Abraham Lincoln was deeply astonished by the Kansas-Nebraska Act and felt that he needed to state his objections openly citing historical facts that shun slavery in the United States. The Kansas-Nebraska Act was 3wcontroversial legislation that allowed the settlers of Kansas and Nebraska to either allow slavery or shun it at their vocational will. Abraham Lincoln felt that the passage of such a bill by the senator violated the existing limits on slavery that were set decades prior to that in the Missouri Compromise. In the speech, Lincoln criticizes popular sovereignty and dismissed certain arguments made by Douglas that the climate and geography of the two regions would keep slavery at bay (Neely 1). Abraham Lincoln, in his Peoria speech, asserts the significance of the declaration of independence in creating equality of all men, thus discrediting the basis of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
During the period when this bill was being passed, Lincoln was a well-known lawyer in the 8th judicial circuit of Illinois. He had abandoned his political career in national politics just after serving a term in Congress that is from 1846-1848. When the Missouri Compromise was repealed, Lincoln felt immensely aroused to fight against such an adverse change. He was so passionate about every citizen in the US being recognized and acknowledged equally. Lincolnisms dictates that Honoris better than honors, and an individual has to stand up in the society whenever he feels that the systems in place do not advocate established American principles. Before speaking out against the Act and opposing what it suggested, Lincoln engages in extensive research that involves going through past and present congressional debates so as to fully identify with all the issues revolving around slavery (Neely 6). Lincoln is deeply agitated by Douglas’ move and feels that it is retrogressive given the historic strides that have been made in eradicating slavery.
Lincoln attacks the Act on moral grounds basing his argument on the equality of all citizens as established by the Declaration of Independence. He begins with an account of the history of slavery in America by describing how slavery took root in the Republic and how the founding fathers tried to contain this exertion. Lincoln asserts that slaves are indeed human beings who like any other person, have a mind and are capable of making credible decisions. Slaves can not be likened to animals and should, therefore, be accorded their natural rights of self-government. The American Declaration asserts that all men are equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights.The consent of the administrated is essential in establishing just powers for the government (Neely 58). Masters are going against this fundamental rule of Lincolnisms by enforcing slavery and insisting on their services. On this account alone Lincoln does succeed in clarifying the meaning of equality as stipulated in the declaration of independence and discrediting the facets of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
The protagonist of this controversial Act, Judge Douglas comes out as an extremist who does not only provide a logical basis with his arguments but also asserts authority without proper legal backing. Judge Douglas does not entirely comprehend the basis of the Missouri Compromise stating explicitly that congressional intervention had never prevented slavery in any location in the US (Neely 99). Lincoln discredits this argument by stating that the North West shore of the Ohio River is such an example where due to the Missouri Compromise it was free of slavery. In fact, Judge Douglas declares the Missouri Compromise void and inoperative and urges the individuals who settle in the two places to establish slavery or exclude it as they deem fit (Neely 20). Judge Douglas feels that popular sovereignty is superior to self-government and discredits any semblance of slavery in the region simply because the soil is not healthy enough to sustain farming. Lincoln discredits this argument basing his argument on the Independence Declaration and Missouri Compromise, which was suggested by his ancestors. Slavery was not an option to be considered since various aspects of it had been declared illegal for the instance slave trade in Africa and Americans taking part in slave trade with foreigners. It is hypocritical to shun those activities yet seemingly allow slavery within particular locations. Indeed, Douglas comes out as an extremist who seemingly supported slavery thereby offending human nature.
Lincoln suggests that at the foremost he would send back all slaves to Liberia in order to cut out this cancer from America (Neely 25). However, he reckons that this might not be the best solution for this situation since it might prove expensive and futile. Due to his moral standing and complete belief in equality, Lincoln suggests that the Missouri Compromise ought to be restored so as to ensure the nation is united within the concepts that the ‘dead’ proposed. The ‘dead’ were against slavery as stipulated in their actions. In 1794, they prohibited outgoing slave trade, in 1798, they prohibited the African slave trade, in 1800, they prohibited slave trade between American and foreigners, and in 1803 aided State law formation prohibiting slave trade. The ‘dead’ were hostile towards slavery and so should Americans (Neely 89).
Lincoln’s speech is fascinating essentially because of the utilization of humor, irony and satire. For instance, he states that he would like for some gentleman who is deeply skilled in obscurities of sacred rights to provide himself with microscope, peep about in attempt to find out if sacred rights still exist (Neely 69).This is humor and Lincoln utilizes it effectively to make his speech more interesting.
Lincoln employs wit, research, and the Declaration of Independenceto discredit the Act altogether as proposed by Douglas. He asserts that their forefathers were interested in equality for everyone, and it is self-befitting to give a loophole for slavery to cripple back to society. Indeed, the Act is not in tandem with the development of the nation and should be reviewed carefully for prosperity.
Neely, Mark E. Jr. The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1982.