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Abraham Lincoln, Speech on the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, 1854

How did the principles of the Declaration of Independence contribute to the quest to end slavery from colonial times to the outbreak of the Civil War?

  • I can interpret primary sources related to Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice from the colonial era to the outbreak of the Civil War.
  • I can explain how laws and policy, courts, and individuals and groups contributed to or pushed back against the quest to end slavery. 
  • I can create an argument using evidence from primary sources. 
  • I can analyze issues in history to help find solutions to present-day challenges.


Building Context 

The Kansas-Nebraska Act further divided the country over slavery. Former Representative Abraham Lincoln was an attorney who was deeply involved in politics and who gave the following commentary on the bill’s passing. He was greatly roused by the act for reversing the Missouri Compromise and spreading the evil of slavery to the territories. He participated in the creation of the new Republican Party, dedicated to curbing the westward expansion of slavery, and was elected president only six years later. 


Speech on the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, 1854


This declared indifference, but as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I can not but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world — enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites — causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty — criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.


Comprehension and Analysis Questions

  1. What reasons does Lincoln give for opposing the Kansas-Nebraska Act?
  2. How does Lincoln connect the passage of the act to the Founding?