Abraham Lincoln (18091865). Political Debates Between Lincoln and Douglas 1897.
The issue between you and me, understand, is, that I think slavery is wrong, and ought not to be outspread; and you think it is right and ought to be extended and perpetuated. [A voice, Oh, Lord.] That is my Kentuckian I am talking to now.
In the first place, we know that in a Government like this, in a Government of the people, where the voice of all the men of the country, substantially, enters into the executionor administration, ratherof the Government,in such a Government, what lies at the bottom of all of it is public opinion. I lay down the proposition, that Judge Douglas is not only the man that promises you in advance a hold upon the North, and support in the North, but that he constantly moulds public opinion to your ends; that in every possible way he can, he constantly moulds the public opinion of the North to your ends; and if there are a few things in which he seems to be against you,a few things which he says that appear to be against you, and a few that he forbears to say which you would like to have him say,you ought to remember that the saying of the one, or the forbearing to say the other, would lose his hold upon the North, and, by consequence, would lose his capacity to serve you.
Upon this subject of moulding public opinion, I call your attention to the fact,for a well-established fact it isthat the Judge never says your institution of slavery is wrong; he never says it is right, to be sure, but he never says it is wrong. There is not a public man in the United States, I believe, with the exception of Senator Douglas, who has not, at some time in his life, declared his opinion whether the thing is right or wrong; but Senator Douglas never declares it is wrong. He leaves himself at perfect liberty to do all in your favor which he would be hindered from doing if he were to declare the thing to be wrong. On the contrary, he takes all the chances that he has for inveigling the sentiment of the North, opposed to slavery, into your support, by never saying it is right. This you ought to set down to his credit. You ought to give him full credit for this much, little though it be, in comparison to the whole which he does for you.