Abraham Lincoln's speech at New Haven, Connecticut


March 6, 1860

Taken from Volume IV of the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, pp. 13 - 30, Roy Basler, editor. An initial footnote therein identifies the source of the text as coming from the New Haven Daily Palladium, March 7, 1860. Because of the length of the full speech we have here reproduced the opening two paragraphs and most of the concluding paragraphs.

MR. PRESIDENT AND FELLOW-CITIZENS OF NEW HAVEN: If the Republican party of this nation shall ever have the national house entrusted to its keeping, it will be the duty of that party to attend to all the affairs of national house-keeping. Whatever matters of importance may come up, whatever difficulties may arise in the way of its administration of the government, that party will then have to attend to. It will then be compelled to attend to other questions, besides this question which now assumes an overwhelming importance -- the question of Slavery. It is true that in the organization of the Republican party this question of Slavery was more important than any other; indeed, so much more important has it become that no other national question can even get a hearing just at present. The old question of tariff -- a matter that will remain one of the chief affairs of national housekeeping to all time -- the question of the management of financial affairs; the question of the disposition of the public domain -- how shall it be managed for the purpose of getting it well settled, and of making there the homes of a free and happy people -- these will remain open and require attention for a great while yet, and these questions will have to be attended to by whatever party has the control of the government. Yet, just now, they cannot even obtain a hearing, and I do not purpose to detain you upon these topics, or what sort of hearing they should have when opportunity shall come.

For, whether we will or not, the question of Slavery is the question, the all absorbing topic of the day. It is true that all of us -- and by that I mean, not the Republican party alone, but the whole American people, here and elsewhere -- all of us wish this question settled -- wish it out of the way. It stands in the way, and prevents the adjustment, and the giving of necessary attention to other questions of national house-keeping. The people of the whole nation agree that this question ought to be settled, and yet it is not settled. And the reason is that they are not yet agreed how it shall be settled. All wish it done, but some wish one way and some another, and some a third, or fourth, or fifth; different bodies are pulling in different directions, and none of them having a decided majority, are able to accomplish the common object. . . .

. . . If Slavery is right, all words, acts, laws, and Constitutions against it, are themselves wrong, and should be silenced, and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly object to its nationality -- its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon its extension -- its enlargement. All they ask, we could readily grant, if we thought Slavery right; all we ask, they could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right, and our thinking it wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but, thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this?

Wrong as we think Slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States? . . .

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government, nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty, as we understand it.

The Complete New Haven Speech