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Lincoln Logic

May 18, 2016

In his Cooper Union address, given on February 27, 1860, Lincoln named 21 Signers of the U.S. Constitution who had supported prohibition of slavery in U.S. territory.  He also named two individuals who had voted against it, but he demonstrated that their negative votes do not necessarily prove they were against the prohibition per se.  These two may have decided not on the basis of constitutionality, but on the basis of expedience.

Lincoln now considered the rest of the Signers.  There were 16 men who never had a chance to vote for or against the prohibition.  Did they leave any other record of their sentiments?  Lincoln asked his hearers to consider whether Franklin or Hamilton would have permitted slavery in U.S. territories.  They and almost all the remaining Signers would certainly have been opposed.  Only John Rutledge of South Carolina was known to be proslavery.

The conclusion: at least 36 of the 39 Signers of the Constitution would have agreed that the Federal government had the authority to prohibit slavery in U.S. territories.  Therefore, Lincoln and the Republicans were the true conservatives, while the Democrats were dangerous unconstitutional innovators.

Lincoln would now address a few words to the South.

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