Learning Lincoln On-line

FROM-- SET SIX, CIVIL WAR STUDIES

Slavery and the Underground Railroad:  Illinois

INTRODUCTORY TASK ARTICLE

Abraham Lincoln and the Early Life Influences Concerning Slavery

 Religious description in the 19th Century occurred, such as when the "Catholics" as listed in this letter.

Letter to Joshua Speed

In 1855, Lincoln wrote to Joshua Speed, a personal friend and slave owner in Kentucky:

         [To Joshua Speed]  "You know I dislike slavery; and you fully admit the abstract wrong of it... I also acknowledge your rights and my obligations, under the constitution, in regard to your slaves. I confess I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down, and caught, and carried back to their stripes, and unrewarded toils; but I bite my lip and keep quiet. In 1841 you and I had together a tedious low-water trip, on a Steam Boat from Louisville to St. Louis. You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio, there were, on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continued torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border. It is hardly fair for you to assume, that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution and the Union. . . How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty— to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."


Lincoln-Douglas Debates 1858

                 

                                                         Abraham Lincoln           Stephen A. Douglas

       Many of Lincoln's public anti-slavery sentiments were presented in the seven Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 against his opponent, Stephen Douglas, during Lincoln's unsuccessful campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate (which was decided by the Illinois legislature). Douglas advocated "popular sovereignty" and self-government, which would give the citizens of a territory the right to decide if slavery would be legal there.   Douglas criticized Lincoln as being inconsistent, saying he altered his message and position on slavery and on the political rights of freed blacks in order to appeal to the audience before him, as northern Illinois was more hostile to slavery than southern Illinois.

       Lincoln stated that Negroes had the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in the first of the Lincoln–Douglas debates.  Publicly, Lincoln said he was not advocating Negro suffrage in his speech in Columbus, Ohio on September 16, 1859.

       This might have been a strategy speech used to gain voters, as Douglas had accused Lincoln of favoring negroes too much as well.

       A fragment from Lincoln dated October 1, 1858, refuting theological arguments by Frederick A. Ross in favor of slavery, reads in part, "As a good thing, slavery is strikingly perculiar [sic], in this, that it is the only good thing which no man ever seeks the good of, for himself. Nonsense! Wolves devouring lambs, not because it is good for their own greedy maws, but because it is good for the lambs!!!"

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