1858
Fragment of Speech at Paris, Ill., Sept. 8, 1858.
 

Let us inquire what Judge Douglas really invented when he introduced the Nebraska Bill? He called it Popular Sovereignty. What does that mean? It means the sovereignty of the people over their own affairs--in other words, the right of the people to govern themselves. Did Judge Douglas invent this? Not quite. The idea of popular sovereignty was floating about several ages before the author of the Nebraska Bill was born--indeed, before Columbus set foot on this continent. In the year 1776 it took form in the noble words which you are all familiar with: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," etc. Was not this the origin of popular sovereignty as applied to the American people? Here we are told that governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. If that is not popular sovereignty, then I have no conception of the meaning of words. If Judge Douglas did not invent this kind of popular sovereignty, let us pursue the inquiry and find out what kind he did invent. Was it the right of emigrants to Kansas and Nebraska to govern themselves, and a lot of "niggers," too, if they wanted them? Clearly this was no invention of his because General Cass put forth the same doctrine in 1848 in his so called Nicholson letter, six years before Douglas thought of such a thing. Then what was it that the "Little Giant" invented? It never occurred to General Cass to call his discovery by the odd name of popular sovereignty. He had not the face to say that the right of the people to govern "niggers" was the right of the people to govern themselves. His notions of the fitness of things were not moulded to the brazenness of calling the right to put a hundred "niggers" through under the lash in Nebraska a "sacred" right of self-government. And here I submit to you was Judge Douglas's discovery, and the whole of it: He discovered that the right to breed and flog negroes in Nebraska was popular sovereignty.