« PreviousContinue »
Objects of the Movers.
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 afterward to come in, and declare that perfect freedom of the people to be just no freedom at all.
Why was the amendment expressly declaring the right of the people to exclude slavery, voted down? Plainly enough now, the adoption of 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" argument 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 exhortation 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 dreaded that he may give the rider a fall. And why the hasty after-indorsements of the decision, by the President and others?
"We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of pre-concert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out, at different times and places, and by different workmen Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance-and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortices exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few-not omitting even scaffolding-or, if a single piece be lacking,
we can see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared to yet 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 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
The power of a State over Slavery.
First Speech Senatorial Canvass, 1858.
almost the language, too, of the Nebraska Act. 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
First Speech Senatorial Canvass, 1858.
The advances of Slavery.
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 Democrat newspaper thinks Douglas's 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 produc tion? 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?
First Speech Senatorial Canvass, 1858.
The great Struggle between the Candidates.
"Now, as ever, I wish not to misrepresent Judge Douglas's 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 friends those whose bands 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."
In this most vigorously prosecuted canvass Illinois was stumped throughout its length and breadth by both candidates and their respective advocates, and the struggle was watched with interest by the country at large. From county to county, from township to township, and village to village the two champions travelled, frequently in the same car or carriage, and in the presence of immense crowds of men, women, and children-for the wives and daughters of the hardy yeomanry were naturally interested-argued, face to face, the important points of their political belief, and contended nobly for the mastery.