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only intolerable, unjust, and inhuman towards the laborer, whom, only because he is a laborer, it loads down with chains and converts into merchandise; but is scarcely less severe upon the freeman, to whom, only because he is a 5 laborer from necessity, it denies facilities for employ
ment, and whom it expels from the community because it cannot enslave and convert him into merchandise also. It is necessarily improvident and ruinous, because, as a
general truth, communities prosper and flourish, or droop 10 and decline, in just the degree that they practise or
neglect to practise the primary duties of justice and humanity. The free-labor system conforms to the divine law of equality which is written in the hearts and con
sciences of men, and therefore is always and everywhere 15 beneficent.
The slave system is one of constant danger, distrust, suspicion, and watchfulness. It debases those whose toil alone can produce wealth and resources for defence,
to the lowest degree of which human nature is capable, 20 to guard against mutiny and insurrection, and thus
wastes energies which otherwise might be employed in national development and aggrandizement.
The free-labor system educates all alike, and by opening all the fields of industrial employment, and all the 25 departments of authority, to the unchecked and equal
rivalry of all classes of men, at once secures universal contentment, and brings into the highest possible activity all the physical, moral, and social energies of the whole
state. In states where the slave system prevails, the 30 masters, directly or indirectly, secure all political power,
and constitute a ruling aristocracy. In states where the free-labor system prevails, universal suffrage necessarily obtains, and the state inevitably becomes, sooner or later,
a republic or democracy. 35 Russia yet maintains slavery, and is a despotism. Most of the other European states have abolished slavery, and adopted the system of free labor. It was the antagonistic political tendencies of the two systems which the first Napoleon was contemplating when he predicted that Europe would ultimately be either all 5 Cossack or all republican. Never did human sagacity utter a more pregnant truth. The two systems are at once perceived to be incongruous. But they are more than incongruous - they are incompatible. They never have permanently existed together in one country, and 10 they never can. It would be easy to demonstrate this impossibility from the irreconcilable contrast between their great principles and characteristics. But the experience of mankind has conclusively established it. Slavery, as I have already intimated, existed in every 15 state in Europe. Free labor has supplanted it everywhere except in Russia and Turkey. State necessities developed in modern times are now obliging even those two nations to encourage and employ free labor; and already, despotic as they are, we find them engaged in 20 abolishing slavery. In the United States, slavery came into collision with free labor at the close of the last century, and fell before it in New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, but triumphed over it effectually, and excluded it for a period yet undetermined, 25 from Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Indeed, so incompatible are the two systems, that every new State which is organized within our ever-extending domain makes its first political act a choice of the one and the exclusion of the other, even at the cost of civil war if 30 necessary. The slave States, without law, at the last national election successfully forbade, within their own limits, even the casting of votes for a candidate for President of the United States supposed to be favorable to the establishment of the free-labor system in new States. 35
Hitherto, the two systems have existed in different States, but side by side within the American Union. This has happened because the Union is a confederation of States. But in another aspect the United States con5 stitute only one nation. Increase of population, which
is filling the States out to their very borders, together with a new and extended net-work of railroads and other avenues, and an internal commerce which daily becomes
more intimate, is rapidly bringing the States into a 10 higher and more perfect social unity or consolidation.
Thus, these antagonistic systems are continually coming into closer contact, and collision results.
Shall I tell you what this collision means? They who think that it is accidental, unnecessary, the work 15 of interested or fanatical agitators, and therefore ephem
eral, mistake the case altogether. It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or
later, become either entirely a slave-holding nation, or 20 entirely a free-labor nation. Either the cotton and rice
fields of South Carolina and the sugar plantations of Louisiana will ultimately be tilled by free labor, and Charleston and New Orleans become marts for legitimate
merchandise alone, or else the rye-fields and wheat-fields of 25 Massachusetts and New York must again be surrendered
by their farmers to slave culture and to the production of slaves, and Boston and New York become once more markets for trade in the bodies and souls of men. It is
the failure to apprehend this great truth that induces so 30 many unsuccessful attempts at final compromise between
the slave and free States, and it is the existence of this great fact that renders all such pretended compromises, when made, vain and ephemeral. Startling as this say
ing may appear to you, fellow citizens, it is by no means 35 an original or even a modern one. Our forefathers knew it to be true, and unanimously acted upon it when they framed the Constitution of the United States. They regarded the existence of the servile system in so many of the States with sorrow and shame which they openly confessed, and they looked upon the collision between 5 them, which was then just revealing itself, and which we are now accustomed to deplore, with favor and hope. They knew that either the one or the other system must exclusively prevail.
Unlike too many of those who in modern time invoke 10 their authority, they had a choice between the two. They preferred the system of free labor, and they determined to organize the government, and so to direct its ctivity, that that system should surely and certainly prevail. For this purpose, and no other, they based the 15 whole structure of government broadly on the principle that all men are created equal, and therefore free — little dreaming that within the short period of one hundred years their descendants would bear to be told by any orator, however popular, that the utterance of that 20 principle was merely a rhetorical rhapsody; or by any judge, however venerated, that it was attended by mental reservations, which rendered it hypocritical and false. By the ordinance of 1787, they dedicated all of the national domain not yet polluted by slavery to free 25 labor immediately, thenceforth, and forever; while by the new Constitution and laws they invited foreign free labor from all lands under the sun, and interdicted the importation of African slave labor, at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances whatsoever. It is 30 true that they necessarily and wisely modified this policy of freedom by leaving it to the several States, affected as they were by differing circumstances, to abolish slavery in their own way and at their own pleasure, instead of confiding that duty to Congress; and that they secured 35 to the slave States, while yet retaining the system of slavery, a three-fifths representation of slaves in the Federal Government, until they should find themselves able to relinquish it with safety. But the very nature 5 of these modifications fortifies my position, that the
fathers knew that the two systems could not endure within the Union, and expected that within a short period slavery would disappear forever. Moreover, in
order that these modifications might not altogether defeat 10 their grand design of a republic maintaining universal
equality, they provided that two-thirds of the States might amend the Constitution.
It remains to say on this point only one word, to guard against misapprehension. If these States are to again 15 become universally slave-holding, I do not pretend to say
with what violations of the Constitution that end shall be accomplished. On the other hand, while I do confidently believe and hope that my country will yet become
a land of universal freedom, I do not expect that it will 20 be made so otherwise than through the action of the
several States co-operating with the Federal Government, and all acting in strict conformity with their respective constitutions.
The strife and contentions concerning slavery, which 25 gently-disposed persons so habitually deprecate, are noth
ing more than the ripening of the conflict which the fathers themselves not only thus regarded with favor, but which they may be said to have instituted.
It is not to be denied, however, that thus far the 30 course of that contest has not been according to their
humane anticipations and wishes. In the field of federal politics, slavery — deriving unlooked-for advantages from commercial changes, and energies unforeseen from the
facilities of combination between members of the slave35 holding class and between that class and other property