The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 5 by Abraham Lincoln
Negroes are Men, to J. U. Brown.
SPRINGFIELD, OCT 18, 1858
HON. J. U. BROWN.
MY DEAR SIR:--I do not perceive how I can express myself more plainly than I have in the fore-going extracts. In four of them I have expressly disclaimed all intention to bring about social and political equality between the white and black races and in all the rest I have done the same thing by clear implication.
I have made it equally plain that I think the negro is included in the word "men" used in the Declaration of Independence.
I believe the declaration that "all men are created equal" is the great fundamental principle upon which our free institutions rest; that negro slavery is violative of that principle; but that, by our frame of government, that principle has not been made one of legal obligation; that by our frame of government, States which have slavery are to retain it, or surrender it at their own pleasure; and that all others--individuals, free States and national Government--are constitutionally bound to leave them alone about it.
I believe our Government was thus framed because of the necessity springing from the actual presence of slavery, when it was framed.
That such necessity does not exist in the Territories when slavery is not present.
In his Mendenhall speech Mr. Clay says: "Now as an abstract principle there is no doubt of the truth of that declaration (all men created equal), and it is desirable, in the original construction of society, to keep it in view as a great fundamental principle."
Again, in the same speech Mr. Clay says: "If a state of nature existed and we were about to lay the foundations of society, no man would be more strongly opposed than I should to incorporate the institution of slavery among its elements."
Exactly so. In our new free Territories, a state of nature does exist. In them Congress lays the foundations of society; and in laying those foundations, I say, with Mr. Clay, it is desirable that the declaration of the equality of all men shall be kept in view as a great fundamental principle, and that Congress, which lays the foundations of society, should, like Mr. Clay, be strongly opposed to the incorporation of slavery and its elements.
But it does not follow that social and political equality between whites and blacks must be incorporated because slavery must not. The declaration does not so require.
Yours as ever,
[Newspaper cuttings of Lincoln's speeches at Peoria, in 1854, at Springfield, Ottawa, Chicago, and Charleston, in 1858. They were pasted in a little book in which the above letter was also written.]