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Lincoln, Abraham; Nicolay, John G., ed; Hay, John, ed. 'Letter to James N. Brown, October 18, 1858' in 'The Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, v. 5' . New York: Francis D. Tandy Company, 1894, 1858. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=NH558c.html


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-- 88 --

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 form of government, that principle has not been made one of legal obligation; that by our form of government, the 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, where 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 are created equal) and it is desirable, in the original construction of society, and in organized societies, 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 would to incorporate the institutions of slavery among its elements."

Exactly so. In our new free territories, a state of nature does exist. In them Congress
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Lincoln, Abraham; Nicolay, John G., ed; Hay, John, ed. 'Letter to James N. Brown, October 18, 1858' in 'The Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, v. 5' . New York: Francis D. Tandy Company, 1894, 1858. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=NH558c.html
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