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In 1780 the Legislature of Pennsylvania passed the act abolishing slavery in this State. It was introduced by a grateful acknowledgment to God for the achievement of American liberty, for that assistance by which the people had been enabled to break the chains of a foreign power, and by the enjoyment and assumption of a duty conformable to that, to do all that they could to break all other chains and set the world free.
That preamble was the work of your fathers; they sleep in honored graves; there is not, I believe, one man living now who was engaged in that most righteous act. There are words in that preamble fit to be read by all who inherit the blood, by all who bear the name, by all who cherish the memory, of an honored and virtuous ancestry. And I ask every one of you now present, ere eight-and-forty hours pass over your heads, to turn to that act, to read that preamble, and if you are Pennsylvanians the blood will stir and prompt you to your duty. There are arguments in that document far surpassing any thing that my poor ability could advance on the subject, and there I leave it.*
In answering an invitation to address the citizens of Pennsylvania, in another place, a short time ago, I observed that I had a desire to say a few words to the people of the State. I have now said them. I have said, and I repeat, that the result of the approaching election rests much in your hands. You may decide it favorably to the interests and honor of the country. Without your concurrence, Mr. Polk cannot be chosen. I wish to state this to you, and to leave it with you, in the strongest possible manner.
We are all, in Massachusetts, interested in the manner you give your votes at the coming Presidential election, and you are as much interested in the manner in which we give ours. But there is another election to be shortly decided in this State besides the Presidential election. It would ill become me to interfere in the elections by another State of its own State officers. I will not do so farther than to say, that the manner in which this first election of yours is conducted, and shall result, will have a great effect on the hopes and prospects of the Whigs in reference to that which is so soon to come after it.
* See preamble to the act of the Legislature of Pennsylvania for the gradual abolition of slavery, passed 1780, Pennsylvania Laws, Vol. I. p. 492.
I need not tell you that there is a great curiosity among the Whigs of other States, — curiosity is a term that is not strong enough for the feeling that exists, — there is a deep and strong anxiety prevailing all over the Union in relation to the way in which the Whigs shall conduct the next election in this State. Because it is perfectly plain to every one, that if the venerable man who was introduced to you this day,* — if that distinguished son of this great State, who was recently here on this platform, shall be elected Governor, there will be a brightening of the political skies, at the sight of which every true Whig in the Union will rejoice.
I have a few words to say to the people of this city, this fair and beautiful Philadelphia, this city of the Declaration of Independence, this city in which was matured and perfected the glorious Constitution of the United States, this noble city, which is connected with so much of the early history of our country and its subsequent prosperity! Can there be a doubt of the side which this city will take in the coming contest? I ask every young man to sit down and ask his conscience how he can give a vote for the subversion of all the best interests and the only correct policy of our beloved country! I ask every old man to remember the past, to reflect on the policy, the principles, and the men of other times, and to consider if all in that past does not prompt him to one course of action!
Fellow-citizens of Pennsylvania! There are subordinate questions, on which those may differ, without great injury, who agree in general principles. And there are questions of a temporary interest, in regard to which a wrong decision made now may be corrected hereafter. Such are not the questions now before us. The questions now before us touch, and touch vitally, great, and deep, and permanent interests of the country.
On these questions, brethren of the same principles must not differ. In saying this, while I look round about me, and see who compose this vast assembly, I have not, I hope, transcended the bounds of propriety. You understand me. I need not press the point more explicitly.
When great principles of government are at stake, when high and lasting interests are at hazard, I repeat, that, in such a crisis, friends must not allow themselves to divide upon questions respecting men, so as to defeat or endanger all their own dearest objects. .
* General Markle, the Whig candidate for Governor.
What we now do, we cannot undo. We do it once, and we do it for our generation, perhaps for ever. And so much of all our highest interests, our truest prosperity, and our best hopes depends on having this work well done, that I say once more,— I say it from the very bottom of my heart, — I say it with the most profound conviction of its importance, — brethren of the same principles must not be allowed to differ with regard to men.