Lincoln on Race and Slavery

By Abraham Lincoln; Henry Louis Gates Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

30

Speech At Clinton, Illinois:
CW, 3:81–84

Clinton, Illinois, lay in the center of the state and was the home of Clifton H. Moore, a lawyer with whom Lincoln had worked on a number of railroad cases during the 1840s. The town already had played a role in the campaign—on July 27, both Lincoln and Douglas spoke there. Lincoln gave this September speech, like those at Carlinville and Edwardsville, between the second and third of the formal Lincoln-Douglas debates. He opened, as he had done at Carlinville, with the rhetorical question “What is all this fuss that is being made about negroes?” He rehearsed his stands on the question of slavery and the territories, emphasizing the enormity of the slave question and dismissing his opponent's attempt to belittle Republican principles as merely a smokescreen for the party's attempt to promote racial intermarriage and black office holding. “He knows that we advocate no such doctrines as those, but he cares not how much he misrepresents us if he can gain a few votes by so doing.” Lincoln then cited his own speeches, including the pivotal one at Peoria in October 1854, to dismiss yet again any idea that either he or his party advocated racial equality—“where I always stood,” he exclaimed. Slavery, not freedom, caused racial mixing, he maintained, and without it the races would remain separate. To support his case, Lincoln cited census statistics recording the far greater number of mulattos in the slaveholding South than in the free states of the North.

September 2, 1858

… The questions are sometimes asked. “What is all
this fuss that is being made about negroes?—what does
it amount to?—and where will it end?” These questions
imply that those who ask them consider the slavery
question a very insignificant matter—they think that it

-149-

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