resolution upon the journal, with which you must all be familiar — a resolution brought forward by Mr. Ninian Edwards
, and adopted by the House of Representatives by a vote of 61 in the affirmative to 4 in the negative.
That resolution I can quote to you in almost its precise language.
It declared that the great principle of self-government was the birthright of freemen ; was the gift of heaven ; was achieved by the blood of our revolutionary fathers, and must be continued and carried out in the organization of all the Territories
and the admission of all new States.
That became the Illinois
platform by the united voices of the Democratic party and of the Whig party in 1851 ; all the Whigs
and all the Democrats in the Legislature uniting in an affirmative vote upon it, and there being only 4 votes in the negative, of Abolitionists, of course, that resolution stands upon the journal of your Legislature to this day and hour unrepealed, as a standing, living, perpetual instruction to the Senators
in all time to come to carry out that principle of self-government and allow no limitation upon it in the organization of any Territories or the admission of any new States.
In 1854, when it became my duty as the chairman of the committee on Territories to bring forward a bill for the organization of Kansas
, I incorporated that principle in it and Congress passed it, thus carrying the principle into practical effect.
I will not recur to the scenes which took place all over the country in 1854 when that Nebraska
I could then travel from Boston
by the light of my own effigies, in consequence of having stood up for it. I leave it to you to say how I met that storm, and whether I quailed under it; whether I did not “face the music,” justify the principle, and pledge my life to carry it out.
A friend here reminds me, too, that when making speeches then, justifying the Nebraska
bill and the great principle of self-government, that I predicted that in less than five years you would have to get out a search warrant to find an anti-Nebraska
man. Well, I believe I did make that prediction.
I did not claim the power of a prophet, but it occurred to me that among a free people, and an honest people, and an intelligent people, that five years was long enough for them to come to an understanding that the great principle of self-government was right, not only in the States, but in the Territories
I rejoiced this year to see my prediction, in that respect, carried out and fulfilled by the unanimous vote, in one form or another of both Houses of Congress.
If you will remember that pending this Lecompton
controversy that gallant old Roman
's favorite son, the worthy successor of the immortal Clay-I allude, as you know, to the gallant John J. Crittenden
-brought forward a bill, now known as the Crittenden-Montgomery
bill, in which it was proposed that the Lecompton Constitution
should be referred back to the people of Kansas
, to be decided for or against it, at a fair election, and if a majority of the people were in favor of it, that Kansas
should come into the Union
as a slaveholding State, but that if a majority were against it, that they should make a new Constitution, and come in with slavery or without it, as they thought proper. [ “That was right.” ] Yes, my dear sir, it was not only right, but it was carrying out the principle of the Nebraska
bill in its letter and in its spirit.
Of course I voted for it, and so did every Republican Senator
and Representative in Congress.
I have found some Democrats so perfectly straight that, they blame me for voting for the principle of the Nebraska
bill because the Republicans voted the same way. [Great laughter.
“What did they say?” ] What did they say?
Why, many of them said that Douglas
voted with the Republicans.
Yes! not only that, but with the black Republicans.
Well, there are different modes of stating that proposition.
The New York Tribune
says that Douglas
did not vote with the Republicans, but that on that question the Republicans went over to Douglas
and voted with him.
My friends, I have never yet abandoned a principle because of the support I found men yielding to it, and I shall never abandon my Democratic principles merely because Republicans come to them.
For what do we travel over the country and make speeches in every political canvass, if it is not to enlighten the minds