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Stephen Douglas and Slavery
Digital History ID 369



The sharpest difference between Lincoln and Douglas involved the civil rights of African Americans. Douglas was unable to conceive of blacks as anything but inferior to whites, and he was unalterably opposed to Negro citizenship. "I want citizenship for whites only," he declared. Lincoln said that he, too, was opposed to granting free blacks full civil rights. But he insisted that black Americans were equal to Douglas and "every living man" in their right to life, liberty, and the fruits of their own labor.

Document: Douglas Says Slavery is a Civilized and Christian Institution.

"At that day the Negro was looked upon as being of an inferior race. All history has proved that in no part of the world, or the world's history, had the Negro ever shown himself capable of self-government, and it was not the intention of the founders of this government to violate that great law of God which made the distinction between the white and the black man. That distinction is plain and palpable, and it has been the rule of civilization and Christianity the world over, that whenever any one man or set of men were incapable of taking care of themselves, they should consent to be governed by those who are capable of managing their affairs for them"--[Douglas' Springfield Grand Jury Speech, June 12th, 1857....]

Douglas "Don't Care."

"It is none of my business which way the slavery clause (in Kansas) is decided. I CARE NOT WHETHER IT IS VOTED DOWN OR VOTED UP.--[Douglas' speech in Senate, December 9th, 1857...]

Lincoln on the "Equality" of the Races. We present the following extract from Mr. Lincoln's speech at Charleston [in southern Illinois] on the 18th of September [1858], as a sufficient reply to the silly twaddle of the Douglasites about his favoring the doctrine of Negro equality:

While I was at the hotel to-day an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality between the Negroes and white people. [Great laughter.] While I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject yet as the question was asked me, I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races [applause]--that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people, and I will say in addition to this that there is physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior. I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say, upon the occasion, I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the black should be denied everything. I do not understand that because I do not want a Negro woman for a slave, I must necessarily want her for a wife. [Cheers and laughter]....I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry Negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, (laughter) but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, (roars of laughter) I give him the most solemn pledge that I will, to the very last, stand by the law of this state, which forbids the marrying of white people with Negroes. (Continued laughter and applause.)

Source: Facts for the People... The Political Record of Stephen A. Douglas

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