Lincoln on Race and Slavery

By Henry Louis Gates Jr.; Donald Yacovone et al. | Go to book overview

22

AL to John L. Scripps:
CW, 2:471

John Locke Scripps, the prominent Chicago publisher and a cofounder of the Chicago Tribune, wrote to Lincoln in response to his “House Divided” speech. Like many supporters of Lincoln's bid for a seat in the U.S. Senate, Scripps felt that the speech endorsed a far too radical stance on the abolition of slavery. Lincoln reacted with alarm at Scripps's interpretation of his remarks. He clarified his position, asserting that his speech revealed no intention of interfering with the institution of slavery in the Southern states. Instead, he reiterated his belief—and the Republican Party's founding principle—that Congress could only prevent slavery's expansion and indeed was obligated to do so. Although Lincoln claimed that he did not intend that Scripps publish his letter, he wished to exploit the editor's considerable clout and use him to help blunt any misconstruction of his remarks. Given Senator Douglas's penchant for describing his opponents as “Black Republicans,” Lincoln worked throughout his campaign to carefully trace the limits of Republicanism.

Jno. L. Scripps, Esq          Springfield,

My dear Sir                    June 23, 1858

Your kind note of yesterday is duly received. I am much
flattered by the estimate you place on my late speech; and
yet I am much mortified that any part of it should be con-
strued so differently from any thing intended by me. The
language, “place it where the public mind shall rest in the
belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction,” I used
deliberately, not dreaming then, nor believing now, that
it asserts, or intimates, any power or purpose, to interfere
with slavery in the States where it exists. But, to not cavil

-107-

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