Slike strani

The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the states by State Constitutions, and from most of the National territory by Congressional prohibition. Four days later, commenced the struggle which ended in repealing that Congressional prohibition. This opened all the National territory to slavery, and was the first point gained.

But, so far, Congress only had acted; and an indorsement by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable, to save the point already gained, and give chance for


This necessity had not been overlooked; but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of "squatter sovereignty,” otherwise called " sacred right of self-government,” which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was 80 perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That if any one man choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object. That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska bill itsell, in the language which follows: “ It being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom; but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestie institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the Uni. ted States." Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of " Squatter Sovereignty," and "sacred right of self-government.” “But," said opposition members, “let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the Territory may exclude slavery.” “Not we," said the friends of the measure; and down they voted the amendment.

'While the Nebraska bill was passing through Congress, a law case involving the question of a negro's freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him Arst into a free 8 ate and then into a free Territory covered by the Congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave for a long time in each, was passing through the United States Circuit Court for the District of Missouri; and both Nebraskabili, and law suit were brought to a decision in the same month of May, 1884. The negro's name was “ Dred Scott," which name now designates the decision finally made in the case. Before the then next Presidential election, the law case came to, and was argued in the Supreme Court of the United States; but the decision of it was deferred until after the election. Still, before the election, Senator Trumbull, on the floor of the Senate, requested the leading advocate of the Nebraska bill to state his opinion whether the people of a Territory can Constitutionally exclude slavery from their limits; and the latter answers : “That is a question for the Supreme Court."

The election came. Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the endorsement, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained. The indorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority by nearly four hundred thousand votes, and so, perhaps was not overwhelmingly reliable and satisfactory. The outgoing President, in his last annual message, as impressively as possible echoed back upon the people the weight and authority of the indorsement. The Supreme Court met again; did not announce their decision, but ordered a re-argument. The Presidential Inauguration came, and still no decision of the court; but the incoming President in his inangural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. Then in a few days, came the decision.

The reputed author of the Nebraska bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capital indorsing the Dred Scott decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it. The new President, too, seizes the early occasion of the Sil. Uman letter to indorse and strongly construe that decision, and to express his astonishment that any different view had ever been entertained!

At length & squabble springs up between the President and the author of the Nebraska bill, on the mere question of fact, whether the Lecompton Constitution was or was not, in any just sense, made by the periple of Kansas; and in that quarrel the latter delares that all he wants is a fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up. I do not understand his doclaration that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or votod up, to be in. tended by him other than as an apt definition of the policy he would impress upon the public mind - the principle for which he declares he has suffered so much, and is ready to suffer to the end. And well may he cling to that principle. Il be has any parental feeling, well may he cling to it. That principle is the only shred left of his original Nebraska doctrine. Under the Dred Scott decision, “squatter sovereignty " squatted out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffoldinglike the mould at the foundry, it served through one blast and fell back inw loose sand — helped to carry an election, and then was kicked to the winds. His late joint struggle with the republicans, against the Lecomption Constitution, involves nothing of the original Nebraska doctrine. That struggle was made on a pointthe right of the people to inake their own Constitution - upon which he and the republicans have never differed.

The several points of the Dred Soott decision, in connection with Senator Donglas' “ care not” policy, constitute the piece of machinery, in its present state of udvancement, This was the third point gained. The working points of that machinery are:

First, That no negro slave, imported as such from Africa, and no descendant of such slave, can ever be a citizen of any state, in the sense of that term as used in the Constitution of the United States. This point is made in order to deprive the negro, in every possible event, of the benefit of that provision of the United States Constitution, which declares “That citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states."

&ccondly, That “subject to the Constitution of the United States," neither Congress nor a Territorial Legislature can exclude slavery from any United States territory. This point is made in order that'individual men may fill up the Territorios with slaves, without danger of losing them as property, and thus to euhance the chances of permanency to the institution through all the future.

Thirdly, That whether the holding a negro in actual slavery, in a free State, makes him frer', as against the holder, the United States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by the courts of any slave Siate the negro may be forced into by the master. This point is made, not to be pressed immediately; but, if acquiesced in for awhile, and apparently Indorsed by the people at an elcretion, thon to sustain the logical conclusion that what Dred Scott's master might lawfully do with Dred Scott, in the free State of Illinois, every other master may Inwfully do with any other one, or one thousand slaves, in Illinois, or in any other free State.

Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mould public opinion, at least Northern pula lic opinion, not to care whether slavery is voted down or voted up. This shows exactly where we now are; and partially, also, whither we are tending.

It will throw additional light on the latter, to go back, and run the mindoverile string of historical facts already stated. Several things will now appear less dark and mysterious than they did when they were transpiring. The people were to be left “perfectly free," “subject only to the Constitution.” What the constitution had to do with it, outsiders could not then see. Plainly enough now, it was an exactly fitted niche, for the Dred Scott decision to afterwards come in, and declare the perfect freedom of the people, to be just no freeduin at all. Why was the amenda ment expressly declaring the right of the people, votad down? Plainly enough now: the adoptionof it would have spoiled the niche for the Dred Scott decision. Why was the court decision held up? Why even a Senator s individual opinion withheld, till after the Presidential election? Plainly enough now: the speaking out then would have damaged the perfectly free arguinent upon which the election was to be carried. Why the outgoing President's felicitation on the indorsement ? Why the delay of a re-argument? Why the incoming President's advance exhor. tation in favor of the decision? These things look like the cautious patting and petting of a spirited horse preparatory to mounting him, when it is dreuiled that be may give the rider a fall. And why the hasty after-indorsement of the decision by the President and others?

We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know l:ave been gotten out at different times and places and by different work. men - Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance*--and when we see these tinibers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill,

*Stepbeu A. Douglas, Franklin Pierce, Roger B. Taney, and James Buchanan.

all the tenons and mortices exactly atting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and tot a piece too many or too few - not omitting even scaffolding-or, if a single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly atted and prepared yet to bring such piece in-in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen, and Franklin, and Roger, and James, all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck.

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 is a mere omission; but who can be quite sure, 1 Mr. McLean or Curtis had sought to get into the opinion a declaration of unlimited power in the people of a State to exclude slayery from their limits, Just as Chase and Mace sought to get such declaration, in beball 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 18 supreme over the subject of slave ery within its jurisdiction.” In what cases the power of the States 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 this 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 permita State to excludo 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 suficiently to give promise that such a decision can be maintained when made.

Such a decision is all that slavery now lacks of being alike lawfùl 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 in. stead, that the Supreme Court has made nuinois 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. How can we best do it?

There are those who denounce us openly to their own friends, and yet whisper to us softly, that Senator Douglas is the aptest Instrument there is with which to effect that object. They wish us to inter all, from the fact 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 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, 11 not a dead lion for this work, is at least & caged and toothless one. How can he oppose the advances of slavery? He dont care anything about it. His avowed mission is im. pressing the public heart” to care nothing about it. A leading Douglas democratic DowSpapor 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 86. Does he really think 80? But if it is, how can he

rexist It? For years he lias labored to prove it a sacred right or white men to tako negro slaves into the new Terriwries. Can he possibly show that it is less n sncrod right to buy them where they can be bought cheapest! Anul unquestionably they can be bought cheaper in Afrioa 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 thint trade in that “property” shall be " perfectly free" - unless he does it 48 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 jaay rightfully bo 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 inser that he will make any particular change, of which he, himself, has given no intimation? Can we safely linse our action upon any such vague Inforence? Now, as ever, I wish not to misreproscut Judge Douglas' position, question his motives, or do aught that can be personally offensive 10 hiin. Whenever, if ever, he and we can coinc together on principe so that our cause inay have assistance from bis grunt ability, I bope to have intorposedl nu udventilious 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 friends - those 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 hun. dred thousand strong. We did this under the single impulso of resistance ton common danger, with every external circumstance against us. Or strange, discordant, and even hostile elements, we gathered from the four, and fornuod aud 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 eneiny is wavering, dissevered and belligerent? The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail - if we stand firin, we shall not fail. Wise counsels may accelerate, or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later, the victory is sure to come.

There is a tone of solemnity and deep apprehension in this speech of Lincoln. After describing in words so clear and simple that none could misunderstand, the couspiracy to extend slavery to all the States, he says: “We shall lie down, pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the eve of making that a free State, 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 of all who would prevent that consummation. This is what we have to do."

To this work his life was henceforth devoted. He brought to the tremendous struggle, physical strength and endurance almost superhuman; an intellect trained to present and discuss political questions to the comprehension of the American mind, and with a success never equalled by any other American orator or statesman.

Iu allusion to the disposition manifested outside of Illinois, and especially by the New York Tribune; to sustain Douglas, he said, our cause inust be entrusted to, and conducted by, its

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

own undoubted friends; those whose hands are free, and · whose hearts are in the work. We do care for the result, alluding to Douglas' statement, that he did not care whether slavery was voted up or voted down.”

He concludes in the language of hopeful prophesy. “We shall not fail, wise counsels may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but sooner or later, victory is sure to come.'

Such was the high philosophic appreciation by Lincoln, of the conflict then pending before the American people. The first battle was to be the intellectual combat between him and Senator Douglas; a contest made in the watchful, anxious view of all the people of the Union. Liberty against slavery was the clearly defined issue. The Senatorial debate between Webster and Hayne, is historical; that involved questions of Constitutional construction, State rights, and theories of Government.

The contest between Lincoln and Douglas involved the triumph of freedom in Kansas, and in the Union. It was not a single debate, but extended through a whole campaign. The great political parties throughout the country, paused to watch its progress, and looked with eager solicitude upon every movement of the champions.

Mr. Douglas arrived at Chicago, from Washington, on the 9th of July, and was recieved with the most enthusiastic demonstrations by his friends. He addressed himself to reply to Mr. Lincoln's Springfield speech. Lincoln was present and heard the speech of Douglas, and replied to it the evening afterward. On the 16th of July, Mr. Douglas spoke at Bloomington, and Mr. Lincoln was present. Douglas again addressed the people at Springfield, on the 17th of July, to which Mr. Lincoln replied in the evening. Thereupon Mr. Lincoln addressed to Mr. Douglas the following note, challenging him to the joint debate:

CHICAGO, July 4th, 1868. • Hon. 8. A. DOUGLAS,

My Dear Sir: WIU it be agreeable to you to make an arrangement to divide time, and address the same audience, during the present canvass ? etc. Mr. Judd is authorized to receive your answer, and agreeable to you, to enter into the terms of such agreement, etc.

Your ob't serv't,


« PrejšnjaNaprej »