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SPEECH OF HON. STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS.
DELIVERED AT CHICAGO, MAY 1st, 1861.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I thank you for the kind terms in which you have been pleased to welcome me. I thank the Committee and citizens of Chicago for this grand and imposing reception. I beg you to believe that I will not do you nor myself the injustice to believe this magnificent ovation is personal homage to myself. I rejoice to know that it expresses your devotion to the Constitution, the Union, and the flag of our country. (Cheers.)
I will not conceal gratification at the uncontrovertible test this vast audience presents—that what political differences or party questions may have divided us, yet you all had a conviction that when the country should be in danger, my loyalty could be relied on. That the present danger is imminent, no man can conceal. If war must come—if the bayonet must be used to maintain the Constitution I can
say before God my conscience is clean. I have struggled long for a peaceful solution of the difficulty. I have not only tendered those States what was theirs of right, but I have gone to the very extreme of magnanimity.
The return we receive is war, armies marched upon our capital, obstructions and dangers to our navigation, letters of marque to invite pirates to prey upon our commerce, a concerted movement to blot out the United States of America from the map of the globe. The question is, Are we to maintain the country of our fathers, or allow it to be stricken down by those who, when they can no longer govern, threaten to destroy ?
What cause, what excuse do disunionists give us for breaking up the best Government on which the sun of heaven ever shed its rays? They are dissatisfied with the result of a Presidential election. Did they never get beaten before? Are we to resort to the sword when we get defeated at the ballot box? I understand it that the voice of the people expressed in the mode appointed by the Constitution must command the obedience of every citizen. They assume, on the election of a particular candidate, that their rights are not safe in the Union. What evidence do they present of this? I defy any man to show any act on which it is based. What act has
been omitted to be done? I appeal to these asseinbled thousands that so far as the constitutional rights of the Southern States, I will say the constitutional rights of slaveholders, are concerned, nothing has been done, and nothing omitted, of which they can complain.
There has never been a time from the day that Washington was inaugurated first President of these United States, when the rights of the Southern States stood firmer under the laws of the land than they do now; there never was a time when they had not as good a cause for disunion as they have to-day. What good cause have they now that has not existed under every Administration ?
If they say the Territorial question-now, for the first time, there is no act of Congress prohibiting slavery anywhere. If it be the non-enforcement of the laws, the only complaints that I have heard have been of the too vigorous and faithful fulfilment of the Fugitive Slave Law. Then what reason have they?
The slavery question is a mere excuse. The election of Lincoln is a mere pretext. The present secession movement is the result of an enormous conspiracy formed more than a year since— formed by leaders in the Southern Confederacy more than twelve months ago .