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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: April 2013

9 - Seventh Lincoln–Douglas Debate

Summary

In the seventh and final of his debates with Douglas, Lincoln replies to Douglas’s repeated assertion that “all men” in the Declaration of Independence means that “all white men” are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that non-whites are not so created and so endowed. Lincoln reiterates his oft-repeated view that the Declaration refers to rights shared by all men, regardless of race. Slavery is, he says, a cancer in the American body politic, and its westward extension is tantamount to the spread of the cancer that will kill the body.

On being introduced to the audience, after the cheering had subsided Mr. Lincoln said:

ladies and gentlemen: . . . So far as Judge Douglas addressed his speech to me, or so far as it was about me, it is my business to pay some attention to it. I have heard the Judge state two or three times what he has stated to-day – that in a speech which I made at Springfield, Illinois, I had in a very especial manner, complained that the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case had decided that a negro could never be a citizen of the United States. I have omitted by some accident heretofore to analyze this statement, and it is required of me to notice it now. In point of fact it is untrue. I never have complained especially of the Dred Scott decision because it held that a negro could not be a citizen, and the Judge is always wrong when he says I ever did so complain of it. I have the speech here, and I will thank him or any of his friends to show where I said that a negro should be a citizen, and complained especially of the Dred Scott decision because it declared he could not be one. I have done no such thing, and Judge Douglas’s so persistently insisting that I have done so, has strongly impressed me with the belief of a predetermination on his part to misrepresent me. He could not get his foundation for insisting that I was in favor of this negro equality anywhere else as well as he could by assuming that untrue proposition. Let me tell this audience what is true in regard to that matter; and the means by which they may correct me if I do not tell them truly is by a recurrence to the speech itself. I spoke of the Dred Scott decision in my Springfield speech, and I was then endeavoring to prove that the Dred Scott decision was a portion of a system or scheme to make slavery national in this country. . .

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Lincoln
  • Online ISBN: 9781139034784
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139034784
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