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Abraham Lincoln by George Haven Putnam

Of slavery within its present boundaries


of slavery within its present

boundaries. He maintained that such restrictions were just and necessary as well for the sake of fairness to the blacks as for the final welfare of the whites. He insisted that the voters in the present States in the Union had upon them the largest possible measure of responsibility in so controlling the great domain of the Republic that the States of the future, the States in which their children and their grandchildren were to grow up as citizens, must be preserved in full liberty, must be protected against any invasion of an institution which represented barbarity. He maintained that such a contention could interfere in no way with the due recognition of the legitimate property rights of the present owners of slaves. He pointed out to the New Englander of the anti-slavery group that the restriction of slavery meant its early extermination. He insisted that war for the purpose of exterminating slavery from existing slave territory could not be justified. He was prepared, for the purpose of defending against slavery the national territory that was still free, to take the risk of the war which the South threatened because he believed that only through such defence could the existence of the nation be maintained; and he believed, further, that the maintenance of the great Republic was essential, not only for the interests of its own citizens, but for the interests of free government throughout the world. He spoke with full sympathy of the difficulties and problems resting upon
the South, and he insisted that the matters at issue could be adjusted only with a fair recognition of these difficulties. Aggression from either side of Mason and Dixon's Line must be withstood.

I was but a boy when I first looked upon the gaunt figure of the man who was to become the people's leader, and listened to his calm but forcible arguments in behalf of the principles of the Republican party. It is not likely that at the time I took in, with any adequate appreciation, the weight of the speaker's reasoning. I have read the address more than once since and it is, of course, impossible to separate my first impressions from my later direct knowledge. I do remember that I was at once impressed with the feeling that here was a political leader whose methods differed from those of any politician to whom I had listened. His contentions were based not upon invective or abuse of "the other fellow," but purely on considerations of justice, on that everlasting principle that what is just, and only what is just, represents the largest and highest interests of the nation as a whole. I doubt whether there occurred in the whole speech a single example of the stories which had been associated with Lincoln's name. The speaker was evidently himself impressed with the greatness of the opportunity and with the dignity and importance of his responsibility. The speech in fact gave the keynote to the coming campaign.

It is hardly necessary to add that it also decided the selection of the national leader not only for the political campaign, but through the coming struggle. If it had not been for the impression made upon New York and the East generally by Lincoln's speech and by the man himself, the vote of New York could not have been secured in the May convention for the nomination of the man from Illinois.


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