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Speech to the Lancaster County Republican Convention
September 3, 1862, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

 

    Fellow Citizens: I have come for the purpose of thanking you, and accepting your nomination. It is always gratifying to a public man to be assured of the continued confidence of those whose servant he is, especially so in times like these when the wisest men differ on questions of policy. I had prepared to speak on those questions, and criticize, not in a fulsome manner; but as I thought it deserved, the conduct of the war and the present policy of the Administration; but in the last hour I have hesitated whether to speak as I had intended – whether it were proper to criticize now, this hour of the deepest gloom, when we know not where are armies are, but know that they are nowhere successful. But, whether we advise the Government or find fault with it, we must all do everything to strengthen the hands of our nation. Let us not despair; life is not all sunshine – it has gloom with joy, adversity with prosperity – nor is the victory always to the just – human energy and earnestness will often wrest from fate what would seem to belong to justice alone. Possibly we have not yet suffered enough; but let no man falter in his loyalty to his government, no matter how he may criticize its policy; for he who falters now is a traitor, not only to his country, but to humanity and to his God. I have not determined whether to speak as I had intended; perhaps when we know the result of these few days, I may meet you and speak to you. I have protested against the present policy, not only to the people, but to the face of the President and his Cabinet, and on the floor of Congress, as those know who have done me the honor to read my speeches; told them that they are exercising too much lenity at the request of the border statesmen – not one of whom, in my judgment, has loyalty in his heart. I have accused the prime minister (Secretary of State Seward) to his face for having gone back from the faith he taught us, and instead of arming all men, black and white, who would fight for the Union, withholding a well-meaning President from doing so until, as we advance into their country and our armies dwindle away from miasma and disease, they spring up behind us and retake what we have gained. They still hold the Mississippi, and threaten us even on the banks of the Ohio; all because the slaves at home are giving them no trouble – because we are, at the point of the bayonet, keeping them loyal to their master’s instead of to the Union. I have told these things to the President and Cabinet, and they replied – “It may come to this.” “Come to this!” when 200,000 men have melted away, and $2,000,000,000 spent: “Come to this” – when another half a million lives shall have been lost, and a billion of dollars more laid upon you in taxation! I cannot and I will not stand this, -- and if you elect me I shall vote that every man be armed, black and white, who can aid in crushing the rebellion; that every inch of rebel soil be taken and sold to pay the debt of this war. I will not go with the President in paying for all the slaves – I did not vote for his resolution – I will not vote to pay for any slave of a rebel! But I will uphold the Administration as far as possible – saying at the same time that it is all in vain unless they change their policy. Would it not be better that 15,000 armed slaves should lie unburied around the battlefields near Manassas than that your friends and mine should thus be there? The rebels might have slain them; they would have saved us, and our own men would have gone fresh into action and victory. Yet as these sympathizers with treason at the North cry – “Abolition!” Abolition – yes! abolish everything on the face of this earth but this Union; free every slave – slay every traitor – burn every rebel mansion, if these things be necessary to preserve this temple of freedom to the world and to our posterity. Unless we do this, we cannot conquer them. I have spoken thus in Congress – and in the last week, after a few remarks of mine, the vote was 84 to 42 – 84 agreeing with me where a year ago not fifty could have been found; and if I go back there again, if we have any one left to fight by that time, the whole nation will be with me! Either we must pursue that policy, or the war will be disgracefully abandoned at last and our country divided – and he is a traitor who talks of separation on any terms! Again I thank you – I have said more than I intended when I began, less than I expected last night; but I have told you these things, that, even, if my principles be wrong, they shall never be hidden.

 

 

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