Abraham Lincoln (18091865). Political Debates Between Lincoln and Douglas 1897.
did not. And yet if they had understood that Declaration as including the negro, which Mr. Lincoln holds they did, they would have been bound, as conscientious men, to have restored the negro to that equality which he thinks the Almighty intended he should occupy with the white man. They did not do it. Slavery was abolished in only one State before the adoption of the Constitution in 1789, and then in others gradually down to the time this Abolition agitation began, and it has not been abolished in one since. The history of the country shows that neither the signers of the Declaration, or the framers of the Constitution, ever supposed it possible that their language would be used in an attempt to make this nation a mixed nation of Indians, negroes, whites and mongrels. I repeat, that our whole history confirms the proposition, that from the earliest settlement of the colonies down to the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, our fathers proceeded on the white basis, making the white people the governing race, but conceding to the Indian and negro, and all inferior races, all the rights and all the privileges they could enjoy consistent with the safety of the society in which they lived. That is my opinion now. I told you that humanity, philanthropy, justice and sound policy required that we should give the negro every right, every privilege, every immunity consistent with the safety and welfare of the State. The question then naturally arises, What are those rights and privileges, and What is the nature and extent of them? My answer is, that that is a question which each State and each Territory must decide for itself. We have decided that question. We have said that in this State the negro shall not be a slave, but that he shall enjoy no political rights; that negro equality shall not exist. I am content with that position. My friend Lincoln is not. He thinks that our policy and our laws on that subject are contrary to the Declaration of Independence. He thinks that the Almighty made the negro his equal and his brother. For my part I do not consider the negro any kin to me, nor to any other white man; but I would still carry my humanity and my philanthropy to the extent of giving him every privilege and every immunity that he could enjoy, consistent with our own good. We in Illinois have the right to decide upon that question for ourselves, and we are