regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, and that no limitation should be placed upon that right in any form.
Hence what was my duty, in 1854 when it became necessary to bring forward a bill for the organization of the Territories
Was it not my duty, in obedience to the Illinois
platform to your standing instructions to your Senators
, adopted with almost entire unanimity, to incorporate in that bill the great principle of self-government, declaring that it was “the true intent and meaning of the act not to legislate slavery into any State or Territory, or to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States
I did incorporate that principle in the, Kansas
bill, and perhaps I did, as much as any living man in the enactment of that bill, thus establishing the doctrine in the public policy of the country.
I then defended that principle against assaults from one section of the Union
During this last winter it became my duty to vindicate it against assaults from the other section of the Union
I vindicated it boldly and fearlessly, as the people of Chicago
can bear witness, when it was assailed by Freesoilers; and during this winter I vindicated and defended it as boldly and fearlessly when it was attempted to be violated by the almost united South.
I pledged myself to you on every stump in Illinois
in 1854, I pledged myself to the people of other States, North and South--wherever I spoke-and in the United States Senate and elsewhere, in every form in which I could reach the public mind or the public ear, I gave the pledge that, I, so far as the power should be in my hands, would vindicate the principle of the right of the people to form their own institutions, to establish Free States or Slave States as they chose, and that that principle should never be violated either by fraud, by violence, by circumvention, or by any other means, if it was in my power to prevent it. I now submit to you, my fellow-citizens, whether I have not redeemed that pledge in good faith!
Yes, my friends, I have redeemed it in good faith, and it is a matter of heart-felt gratification to me to see these assembled thousands here to-night bearing their, testimony to the fidelity with which I have advocated that principle and redeemed my pledges in connection with it.
I will be entirely frank with you. My object was to secure the right of the people of each State and of each Territory, North or South, to decide the question for themselves, to have slavery or not, just as they chose ; and my opposition to the Lecompton Constitution
was not predicated upon the ground that it was a pro-slavery Constitution, nor would my action have been different had it been a Freesoil Constitution.
My speech against the Lecompton fraud was made on the 9th of December, while the vote on the slavery clause in that Constitution was not taken until the 21st of the same month, nearly two weeks after.
I made my speech against the Lecompton monstrosity solely on the ground that it was a violation of the fundamental principles of free government ; on the ground that it was not the act and deed of the people of Kansas
; that it did not embody their will ; that they were averse to it ; and hence I denied the right of Congress to force it upon them, either as a free State or a slave State.
I deny the right of Congress to force a slave-holding State upon an unwilling people.
I deny their right to force a free State upon an unwilling people.
I deny their right to force a good thing upon a people who are unwilling to receive it. The great principle is the right of every community to judge and decide for itself, whether a thing is right or wrong, whether it would be good or evil for them to adopt it ; and the right of free action, the right of free thought, the right of free judgment upon the question is dearer to every true American than any other under a free government.
My objection to the Lecompton contrivance was, that it undertook to put a Constitution on the people of Kansas
against their will, in opposition to their wishes, and thus violated the great principle upon which all our institutions rest.
It is no answer to this argument to say that slavery is an evil, and hence should not be tolerated.
You must allow the people to decide for themselves whether it is a good or an evil.
You allow them to decide for themselves whether they desire a Maine liquor law or not; you allow them to decide for themselves