which my life for many years past has been, and in the future will be, devoted.
If there is any one principle dearer and more sacred than all others in free governments, it is that which asserts the exclusive right of a free people to form and adopt their own fundamental law, and to manage and regulate their own internal affairs and domestic institutions.
When I found an effort, being made during the recent session of Congress to force a Constitution upon the people of Kansas
against their will, and to force that State into the Union
with a Constitution which her people had rejected by more than 10,000 I felt bound as a man of honor and a representative of Illinois
, bound by every consideration of duty, of fidelity, and of patriotism, to resist to the utmost of my power the consummation of that fraud.
With others I did resist it, and resisted it successfully until the attempt was abandoned.
We forced them to refer that Constitution back to the people of Kansas
, to be accepted, or rejected as they shall decide at an election, which is fixed for the first Monday in August next.
It is true that the mode of reference and the form of the submission, was not such as I could sanction with my vote, for the reason that it discriminated between Free States and Slave States ; providing that if Kansas
consented to come in under the Lecompton Constitution
it should be received with a population of 35,000; but. that if she demanded another Constitution, more consistent with the sentiments of her people and their feelings, that it should not be received into the Union
until she has 93,420 inhabitants.
I did not consider that mode of submission fair, for the reason that any election is a mockery which is not free — that any election is a fraud upon the rights of the people which holds out inducements for affirmative votes, and threatens penalties for negative votes.
But whilst I was not satisfied with the mode of submission, whilst I resisted it to the last, demanding a fair, a just, a free mode of submission, still, when the law passed placing it within the power of the people of Kansas
at that election to reject the Lecompton Constitution
, and then make another in harmony with their principles and their opinions, I did not believe that either the penalties on the one hand, or the inducements on the other, would force that people to accept a Constitution to which they arc irreconcilably opposed.
All I can say is, that if their votes can be controlled by such considerations, all the sympathy which has been expended upon them has been misplaced, and all the efforts that have been made in defense of their right to self-government have been made in an unworthy cause.
Hence, my friends, I regard the Lecompton battle as having been fought, and the victory won, because, the arrogant demand for the admission of Kansas
under the Lecompton Constitution
unconditionally whether her people wanted it or not, has been abandoned, and the principle which recognizes the right of the people to decide for themselves has been submitted in its place.
Fellow-citizens: While I devoted my best energies — all my energies, mental and physical — to the vindication of the great principle, and whilst the result has been such as will enable the people of Kansas
to come into the Union
, with such a Constitution as they desire, yet the credit of this great moral victory is to be divided among a large number of men of various and different political creeds.
I was rejoiced when I found in this great contest the Republican party coming up manfully and sustaining the principle that the people of each Territory, when coming into the Union
, bare the right to decide for themselves whether slavery shall or shall not exist within their limits.
I have seen the time when that principle was controverted.
I have seen the time when all parties did not recognize the right of a people to have slavery or freedom, to tolerate or prohibit slavery, as they deemed best; but claimed that power for the Congress of the United States, regardless of the wishes of the people to be affected by it, and when I found upon the Crittenden-Montgomery
bill the Republicans and Americans of the North
, and I may say, too, some glorious Americans
and old line Whigs from the South
, like Crittenden
and his patriotic associates, joined with a portion of the Democracy to carry out and vindicate the right of the people to decide whether slavery should or should not exist within the limits of Kansas
, I was