bill in the Senate of the United States in 1854, I incorporated in it the provision that it was the true intent and meaning of the bill, not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, or to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their own domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States
In that bill the pledge was distinctly made that the people of Kansas
should be left not only free, but perfectly free to form and regulate their own domestic institutions to suit themselves ; and the question arose, when the Lecompton Constitution
was sent into Congress, and the admission of Kansas
not only asked, but attempted to be forced under it, whether or not that Constitution was the free act and deed of the people of Kansas
No man pretends that it embodied their will.
Every man in America
knows that it was rejected by the people of Kansas
, by a majority of over ten thousand, before the attempt was made in Congress to force the Territory
into the Union
under that Constitution.
I resisted, therefore, the Lecompton Constitution
because it was a violation of the great principle of self-government, upon which all our institutions rest.
I do not wish to mislead you, or to leave you in doubt as to the motives of my action.
I did not oppose the Lecompton Constitution
upon the ground of the slavery clause contained in it. I made my speech against that instrument before the vote was taken on the slavery clause.
At the time I made it I did not know whether that clause would be voted in or out; whether it would be included in the Constitution
, or excluded from it, and it made no difference with me what the result of the vote was, for the reason that I was contending for a principle, under which you have no more right to force a free State upon a people against their will, than you have to force a slave State upon them without their consent.
The error consisted in attempting to control the free action of the people of Kansas
in any. respect whatever.
It is no argument with me to say that such and such a clause of the Constitution
was not palatable, that you did not like it ; it is a matter of no consequence whether you in Illinois
like any clause in the Kansas Constitution
or not; it is not a question for you, but it is a question for the people of Kansas
They have the right to make a Constitution in accordance with their own wishes, and if you do not like it you are not bound to go there and live under it. We in Illinois
have made a Constitution to suit ourselves, and we think we have a tolerably good one; but whether we have or not, it is nobody's business but our own. If the people in Kentucky
do not like it, they need not come here to live under it ; if the people of Indiana
are not satisfied with it, what matters it to us?
We, and we alone, have the right to a voice in its adoption or rejection.
Reasoning thus, my friends, my efforts were directed to the vindication of the great principle involving the right of the people of each State and each Territory to form and regulate their own domestic institutions to suit themselves, subject only to the Constitution
of our common country.
I am rejoiced to be enabled to say to you that we fought that battle until we forced the advocates of the Lecompton instrument to abandon the attempt of inflicting it upon the people of Kansas
, without first giving them an opportunity of rejecting it. When we compelled them to abandon that effort, they resorted to a scheme.
They agreed to refer the Constitution
back to the people of Kansas
, thus conceding the correctness of the principle for which I had contended, and granting all I had desired, provided the mode of that reference and the mode of submission to the people had been just, fair and equal.
I did not consider the mode of submission provided, in what is known as the “English
” bill, a fair submission, and for this simple reason, among others : It provided, in effect, that if the people of Kansas
would accept the Lecompton Constitution
, that they might come in with 36,000 inhabitants, but that, if they rejected it, in order that they might form a Constitution agreeable to their own feelings, and conformable to their own principles, that they should not be received into the Union
until they had 93,420 inhabitants.
In other words, it said to the people, if you will come into the Union
as a slaveholding State, you shall be admitted with 35,000 inhabitants, but if you insist on being a free State, you shall not be admitted until you have 93,420.
I was not willing to