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It should not be overlooked that, by the Nebraska Bill, the people of a State, as well as Territory, were to be left "perfectly free," "subject only to the Constitution." Why mention a State? They were legislating for Territories, and not for or about States. Certainly the people of a State are and ought to be subject to the Constitution of the United States; but why is mention of this lugged into this merely territorial law? Why are the people of a territory and the people of a State therein lumped together, and their relation to the Constitution therein treated as being precisely the same?
While the opinion of the Court, by Chief Justice Taney, in the Dred Scott case, and the separate opinions of all the concurring judges, expressly declare that the Constitution of the United States neither permits Congress nor a Territorial Legislature to exclude slavery from any United States Territory, they all omit to declare whether or not the same Constitution permits a State, or the people of a State to exclude it. Possibly, this was a mere omission; but who can be quite sure, if McLean or Curtis had sought to get into the opinion a declaration of unlimited power in the people of a State to exclude slavery from their limits, just as Chase and Mace sought to get such declaration in behalf of the people of a Territory into the Nebraska Bill-I ask, who can be quite sure that it would not have been voted down, in the one case, as it had been in the other.
The nearest approach to the point of declaring the power of a State over slavery, is made by Judge Nelson. He approaches it more than once, using the precise idea, and almost the language, too, of the Nebraska Act. On one occasion his exact language is, "except in cases where the power is restrained by the Constitution of the United States, the law of the State is supreme over the subject of slavery within its jurisdiction."
In what cases the power of the State is so restrained by the United States Constitution, is left an open question, precisely as the same question, as to the restraint on the power of the Territories, was left open in the Nebraska Act. Put that and that together, and we have another nice little niche, which we may, ere long, see filled with another Supreme Court decision, declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not permit a State to exclude slavery from its limits. And this may especially be expected if the doctrine of "care not whether slavery be voted down or voted up," shall gain upon the public mind sufficiently to give promise that such a decision can be maintained when made.
Such a decision is all that slavery now lacks of being alike lawful in all the States. Welcome or unwelcome, such decision is probably coming, and will soon be upon us, unless the
power of the present political dynasty shall be met and overthrown. We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free; and we shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State.
To meet and overthrow the power of that dynasty, is the work now before all those who would prevent that consummation. That is what we have to do. But how can we best do it?
There are those who denounce us openly to their own friends, and yet whisper softly, that Senator Douglas is the aptest instrument there is, with which to effect that object. They do not tell us, nor has he told us, that he wishes any such object to be effected. They wish us to infer all, from the facts that he now has a little quarrel with the present head of the dynasty; and that he has regularly voted with us, on a single point, upon which he and we have never differed.
They remind us that he is a very great man, and that the largest of us are very small ones. Let this be granted. But "a living dog is better than a dead lion." Judge Douglas, if not a dead lion for this work, is at least a caged and toothless one. How can he oppose the advances of slavery? He don't care anything about it. His avowed mission is impressing the
public heart" to care nothing about it.
A leading Douglas Democratic newspaper thinks Douglas' superior talent will be needed to resist the revival of the African slave-trade. Does Douglas believe an effort to revive that trade is approaching? He has not said so. Does he really think so? But if it is, how can he resist it? For years he has labored to prove it a sacred right of white men to take negro slaves into the new Territories. Can he possibly show that it is less a sacred right to buy them where they can be bought cheapest? And, unquestionably, they can be bought cheaper in Africa than in Virginia.
He has done all in his power to reduce the whole question of slavery to one of a mere right of property; and as such, how can he oppose the foreign slave-trade-how can he refuse that trade in that "property," shall be "perfectly free"-unless he does it as a protection to the home production? And as the home producers will probably not ask the protection, he will be wholly without a ground of opposition.
Senator Douglas holds, we know, that a man may rightfully be wiser to-day than he was yesterday-that he may rightfully change when he finds himself wrong. But, can we for that reason run ahead and infer that he will make any particular change, of which he himself has given no intimation? Can we safely base our action upon any such vague inferences?
Now, as ever, I wish not to misrepresent Judge Douglas' position, question his motives, or do aught that can be personally offensive to him. Whenever, if ever, he and we can come together on principle, so that our great cause may have assistance from his great ability, I hope to have interposed no adventitious obstacle.
But clearly, he is not now with us he does not pretend to be he does not promise ever to be. Our cause, then, must be intrusted to, and conducted by its own undoubted friendsthose whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work-who do care for the result.
Two years ago the Republicans of the nation mustered over thirteen hundred thousand strong. We did this under the single impulse of resistance to a common danger, with every external circumstance against us. Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud and pampered enemy. Did we brave all then to falter now ?-now-when that same enemy is wavering, dissevered and belligerent?
The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail-if we stand firm, we shall not fail. Wise counsels may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later, the victory is sure to come.
Mr. Douglas, having lingered for more than three weeks on his way homeward, preparing for the struggle before him, arrived in Chicago on the 9th of July, amid the most showy demonstrations of his friends. He made a long speech on the occasion, which Mr. Lincoln was present to hear. Douglas claimed great credit as having defeated the President's Lecompton policy, and imperiously returned thanks to the Republicans for "coming up manfully and sustaining" him and his little band in opposition to the Administration—a course, certainly, for which the Republican party deserved no special thanks, as it required of them no sacrifice of either consistency or partisan fellowship. Subsequently he charged an alliance between the Republicans and the Administration party for his defeat. He took care again to avow an utter indifference as to whether Kansas should be slave soil or free soil, only asking that the popular majority should prevail. At length he came to the great opening speech of Mr. Lincoln, which had been carefully pondered during the last three weeks.
"I have observed," he said with condescending assurance, "I have observed from the public prints, that but a few days ago the Republican party of the State of Illinois assembled in convention at Springfield, and not only laid down their platform, but nominated a candidate for the United States Senate as my successor. I take great pleasure in saying that I have known, personally and intimately, for about a quarter of a century, the worthy gentleman who has been nominated for my place; and I will say that I regard him as a kind, amiable and intelligent gentleman, a good citizen, and an honorable opponent; and whatever issue I may have with him will be of principle, and not involving personalities." He then proceeded to specify his two chief points of attack on Mr. Lincoln, after citing a portion of the first paragraph of his Springfield speech. Mr. Douglas endeavored thus to put his opponent on the defensive, by selecting sentences out of their connection, and imputing to them a meaning not intended. His first point he thus states:
In other words, Mr. Lincoln asserts as a fundamental principle of this Government, that there must be uniformity in the local laws and domestic institutions of each and all the States of the Union, and he therefore invites all the nonslaveholding States to band together, organize as one body, and make war upon slavery in Kentucky, upon slavery in Virginia, upon slavery in the Carolinas, upon slavery in all of the slaveholding States in this Union, and to persevere in that war until it shall be exterminated. He then notifies the slaveholding States to stand together as a unit and make an aggressive war upon the free States of this Union, with a view. of establishing slavery in them all; of forcing it upon Illinois, of forcing it upon New York, upon New England, and upon every other free State, and that they shall keep up the warfare until it has been formally established in them all. In other words, Mr. Lincoln advocates boldly and clearly a war of sections, a war of the North against the South, of the free States against the slave States-a war of extermination-to be continued relentlessly until the one or the other should be subdued, and all the States shall either become free or become slave.
His other point was made in these words:
The other proposition discussed by Mr. Lincoln in his
speech consists in a crusade against the Supreme Court of the United States on account of the Dred Scott decision. On this question, also, I desire to say to you, unequivocally, that I take direct and distinct issue with him. I have no warfare to make on the Supreme Court of the United States, either on account of that or any other decision which they have pronounced from that bench. The Constitution of the United States has provided that the powers of Government (and the Constitution of each State has the same provision) shall be divided into three departments-executive, legislative and judicial. The right and the province of expounding the Constitution, and constructing the law, is vested in the judiciary established by the Constitution. As a lawyer, I feel at liberty to appear before the court and controvert any principle of law while the question is pending before the tribunal; but when the decision is made, my private opinion, your opinion, all other opinions must yield to the majesty of that authoritative adjudication.
Later in the same speech, Mr. Douglas said on this head :
On the other point, Mr. Lincoln goes for a warfare upon the Supreme Court of the United States, because of their decision in the Dred Scott case. I yield obedience to the decisions of that Court to the final determination of the highest judicial tribunal known to our Constitution. He objects to the Dred Scott decision because it does not put the negro in the possession of the rights of citizenship on an equality with the white man. I am opposed to negro equality. I repeat that this nation is a white people-a people composed of European descendants-a people that have established this Government for themselves and their posterity, and I am in favor of preserving, not only the purity of the blood, but the purity of the Government, from any mixture or amalgamation with inferior races. I have seen the effects of this mixture of superior and inferior races this amalgamation of white men and Indians and negroes; we have seen it in Mexico, in Central America, in South America, and in all the Spanish-American States, and its result has been degeneration, demoralization, and degradation below the capacity for self-government.
How completely the positions of Mr. Lincoln were misconstrued in these extracts, will partly appear from reading his speech, made at Springfield on the 26th of June, 1857. These misconceptions were completely disposed of in Mr. Lincoln's reply, at Chicago, on the following evening, July