Abraham Lincoln – Speech at Columbus, Ohio, September 16th (1859)
“I cannot fail to remember that I appear for the first time before an audience in this now great State–an audience that is accustomed to hear such speakers as Corwin, and Chase, and Wade, and many other renowned men; and remembering this, I feel that it will be well for you, as for me, that you should not raise your expectations to that standard to which you would have been justified in raising them had one of these distinguished men appeared before you. You would perhaps be only preparing a disappointment for yourselves, and, as a consequence of your disappointment, mortification to me. I hope, therefore, you will commence with very moderate expectations; and perhaps, if you will give me your attention, I shall be able to interest you to a moderate degree.
Appearing here for the first time in my life, I have been somewhat embarrassed for a topic by way of introduction to my speech; but I have been relieved from that embarrassment by an introduction which the Ohio Statesman newspaper gave me this morning. In this paper I have read an article, in which, among other statements, I find the following:
In debating with Senator Douglas during the memorable contest of last fall, Mr. Lincoln declared in favour of negro suffrage, and attempted to defend that vile conception against the little Giant.
I mention this now, at the opening of my remarks, for the purpose of making three comments upon it. The first I have already announced – it furnishes me an introductory topic; the second is to show that the gentleman is mistaken; thirdly, to give him an opportunity to correct it. (A voice – ‘That he won’t do.’)
In the first place, in regard to this matter being a mistake. I have found that it is not entirely safe, when one is misrepresented under his very nose, to allow the misrepresentation to go uncontradicted. I therefore purpose, here at the outset, not only to say that this is a misrepresentation, but to show conclusively that it is so; and you will bear with me while I read a couple of extracts from that very ‘memorable’ debate with Judge Douglas, last year, to which this newspaper refers. In the first pitched battle which Senator Douglas and myself had, at the town of Ottawa, I used the language which I will now read. Having been previously reading an extract, I continued as follows:”
Abraham Lincoln then quotes from a speech he made the previous year (1858) – so as not to be mistaken for a politician who upholds “Anti-Racist” viewpoints! I reproduce an etxract of this earlier speech (below) conveying the poignant remarks:
As Reported in the Chicago Times:
MR. LINCOLN’S SPEECH
Mr. Lincoln took the stand at a quarter before three, and was greeted with vociferous and protracted applause; after which, he said:
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: It will be very difficult for an audience so large as this to hear distinctly what a speaker says, and consequently it is important that as profound silence be preserved as possible.
While I was at the hotel to-day an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favour of producing perfect equality between the negroes and white people. White I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as the question was asked me I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favour of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not, nor ever have been in favour of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, or intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favour of having the superior position, the negro should be denied everything. I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave, I must necessarily want her for a wife. My understanding is that I can just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes. I will add to this that I have never seen to my knowledge a man, woman or child, who was in favour of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men. I recollect of but one distinguished instance that I ever heard of frequently as to be satisfied of its correctness – and that is the case of Judge Douglas’ old friend Col Richard M. Johnson. I will also add to the remarks I have made (for I am not going to enter at large upon this subject,) that I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes, if there were no law to keep them from it; but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of the State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes.”
Abraham Lincoln (Speech) – Charleston, Illinois, September 18th (1858)