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What Will Satisfy Them?

June 7, 2016

Lincoln concluded his Cooper Union address with a few words for the people of his own political party.  He advised his fellow Republicans that it was “exceedingly desirable” for the different sections of the country to “be at peace, and in harmony, one with another.”  He then gave the following exhortation: “Let us Republicans do our part to have it so,” and to Lincoln this meant merely to uphold the Constitution without engaging in vigilante justice.

He then asked them to consider whether the South would ever be satisfied by anything the Republicans did.  “Will they be satisfied if the Territories be unconditionally surrendered to them?  We know they will not.”  Apparently, the only way to satisfy them would be to “cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right.”

But would this alone be enough?  No, the Republicans would then be asked to suppress “all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private.”

But would that be enough?  No.  “We must pull down our Free State constitutions.”

Had the slave states ever demanded the free states change their constitutions?  “I am quite aware they do not state their case precisely in this way…  I am also aware they have not, as yet, in terms demanded the overthrow of our Free State Constitutions.”

Then what did Lincoln mean?  “Holding, as they do, that slavery is morally right, and socially elevating, they cannot cease to demand a full national recognition of it, as a legal right, and a social blessing.”

That was the logic of the situation.  The Democrats might not admit this to themselves, but Lincoln wanted the Republicans to understand there was no way to appease the proslavery establishment without eventually surrendering fundamental principles.



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