Thursday, March 31, 2016

Commentary on Jane Hirshfield's poem Sonoma Fire

Commentary by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

One never knows when disaster will strike, but when it does, it is often difficult for us to understand the impact unless we are the ones who are directly affected, unless it is our house that floods or is swept by a fire.

This week’s short poem is from one of this country’s most beloved poets, Jane Hirshfield, who lives in Marin County. In it, Hirshfield writes about watching Sonoma County from afar during the summer of 2008 when 1,781 fires (mostly caused by lightning strikes) burned uncontrollably up and down California. At the time, Marin remained safe and free of fire, and the poem observes what it is like to see and smell the beauty of the fire from a distance without the consequence of the fire’s destruction.

The poem explores how our experience of a thing is influenced by where we stand looking at it. From afar, whether from distance or from the passage of time, a tragic event can look absolutely beautiful. How fire from above looks like a necklace of red rubies sewn into the dark, or how the moon, ambered in smoke, simmers on the horizon.

What this poem admits is that when we see beauty in tragedies observed from a distance, when we are drawn to help strangers recover from a terrible loss, it is because at some level we are relived that we are not the ones suffering in the heart of the fire.

___

Sonoma Fire
By Jane Hirshfield

Large moon the deep orange of embers.
Also the scent.
The griefs of others — beautiful at a distance.

Originally published in Poetry (December 2010).

Iris Jamahl Dunkle is Sonoma County’s 2016 Poet Laureate.

Wait: If you understand your proportion in the existence, waiting is your only choice!



Life ebbs ... Life flows. Just allow everything to rise and fall back into silence. Trust this Universe and wait for your destiny. Is there nothing else to do other than waiting? And don't get bored while waiting. Sing!




Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Today Brian Murphy Became an American Hero Again ...


Remember the hero of the the Oak Creek massacre, Brian Murphy, who was shot 15 times by a radical? He became a hero again today.  He was at the GOP presidential candidate town hall Tuesday night, and stood up to ask Donald Trump about balancing strong action against radicals with protection of minority rights. 

This was an opportunity for Donald Trump to show some sympathy for religious minorities, but he lost out by focusing his answer primarily on Islamic radicalization.  To those, like me, who have been wondering if Donald Trump cares about minority rights, the non-answer was the answer: Probably Not!  

Anderson Cooper, trying to help Donald Trump, asked the question again and got a short affirmative answer which was too little and too late. Still, emerging from this conversation was a true American hero ... Brian Murphy, who showed once again, that in the core of his heart, is the firm belief that all are created equal. 

Following is the transcript of the relevant question:

COOPER: All right, let's go to the audience. I want you to meet retired Lieutenant Brian Murphy. He as first the officer to report to the Sikh temple massacre in Oak Creek, and was shot 15 times. His fellow officer, who is standing next to him, Sam Lenda, took out the shooter that day, is also with us. We wanted to just first of all take a moment to thank both of them for their service and their actions.

Brian has a question for you tonight. He says he's - he likes Governor Kasich but he's still undecided - so Brian.

QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. Trump. I have a question. In light of the Brussels and Paris attacks one of the quickest knee-jerk reactions is a backlash against specific minority religious groups. This, in turn, brings about things that cause damage all over. In Milwaukee, you heard about the Sikh temple shooting. Six people were killed. 99 percent of the men in the United States who wear turbans are actually Sikh and not Muslim. How would you suggest we help educate the public and not alienate these groups and, at the same time, how do we protect the constitutional rights of minority groups like the Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and Jews, while still addressing radical Islamization?

TRUMP: Well, Brian, thank you for the question. We have a tremendous problem with radical Islam whether we like it or we don't. We have a president who won't talk about it.

I mean, Ted was saying the same thing. We have a president who won't talk about it.

Why he won't talk about, perhaps only he knows, but it's a disgrace what's going on. We have a serious, serious problem, and when I called for a temporary ban I thought that was a very bad thing for me to do politically, but I felt I should do it. And, I didn't know that I would go up in the polls opposed to down. I did that because I really felt there had to be something done.

That was after the horrible San Bernardino, California situation. After, obviously, Paris which was terrible. You know, we talk about Paris with the gun-free zones, we talk about Paris with their strong gun laws, by the way. Nobody had guns except for the bad guys. If we would have had guns on the other side going, in terms of Second Amendment having to do, if bullets were - same thing with San Bernardino.

If bullets were going in the opposite direction, you wouldn't have had the problems in those two places, that I can tell you. So, I think we have to be extremely careful with our Second Amendment, and we have to cherish our Second Amendment. Very important.

But, I would say this, when I called for the temporary banning, we have to look at it. We have a serious problem, I think you'll admit that, Brian. We have a very, very serious problem with radical Islam, and if we don't want to discuss it, and if we don't want to look at it, we're never going to solve the problem.

We have to be extremely strong with ISIS. We have to wipe ISIS off the face of the Earth so fast and so violently we have no choice. We have no choice.

And, I was against the war in Iraq. OK? I am not a fast trigger. I'm exactly the opposite of that. We should have never gone in, it destabilized the Middle East. But, I will tell you this, we got out. Obama got us out very badly.

Instead of leaving some troops, instead of giving a date, instead of, you know, with the exact time, I would say this though - we have no choice but to look at that. We have to be very, very vigilant. Very smart, and frankly, Brian, we have to be very tough because it's only going to get worse.

Thousands of people are being allowed into this country over short periods of time coming supposedly from Syria. We have no idea who they are, we have no idea where is their paperwork. They have no paperwork; they have no identification. They're coming into this country and it's going to be a big, big problem.

COOPER: The other, though, part of Lieutenant Murphy's question was about protecting the rights of minority groups, of Muslims, or Sikhs, of Jews, and others inside the United States...

TRUMP: ... I want to do that also, and I do want to do that, but I at the same time we have to recognize we have a serious problem.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Mere Lalan Ki Sobha - Translation

Mere Lalan Ki Sobha 
Guru Arjan Dev


Mere Lalan Ki Sobha
My lover's beauty
Sad navtan man rangi sobha
Ever new body mind colored beauty

Brahm Mahesh Sidh Mun Indra Bhagati daan Jas Mangi
Brahma, Shiva, the Siddhas, the silent sages and Indra beg for the charity of His Praise and devotion to Him. ||1||

Jog Gyan Dhyaan Sekhnage Sagal Japeh Tarangi
Yogis, spiritual teachers, meditators and the holy serpent all meditate in Waves

Kaho Nanak Santan Baliharai, Jo Prabh kay sad Sangi 
Says Nanak, I am a sacrifice to the Saints, who are the Eternal Companions of God.



O love, I am taken by your beauty
The greatest ones beg for your devotion
Yogis, Intellectuals, Meditators sway in your waves
O eternity, I love your lovers. 




Saturday, March 26, 2016

Charan Kamal Prabh Kay - Music Video/Translation



The Words

Charan Kamal Prabh Kay Nit Dhiayaon
Kavan sumat jit preetam paon

Kavan Sanjog milaon prabh apnay
Pal pal nimakh sadaa har japnay

Aisi kirpa kart parch mercy
Har Nanak bisar na kahoo beray

Translation 

I meditate continually on the lotus feet of love.
What wisdom will lead me to attain my love?

What blessed destiny will lead me to meet my love?
Each and every moment meditate on love.

Bless me with such mercy my love
that I may never ever forget you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Dard-e-Dil Main Kami Na Ho Jaye - Translation of a Bekhud Badaayuni Ghazal

Poet: Bekhud Badaayuni

Ghazal

Dard-e-dil me.n kamii na ho jaaye
dostii dushmanii na ho jaaye

tum merii dostii kaa dam na bharo
aasmaa.N mudda_ii na ho jaaye
Dam: Breath, Deception, Edge Of A Sword, Energy, Life, Moment, Strength, Might, Temper, Thrust, Vitality
Muddaii: Enemy, Plaintiff, Litigant
baiThataa huu.N hameshaa ri.ndo.n me.n
kahii.n zaahid valii na ho jaaye
Rind: Drunkard, One who likes to drink
Zaahid: Abstinent, Ascetic, Devout, Hermit, Knowledgeable, Preacher, Religious Person, Pious, Wise Man
Valii: Saint, ‘Lord, Prince, Master, Friend, Guardian
apane Khuu-e-vafaa se Darataa huu.N
aashiqii ba.ndagii na ho jaaye
Khuu: Habit, Characteristic
Vafaa: Fulfilling A Promise, Fulfillment, Fidelity, Faithful, Sincerity, Sufficiency
Khuu-e-Vafaa: Habit of being Faithful
Bandagii: Devotion, Worship, Service
kahin bekhud tumhari khuddari
dushmani bekhudi na ho jaye

Translation

Pain in the heart
is the small difference
between friendship and enmity

Friendship with me
means enmity with the skies
Beware sitting with these drunkards
one day you might become
a wise man

I am afraid of my faithfulness
one day my love could
become devotion

xx


Come change me, I can't fight this fight - Muztar Kharabadi

Ghazal by Muztar Khairabadi (1865-1927: grandfather of Javed Akhtar)

Ilaj-e-dard-e-dil tumse masiha ho nahi sakata
Tum accha kar nahi skte, main accha ho nahi sakta

Tumhe chahu, tumhare chahne walo ko chahu
Mera dil fer do, mujhse ye jhagda ho nahi sakta

abhi marte hai ham jine ka tana tum na fir dena
yeh tana unko dena jinse aisa ho nahi sakta

Dam-e-aakhir meri baali pe majmaa hai hasino ka,
farishta maut ka phir aaye parda ho nahi sakta


Translation:

O God, You can't treat the pain of my heart
You can't make me good, and I can't become good

Let me love you, Let me love the ones who love you
Come and change me, I cannot fight this fight

I'll readily die now, don't taunt my living
Go taunt those who cannot die

In my last breaths I am celebrating beauty of women
If the angel of death comes again, there is nothing to hide

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rare Collection of Holi Paintings From Indian Aristocracy

Photo Credit: Maharana Swarup Singh of Mewar, 1851


Jehangir celebrates the Hindu festival of Holi, unknown artist, c 1635. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.




The Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah celebrating Holi, by Bhupal Singh c 1737. Photo credit: Asia Society.





The Holi festival, by Mir Kalan, 1734-1735. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.





Maharaja Bakhat Singh rejoices during Holi, Nagaur, c 1748-50. Photo credit: Mehrangarh Museum Trust.




The emperor Jehangir celebrating Holi with the ladies of the zenana, c 1800. Photo credit: Chester Beatty Library.





Prince celebrating Holi in harem, Golconda, c 1800. Photo credit: National Museum, New Delhi.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Holi at Shantiniketan, one of the best places in India to celebrate the festival of colors

Shantiniketan: At 7am, over 4,000 students start a Shobha Jatra, a procession of song and dance that begins every year from the Amra Kunja - a clearing among mango trees where open-air classes are held sometimes - and culminates at the Ashram ground.

The main programme of song and dance starts generally at 8am on a dais at the Ashram ground. Students of Sangeet Bhavana sang over a dozen of Tagore's songs on spring.  Groups of students, former students and visitors celebrate the occasion by singing baul and Tagore's songs and dancing on different parts of the campus such as Kala Bhavana and Patha Bhavana.

Here is an interesting read on celebrating Holi at Tagore's Shantiniketan, which is apparently one of the best places to celebrate Holi.
The Colors of Tagore
March 2005
Celebrating Holi at Shantiniketan: it is all about culture, celebration of life, fraternity and divinity.

By SHARBENDU DE

With a spring in my step and a song in my heart, I boarded the train with a thousand other jubilant travelers, all of whom had but one goal in mind: Dol kheltey (to play Holi) in Shantiniketan ? the Land of Tagore. And I was exhilarated. Standing three seats away from me, Narendra Mohan Babu, draped in a crisp white dhoti and kurta, burst into a rapturous song by Bhupen Hazarika. "Mora jatri ek.i tarani?.saho jatri ek.i tarani?," it went. "We're in the same boat, brother. Oh, brother!" His wife, Nandini, sitting by the window, smiled at him before turning to gaze at the enormous green expanse lying outside her window. Wrapped in nostalgia, she was searching for something.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Twenty-six years?" Taking a deep breath, she said, "Twenty-six years back, this is where I met him for the first time." After twelve years in Germany, where they now live, Narendra and Nandini Mohan Sen were returning to drown in the Colors of Tagore. And they're just two of the 100,000 to 120,000 people who throng Viswa Bharati University every year during Holi and get immersed in Tagorian hues.

The university, located in Shantiniketan (the abode of peace), is very much the culmination of a seed sown in the heart of Maharshi Devendranath Tagore. His famous son, Rabindranath Tagore, who abhorred almost all forms of conventional education behind closed chambers, was forty years old when he had this extraordinary vision of establishing a school in a natural setting. "This is Viswa-Bharati, where the world makes a home in a single nest," he wrote. "We are of the faith that truth is one and undivided, though diverse may be the ways which lead to it. Through separate paths pilgrims from different lands arrive at the same shrine of truth?" Thus even today, in Amra Kunja and Path Bhawan, classes are held regularly in the open, where the guru sits in the shade of a capacious tree, encircled by his shishyas (students). In 1913, at the age of fifty-two, Tagore won the Noble Prize in literature for his remarkable Gitanjali, a collection of poems. He was the first Asian writer to win the world's most coveted award.

"The faith waiting in the heart of a seed promises a miracle in itself, which it cannot prove..." noted Tagore, the Myriad-minded man. It's difficult to believe that such intense prose could flow from the heart of a man who'd barely studied up to class VIII and had changed his school eight times during that time. Yet he managed to leave behind an institution that has continued to enlighten the lives of many a students like Indira Gandhi, the late Indian prime minister, and Satyajit Ray, the legendary film director.

There was joy and enthusiasm all around as we approached Shantiniketan. Dhananjay Ghosal, who'd been chanting a poem, stopped to say, "Traveling leads to a spontaneous outflow of your mind and thoughts. The more culturally immersed your travels are, the broader your perspectives - the horizons of your heart." He has written a book about Shantiniketan, and his Achin pakhi (or The Unknown Bird) deals with Baul folk culture and its followers. "Bauls live as nomads, traveling to find the true man hidden within, in search of self-realization," he says. "Just like us, in terms of their philosophy, they have an irresistible affinity for infinity." He has come here on several occasions in the last fifteen years. On being asked about his experiences, he shot back, "Can you ask a painter to paint and express the beauty that lie hidden in his work? You have to explore it."

On reaching the university, I managed to find accommodations with a friend at Aamtala Hostel in Kala Bhawan, which is the fine arts division and hub for creative and intellectual activity. Satyajit Ray lived there as a student from 1940 to ?42, and not long before his death in 1992, he remarked, "I consider the three years I spent in Santiniketan as the most fruitful of my life. Santiniketan made me the combined product of East and West that I am. As a filmmaker I owe as much to Santiniketan as I do to American and European cinema. And when I made my first film Pather Panchali and embellished it with rural details which I was encountering for the first time, Tagore's little poem in my autograph album came back again and again to my mind."

"Do you know what those eight lines are?" asked Wolfgang Tanner, a painter and photographer from Austria. We were chatting and taking photographs at Gour Prangan on the morning of dol (Holi). He quoted, "I have spent a fortune traveling to distant shores and looked at lofty mountains and boundless oceans, and yet I haven't found time to take a few steps from my house to look at a single dew drop on a single blade of grass." Wolfgang was brimming with the richness of cultural immersion.

Early in the morning, Gour Prangan was teeming with a thousand vibrant figures draped in the bright hues of red, crimson, green, yellow, etc. The men were mostly attired in white kurta-pajamas whereas the ashram kanyas (female students of the university), who were clad in bright yellow saris and red blouses with little mirrors shining on their arms, had red batik-print sashes that entwined their graciously swerving hips and hung loose on the side. Garlands of fragrant palash (marigold) kissed their jet-black hair. As they approached us in dancing pairs, with a red-and-yellow striped stick in each hand, they stroked one another's stick as in a garba dance from Gujarat. The young lads, on the other hand, wore yellow-and-saffron kurta-pajamas, and had white bandannas tied to their heads and waists. The mellifluous sounds of Tagore's festive song ("Oh, the one living behind closed doors?open, open thy doors, not just of house but also hearts, for here comes Holi, the spring festival of colors. Open, open thy doors, not just of homes but also hearts?") beautifully completed this joyous spectacle.

I turned towards Wolfgang. He wasn't smiling, but instead was gaping dumbfounded. His wide eyes were sparkling and his sun-tanned cheeks were colored red. "If the gods have ever smiled, they've smiled on you Indians," he declared. "There's so much beauty and color around, it breaks my heart with joy. I envy you!"

Buddhadeva Basu, a leading literary critic who is by no means gullible, wrote in ecstasy after a fortnight's stay in Shantiniketan: "It is remarkable how the place absorbs foreigners, at the same time teaching them true national pride: to be a true Englishman, a true Chinese, or for that matter, a true Indian; one must come to Santiniketan?The spirit of India is here, as incarnated in the life and works of Rabindranath Tagore?India is an enigma not to foreigners alone but also to ourselves?."

Holi in Shantiniketan is a carnival in itself. There are bright colors and much merry-making, and as in Mardi Gras, barriers are transcended. The only difference, perhaps, is that Mardi Gras is sensual while Holi (at least in Shantiniketan) is more ascetic, enriching the finer aspects of life.

"There is absolute integrity here," exults Radhika, a fashion designer from Calcutta. "A place where fraternity lives in its true essence, still. I've been coming here for the last five years, and with every passing year, I'm more enticed, attracted and seduced by the charm of Shantiniketan during Holi." She tries to bring new people along every time and expose them to this world of hypnotic beauty. "Beauty is all about sharing, isn't it?" she says.

"The spirit here is very positive," adds Sharmishta, a nurse in a government hospital. She'd spent four hours standing in a train to get here. "When I requested people not to put aabir (dry color powders) on my face but only my head, they obliged," she said. "I liked that immensely." It was, perhaps, only me who didn't listen to her pleas and smeared her face - all red! But Chanda Biswas, her friend, was disappointed. Although she was enjoying her first trip to Shantiniketan during Holi, she commented, "Some did not maintain discipline. Even when it was announced that playing dol with aabir hadn't started yet, they smeared me with colors!"

Amit Roy, a first year student of Kala Bhawan, had come from Darjeeling to study fine arts. On being asked about the uniqueness of Shantiniketan, he said, "Everybody! We are all together, including the foreigners, and this unity gives me sheer joy." His friend, Hindu, doing his final year in M.A. Fine Arts, is also from Darjeeling. He confidently explains, "There is a true sense of togetherness, of preserving our culture and integrity here. I love dol! " Nilmoni Chattopadhyay, a school teacher sitting beside me as she watched a mime show, contentedly remarked, "There is life here."

The mime presentation was followed by traditional Indian dances and Japanese dance sequences by Southeast Asian students. Then, amidst a riot of colors, there was much thumping and swaying as the Kala Bhawan people sang ashram sangeet and Sauntal folk numbers. "Ha..p..py!..hahaaha, ha..p..py!" stuttered Hirokokut Komoto, a student from Japan. "I feel happy. At this moment I'm a part of Shantiniketan." Tears were trickling from her round eyes. As the day wore on, the sun slowly faded from view behind a scrim of palms, and then quite suddenly, a bright moon rose in full glory from the river Kopai. Sabir Ali (my friend from Shantiniketan), his girlfriend Yogai and myself are sitting by this silent Kopai river under the grace of this purnima (full moon) night. As the moon smiles at us, Sabir takes an intent gaze at me and then at Yogai, smiles, and catches on a soft hushing song "Let all colors be pale today, in your and my sky?and no matter how tired the moons smiles be?whether it rains or not, whether the wind blows or not, whether the flower blooms or not?I will take the road, for today is basanta (Spring)"

In a letter to Mahatma Gandhi in 1940, Rabindranath Tagore wrote, "Viswa-Bharati is like a vessel which is carrying the cargo of my life's best treasures?." I began to hum one of Tagore's last three poems, which were written before his death on August 7, 1941. His shesh lekha (last writings) can be seen as a tribute to this gently flowing river.

The sun of the first day
Put the question
To the new manifestation of life -
Who are you?
There was no answer.
Years passed by.

The last sun of the last day
Littered the question on the shore of the western sea,
In the hush of evening -
Who are you?
No answer came.

The story of Holi from Bhagavat Purana - Holika and Prahlad


Hiranyakashipu, on the lap, being killed by Narasimha, an incarnation of Vishnu. The strange shape is the innovation Vishnu had to use to neutralize Hiranyakashipu's five special powers.
Holi is a festival celebrated in north India. It marks the coming of Spring, usually in March. Few families hold religious ceremonies, but for many Holi is more a time for fun than religious observance.  Holi is a colourful festival, with dancing, singing, and throwing of powder paint and coloured water. The legend of Holika and Prahlad is linked to Holi. 

The Legend of Holika and Prahlad

According to Bhagavat Purana, a king named Hiranyakashipu who, like many demons and Asuras, had the intense desire to be immortal. To fulfill this desire, he performed the required penances until he was granted a boon by Brahma (the creator in the Hindu trinity). Since the Gods rarely granted immortality, he used his guile and cunning to get a boon which he thought made him immortal. The boon gave Hiranyakashyapu five special powers: he could be killed by neither a human being nor an animal, neither indoors nor outdoors, neither at day nor at night, neither by projective weapons (atra) nor by any handheld weapons (shastra), and neither on land nor in water or air.

As this wish was granted, Hiranyakashyapu felt invincible, which made him arrogant. Hiranyakashyapu decreed that only he be worshiped as a God, punishing and killing all who defied him. His son, Prahlad, disagreed with his father, and refused to worship his father as a God, continuing instead to worship Vishnu.

This made Hiranyakashipu very angry and he made various attempts to kill Prahlad. During a particular attempt on Prahlad's life, King Hiranyakashyapu called upon his sister Holika for help. Holika had a special cloak that protected her from being harmed by fire. Hiranyakashyapu asked her to sit on a bonfire with Prahlad, by tricking the boy to sit on her lap and she herself took her seat in flames. The legend has it that Holika had to pay the price of her sinister desire by her life: she was unaware that the boon worked only when she entered a fire alone. Prahlad, who kept chanting the name of Vishnu all this while, came out unscathed as Vishnu blessed him for his extreme devotion.

Vishnu appeared in the form of Narasimha - half human and half lion, at dusk (when it was neither day nor night), took Hiranyakashyapu at a doorstep (which was neither indoors nor outdoors), placed him on his lap (which was neither land, water nor air), and then eviscerated and killed the king with his lion claws (which were neither a handheld weapon nor a launched weapon). In this form, the boon of five special powers granted to Hiranyakashyapu were no longer useful. Prahlad and the kingdom of human beings were thus free from the compulsion and fear of Hiranyakashyapu, showing the victory of good over evil.


Translation of a classic Mir Taqi Mir Ghazal - Dekh To Dil Ke Jaan


Couplets from Mir Taqi Mir's Ghazal Dekh To Dil Ke Jaan



Is it from your heart or your life 
that this smoke is rising?


Which heartless person's grave is this sky
Every morning a spark rises from it!


Don't leave the chambers of the heart
Who vacates such a house?

When there is tension in my head
There is a noise in the sky

Where my eyes meet your eyes
There a storm rises

O flaming voice, mind the house
A smoke is rising from your nest

Where can that person go
who has refused your refuge

I exited your from that street
like someone exits this world

Meer, love is an extremely heavy stone
Weaklings cannot lift it

English: 

Hindi


What did the angel write in a book of gold?

Here is a poem about a Sufi saint, named Ibrahim ibn Adham (c.730 - c.782 CE) from what is now Afghanistan, written by an English Christian poet, Leigh Hunt (1784-1959), that seems to fit well into this Sikh discussion.

Abou Ben Adhem
By Leigh Hunt

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.



Right is Might - And other lessons from Abraham Lincoln's Cooper Union Address

Background 

Abraham Lincoln was a relatively unknown leader of the nascent Republican party before his debates with Stephen Douglas in 1858, the incumbent senator of the democratic party.  He had a hotly contested battle for the senate with Douglas and held seven debates with him in different cities of Illinois.  The central issue of contention was whether slavery should be expanded to the northern free states; Lincoln was in favor of limiting slavery while Douglas was in favor of slavery. 

The debates were popularized because of the gravity of the issue and also because of the availability of transcripts of the debates very quickly through new technologies like the telegram.  Whatever was said at these debates was published in newspapers on the next morning.  Despite enourmous enthusiasm for Lincoln's views, he lost the senate race to Douglas. Some say it was because of some dirty politics played by the incumbents. 

Still, while Lincoln lost the election against Douglass but he won people's hearts.  He was invited to New York to speak to members of the Republican party there who he thoroughly impressed with his oratory.  And later in 1860 he was able to win the election to be president of the United States of America.

Lessons from the Cooper Union Address

Douglas had claimed that the founding fathers were in favor of expanding slavery, that they understood this issue well; he said, "Our fathers, when they framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now." Lincoln used a very cogent and well constructed argument that went through the stated and potential opinions about the majority of the thirty nine founding fathers to show that the Douglas' arguments were wrong. It is clear from this speech that Lincoln put enormous work into the research of this issue in a time when electronic documentation was not available. 

Lincoln also claimed, rightly so, that we should not blindly follow our "founding fathers" if they were wrong because they did not understand a certain issue because of the limitation of their times: 
I do not mean to say we are bound to follow implicitly in whatever our fathers did. To do so, would be to discard all the lights of current experience - to reject all progress - all improvement. What I do say is, that if we would supplant the opinions and policy of our fathers in any case, we should do so upon evidence so conclusive, and argument so clear, that even their great authority, fairly considered and weighed, cannot stand; and most surely not in a case whereof we ourselves declare they understood the question better than we.
When you see something blatantly evil, you have to call it by its name: evil.  This reminds me of Guru Nanak calling Babar's attack on Saidpur in 1521 by its name: "evil."  
Let all who believe that "our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now," speak as they spoke, and act as they acted upon it. This is all Republicans ask - all Republicans desire - in relation to slavery. As those fathers marked it, so let it be again marked, as an evil not to be extended ... 
Lincoln tells us how to deal with those who are calling names.  Southerners were calling Republicans "Black Republicans" because of their fight against the spread of slavery.  And he asks them to think about it.  He says, "pause and ... consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves."

Lincoln reminds his own party, "Even though much provoked, let us do nothing through passion and ill temper." It is better to solve issues through peaceful means; it is important to not get provoked; it is important to keep calm and not give into anger.  Or else, we just end up in the baser realms of ourselves.  

And most importantly, Abraham Lincoln stands by the truth and the declaration of independence that "all men are created equal."  

What you do -- in this case, what you say -- is more important than what you wear.  Appearance are superficial; your words and actions are the soul of your being.
An eyewitness that evening said, "When Lincoln rose to speak, I was greatly disappointed. He was tall, tall, - oh, how tall! and so angular and awkward that I had, for an instant, a feeling of pity for so ungainly a man." However, once Lincoln warmed up, "his face lighted up as with an inward fire; the whole man was transfigured. I forgot his clothes, his personal appearance, and his individual peculiarities. Presently, forgetting myself, I was on my feet like the rest, yelling like a wild Indian, cheering this wonderful man."
In the end, the best lesson is to stand for the truth.  Lincoln says in the end, "Let us have the faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."  The most important lesson is to recognize the being right is the ultimate strength. And that daring to do our duty is most important despite the arduous path. This reminds me of Guru Gobind Singh's poem, Deh Shiva Bar Mohe:

Dear God give me this boon, 

To never shirk from doing right
To never fear when I go to fight
to ever have the confidence to win

Let my heart learn
through ordeals of life
to have the desire
to remember your name
incessantly

And when the time arrives
to die bravely in the battlefield


Introduction by Roy P. Basler et al.
In October 1859 Abraham Lincoln accepted an invitation to lecture at Henry Ward Beecher's church in Brooklyn, New York, and chose a political topic which required months of painstaking research. His law partner William Herndon observed, "No former effort in the line of speech-making had cost Lincoln so much time and thought as this one," a remarkable comment considering the previous year's debates with Stephen Douglas.

The carefully crafted speech examined the views of the 39 signers of the Constitution. Lincoln noted that at least 21 of them -- a majority -- believed Congress should control slavery in the territories, rather than allow it to expand. Thus, the Republican stance of the time was not revolutionary, but similar to the Founding Fathers, and should not alarm Southerners, for radicals had threatened to secede if a Republican was elected President.

When Lincoln arrived in New York, the Young Men's Republican Union had assumed sponsorship of the speech and moved its location to the Cooper Institute in Manhattan. The Union's board included members such as Horace Greeley and William Cullen Bryant, who opposed William Seward for the Republican Presidential nomination. Lincoln, as an unannounced presidential aspirant, attracted a capacity crowd of 1,500 curious New Yorkers.

An eyewitness that evening said, "When Lincoln rose to speak, I was greatly disappointed. He was tall, tall, - oh, how tall! and so angular and awkward that I had, for an instant, a feeling of pity for so ungainly a man." However, once Lincoln warmed up, "his face lighted up as with an inward fire; the whole man was transfigured. I forgot his clothes, his personal appearance, and his individual peculiarities. Presently, forgetting myself, I was on my feet like the rest, yelling like a wild Indian, cheering this wonderful man."

Herndon, who knew the speech but was not present, said it was "devoid of all rhetorical imagry." Rather, "it was constructed with a view to accuracy of statement, simplicity of language, and unity of thought. In some respects like a lawyer's brief, it was logical, temperate in tone, powerful - irresistibly driving conviction home to men's reasons and their souls."

The speech electrified Lincoln's listeners and gained him important political support in Seward's home territory. Said a New York writer, "No man ever before made such an impression on his first appeal to a New York audience." After being printed by New York newspapers, the speech was widely circulated as campaign literature.

Easily one of Lincoln's best efforts, it revealed his singular mastery of ideas and issues in a way that justified loyal support. Here we can see him pursuing facts, forming them into meaningful patterns, pressing relentlessly toward his conclusion.

With a deft touch, Lincoln exposed the roots of sectional strife and the inconsistent positions of Senator Stephen Douglas and Chief Justice Roger Taney. He urged fellow Republicans not to capitulate to Southern demands to recognize slavery as being right, but to "stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively."


Cooper Union Address
New York, New York
February 27, 1860

Mr. President and fellow citizens of New York: -

The facts with which I shall deal this evening are mainly old and familiar; nor is there anything new in the general use I shall make of them. If there shall be any novelty, it will be in the mode of presenting the facts, and the inferences and observations following that presentation.

In his speech last autumn, at Columbus, Ohio, as reported in "The New-York Times," Senator Douglas said:

"Our fathers, when they framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now."

I fully indorse this, and I adopt it as a text for this discourse. I so adopt it because it furnishes a precise and an agreed starting point for a discussion between Republicans and that wing of the Democracy headed by Senator Douglas. It simply leaves the inquiry: "What was the understanding those fathers had of the question mentioned?"

What is the frame of government under which we live?

The answer must be: "The Constitution of the United States." That Constitution consists of the original, framed in 1787, (and under which the present government first went into operation,) and twelve subsequently framed amendments, the first ten of which were framed in 1789.

Who were our fathers that framed the Constitution? I suppose the "thirty-nine" who signed the original instrument may be fairly called our fathers who framed that part of the present Government. It is almost exactly true to say they framed it, and it is altogether true to say they fairly represented the opinion and sentiment of the whole nation at that time. Their names, being familiar to nearly all, and accessible to quite all, need not now be repeated.

I take these "thirty-nine," for the present, as being "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live."

What is the question which, according to the text, those fathers understood "just as well, and even better than we do now?"

It is this: Does the proper division of local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, forbid our Federal Government to control as to slavery in our Federal Territories?

Upon this, Senator Douglas holds the affirmative, and Republicans the negative. This affirmation and denial form an issue; and this issue - this question - is precisely what the text declares our fathers understood "better than we."

Let us now inquire whether the "thirty-nine," or any of them, ever acted upon this question; and if they did, how they acted upon it - how they expressed that better understanding?

In 1784, three years before the Constitution - the United States then owning the Northwestern Territory, and no other, the Congress of the Confederation had before them the question of prohibiting slavery in that Territory; and four of the "thirty-nine" who afterward framed the Constitution, were in that Congress, and voted on that question. Of these, Roger Sherman, Thomas Mifflin, and Hugh Williamson voted for the prohibition, thus showing that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything else, properly forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory. The other of the four - James M'Henry - voted against the prohibition, showing that, for some cause, he thought it improper to vote for it.

In 1787, still before the Constitution, but while the Convention was in session framing it, and while the Northwestern Territory still was the only territory owned by the United States, the same question of prohibiting slavery in the territory again came before the Congress of the Confederation; and two more of the "thirty-nine" who afterward signed the Constitution, were in that Congress, and voted on the question. They were William Blount and William Few; and they both voted for the prohibition - thus showing that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything else, properly forbids the Federal Government to control as to slavery in Federal territory. This time the prohibition became a law, being part of what is now well known as the Ordinance of '87.

The question of federal control of slavery in the territories, seems not to have been directly before the Convention which framed the original Constitution; and hence it is not recorded that the "thirty-nine," or any of them, while engaged on that instrument, expressed any opinion on that precise question.

In 1789, by the first Congress which sat under the Constitution, an act was passed to enforce the Ordinance of '87, including the prohibition of slavery in the Northwestern Territory. The bill for this act was reported by one of the "thirty-nine," Thomas Fitzsimmons, then a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. It went through all its stages without a word of opposition, and finally passed both branches without yeas and nays, which is equivalent to a unanimous passage. In this Congress there were sixteen of the thirty-nine fathers who framed the original Constitution. They were John Langdon, Nicholas Gilman, Wm. S. Johnson, Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, Thos. Fitzsimmons, William Few, Abraham Baldwin, Rufus King, William Paterson, George Clymer, Richard Bassett, George Read, Pierce Butler, Daniel Carroll, James Madison.

This shows that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything in the Constitution, properly forbade Congress to prohibit slavery in the federal territory; else both their fidelity to correct principle, and their oath to support the Constitution, would have constrained them to oppose the prohibition.

Again, George Washington, another of the "thirty-nine," was then President of the United States, and, as such approved and signed the bill; thus completing its validity as a law, and thus showing that, in his understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything in the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government, to control as to slavery in federal territory.

No great while after the adoption of the original Constitution, North Carolina ceded to the Federal Government the country now constituting the State of Tennessee; and a few years later Georgia ceded that which now constitutes the States of Mississippi and Alabama. In both deeds of cession it was made a condition by the ceding States that the Federal Government should not prohibit slavery in the ceded territory. Besides this, slavery was then actually in the ceded country. Under these circumstances, Congress, on taking charge of these countries, did not absolutely prohibit slavery within them. But they did interfere with it - take control of it - even there, to a certain extent. In 1798, Congress organized the Territory of Mississippi. In the act of organization, they prohibited the bringing of slaves into the Territory, from any place without the United States, by fine, and giving freedom to slaves so bought. This act passed both branches of Congress without yeas and nays. In that Congress were three of the "thirty-nine" who framed the original Constitution. They were John Langdon, George Read and Abraham Baldwin. They all, probably, voted for it. Certainly they would have placed their opposition to it upon record, if, in their understanding, any line dividing local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, properly forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory.

In 1803, the Federal Government purchased the Louisiana country. Our former territorial acquisitions came from certain of our own States; but this Louisiana country was acquired from a foreign nation. In 1804, Congress gave a territorial organization to that part of it which now constitutes the State of Louisiana. New Orleans, lying within that part, was an old and comparatively large city. There were other considerable towns and settlements, and slavery was extensively and thoroughly intermingled with the people. Congress did not, in the Territorial Act, prohibit slavery; but they did interfere with it - take control of it - in a more marked and extensive way than they did in the case of Mississippi. The substance of the provision therein made, in relation to slaves, was:

First. That no slave should be imported into the territory from foreign parts.

Second. That no slave should be carried into it who had been imported into the United States since the first day of May, 1798.

Third. That no slave should be carried into it, except by the owner, and for his own use as a settler; the penalty in all the cases being a fine upon the violator of the law, and freedom to the slave.

This act also was passed without yeas and nays. In the Congress which passed it, there were two of the "thirty-nine." They were Abraham Baldwin and Jonathan Dayton. As stated in the case of Mississippi, it is probable they both voted for it. They would not have allowed it to pass without recording their opposition to it, if, in their understanding, it violated either the line properly dividing local from federal authority, or any provision of the Constitution.

In 1819-20, came and passed the Missouri question. Many votes were taken, by yeas and nays, in both branches of Congress, upon the various phases of the general question. Two of the "thirty-nine" - Rufus King and Charles Pinckney - were members of that Congress. Mr. King steadily voted for slavery prohibition and against all compromises, while Mr. Pinckney as steadily voted against slavery prohibition and against all compromises. By this, Mr. King showed that, in his understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything in the Constitution, was violated by Congress prohibiting slavery in federal territory; while Mr. Pinckney, by his votes, showed that, in his understanding, there was some sufficient reason for opposing such prohibition in that case.

The cases I have mentioned are the only acts of the "thirty-nine," or of any of them, upon the direct issue, which I have been able to discover.

To enumerate the persons who thus acted, as being four in 1784, two in 1787, seventeen in 1789, three in 1798, two in 1804, and two in 1819-20 - there would be thirty of them. But this would be counting John Langdon, Roger Sherman, William Few, Rufus King, and George Read each twice, and Abraham Baldwin, three times. The true number of those of the "thirty-nine" whom I have shown to have acted upon the question, which, by the text, they understood better than we, is twenty-three, leaving sixteen not shown to have acted upon it in any way.

Here, then, we have twenty-three out of our thirty-nine fathers "who framed the government under which we live," who have, upon their official responsibility and their corporal oaths, acted upon the very question which the text affirms they "understood just as well, and even better than we do now;" and twenty-one of them - a clear majority of the whole "thirty-nine" - so acting upon it as to make them guilty of gross political impropriety and willful perjury, if, in their understanding, any proper division between local and federal authority, or anything in the Constitution they had made themselves, and sworn to support, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories. Thus the twenty-one acted; and, as actions speak louder than words, so actions, under such responsibility, speak still louder.

Two of the twenty-three voted against Congressional prohibition of slavery in the federal territories, in the instances in which they acted upon the question. But for what reasons they so voted is not known. They may have done so because they thought a proper division of local from federal authority, or some provision or principle of the Constitution, stood in the way; or they may, without any such question, have voted against the prohibition, on what appeared to them to be sufficient grounds of expediency. No one who has sworn to support the Constitution can conscientiously vote for what he understands to be an unconstitutional measure, however expedient he may think it; but one may and ought to vote against a measure which he deems constitutional, if, at the same time, he deems it inexpedient. It, therefore, would be unsafe to set down even the two who voted against the prohibition, as having done so because, in their understanding, any proper division of local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory.

The remaining sixteen of the "thirty-nine," so far as I have discovered, have left no record of their understanding upon the direct question of federal control of slavery in the federal territories. But there is much reason to believe that their understanding upon that question would not have appeared different from that of their twenty-three compeers, had it been manifested at all.

For the purpose of adhering rigidly to the text, I have purposely omitted whatever understanding may have been manifested by any person, however distinguished, other than the thirty-nine fathers who framed the original Constitution; and, for the same reason, I have also omitted whatever understanding may have been manifested by any of the "thirty-nine" even, on any other phase of the general question of slavery. If we should look into their acts and declarations on those other phases, as the foreign slave trade, and the morality and policy of slavery generally, it would appear to us that on the direct question of federal control of slavery in federal territories, the sixteen, if they had acted at all, would probably have acted just as the twenty-three did. Among that sixteen were several of the most noted anti-slavery men of those times - as Dr. Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris - while there was not one now known to have been otherwise, unless it may be John Rutledge, of South Carolina.

The sum of the whole is, that of our thirty-nine fathers who framed the original Constitution, twenty-one - a clear majority of the whole - certainly understood that no proper division of local from federal authority, nor any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control slavery in the federal territories; while all the rest probably had the same understanding. Such, unquestionably, was the understanding of our fathers who framed the original Constitution; and the text affirms that they understood the question "better than we."

But, so far, I have been considering the understanding of the question manifested by the framers of the original Constitution. In and by the original instrument, a mode was provided for amending it; and, as I have already stated, the present frame of "the Government under which we live" consists of that original, and twelve amendatory articles framed and adopted since. Those who now insist that federal control of slavery in federal territories violates the Constitution, point us to the provisions which they suppose it thus violates; and, as I understand, that all fix upon provisions in these amendatory articles, and not in the original instrument. The Supreme Court, in the Dred Scott case, plant themselves upon the fifth amendment, which provides that no person shall be deprived of "life, liberty or property without due process of law;" while Senator Douglas and his peculiar adherents plant themselves upon the tenth amendment, providing that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution" "are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Now, it so happens that these amendments were framed by the first Congress which sat under the Constitution - the identical Congress which passed the act already mentioned, enforcing the prohibition of slavery in the Northwestern Territory. Not only was it the same Congress, but they were the identical, same individual men who, at the same session, and at the same time within the session, had under consideration, and in progress toward maturity, these Constitutional amendments, and this act prohibiting slavery in all the territory the nation then owned. The Constitutional amendments were introduced before, and passed after the act enforcing the Ordinance of '87; so that, during the whole pendency of the act to enforce the Ordinance, the Constitutional amendments were also pending.

The seventy-six members of that Congress, including sixteen of the framers of the original Constitution, as before stated, were pre- eminently our fathers who framed that part of "the Government under which we live," which is now claimed as forbidding the Federal Government to control slavery in the federal territories.

Is it not a little presumptuous in any one at this day to affirm that the two things which that Congress deliberately framed, and carried to maturity at the same time, are absolutely inconsistent with each other? And does not such affirmation become impudently absurd when coupled with the other affirmation from the same mouth, that those who did the two things, alleged to be inconsistent, understood whether they really were inconsistent better than we - better than he who affirms that they are inconsistent?

It is surely safe to assume that the thirty-nine framers of the original Constitution, and the seventy-six members of the Congress which framed the amendments thereto, taken together, do certainly include those who may be fairly called "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live." And so assuming, I defy any man to show that any one of them ever, in his whole life, declared that, in his understanding, any proper division of local from federal authority, or any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories. I go a step further. I defy any one to show that any living man in the whole world ever did, prior to the beginning of the present century, (and I might almost say prior to the beginning of the last half of the present century,) declare that, in his understanding, any proper division of local from federal authority, or any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories. To those who now so declare, I give, not only "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live," but with them all other living men within the century in which it was framed, among whom to search, and they shall not be able to find the evidence of a single man agreeing with them.

Now, and here, let me guard a little against being misunderstood. I do not mean to say we are bound to follow implicitly in whatever our fathers did. To do so, would be to discard all the lights of current experience - to reject all progress - all improvement. What I do say is, that if we would supplant the opinions and policy of our fathers in any case, we should do so upon evidence so conclusive, and argument so clear, that even their great authority, fairly considered and weighed, cannot stand; and most surely not in a case whereof we ourselves declare they understood the question better than we.

If any man at this day sincerely believes that a proper division of local from federal authority, or any part of the Constitution, forbids the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories, he is right to say so, and to enforce his position by all truthful evidence and fair argument which he can. But he has no right to mislead others, who have less access to history, and less leisure to study it, into the false belief that "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live" were of the same opinion - thus substituting falsehood and deception for truthful evidence and fair argument. If any man at this day sincerely believes "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live," used and applied principles, in other cases, which ought to have led them to understand that a proper division of local from federal authority or some part of the Constitution, forbids the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories, he is right to say so. But he should, at the same time, brave the responsibility of declaring that, in his opinion, he understands their principles better than they did themselves; and especially should he not shirk that responsibility by asserting that they "understood the question just as well, and even better, than we do now."

But enough! Let all who believe that "our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now," speak as they spoke, and act as they acted upon it. This is all Republicans ask - all Republicans desire - in relation to slavery. As those fathers marked it, so let it be again marked, as an evil not to be extended, but to be tolerated and protected only because of and so far as its actual presence among us makes that toleration and protection a necessity. Let all the guarantees those fathers gave it, be, not grudgingly, but fully and fairly, maintained. For this Republicans contend, and with this, so far as I know or believe, they will be content.

And now, if they would listen - as I suppose they will not - I would address a few words to the Southern people.

I would say to them: - You consider yourselves a reasonable and a just people; and I consider that in the general qualities of reason and justice you are not inferior to any other people. Still, when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us a reptiles, or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to "Black Republicans." In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of "Black Republicanism" as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite - license, so to speak - among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.

You say we are sectional. We deny it. That makes an issue; and the burden of proof is upon you. You produce your proof; and what is it? Why, that our party has no existence in your section - gets no votes in your section. The fact is substantially true; but does it prove the issue? If it does, then in case we should, without change of principle, begin to get votes in your section, we should thereby cease to be sectional. You cannot escape this conclusion; and yet, are you willing to abide by it? If you are, you will probably soon find that we have ceased to be sectional, for we shall get votes in your section this very year. You will then begin to discover, as the truth plainly is, that your proof does not touch the issue. The fact that we get no votes in your section, is a fact of your making, and not of ours. And if there be fault in that fact, that fault is primarily yours, and remains until you show that we repel you by some wrong principle or practice. If we do repel you by any wrong principle or practice, the fault is ours; but this brings you to where you ought to have started - to a discussion of the right or wrong of our principle. If our principle, put in practice, would wrong your section for the benefit of ours, or for any other object, then our principle, and we with it, are sectional, and are justly opposed and denounced as such. Meet us, then, on the question of whether our principle, put in practice, would wrong your section; and so meet it as if it were possible that something may be said on our side. Do you accept the challenge? No! Then you really believe that the principle which "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live" thought so clearly right as to adopt it, and indorse it again and again, upon their official oaths, is in fact so clearly wrong as to demand your condemnation without a moment's consideration.

Some of you delight to flaunt in our faces the warning against sectional parties given by Washington in his Farewell Address. Less than eight years before Washington gave that warning, he had, as President of the United States, approved and signed an act of Congress, enforcing the prohibition of slavery in the Northwestern Territory, which act embodied the policy of the Government upon that subject up to and at the very moment he penned that warning; and about one year after he penned it, he wrote LaFayette that he considered that prohibition a wise measure, expressing in the same connection his hope that we should at some time have a confederacy of free States.

Bearing this in mind, and seeing that sectionalism has since arisen upon this same subject, is that warning a weapon in your hands against us, or in our hands against you? Could Washington himself speak, would he cast the blame of that sectionalism upon us, who sustain his policy, or upon you who repudiate it? We respect that warning of Washington, and we commend it to you, together with his example pointing to the right application of it.

But you say you are conservative - eminently conservative - while we are revolutionary, destructive, or something of the sort. What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried? We stick to, contend for, the identical old policy on the point in controversy which was adopted by "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live;" while you with one accord reject, and scout, and spit upon that old policy, and insist upon substituting something new. True, you disagree among yourselves as to what that substitute shall be. You are divided on new propositions and plans, but you are unanimous in rejecting and denouncing the old policy of the fathers. Some of you are for reviving the foreign slave trade; some for a Congressional Slave-Code for the Territories; some for Congress forbidding the Territories to prohibit Slavery within their limits; some for maintaining Slavery in the Territories through the judiciary; some for the "gur-reat pur-rinciple" that "if one man would enslave another, no third man should object," fantastically called "Popular Sovereignty;" but never a man among you is in favor of federal prohibition of slavery in federal territories, according to the practice of "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live." Not one of all your various plans can show a precedent or an advocate in the century within which our Government originated. Consider, then, whether your claim of conservatism for yourselves, and your charge or destructiveness against us, are based on the most clear and stable foundations.

Again, you say we have made the slavery question more prominent than it formerly was. We deny it. We admit that it is more prominent, but we deny that we made it so. It was not we, but you, who discarded the old policy of the fathers. We resisted, and still resist, your innovation; and thence comes the greater prominence of the question. Would you have that question reduced to its former proportions? Go back to that old policy. What has been will be again, under the same conditions. If you would have the peace of the old times, readopt the precepts and policy of the old times.

You charge that we stir up insurrections among your slaves. We deny it; and what is your proof? Harper's Ferry! John Brown!! John Brown was no Republican; and you have failed to implicate a single Republican in his Harper's Ferry enterprise. If any member of our party is guilty in that matter, you know it or you do not know it. If you do know it, you are inexcusable for not designating the man and proving the fact. If you do not know it, you are inexcusable for asserting it, and especially for persisting in the assertion after you have tried and failed to make the proof. You need to be told that persisting in a charge which one does not know to be true, is simply malicious slander.

Some of you admit that no Republican designedly aided or encouraged the Harper's Ferry affair, but still insist that our doctrines and declarations necessarily lead to such results. We do not believe it. We know we hold to no doctrine, and make no declaration, which were not held to and made by "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live." You never dealt fairly by us in relation to this affair. When it occurred, some important State elections were near at hand, and you were in evident glee with the belief that, by charging the blame upon us, you could get an advantage of us in those elections. The elections came, and your expectations were not quite fulfilled. Every Republican man knew that, as to himself at least, your charge was a slander, and he was not much inclined by it to cast his vote in your favor. Republican doctrines and declarations are accompanied with a continual protest against any interference whatever with your slaves, or with you about your slaves. Surely, this does not encourage them to revolt. True, we do, in common with "our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live," declare our belief that slavery is wrong; but the slaves do not hear us declare even this. For anything we say or do, the slaves would scarcely know there is a Republican party. I believe they would not, in fact, generally know it but for your misrepresentations of us, in their hearing. In your political contests among yourselves, each faction charges the other with sympathy with Black Republicanism; and then, to give point to the charge, defines Black Republicanism to simply be insurrection, blood and thunder among the slaves.

Slave insurrections are no more common now than they were before the Republican party was organized. What induced the Southampton insurrection, twenty-eight years ago, in which, at least three times as many lives were lost as at Harper's Ferry? You can scarcely stretch your very elastic fancy to the conclusion that Southampton was "got up by Black Republicanism." In the present state of things in the United States, I do not think a general, or even a very extensive slave insurrection is possible. The indispensable concert of action cannot be attained. The slaves have no means of rapid communication; nor can incendiary freemen, black or white, supply it. The explosive materials are everywhere in parcels; but there neither are, nor can be supplied, the indispensable connecting trains.

Much is said by Southern people about the affection of slaves for their masters and mistresses; and a part of it, at least, is true. A plot for an uprising could scarcely be devised and communicated to twenty individuals before some one of them, to save the life of a favorite master or mistress, would divulge it. This is the rule; and the slave revolution in Hayti was not an exception to it, but a case occurring under peculiar circumstances. The gunpowder plot of British history, though not connected with slaves, was more in point. In that case, only about twenty were admitted to the secret; and yet one of them, in his anxiety to save a friend, betrayed the plot to that friend, and, by consequence, averted the calamity. Occasional poisonings from the kitchen, and open or stealthy assassinations in the field, and local revolts extending to a score or so, will continue to occur as the natural results of slavery; but no general insurrection of slaves, as I think, can happen in this country for a long time. Whoever much fears, or much hopes for such an event, will be alike disappointed.

In the language of Mr. Jefferson, uttered many years ago, "It is still in our power to direct the process of emancipation, and deportation, peaceably, and in such slow degrees, as that the evil will wear off insensibly; and their places be, pari passu, filled up by free white laborers. If, on the contrary, it is left to force itself on, human nature must shudder at the prospect held up."

Mr. Jefferson did not mean to say, nor do I, that the power of emancipation is in the Federal Government. He spoke of Virginia; and, as to the power of emancipation, I speak of the slaveholding States only. The Federal Government, however, as we insist, has the power of restraining the extension of the institution - the power to insure that a slave insurrection shall never occur on any American soil which is now free from slavery.

John Brown's effort was peculiar. It was not a slave insurrection. It was an attempt by white men to get up a revolt among slaves, in which the slaves refused to participate. In fact, it was so absurd that the slaves, with all their ignorance, saw plainly enough it could not succeed. That affair, in its philosophy, corresponds with the many attempts, related in history, at the assassination of kings and emperors. An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by Heaven to liberate them. He ventures the attempt, which ends in little else than his own execution. Orsini's attempt on Louis Napoleon, and John Brown's attempt at Harper's Ferry were, in their philosophy, precisely the same. The eagerness to cast blame on old England in the one case, and on New England in the other, does not disprove the sameness of the two things.

And how much would it avail you, if you could, by the use of John Brown, Helper's Book, and the like, break up the Republican organization? Human action can be modified to some extent, but human nature cannot be changed. There is a judgment and a feeling against slavery in this nation, which cast at least a million and a half of votes. You cannot destroy that judgment and feeling - that sentiment - by breaking up the political organization which rallies around it. You can scarcely scatter and disperse an army which has been formed into order in the face of your heaviest fire; but if you could, how much would you gain by forcing the sentiment which created it out of the peaceful channel of the ballot-box, into some other channel? What would that other channel probably be? Would the number of John Browns be lessened or enlarged by the operation?

But you will break up the Union rather than submit to a denial of your Constitutional rights.

That has a somewhat reckless sound; but it would be palliated, if not fully justified, were we proposing, by the mere force of numbers, to deprive you of some right, plainly written down in the Constitution. But we are proposing no such thing.

When you make these declarations, you have a specific and well-understood allusion to an assumed Constitutional right of yours, to take slaves into the federal territories, and to hold them there as property. But no such right is specifically written in the Constitution. That instrument is literally silent about any such right. We, on the contrary, deny that such a right has any existence in the Constitution, even by implication.

Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.

This, plainly stated, is your language. Perhaps you will say the Supreme Court has decided the disputed Constitutional question in your favor. Not quite so. But waiving the lawyer's distinction between dictum and decision, the Court have decided the question for you in a sort of way. The Court have substantially said, it is your Constitutional right to take slaves into the federal territories, and to hold them there as property. When I say the decision was made in a sort of way, I mean it was made in a divided Court, by a bare majority of the Judges, and they not quite agreeing with one another in the reasons for making it; that it is so made as that its avowed supporters disagree with one another about its meaning, and that it was mainly based upon a mistaken statement of fact - the statement in the opinion that "the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution."

An inspection of the Constitution will show that the right of property in a slave is not "distinctly and expressly affirmed" in it. Bear in mind, the Judges do not pledge their judicial opinion that such right is impliedly affirmed in the Constitution; but they pledge their veracity that it is "distinctly and expressly" affirmed there - "distinctly," that is, not mingled with anything else - "expressly," that is, in words meaning just that, without the aid of any inference, and susceptible of no other meaning.

If they had only pledged their judicial opinion that such right is affirmed in the instrument by implication, it would be open to others to show that neither the word "slave" nor "slavery" is to be found in the Constitution, nor the word "property" even, in any connection with language alluding to the things slave, or slavery; and that wherever in that instrument the slave is alluded to, he is called a "person;" - and wherever his master's legal right in relation to him is alluded to, it is spoken of as "service or labor which may be due," - as a debt payable in service or labor. Also, it would be open to show, by contemporaneous history, that this mode of alluding to slaves and slavery, instead of speaking of them, was employed on purpose to exclude from the Constitution the idea that there could be property in man.

To show all this, is easy and certain.

When this obvious mistake of the Judges shall be brought to their notice, is it not reasonable to expect that they will withdraw the mistaken statement, and reconsider the conclusion based upon it?

And then it is to be remembered that "our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live" - the men who made the Constitution - decided this same Constitutional question in our favor, long ago - decided it without division among themselves, when making the decision; without division among themselves about the meaning of it after it was made, and, so far as any evidence is left, without basing it upon any mistaken statement of facts.

Under all these circumstances, do you really feel yourselves justified to break up this Government unless such a court decision as yours is, shall be at once submitted to as a conclusive and final rule of political action? But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"

To be sure, what the robber demanded of me - my money - was my own; and I had a clear right to keep it; but it was no more my own than my vote is my own; and the threat of death to me, to extort my money, and the threat of destruction to the Union, to extort my vote, can scarcely be distinguished in principle.

A few words now to Republicans. It is exceedingly desirable that all parts of this great Confederacy shall be at peace, and in harmony, one with another. Let us Republicans do our part to have it so. Even though much provoked, let us do nothing through passion and ill temper. Even though the southern people will not so much as listen to us, let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them if, in our deliberate view of our duty, we possibly can. Judging by all they say and do, and by the subject and nature of their controversy with us, let us determine, if we can, what will satisfy them.

Will they be satisfied if the Territories be unconditionally surrendered to them? We know they will not. In all their present complaints against us, the Territories are scarcely mentioned. Invasions and insurrections are the rage now. Will it satisfy them, if, in the future, we have nothing to do with invasions and insurrections? We know it will not. We so know, because we know we never had anything to do with invasions and insurrections; and yet this total abstaining does not exempt us from the charge and the denunciation.

The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them, is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

I am quite aware they do not state their case precisely in this way. Most of them would probably say to us, "Let us alone, do nothing to us, and say what you please about slavery." But we do let them alone - have never disturbed them - so that, after all, it is what we say, which dissatisfies them. They will continue to accuse us of doing, until we cease saying.

I am also aware they have not, as yet, in terms, demanded the overthrow of our Free-State Constitutions. Yet those Constitutions declare the wrong of slavery, with more solemn emphasis, than do all other sayings against it; and when all these other sayings shall have been silenced, the overthrow of these Constitutions will be demanded, and nothing be left to resist the demand. It is nothing to the contrary, that they do not demand the whole of this just now. Demanding what they do, and for the reason they do, they can voluntarily stop nowhere short of this consummation. 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.

Nor can we justifiably withhold this, on any ground save our conviction that slavery is wrong. If slavery is right, all words, acts, laws, and constitutions against it, are themselves wrong, and should be silenced, and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly object to its nationality - its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon its extension - its enlargement. All they ask, we could readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask, they could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right, and our thinking it wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but, thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this?

Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored - contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man - such as a policy of "don't care" on a question about which all true men do care - such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance - such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have the faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.