Stephen A. Douglas

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If there is any one principle dearer and more sacred than all others in free governments, it is that which asserts the exclusive right of a free people to form and adopt their own fundamental law, and to manage and regulate their own internal affairs and domestic institutions.
There are only two sides to this question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war; only patriots and traitors.
He declared that all distinctions of race must be discarded and blotted out, because the negro stood on an equal footing with the white man; that if one man said the Declaration of Independence did not mean a negro when it declared all men created equal, that another man would say that it did not mean another man; and hence we ought to discard all difference between the negro race and all other races, and declare them all created equal.
I do not regard the Negro as my equal, and positively deny that he is my brother, or any kin to me whatever.

Stephen Arnold Douglas (23 April 18133 June 1861), was as American politician, one of the principal founders of the Illinois Democrat Party, Illinois supreme court judge, and Illinois Senator. He was responsible for the passage of the compromise of 1850, author of the Kansas-Nebraska act. He was famous for his debates against Abraham Lincoln in 1858, which brought them both to greater national prominence in the U.S.

Quotes[edit]

1850s[edit]

  • Abolitionism proposes to destroy the right and extinguish the principle of self-government for which our forefathers waged a seven years' bloody war, and upon which our system of free government is founded.
    • Speech in the Senate (3 March 1854).
  • If there is any one principle dearer and more sacred than all others in free governments, it is that which asserts the exclusive right of a free people to form and adopt their own fundamental law, and to manage and regulate their own internal affairs and domestic institutions.
  • The framers of the Constitution well understood that each locality, having separate and distinct interests, required separate and distinct laws, domestic institutions, and police regulations adapted to its own wants and its own condition; and they acted on the presumption, also, that these laws and institutions would be as diversified and as dissimilar as the States would be numerous, and that no two would be precisely alike, because the interests of no two would be precisely the same.
    • Speech in Chicago, Illinois (9 July 1858)
  • I do not regard the Negro as my equal, and positively deny that he is my brother, or any kin to me whatever.
  • Slavery is not the only question which comes up in this controversy. There is a far more important one to you, and that is, What shall be done with the free negro? We have settled the slavery question as far as we are concerned; we have prohibited it in Illinois forever; and in doing so, I think we have done wisely, and there is no man in the State who would be more strenuous in his opposition to the introduction of slavery than I would; but when we settled it for ourselves, we exhausted all our power over that subject. We have done our whole duty, and can do no more. We must leave each and every other State to decide for itself the same question. In relation to the policy to be pursued toward the free negroes, we have said that they shall not vote; whilst Maine, on the other hand, has said that they shall vote. Maine is a sovereign State, and has the power to regulate the qualifications of voters within her limits. I would never consent to confer the right of voting and of citizenship upon a negro; but still I am not going to quarrel with Maine for differing from me in opinion. Let Maine take care of her own negroes and fix the qualifications of her own voters to suit herself, without interfering with Illinois, and Illinois will not interfere with Maine.
  • Mr. Lincoln simply contented himself at the outset by saying, that he was not in favor of social and political equality between the white man and the negro, and did not desire the law so changed as to make the latter voters or eligible to office. I am glad that I have at last succeeded in getting an answer out of him upon this question of negro citizenship and eligibility to office, for I have been trying to bring him to the point on it ever since this canvass commenced.
  • Lincoln maintains there that the Declaration of Independence asserts that the negro is equal to the white man, and that under Divine law, and if he believes so it was rational for him to advocate negro citizenship, which, when allowed, puts the negro on an equality under the law. I say to you in all frankness, gentlemen, that in my opinion a negro is not a citizen, cannot be, and ought not to be, under the Constitution of the United States. I will not even qualify my opinion to meet the declaration of one of the Judges of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case, “that a negro descended from African parents, who was imported into this country as a slave is not a citizen, and cannot be.” I say that this Government was established on the white basis. It was made by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and never should be administered by any except white men. I declare that a negro ought not to be a citizen, whether his parents were imported into this country as slaves or not, or whether or not he was born here. It does not depend upon the place a negro’s parents were born, or whether they were slaves or not, but upon the fact that he is a negro, belonging to a race incapable of self-government, and for that reason ought not to be on an equality with white men.
  • I hold that a Negro is not and never ought to be a citizen of the United States. I hold that this government was made on the white basis; made by the white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and should be administered by white men and none others.

1860s[edit]

  • You know that in his Charleston speech, an extract from which he has read, he declared that the negro belongs to an inferior race; is physically inferior to the white man, and should always be kept in an inferior position. I will now read to you what he said at Chicago on that point. In concluding his speech at that place, he remarked, 'My friends, I have detained you about as long as I desire to do, and I have only to say let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other man-this race and that race, and the other race being inferior, and therefore they must be placed in an inferior position, discarding our standard that we have left us. Let us discard all these things, and unite as one people throughout this land until we shall once more stand up declaring that all men are created equal'. Thus you see, that when addressing the Chicago Abolitionists he declared that all distinctions of race must be discarded and blotted out, because the negro stood on an equal footing with the white man; that if one man said the Declaration of Independence did not mean a negro when it declared all men created equal, that another man would say that it did not mean another man; and hence we ought to discard all difference between the negro race and all other races, and declare them all created equal.
  • There are only two sides to this question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war; only patriots and traitors.
    • Last public speech before his death, Chicago, Illinois (1 May 1861).

Quotes about Douglas[edit]

  • Under a Douglas presidency, we would have taken over the rest of Mexico and Central America whenever we had the resources and the appetite to take to do so. You can be sure that most of the Mexicans would have either been reduced to peonage or to slavery.
  • Douglas, no man will ever be President of the United States who spells 'negro' with two gs.
    • William Henry Seward, Sr., a retort to Stephen A. Douglas on the U.S. Senate floor, after the Illinoisan senator used an offensive slur in a speech. As quoted in Team of Rivals (2006), by Doris Kearns Goodwin (New York: Simon and Schuster), p. 163.
  • Douglas would repeat what Lincoln said about racial equality at Charleston in debates to come, usually in support of his claim that Lincoln varied his remarks according to location. There was some truth to this, but far less truth to the ensuing charge of inconsistency. Douglas knew better, and by the time of the final debate, he had heard Lincoln’s explanation enough times. He simply chose not to accept it. He knew that when it came to Illinois voters, shifting the issue from slavery to race tilted the scales in his favor.
  • White southerners saw Lincoln as anti-slavery and his election as a direct threat to the survival of the peculiar institution. Are you going to tell me that they were stupid or deluded? Is that any way for white southerners to honor their ancestors, by ridiculing their intelligence? Indeed, Stephen Douglas' decision to accuse Lincoln of embracing racial equality tells us that playing the race, or racism, card in the 1850s was alive and well, because Douglas believed that he would gain political traction among racist Illinois voters, who were white, after all, by associating Lincoln with the cause of black equality. Lincoln's response was thus also an issue of political survival. So was his decision not to publicize his support for limited black suffrage in Louisiana in 1864. He advanced the idea in a private letter, but waited thirteen months until he made his sentiment public, and three days after he made that sentiment public, he fell victim to an assassin's bullet because that assassin could not bear the thought of black equality. Lincoln knew he lived in a racist America, north and south.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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