Notes Regarding Slavery, [1 July 1854]1
If A. can prove, however conclusively, that he may, of right, enslave B– why may not B. snatch the same argument, and prove equally, that he may enslave A?–
You say A. is white, and B. is black– It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care– By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than yourself– ^your own–^
You do not mean color exactly?– You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks; and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again– By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own–
But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another– Very well– And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you–
1Abraham Lincoln wrote this document. The date, however, is uncertain. Lincoln biographers John G. Nicolay and John Hay tentatively dated the document and another fragment on slavery July 1, 1854. Roy P. Basler, editor of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, maintained this date, despite offering no evidence to support it. The editors have retained this date in the absence of any evidence to the contrary. These notes almost certainly postdate the passage of the Kansas Nebraska Act and repeal of the Missouri Compromise which reawakened Lincoln’s interest in politics and spurred him to campaign for Whig congressional candidate Richard Yates in the autumn of 1854.
John G. Nicolay and John Hay, eds., Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, new and enlarged ed. (New York: Francis D. Tandy, 1905), 2:183-84; Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 2:222, 3:438-62; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps.
Handwritten Document, 1 page(s), Oliver R. Barrett Collection (1953), Harlan Crow Library (Dallas, TX).