Notes from Abraham Lincoln’s speeches in Kansas and Ohio, September 16-17, 1859.
We must, by a national policy, prevent the spread of slavery into either territories or free states; because the constitution does not forbid us, and the general welfare does require it. We must prevent the revival of the African slave trade, because the constitution does not forbid us, and the general welfare does require it. We must prevent these things being done, by either Congresses or courts. The people — the people — are the rightful masters of both congresses and courts — not to overthrow the constitution, but to overthrow men who pervert it.
To effect our main object we have to employ auxiliary means. We must hold conventions, adopt platforms, select candidates, and carry elections: At every step we must be true to the main purpose — If we adopt a platform, falling short of our principle, or elect a man rejecting our principle, we not only take nothing affirmative by our success, but draw upon us the positive embarrassment of seeming to have ourselves abandoned our principles.
That our principle, however baffled, or delayed, will finally triumph, I do not permit myself to doubt, Men will pass away — die, politically, and naturally, but the principles will live, and live forever — Organizations, rallied around that principle, may, by their own, folly, go to pieces thereby losing all their time and labor — But the principle will remain, and will reproduce another, and another till the final triumph will come.
But to bring it soon, to stay when brought, we must save our labor already performed — our organization, which has cost so much time and toil to create. We must keep our principle constantly in view; And, as to men for leaders, we must remember that “he that is not for us is against us — “he that gathereth not with us scattereth.”
– Abraham Lincoln, September 16-17, 1859 (Note for Speeches in Kansas and Ohio)