The Lincoln-Douglas Debates
Fifth Joint Debate
Galesburg, October 7, 1858
Mr. Douglas's Speech
(full text at:


. . . In a speech in reply to me at Chicago in July last, Mr. Lincoln, in speaking of the equality of the
negro with the white man, used the following language:

"I should like to know, if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men
are equal upon principle, and making exceptions to it, where will it stop? If one man says it does not
mean a negro, why may not another man say it does not mean another man? If the Declaration is
not the truth, let us get the statute book in which we find it and tear it out. Who is so bold as to do
it? If it is not true, let us tear it out."

. . .

I tell you that this Chicago doctrine of Lincoln's declaring that the negro and the white man are
made equal by the Declaration of Independence and by Divine Providence is a monstrous heresy.
The signers of the Declaration of Independence never dreamed of the negro when they were writing
that document. They referred to white men, to men of European birth and European descent, when
they declared the equality of all men. I see a gentleman there in the crowd shaking his head. Let me
remind him that when Thomas Jefferson wrote that document, he was the owner, and so continued
until his death, of a large number of slaves. Did he intend to say in that Declaration, that his negro
slaves, which he held and treated as property, were created his equals by Divine law, and that he
was violating the law of God every day of his life by holding them as slaves? It must be borne in
mind that when that Declaration was put forth, every one of the thirteen Colonies were slaveholding
Colonies, and every man who signed that instrument represented a slave-holding constituency.
Recollect, also, that no one of them emancipated his slaves, much less put them on an equality
with himself, after he signed the Declaration. On the contrary, they all continued to hold their
negroes as slaves during the revolutionary war. Now, do you believe- are you willing to have
it said- that every man who signed the Declaration of Independence declared the negro his
equal, and then was hypocrite enough to continue to hold him as a slave, in violation of what
he believed to be the Divine law? And yet when you say that the Declaration of Independence
includes the negro, you charge the signers of it with hypocrisy.

I say to you, frankly, that in my opinion, this Government was made by our fathers on the
white basis. It was made by white men for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever,
and was intended to be administered by white men in all time to come. But while I hold that
under our Constitution and political system the negro is not a citizen, cannot be a citizen, and
ought not to be a citizen, it does not follow by any means that he should be a slave. On the
contrary it does follow that the negro, as an inferior race, ought to possess every right,
every privilege, every immunity which he can safely exercise consistent with the safety
of the society in which he lives. Humanity requires, and Christianity commands, that
you shall extend to every inferior being, and every dependent being, all the privileges,
immunities and advantages which can be granted to them consistent with the safety of
society. If you ask me the nature and extent of these privileges, I answer that that is a
question which the people of each State must decide for themselves. Illinois has decided
that question for herself. We have said that in this State the negro shall not be a slave, nor
shall he be a citizen. Kentucky holds a different doctrine. New York holds one different from
either, and Maine one different from all. Virginia, in her policy on this question, differs in
many respects from the others, and so on, until there is hardly two States whose policy is
exactly alike in regard to the relation of the white man and the negro. Nor can you reconcile
them and make them alike. Each State must do as it pleases. Illinois had as much right to
adopt the policy which we have on that subject as Kentucky had to adopt a different policy.
The great principle of this Government is, that each State has the right to do as it pleases on
all these questions, and no other State, or power on earth has the right to interfere with us,
or complain of us merely because our system differs from theirs.
. . .

The great fundamental principle of our Government is that the people of each State and each
Territory shall be left perfectly free to decide for themselves what shall be the nature and character of
their institutions. When this Government was made, it was based on that principle. At the time of
its formation there were twelve slaveholding States and one free State in this Union. Suppose this
doctrine of Mr. Lincoln and the Republicans, of uniformity of laws of all the States on the subject
of slavery, had prevailed; suppose Mr. Lincoln himself had been a member of the Convention
which framed the Constitution, and that he had risen in that august body, and addressing the
father of his country, had said as he did at Springfield:

"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this Government cannot endure
permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved - I do not expect
the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other."

What do you think would have been the result? Suppose he had made that Convention believe
that doctrine and they had acted upon it, what do you think would have been the result? Do you
believe that the one free State would have outvoted the twelve slaveholding States, and thus abolish
slavery? On the contrary, would not the twelve slaveholding States have outvoted the one free State,
and under his doctrine have fastened slavery by an irrevocable Constitutional provision upon every
inch of the American Republic? Thus you see that the doctrine he now advocates, if proclaimed
at the beginning of the Government, would have established slavery every where throughout the
American continent, and are you willing, now that we have the majority section, to exercise a
power which we never would have submitted to when we were in the minority? If the Southern
States had attempted to control our institutions, and make the States all slave when they had the
power, I ask would you have submitted to it? If you would not, are you willing now, that we
have become the strongest under that great principle of self-government that allows each
State to do as it pleases, to attempt to control the Southern institutions? Then, my friends,
I say to you that there is but one path of peace in this Republic, and that is to administer this
Government as our fathers made it, divided into free and slave States, allowing each State to
decide for itself whether it wants slavery or not. If Illinois will settle the slavery question for
herself, and mind her own business and let her neighbors alone, we will be at peace with
Kentucky, and every other Southern State. If every other State in the Union will do the
same there will be peace between the North and the South, and in the whole Union.


MY FELLOW-CITIZENS:. . .The Judge has alluded to the Declaration of Independence,
and insisted that negroes are not included in that Declaration; and that it is a slander upon the
framers of that instrument, to suppose that negroes were meant therein; and he asks you: Is it
possible to believe that Mr. Jefferson, who penned the immortal paper, could have supposed
himself applying the language of that instrument to the negro race, and yet held a portion of that
race in slavery? Would he not at once have freed them? I only have to remark upon this part
of the Judge's speech (and that, too, very briefly, for I shall not detain myself, or you, upon that
point for any great length of time), that I believe the entire records of the world, from the date
of the Declaration of Independence up to within three years ago, may be searched in vain for
one single affirmation, from one single man, that the negro was not included in the Declaration
of Independence; I think I may defy Judge Douglas to show that he ever said so, that Washington
ever said so, that any President ever said so, that any member of Congress ever said so,
or that any living man upon the whole earth ever said so, until the necessities of the present
policy of the Democratic party, in regard to slavery, had to invent that affirmation. And I will
remind Judge Douglas and this audience, that while Mr. Jefferson was the owner of slaves, as
undoubtedly he was, in speaking upon this very subject, he used the strong language that "he
trembled for his country when he remembered that God was just;" and I will offer the highest
premium in my power to Judge Douglas if he will show that he, in all his life, ever uttered a
sentiment at all akin to that of Jefferson.
. . .

Every thing that emanates from him or his coadjutors in their course of policy, carefully excludes
the thought that there is any thing wrong in slavery. All their arguments, if you will consider them,
will be seen to exclude the thought that there is any thing whatever wrong in slavery. If you will take
the Judge's speeches, and select the short and pointed sentences expressed by him-as his declaration
that he "don't care whether slavery is voted up or down" - you will see at once that this is perfectly
logical, if you do not admit that slavery is wrong. If you do admit that it is wrong, Judge Douglas
cannot logically say he don't care whether a wrong is voted up or voted down. Judge Douglas
declares that if any community want slavery they have a right to have it. He can say that logically,
if he says that there is no wrong in slavery; but if you admit that there is a wrong in it, he cannot
logically say that any body has a right to do wrong. He insists that, upon the score of equality,
the owners of slaves and owners of property - of horses and every other sort of property should
be alike and hold them alike in a new Territory. That is perfectly logical, if the two species of
property are alike and are equally founded in right. But if you admit that one of them is wrong,
you cannot institute any equality between right and wrong. And from this difference of sentiment,
the belief on the part of one that the institution is wrong, and a policy springing from that belief
which looks to the arrest of the enlargement of that wrong; and this other sentiment, that it is no
wrong, and a policy sprung from that sentiment which will tolerate no idea of preventing that
wrong from growing larger, and looks to there never being an end of it through all the existence
of things, arises the real difference between Judge Douglas and his friends on the one hand, and the
Republicans on the other. Now, I confess myself as belonging to that class in the country who
contempalte slavery as a moral, social and political evil, having due regard for its actual existence
amongst us and the difficulties of getting rid of it in any satisfactory way, and to all the Constitutional
obligations which have been thrown about it; but, nevertheless, desire a policy that looks to the
prevention of it as a wrong, and looks hopefully to the time when as a wrong it may come to an end.

. . .

So far in this controversy I can get no answer at all from Judge Douglas upon these subjects.
Not one can I get from him, except that he swells himself up and says, "All of us who stand by the
decision of the Supreme Court are the friends of the Constitution; all you fellows that dare question
it in any way, are the enemies of the Constitution." Now, in this very devoted adherence to this
decision, in opposition to all the great political leaders whom he has recognized as leaders in
opposition to his former self and history, there is something very marked. And the manner in which
he adheres to it not as being right upon the merits, as he conceives (because he did not discuss that at all),
but as being absolutely obligatory upon every one simply because of the source from whence it comes
as that which no man can gainsay, whatever it may bethis is another marked feature of his adherence
to that decision. It marks it in this respect, that it commits him to the next decision, whenever it comes,
as being as obligatory as this one, since he does not investigate it, and won't inquire
whether this opinion is right or wrong. So he takes the next one without inquiring whether it
is right or wrong. He teaches men this doctrine, and in so doing prepares the public mind to take
the next decision when it comes, without any inquiry. In this I think I argue fairly (without questioning
motives at all), that Judge Douglas is more ingeniously and powerfully preparing the public mind to
take that decision  when it comes; and not only so, but he is doing it in various other ways.
In these general maxims about liberty- in his assertions that he "don't care whether slavery is
voted up or voted down;" that "whoever wants slavery has a right to have it;" that
"upon principles of equality it should be allowed to go every where;" that "there is no
inconsistency between free and slave institutions." In this he is also preparing
(whether purposely or not) the way for making the institution of slavery national!

I repeat again, for I wish no misunderstanding, that I do not charge that he means it so; but I call upon
your minds to inquire, if you were going to get the best instrument you could, and then set it to work in
the most ingenious way, to prepare the public mind for this movement, operating in the free States,
where there is now an abhorrence of the institution of slavery, could you find an instrument so capable
of doing it as Judge Douglas - or one employed in so apt a way to do it?

I have said once before, and I will repeat it now, that Mr. Clay, when he was once answering an
objection to the Colonization Society, that it had a tendency to the ultimate emancipation of the slaves,
said that "those who would repress all tendencies to liberty and ultimate emancipation must do more
than put down the benevolent efforts of the Colonization Society -they must go back to the era of
our liberty and independence, and muzzle the cannon that thunders its annual joyous return- they
must blot out the moral lights around us- they must penetrate the human soul, and eradicate the
light of reason and the love of liberty!" And I do think- I repeat, though I said it on a former occasion -
that Judge Douglas, and whoever like him teaches that the negro has no share, humble though it may be,
in the Declaration of Independence, is going back to the era of our liberty and independence, and, so
far as in him lies, muzzling the cannon that thunders its annual joyous return; that he is blowing out the
moral lights around us, when he contends that whoever wants slaves has a right to hold them; that
he is penetrating, so far as lies in his power, the human soul, and eradicating the light of reason
and the love of liberty, when he is in every possible way preparing the public mind, by his vast
influence, for making the institution of slavery perpetual and national . . .