Lincoln’s clear and direct intellect went straight to the question whether Slavery and Freedom can permanently dwell together in the same house. In this interval he read the horoscope of slavery, and when he began to speak out, it was like the voice of a prophetdenouncing the vision.
The threat to repeal the Missouri Compromise, opening to slavery the territory long pledged to freedom, aroused Lincoln once for all. From this time he avowed his purpose to press the assault against slavery to the limit of Federal power, “until the sun shall shine, therain shall fall, the wind shall blow, upon no man who goes forth to unrequited toil.” The Peoria speech of 1854, plainly the product of deep thought and unfolding for the first time Lincoln’s matured mental attitude, forecasts all his later utterances in putting political opposition to slavery squarely upon the moral ground, denouncing the iniquity of the system and openly declaring, as the final reason against it on which the battle must turn, that slavery is wrong.
It was the precursor of the celebrated “lost speech” of 1856 at Bloomington, and those who heard both declare that on each occasion he was so wrought up with his theme as fairly to “quiver with emotion.” Nothing ever stirred Lincoln like slavery, the subject of all his later speeches, or moved him to such eloquence and depth of feeling. Denouncing slavery as “the only thing that ever endangered the Union,” he takes the field against it at Peoria in utterances like these: —”This declared indifference but, as I must think, covert zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate.
I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world; enables theenemies of free institutions with plausibility to taunt us as hypocrites; causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity; and especially because it forces so many really good men among ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civilliberty.”” If the negro is a man, is it not to that extent a total destruction of selfgovernment to say that he too shall not govern himself? When the white man governs himself, that is self-government* but when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is more than self-government — that is despotism. If the negro is a man, then my ancient faith teaches me that all men are created equal, and that there can be no moral right in one man making a slave of another.””No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.””The master not only governs the slave without his consent, but he governs him by a set of rules altogether different from those which he prescribes for himself.
Allow all the governed an equal voice in the government; that, and that only, is self-government.””Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man’s nature — opposition to it, in his love of justice. These principles are an eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely as slavery extension brings them, shocks and throes and convulsions must ceaselessly follow. Repeal the Missouri Compromise —repeal all compromises —re- peal the Declaration of Independence — repeal all past history —still you cannot repeal human nature.”” I particularly object to the new position which the avowed principle of this Nebraska law gives to slavery in the body politic. I object to it because it assumes that there can be moral right in the enslaving of one man by another.
“” Little by little, but steadily as man’s march to the grave, we have been giving up the old for the new faith. Near eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration that forsome men to enslave others is a ‘ sacred right of self-government.’ These principles cannot stand together. They are as opposite as God and Mammon.
“”In our greedy chase to make profit of the negro, let us beware lest we cancel and tear in pieces even the white man’s charter of freedom. Our republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let us repurify it.
Let us turn and wash it white in the spirit, if not the blood, of the Revolution. Let us turn slavery from its claims of ‘ moral right ‘ back upon its existing legal rights and its arguments of ‘ necessity.’