ones, who had been legislated out of existence by the change in the Government
from the Confederation to the Constitution
Not only so, but I believe Indiana
once or twice, if not Ohio
, petitioned the General Government
for the privilege of suspending that provision and allowing them to have slaves.
A report made by Mr. Randolph
, of Virginia
, himself a slaveholder, was directly against it, and the action was to refuse them the privilege of violating the Ordinance of ‘87.
This period of history, which I have run over briefly, is, I presume, as familiar to most of this assembly as any other part of the history of our country.
I suppose that few of my hearers are not as familiar with that part.
of history as I am, and I only mention it to recall your attention to it at this time.
And hence I ask how extraordinary a thing it is that a man who has occupied a position upon the floor of the Senate of the United States, who is now in his third term, and who looks to see the Government
of this whole country fall into his own hands, pretending to give a truthful and accurate history of the slavery question in this country, should so entirely ignore the whole of that portion of our history — the most important of all. Is it not a most extraordinary spectacle, that a man should stand up and ask for any confidence in his statements who sets out as he does with portions of history, calling upon the people to believe that it is a true and fair representation, when the leading part, and controlling feature of the whole history is carefully suppressed?
But the mere leaving out is not the most remarkable feature of this most remarkable essay.
His proposition is to establish that the leading men of the Revolution were for his great principle of non-intervention by the Government
in the question of slavery in the Territories
; while history shows that they decided in the cases actually brought before them, in exactly the contrary way, and he knows it. Not only did they so decide at that time, but they stuck to it during sixty years, through thick and thin, as long as there was one of the revolutionary heroes upon the stage of political action.
Through their whole course, from first to fast, they clung to freedom.
And now he asks the community to believe that the men of the Revolution were in favor of his great principle, when we have the naked history that they themselves dealt with this: very subject-matter of his principle, and utterly repudiated his principle acting upon a precisely contrary ground.
It is as impudent and absurd as if a prosecuting attorney should stand up before a jury, and ask them to convict A as the murderer of B, while B was walking alive before them.
I pay again, if Judge Douglas
asserts that the men of the Revolution acted upon principles by which, to be consistent with themselves, they ought to have adopted his popular sovereignty, then, upon a consideration of his own argument, he had a right to make you believe that they understood the principles of government, but misapplied them — that he has arisen to enlighten the world as to the just application of this principle.
He has a right to try to persuade you that he understands their principles better than they did, and, therefore, he will apply them now, not as they did, but as they ought to have done.
He has a right to go before the community, and try to convince them of this; but he has no right to attempt to impose upon any one the belief that these men themselves approved of his great principle.
There are two ways of establishing a proposition.
One is by trying to demonstrate it upon reason; and the other is, to show that great men in former times have thought so and so, and thus to pass it by the weight of pure authority.
Now, if Judge Douglas
will demonstrate somehow that this is popular sovereignty — the right of one man to make a slave of another, without any right in that other or any one else to object-demonstrate it as Euclid demonstrated propositions — there is no objection.
But when he comes forward, seeking to carry a principle by bringing to it the authority of men who themselves utterly repudiate that principle, I ask that he shall not be permitted to do it.
I see, in the Judge
's speech here, a short sentence in these words : “Our fathers, when they formed this Government under which we live, understood this question just as well and even better than we do now.”
That is true; I stick to that.