannot be kept out of our new territories by any legal means. And what do are new territories now differ in this respect from the old colonies when slavery was first planted within them. It was planted as Mr. Clay once declared and as history proves true by industrious men in spite of the wishes of the people. The mother government refusing to prohibited and withholding from the people of the colonies the authority to prohibit it for themselves. Mr. Clay says this was one of the great and just causes of complaint against Great Britain by the colonies and the best apology we can now make for having
the institution amongst us. In that precise condition are the brassica politicians have at last succeeded in placing our own new territories. The government will not prohibit slavery within them nor allow the people to prohibit it. I defy any man to find any difference between the policy which originally planted slavery in these colonies and that policy which now prevails in our new territories. There is one other point. Judge Douglas has a very affectionate leaning towards the Americans an old Whigs last evening in a sort of weeping tone he described to us a deathbed scene he'd been called to the side of Mr. Clay in his last moments in order that the genius of popular sovereignty might duty descend from the dying man and settle upon him this loving and most worthy successor. He could do no less than promise that he would devote the remainder of his life to popular sovereignty. And then the great statesman departed in peace. But this part of the plan of the campaign the judges evidently promised himself that tears
shall be drawn down the cheeks of all the Whigs as large as a half grown apples. Mr. Webster too was mentioned. But it did not quite come to a deathbed scene as to him it would be amusing if it were not disgusting to see how quick these compromise breakers administer on the political effects of their dead adversaries trumping up claims never before heard of and dividing the assets among themselves. If I should be found dead tomorrow morning nothing but my insignificance could prevent a speech being made on my authority before the end of next week. So happens that in that popular sovereignty with which Mr. Clay was identified the Missouri Compromise was expressly reserved and it was a little singular of Mr. Clay cast his mantle upon Judge Douglas on purpose to have that compromise repealed. Again. The judge did not keep faith with Mr Clay when he first brought in his Nebraska Bill. He left the Missouri Compromise on repealed and in his report
accompanying the bill he told the world he did it on purpose. The manes of Mr. Clay must have been in great agony til 30 days later when popular sovereignty stood forth in all its glory. One more thing. Last night Judge Douglas tormented himself with horrors about my disposition to make negroes perfectly equal with a white man in social and political relations. He did not stop to show that I have said any such things or that they legitimately follow from anything I have said. But he rushes on with his assertions. I adhere to the Declaration of Independence. If Judge Douglas and his friends are not willing to stand by and let them come up and amend it let them make it read that all men are created equal except negroes. Let us have it decided whether the declaration in this blessid year of 1858 shall be documented in his construction of the declaration last year. He said it only meant that Americans in America were equal to Englishman in England. Then when I pointed out to him that by that rule he excludes the Germans the Irish the
Portuguese and all the other people who have come amongst us since the revolution. He reconstructs his construct. In his last speech he tells us it meant Europeans. I pressed him a little further and asked if it meant to include the Russians in Asia. Or does he mean to exclude that vast population from the principles of our Declaration of Independence. I expect he will introduce another amendment to his definition is not at all particular. Peace satisfied with anything which does not endanger the nationalizing of Negro slavery. It may draw a white man down but it must not lift Negroes up. Who shall say I am the superior and you are the inferior. My declarations upon this subject of Negro slavery may be misrepresented but cannot be misunderstood. I have said I do not understand the declaration to mean that all men were created equal in all respect. They are not our equals in color but I suppose that it does mean to declare that all men are
equal in some respect they are equal in their right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Certainly the Negro is not our equal in color. Perhaps not in many other respects. Still in the right to put into his mouth the bread that his own hands have earned. He is the equal of every other man white or black. Pointing out that more has been given you. You cannot be justified in taking away the little which has been given him. All I ask for the Negro is if you do not like him. Let him alone. If God gave him but little fat little let him enjoy. When our government was established we had the institution of slavery among us. We were in a certain sense compelled to tolerate its existence. It was a sort of necessity. We had gone through our struggle and secured our own independence. The framers of the Constitution found the institution of slavery among amongst their other institutions at the time they founded by an effort to eradicate it. They might lose much of what they had already gained. They were obliged to bow to the necessity they gave power to Congress to
abolish the slave trade at the end of twenty years. They also prohibited it in the territories where it did not exist. They did what they could and yielded to necessity for the rest. I also yield to all which follows from that necessity. What I want most desired would be the separation of the white and black races. One more point in this Springfield speech which Judge Douglas says he has read so carefully. I had expressed my belief in the existence of a conspiracy to perpetuate and nationalize slavery. I did not profess to know it nor do I now. I showed the part Judge Douglas had played in the string of facts constituting to my mind the proof of that conspiracy. I showed the parts played by others. I try to say that the people had been deceived into carrying the last presidential election by the impression that the people of the territories might exclude slavery if they chose when it was known in advance by the conspirators that the court was to decide that neither Congress nor the people could so exclude slavery. These charges are more distinctly made than anything else in the speech.
Judge Douglas has carefully read and Re-Read that speech. He has not so far as I know contradicted those charges in the two speeches which I heard he certainly did not on his own tacit admission. I renewed that charge. I charged him with having been a party to that conspiracy and to that deception for the sole purpose of nationalizing slavery. Dear listeners perhaps you were a bit startled for instance by Lincoln's view of separating the negroes and the whites. It is one of his None prophetic views a time bound idea which few hold today. A better note on which to end is this fragmentary statement on slavery dated about August 1st 1858. It is one of Lincoln's lasting ideas and helps mark him as a true freedom fighter as I would not be a slave so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of
democracy. Whatever differs from this to the extent of the difference is not democracy. Was. Lincoln a social prophet. The fourth in a series of readings on Abraham Lincoln commemorating Illinois sesquicentennial today's reading by Northern Illinois University speech instructor Marvin S. R. was entitled to freedom fighter 1858 next week. Freedom Fighter. 1860. A production of WNYC Radio in Northern Illinois University.
This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
- Lincoln as a social prophet
- Freedom Fighter, 1858
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- Northern Illinois University
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- Chicago: “Lincoln as a social prophet; Freedom Fighter, 1858,” 1968-07-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-69700x5b.
- MLA: “Lincoln as a social prophet; Freedom Fighter, 1858.” 1968-07-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-69700x5b>.
- APA: Lincoln as a social prophet; Freedom Fighter, 1858. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-69700x5b