Archive for November 10th, 2010

Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention:

If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South.

Have we no tendency to the latter condition?

Let anyone who doubts carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machinery, so to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider, not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted, but also let him study the history of its construction and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidences of design and concert of action among its chief architects, from the beginning.

The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the states by state constitutions and from most of the national territory by congressional prohibition. Four days later commenced the struggle which ended in repealing that congressional prohibition. This opened all the national territory to slavery and was the first point gained.

But, so far, Congress only had acted; and an endorsement by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable to save the point already gained and give chance for more.

This necessity had not been overlooked, but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of “squatter sovereignty,” other-wise called “sacred right of self-government,” which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That if any one man choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object. That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska Bill itself, in the language which follows:

It being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into an territory or state, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people there-of perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.

Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of “squatter sovereignty” and “sacred right of self-government.” “But,” said opposition members, “let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the territory may exclude slavery.” “Not we,” said the friends of the measure; and down they voted the amendment.

While the Nebraska Bill was passing through Congress, a law case, involving the question of a Negro’s freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free state and then into a territory covered by the congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave for a long time in each, was passing through the United States Circuit Court for the district of Missouri; and both Nebraska Bill and lawsuit were brought to a decision in the same month of May 1854. The Negro’s name was Dred Scott, which name now designates the decision finally made in the case. Before the then next presidential election, the law case came to, and was argued in, the Supreme Court of the United States; but the decision of it was deferred until after the election. Still, before the election, Senator Trumbull, on the floor of the Senate, requested the leading advocate of the Nebraska Bill to state his opinion whether the people of a territory can constitutionally exclude slavery from their limits; and the latter answers: “That is a question for the Supreme Court.”

The election came. Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the endorsement, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained. The endorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority by nearly 400,000 votes, and so, perhaps, was not overwhelmingly reliable and satisfactory. The outgoing President, in his last annual message, as impressively as possible echoed back upon the people the weight and authority of the endorsement. The Supreme Court met again, did not announce their decision, but ordered a reargument.

The presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the Court; but the incoming President, in his inaugural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. Then, in a few days, came the decision.

The reputed author of the Nebraska Bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capital endorsing the Dred Scott decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it. The new President, too, seizes the early occasion of the Silliman letter to endorse and strongly construe that decision, and to express his astonishment that any different view had ever been entertained!

At length a squabble springs up between the President and the author of the Nebraska Bill, on the mere question of fact, whether the Lecompton constitution was or was not in any just sense made by the people of Kansas; and in that quarrel the latter declares that all he wants is a fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up. I do not understand his declaration, that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up, to be intended by him other than as an apt definition of the policy he would impress upon the public mind — the principle for which he declares he has suffered so much and is ready to suffer to the end. And well may he cling to that principle! If he has any parental feeling, well may he cling to it. That principle is the only shred left of his original Nebraska doctrine.

Under the Dred Scott decision, “squatter sovereignty” squatted out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding; like the mold at the foundry, served through one blast and fell back into loose sand; helped to carry an election and then was kicked to the winds. His late joint struggle with the Republicans against the Lecompton constitution involves nothing of the original Nebraska doctrine. That struggle was made on a point — the right of a people to make their own constitution — upon which he and the Republicans have never differed.

The several points of the Dred Scott decision, in connection with Senator Douglas’ “care not” policy, constitute the piece of machinery in its present state of advancement. This was the third point gained. The working points of that machinery are:

First, that no Negro slave, imported as such from Africa, and no descendant of such slave can ever be a citizen of any state in the sense of that term as used in the Constitution of the United States. This point is made in order to deprive the Negro, in every possible event, of the benefit of that provision of the United States Constitution which declares that “the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.”

Second, that, “subject to the Constitution of the United States,” neither Congress nor a territorial legislature can exclude slavery from any United States territory. This point is made in order that individual men may fill up the territories with slaves, without danger of losing them as property, and thus enhance the chances of permanency to the institution through all the future.

Third, that whether the holding a Negro in actual slavery in a free state makes him free, as against the holder, the United States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by the courts of any slave state the Negro may be forced into by the master. This point is made, not to be pressed immediately but, if acquiesced in for awhile, and apparently endorsed by the people at an election, then to sustain the logical conclusion that what Dred Scott’s master might lawfully do with Dred Scott in the free state of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or 1,000 slaves, in Illinois or in any other free state.
Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mold public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, not to care whether slavery is voted down or voted up. This shows exactly where we now are; and partially, also, whither we are tending.

It will throw additional light on the latter to go back and run the mind over the string of historical facts already stated. Several things will now appear less dark and mysterious than they did when they were transpiring. The people were to be left “perfectly free,” “subject only to the Constitution.” What the Constitution had to do with it, outsiders could not then see. Plainly enough, now, it was an exactly fitted niche for the Dred Scott decision to afterward come in and declare the perfect freedom of the people to be just no freedom at all.

Why was the amendment expressly declaring the right of the people voted down? Plainly enough, now, the adoption of it would have spoiled the niche for the Dred Scott decision. Why was the Court decision held up? Why even a senator’s individual opinion withheld till after the presidential election? Plainly enough, now, the speaking out then would have damaged the “perfectly free” argument upon which the election was to be carried. Why the outgoing President’s felicitation on the endorsement? Why the delay of a reargument? Why the incoming President’s advance exhortation in favor of the decision? These things look like the cautious patting and petting of a spirited horse preparatory to mounting him when it is dreaded that he may give the rider a fall. And why the hasty after-endorsement of the decision by the President and others?

We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen — Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance — and when we see these timbers joined together and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortises exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few, not omitting even scaffolding, or, if a single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared yet to bring such piece in — in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck.

Electoral College Maps throughout US history

Go to “270 to Win” — it’s a website that shows how each state has voted in the presidential elections from 1789 onward. It also includes interesting facts about new states voting for the first time in each election and more.


Make sure you have looked at the electoral maps for the presidential elections in chapters 17-19, especially the 1860 map. There is a little slider window to allow you to do this.

Chapter 3 of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Chapter 3 of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe

(Eliza is a beautiful mixed-race slave who is the personal servant in the Shelby household in Kentucky. Her mistress is fond of her, and encouraged her marriage to another mixed race slave named George, who belongs to a Mr. Harris, who is far more cruel. George and Eliza have a young child named Harry, who is admired for his handsomeness and entertaining personality. Eliza had overheard a slave trader offering to buy Harry, but had been assured by her mistress that she would never allow such a thing. George had been rented out to a manufacturer who processed hemp into rope, his intelligence in inventing a machine in the factory causes his master to remove him from his work in the factory. In a fit of jealousy, Mr. Harris puts George to work at the most menial and hardest of tasks back on the plantation, making George very bitter indeed. Here, George gets a chance to visit his wife, and they converse about their situation.

(If you want to read Chapters 1-2, the entire original text is located here at on “The Text” to begin reading. Background information for the novel is also found at this site.)

Mrs. Shelby had gone on her visit, and Eliza stood in the verandah, rather dejectedly looking after the retreating carriage, when a hand was laid on her shoulder. She turned, and a bright smile lighted up her fine eyes.

“George, is it you? How you frightened me! Well; I am so glad you ‘s come! Missis is gone to spend the afternoon; so come into my little room, and we’ll have the time all to ourselves.”

Saying this, she drew him into a neat little apartment opening on the verandah, where she generally sat at her sewing, within call of her mistress.

“How glad I am! — why don’t you smile? — and look at Harry — how he grows.” The boy stood shyly regarding his father through his curls, holding close to the skirts of his mother’s dress. “Isn’t he beautiful?” said Eliza, lifting his long curls and kissing him.

“I wish he’d never been born!” said George, bitterly. “I wish I’d never been born myself!”

Surprised and frightened, Eliza sat down, leaned her head on her husband’s shoulder, and burst into tears.

“There now, Eliza, it’s too bad for me to make you feel so, poor girl!” said he, fondly; “it’s too bad: O, how I wish you never had seen me — you might have been happy!”

“George! George! how can you talk so? What dreadful thing has happened, or is going to happen? I’m sure we’ve been very happy, till lately.”

“So we have, dear,” said George. Then drawing his child on his knee, he gazed intently on his glorious dark eyes, and passed his hands through his long curls.

“Just like you, Eliza; and you are the handsomest woman I ever saw, and the best one I ever wish to see; but, oh, I wish I’d never seen you, nor you me!”

“O, George, how can you!”

“Yes, Eliza, it’s all misery, misery, misery! My life is bitter as wormwood; the very life is burning out of me. I’m a poor, miserable, forlorn drudge; I shall only drag you down with me, that’s all. What’s the use of our trying to do anything, trying to know anything, trying to be anything? What’s the use of living? I wish I was dead!”

“O, now, dear George, that is really wicked! I know how you feel about losing your place in the factory, and you have a hard master; but pray be patient, and perhaps something — ”

“Patient!” said he, interrupting her; “haven’t I been patient? Did I say a word when he came and took me away, for no earthly reason, from the place where everybody was kind to me? I’d paid him truly every cent of my earnings, — and they all say I worked well.”

“Well, it is dreadful,” said Eliza; “but, after all, he is your master, you know.”

“My master! and who made him my master? That’s what I think of — what right has he to me? I’m a man as much as he is. I’m a better man than he is. I know more about business than he does; I am a better manager than he is; I can read better than he can; I can write a better hand, — and I’ve learned it all myself, and no thanks to him, — I’ve learned it in spite of him; and now what right has he to make a dray-horse of me? — to take me from things I can do, and do better than he can, and put me to work that any horse can do? He tries to do it; he says he’ll bring me down and humble me, and he puts me to just the hardest, meanest and dirtiest work, on purpose!”

“O, George! George! you frighten me! Why, I never heard you talk so; I’m afraid you’ll do something dreadful. I don’t wonder at your feelings, at all; but oh, do be careful — do, do — for my sake — for Harry’s!”

“I have been careful, and I have been patient, but it’s growing worse and worse; flesh and blood can’t bear it any longer; — every chance he can get to insult and torment me, he takes. I thought I could do my work well, and keep on quiet, and have some time to read and learn out of work hours; but the more he see I can do, the more he loads on. He says that though I don’t say anything, he sees I’ve got the devil in me, and he means to bring it out; and one of these days it will come out in a way that he won’t like, or I’m mistaken!”

“O dear! what shall we do?” said Eliza, mournfully.

“It was only yesterday,” said George, “as I was busy loading stones into a cart, that young Mas’r Tom stood there, slashing his whip so near the horse that the creature was frightened. I asked him to stop, as pleasant as I could, — he just kept right on. I begged him again, and then he turned on me, and began striking me. I held his hand, and then he screamed and kicked and ran to his father, and told him that I was fighting him. He came in a rage, and said he’d teach me who was my master; and he tied me to a tree, and cut switches for young master, and told him that he might whip me till he was tired; — and he did do it! If I don’t make him remember it, some time!” and the brow of the young man grew dark, and his eyes burned with an expression that made his young wife tremble. “Who made this man my master? That’s what I want to know!” he said.

“Well,” said Eliza, mournfully, “I always thought that I must obey my master and mistress, or I couldn’t be a Christian.”

“There is some sense in it, in your case; they have brought you up like a child, fed you, clothed you, indulged you, and taught you, so that you have a good education; that is some reason why they should claim you. But I have been kicked and cuffed and sworn at, and at the best only let alone; and what do I owe? I’ve paid for all my keeping a hundred times over. I won’t bear it. No, I won’t!” he said, clenching his hand with a fierce frown.

Eliza trembled, and was silent. She had never seen her husband in this mood before; and her gentle system of ethics seemed to bend like a reed in the surges of such passions.

“You know poor little Carlo, that you gave me,” added George; “the creature has been about all the comfort that I’ve had. He has slept with me nights, and followed me around days, and kind o’ looked at me as if he understood how I felt. Well, the other day I was just feeding him with a few old scraps I picked up by the kitchen door, and Mas’r came along, and said I was feeding him up at his expense, and that he couldn’t afford to have every nigger keeping his dog, and ordered me to tie a stone to his neck and throw him in the pond.”

“O, George, you didn’t do it!”

“Do it? not I! — but he did. Mas’r and Tom pelted the poor drowning creature with stones. Poor thing! he looked at me so mournful, as if he wondered why I didn’t save him. I had to take a flogging because I wouldn’t do it myself. I don’t care. Mas’r will find out that I’m one that whipping won’t tame. My day will come yet, if he don’t look out.”

“What are you going to do? O, George, don’t do anything wicked; if you only trust in God, and try to do right, he’ll deliver you.”

“I an’t a Christian like you, Eliza; my heart’s full of bitterness; I can’t trust in God. Why does he let things be so?”

“O, George, we must have faith. Mistress says that when all things go wrong to us, we must believe that God is doing the very best.”

“That’s easy to say for people that are sitting on their sofas and riding in their carriages; but let ’em be where I am, I guess it would come some harder. I wish I could be good; but my heart burns, and can’t be reconciled, anyhow. You couldn’t in my place, — you can’t now, if I tell you all I’ve got to say. You don’t know the whole yet.”

“What can be coming now?”

“Well, lately Mas’r has been saying that he was a fool to let me marry off the place; that he hates Mr. Shelby and all his tribe, because they are proud, and hold their heads up above him, and that I’ve got proud notions from you; and he says he won’t let me come here any more, and that I shall take a wife and settle down on his place. At first he only scolded and grumbled these things; but yesterday he told me that I should take Mina for a wife, and settle down in a cabin with her, or he would sell me down river.”

“Why — but you were married to me, by the minister, as much as if you’d been a white man!” said Eliza, simply.

“Don’t you know a slave can’t be married? There is no law in this country for that; I can’t hold you for my wife, if he chooses to part us. That’s why I wish I’d never seen you, — why I wish I’d never been born; it would have been better for us both, — it would have been better for this poor child if he had never been born. All this may happen to him yet!”

“O, but master is so kind!”

“Yes, but who knows? — he may die — and then he may be sold to nobody knows who. What pleasure is it that he is handsome, and smart, and bright? I tell you, Eliza, that a sword will pierce through your soul for every good and pleasant thing your child is or has; it will make him worth too much for you to keep.”

The words smote heavily on Eliza’s heart; the vision of the trader came before her eyes, and, as if some one had struck her a deadly blow, she turned pale and gasped for breath. She looked nervously out on the verandah, where the boy, tired of the grave conversation, had retired, and where he was riding triumphantly up and down on Mr. Shelby’s walking-stick. She would have spoken to tell her husband her fears, but checked herself.

“No, no, — he has enough to bear, poor fellow!” she thought. “No, I won’t tell him; besides, it ain’t true; Missis never deceives us.”

“So, Eliza, my girl,” said the husband, mournfully, “bear up, now; and good-by, for I’m going.”

“Going, George! Going where?”

“To Canada,” said he, straightening himself up; and when I’m there, I’ll buy you; that’s all the hope that’s left us. You have a kind master, that won’t refuse to sell you. I’ll buy you and the boy; — God helping me, I will!”

“O, dreadful! if you should be taken?”

“I won’t be taken, Eliza; I’ll die first! I’ll be free, or I’ll die!”

“You won’t kill yourself!”

“No need of that. They will kill me, fast enough; they never will get me down the river alive!”

“O, George, for my sake, do be careful! Don’t do anything wicked; don’t lay hands on yourself, or anybody else! You are tempted too much — too much; but don’t — go you must — but go carefully, prudently; pray God to help you.”

“Well, then, Eliza, hear my plan. Mas’r took it into his head to send me right by here, with a note to Mr. Symmes, that lives a mile past. I believe he expected I should come here to tell you what I have. It would please him, if he thought it would aggravate ‘Shelby’s folks,’ as he calls ’em. I’m going home quite resigned, you understand, as if all was over. I’ve got some preparations made, — and there are those that will help me; and, in the course of a week or so, I shall be among the missing, some day. Pray for me, Eliza; perhaps the good Lord will hear you.”

“O, pray yourself, George, and go trusting in him; then you won’t do anything wicked.”

“Well, now, good-by,” said George, holding Eliza’s hands, and gazing into her eyes, without moving. They stood silent; then there were last words, and sobs, and bitter weeping, — such parting as those may make whose hope to meet again is as the spider’s web, — and the husband and wife were parted.