interfering with the domestic institutions and regulations of other States, permit the Territories
and new States to decide their institutions for themselves, as we did when we were in their condition; blot out these lines of North and South, and resort back to these lines of State boundaries which the Constitution
has marked out, and engraved upon the face of the country; have no other dividing lines but these, and we will be one united, harmonious people, with fraternal feelings, and no discord or dissension.
These are my views and these are the principles to which I have devoted all my energies since 1850, when I acted side by side with the immortal Clay
and the godlike Webster
in that memorable struggle in which Whigs and Democrats united upon a common platform of patriotism and the Constitution
, throwing aside partisan feelings in order to restore peace and harmony to a distracted country.
And when I stood beside the death-bed of Mr. Clay
, and heard him refer with feelings and emotions of the deepest solicitude to the welfare of the country, and saw that he looked upon the principle embodied in the great Compromise measures of 1550, the principle of the Nebraska
bill, the doctrine of leaving each State and Territory free to decide its institutions for itself, as the only means by which the peace of the country could be preserved and the Union
perpetuated,--I pledged him, on that death-bed of his, that so long as I lived my energies should be devoted to the vindication of that principle, and of his fame as connected with it. I gave the same pledge to the great expounder of the Constitution
, he who has been called the “god-like Webster
I looked up to Clay
and him as a son would to a father, and I call upon the people of Illinois
, and the people of the whole Union, to bear testimony, that never since the sod has been laid upon the graves of these eminent statesmen have I failed, on any occasion, to vindicate the principle with which the last great, crowning acts of their lives were identified, or to vindicate their names whenever they have been assailed; and now my life and energy are devoted to this great work as the means of preserving this Union.
This Union can only be preserved by maintaining the fraternal feeling between the North
and the South
, the East
and the West
If that good feeling can be preserved, the Union
will be as perpetual as the fame of its great founders.
It can be maintained by preserving the sovereignty of the States, the right of each State and each Territory to settle its domestic concerns for itself; and the duty of each to refrain from interfering with the other in any of its local or domestic institutions.
Let that be done, and the Union
will be perpetual ; let that be done, and this Republic, which began with thirteen States, and which now numbers thirty-two, which, when it began, only extended from the Atlantic
to the Mississippi
, but now reaches to the Pacific
, may yet expand, North and South, until it covers the whole Continent, and becomes one vast ocean-bound confederacy.
Then, my friends, the path of duty, of honor, of patriotism, is plain.
There are a few simple principles to be preserved.
Bear in mind the dividing line between State rights and Federal authority; let us maintain the great principles of popular sovereignty, of State rights, and of the Federal Union as the Constitution
has made it, and this Republic will endure forever.
I thank you kindly for the patience with which you have listened to me. I fear I have wearied you. I have a heavy day's work before me to-morrow.
I have several speeches to make.
My friends, in whose hands I am, are taxing me beyond human endurance, but I shall take the helm and control them hereafter.
I am profoundly grateful to the people of McLean
for the reception they have given me, and the kindness with which they have listened to me. I remember that when I first came among you here, twenty-five years ago, that I was prosecuting attorney in this district, and that my earliest efforts were made here, when my deficiencies were too apparent, I am afraid, to be concealed from any one.
I remember the courtesy and kindness with which I was uniformly treated by you all, and whenever I can recognize the face of one of your old citizens, it is like meeting an old and cherished friend.
I come among you with a heart filled with gratitude for past