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Speech to the Workingmen.
Labor and Capital
arguments, to prove that large control of the people in government is the source of all political evil. Monarchy is sometimes hinted at as a possible refuge from the power of the people. In my present position, I could scarcely be justified were I to omit raising my voice against this approach of returning despotism.
"It is not needed or fitting here that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions; but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of the Government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else owning capital somehow, by use of it, induces him to labor.
"This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And, further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life. Now there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both of these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.
"Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and never could have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the support of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of a community
Speech to the Workingmen.
The Prudent Beginner.
exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and with that capital hire or buy another few to labor for them.
“A large majority belong to neither class—neither work for others nor have others working for them. In most of the Southern States a majority of the whole people, of all colors, are neither slaves nor masters, while, in the Northern States, a large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men with their families—wives, sons, and daughters—work for themselves on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand nor of hired laborers or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persous mingle their own labor with capital—that is, they labor with their own hands and also buy or bire others to labor for them; but this is only a mixed and not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class.
“Again. As has already been said, there is not of vecessity any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. Many independent men everywhere in these States, a few years back in their lives, were bired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or lands for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length bires another new beginner to help him. This is the just, and generous, and prosperous system which opens the way to all-gives hope to all, and consequent energy, and progress, and improvement to all.
No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty — none less inclined to take or touch aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power wbich they already possess, and which, if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they, and to
Speech to the Workingmen.
Speech in Baltimore.
fix new disabilities and burdens upon them till all of liberty shall be lost.'
"The views then expressed remain unchanged-nor have I much to add. None are so deeply interested to resist the present rebellion as the working people. Let them beware of prejudices working disunion and hostility among themselves. The most notable feature of a disturbance in your city last summer, was the hanging of some working people by other working people. It should never be so. The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of the family relation, should be one uniting all working people, of all nations, tongues, and kindreds. Nor should this lead to a war upon property or the owners of property. Property is the fruit of labor; property is desirable; is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him labor diligently and build one for himself; thus, by example, assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built."
And in Baltimore-that Baltimore through which, in February, 1861, he had been compelled to pass by stealth, to avoid the assassin, on his way to his inauguration on the 18th of April, 1864, the anniversary eve of that murder of loyal citizens armed in defence of their imperilled countryMr. Lincoln spoke at a similar Fair, and spoke, too, of slavery, as of an institution practically annihilated in Maryland.
Truly some advance had been made during those three years, so pregnant with events!
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN :-Calling it to mind that we are in Baltimore, we cannot fail to note that the world moves. Looking upon the many people I see assembled here to serve as they best may the soldiers of the Union, it occurs to me
Speech at Baltimore.
Definition of Liberty.
that three years ago those soldiers could not pass through Baltimore. I would say, blessings upon the men who have wrought these changes, and the ladies who have assisted them. This change which has taken place in Baltimore, is part only of a far wider change that is taking place all over the country.
"When the war commenced, three years ago, no one expected that it would last this long, and no one supposed that the institution of slavery would be materially affected by it. But here we are. The war is not yet ended, and slavery has been very materially affected or interfered with. So true is it that man proposes and God disposes.
"The world is in want of a good definition of the word liberty. We all declare ourselves to be for liberty, but we do not all mean the same thing. Some mean that a man can do as he pleases with himself and his property. With others, it means that some men can do as they please with other men and other men's labor. Each of these things are called liberty, although they are entirely different. To give an illustration: A shepherd drives the wolf from the throat of his sheep when attacked by him, and the sheep, of course, thanks the shepherd for the preservation of his life; but the wolf denounces him as despoiling the sheep of his libertyespecially if it be a black sheep.
"This same difference of opinion prevails among some of the people of the North. But the people of Maryland have recently been doing something to properly define the meaning of the word, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for what they have done and are doing.
"It is not very becoming for a President to make a speech at great length, but there is a painful rumor afloat in the country, in reference to which a few words shall be said. It is reported that there has been a wanton massacre of some hundreds of colored soldiers at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, during a recent engagement there, and it is fit to explain
Massacre &t Fort Pillow.
President's Policy on Slavery.
some facts in relation to the affair. It is said by some persons that the Government is not, in this matter, doing its duty. At the commencement of the war, it was doubtful whether black men would be used as soldiers or not. The matter was examined into very carefully, and after mature deliberation, the whole matter resting as it were with himself, he, in his judgment, decided that they should.
"He was responsible for the act to the American people, to a Christian nation, to the future historian, and above all, to his God, to whom he would have, one day, to render an account of his stewardship. He would now say that in his opinion the black soldier should have the same protection as the white soldier, and he would have it. It was an error to say that the Government was not acting in the matter. The Government has no direct evidence to confirm the reports in existence relative to this massacre, but he himself believed the facts in relation to it to be as stated. When the Government does know the facts from official sources, and they prove to substantiate the reports, retribution will be surely given."
Mr. Lincoln's policy upon the question of slavery, is tersely presented in the following letter written by him to a Kentuckian, dated Executive Mansion, Washington, April 4, 1864.
"A. G. HODGES, Esq., Frankfort, Ky. :
"MY DEAR SIR: You ask me to put in writing the substance of what I verbally said the other day in your presence, to Governor Bramlette and Senator Dixon.
about as follows:
"I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong. nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think and feel. And yet, I have never understood that he Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took, that I would, to the best of my ability, preserve, pro