Abraham Lincoln (18091865). Political Debates Between Lincoln and Douglas 1897.
Declaration of Independence, and underlying the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitution of every State of the Unionthat every people ought to have the right to form, adopt and ratify the Constitution under which they are to live. When I introduced the Nebraska bill in the Senate of the United States, in 1854, I incorporated in it the provision that it was the true intent and meaning of the bill, not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, or to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form, and regulate their own domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States. In that bill the pledge was distinctly made that the people of Kansas should be left not only free, but perfectly free to form and regulate their own domestic institutions to suit themselves; and the question arose, when the Lecompton Constitution was sent into Congress, and the admission of Kansas not only asked, but attempted to be forced under it, whether or not that Constitution was the free act and deed of the people of Kansas? No man pretends that it embodied their will. Every man in America knows that it was rejected by the people of Kansas, by a majority of over ten thousand, before the attempt was made in Congress to force the Territory into the Union under that Constitution. I resisted, therefore, the Lecompton Constitution because it was a violation of the great principle of self-government, upon which all our institutions rest. I do not wish to mislead you, or to leave you in doubt as to the motives of my action. I did not oppose the Lecompton Constitution upon the ground of the slavery clause contained in it. I made my speech against that instrument before the vote was taken on the slavery clause. At the time I made it I did not know whether that clause would be voted in or out; whether it would be included in the Constitution, or excluded from it, and it made no difference with me what the result of the vote was, for the reason that I was contending for a principle, under which you have no more right to force a free State upon a people against their will, than you have to force a slave State upon them without their consent. The error consisted in attempting to control the free action of the people of Kansas in any respect whatever. It is no argument with me to say that such and such a clause of the Constitution was not palatable,