The Difference between the Two Parties

Springfield Daily Illinois State Register, September 28, 1860

The great point upon which the political parties of the country are at variance, is that of slavery. Who shall decide whether slavery shall continue to exist in the states where it is now tolerated? Who shall decide whether it shall be tolerated in the territories of the Union? Upon these two questions the policy of the democratic party differs widely from that of the republican party, and to the people of the United States is submitted the choice.

The republican party assert that slavery is an evil of the greatest magnitude; that it is a curse to the state where it is permitted, a curse to the society which tolerates it, and a curse to all men who participate in it as masters and owners. In his letter to the Boston committee, Mr. Lincoln declares that the man who will not emancipate his slaves in this life, must undergo an eternity of bondage and slavery in the life to come; that he must in the great hereafter, expiate in eternal punishment the crime of holding slaves in this world. This evil of slavery is so odious that Lincoln has placed on record, in his famous Chicago speech, that he "hates" it worse than any abolitionist hates it. He says that it is such an offence against laws of right and justice that this Union cannot stand, cannot survive unless the nation take immediate steps to appease divine wrath by legislation for its rapid and ultimate extinction. He proposes remedies for the evil. He lays down as cardinal principles that the negro is entitled to all the rights of white men: that any law which deprives him of his liberty is void: that the negro is entitled to all the products of his own labor, and that the man who, under the pretence of ownership, deprives the negro of the proceeds of his own labor, is a tyrant and an oppressor, whose authority may be lawfully overthrown by the slaves if they have the physical power to do so. He proposes as the policy of the republican party, the immediate recognition by the federal government of the rights of the oppressed African; he proposes to legislate so that slavery must soon be extinguished. As a part of this policy, he insists that the negroes as long as they are slaves must remain within the borders of the present slave states, there to increase until they shall outnumber the white population. He proposes to remodel the supreme court of the United States by adding to it a number of republican judges, who shall be pledged to decide against slavery and slave owners. Having thus possession of the executive, legislative and judicial departments of the government, he proposes to carry out his policy by freeing the negroes and thus ultimately extinguishing slavery. The plan is an effectual one if practicable. It would be practicable if he could only induce the white people of the United States to submit to it. If he could overturn the constitution, extinguish state rights and obliterate private rights he might succeed, but to carry out his policy he must do all these things.

Another serious difficulty which presents itself in the way, is, what shall be done with the negroes? Once emancipated what is to become of them? In many of the southern states they will outnumber the whites. To emancipate them will not give them political privileges. A step further must be taken; they must be admitted to the rights and privileges of citizenship. The Dred Scott decision must be reversed and negroes must be declared the equal of the white race.

To trace the republican policy to its legitimate conclusion, it will be found that it must end in the Africanization of the slave states, and a gradual mingling of the races in the political control of the government.

The democratic party however has a much shorter and more direct policy. It has for its cardinal principle that this nation is a nation of white men, in which negroes have no voice whatever in the regulation of its political affairs. Negroes who are here, are entitled to be treated with all the kindness that humanity and christianity can suggest, but they are not entitled to any of the prerogatives of government. They are the inferior race, and must remain so, politically, forever. The regulation and government of this negro race, whether as free or as slave, has been wisely left by the constitution to the people of each state within their respective jurisdictions. The democratic party propose to leave that question where the constitution has left it, and where it has been regulated with great satisfaction for over seventy years. They propose that the white people of Illinois shall have exclusive control over the question of negro rights in Illinois; and that the people of the other states shall have the same exclusive control over the matter in their respective states. They insist that as the people of Illinois have excluded free negroes and slave negroes, that each other state shall have the same privilege. They propose that the entire question of slavery and negroism shall be left to the people of each state to be decided by themselves in their own good time, in such manner as their interests may dictate. They are opposed to overturning the whole policy of the past, overturning the whole theory of the American government, and are opposed to prostituting the government and destroying the peace and harmony of the Union to gratify the wild, extravagant ambition of abolition demagogues.

The democratic party propose that the great constitutional doctrine of leaving to each people the exclusive privilege of regulating their domestic institutions for themselves, and of having or rejecting African slavery as they may deem best, shall be recognized to the fullest extent in the people of each territory of the United States. Under that policy we will have no nationalization of slavery. We will have the entire subject committed to the exclusive control of the people of each state and territory, to be decided by them for their own weal or woe. The nation will not then be responsible if slavery shall be admitted into new territories, nor if it be excluded, but the people of those territories, who are alone to be affected by the absence or presence of the institution, alone will bear the burden or enjoy the profit of their own choice.

Under this policy there will be no pretext for disunion or strife between states or sections. The negro race will continue as at present. The country will not be overrun with millions of free negroes, but the United States will continue to be a nation of free white people.

That is popular sovereignty, and that is democracy.