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Slavery is but half abolished, emancipation is but half completed, while millions of freemen with votes in their hands are left without education. Justice to them, the welfare of the States in which they live, the safety of the whole Republic, the dignity of the elective franchise, - all alike demand that the still remaining bonds of ignorance shall be unloosed and broken, and the minds as well as the bodies of the emancipated go free.
The mere thought of investment in human beings is offensive to some among us. Our values and beliefs inhibit us from looking upon human beings as capital goods, except in slavery, and this we abhor... To treat human beings as wealth that can be augmented by investment runs counter to deeply held values. It seems to reduce man once again to a mere material component, something akin to property. And for man to look upon himself as a capital good, even if it did not impair his freedom, may seem to debase him... (But) by investing in themselves, people can enlarge the range of choice available to them. It is one way free men can enhance their welfare.
What many of us fail to realize is that the last four hundred years are a highly special period in the history of the world. The pace at which changes during these years have taken place is unexampled in earlier history, as is the very nature of these changes. This is partly the results of increased communication, but also of an increased mastery over nature, which on a limited planet like the earth, may prove in the long run to be an increased slavery to nature. For the more we get out of the world the less we leave, and in the long run we shall have to pay our debts at a time that may be very inconvenient for our own survival.
I have fought a long battle with slavery; and I confess my solicitude when I see any thing that looks like concession to it. It is not enough to show me that a measure is expedient: you must show me also that it is right. Ah, sir, can any thing be expedient which is not right? From the beginning of our history the country has been afflicted with compromise. It is by compromise that human rights have been abandoned. I insist that this shall cease. The country needs repose after all its trials: it deserves repose. And repose can only be found in everlasting principles. It cannot be found by inserting in your constitution the disfranchisement of a race.