« PreviousContinue »
Formation of the Republican Party.
Kansas-Nebraska Bill. Election of U. S. Senator.
once more to private life, resuming the professional practice which had been temporarily interrupted by his public duties, and taking no active part in politics through the period of General Taylor's administration, or in any of the exciting scenes of 1850.
The introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska bill by Stephen A. Douglas, in 1854, aroused him from his repose, and summoned him once more to battle for the right. In the canvass of that year, he was one of the most active leaders of the anti-Nebraska movement, addressing the people repeatedly from the stump, with all his characteristic earnestness and energy, and powerfully aided in effecting the remarkable political changes of that year in Illinois.
The Legislature that year having to choose a United States Senator, and for the first time in the history of the State, the election of one opposed to the Democratic party being within the reach of possibility, Mr. Lincoln, although the first choice of the great body of the opposition, with characteristic self-sacrificing disposition, appealed to his old Whig friends to go over in a solid body to Mr. Trumbull, a man of Democratic antecedents, who could command the full vote of the anti-Nebraska Democrats; and the latter was consequently elected. Mr. Lincoln was subsequently offered the nomination for Governor of Illinois, but declined the honor in favor of Col. William H. Bissell, who was elected by a decisive majority.
In the formation of the Republican party as such, Mr Lincoln bore an active and influential part, his name being presented, but ineffectually, at the first National Convention. of that party, for Vice-President; laboring earnestly during the canvass of 1856, for the election of General Fremont, whose electoral ticket he headed.
After Mr. Douglas had taken ground against Mr. Bu ebanan's administration relative to the so-called Lecompton Constitution of Kansas, and had received the indorsement of
The Slavery Agitation.
the Democratic party of Illinois-his re-election as Senator depending upon the result of the State election in 1858the Republican Convention of that year with shouts of applause, unanimously resolved that Abraham Lincoln was "the first and only choice of the Republicans of Illinois for the United States Senate, as the successor of Stephen A. Douglas." At the close of the proceedings, he delivered the following speech, which struck the key-note of his contest with Senator Douglas, one of the most exciting and remarkable ever witnessed in this country:
Nominated for Senator.
"GENTLEMEN OF THE CONVENTION:-If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far on into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation had not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. 'A house divided against itself can not stand.' I believe this Government can not endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved-I do not expect the house to fall-but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new-North as well as South.
"Have we no tendency to the latter condition? Let any one who doubts, carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination-piece of machinery, so to speakcompounded of the Nebraska doctrine, and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted, but also let him study
Liberty to Amend.
the history of its construction, and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidences of design, and concert of action, among its chief master-workers from the beginning.
"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 more. 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.
"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 selfgovernment,' which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so 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 itself, 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 exclude it therefrom; but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United 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 be more specificlet 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
The Dred Scott Case.
In the Supreme Court.
reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free State and then a territory covered by the Congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave-for a long time in eachwas passing through the U. S. Circuit Court for the District of Missouri; and both the Nebraska Bill and law suit were brought to a decision in the same month of May, 1854. The negro's name was 'Dred Scott,' which name now designates the decision finally made in the case.
"Before the then next Presidential election case, the law 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, requests the leading advocate of the Nebraska Bill to state his opinion whether a 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 indorsement, 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 Inaugural Address, fervently exnorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. Then, in a few days came the decision.
"This was the third point gained.
"The reputed author of the Nebraska Bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capitol indorsing the Dred Scott decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to
Trouble between Douglas and Buchanan.
Points of the Dred Scott Decision.
it. The new President, too, seizes the early occasion of the Silliman letter to indorse and strongly construe that decision, and to express his astonishment that any different view had ever been entertained. At length a 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 people of Kansas; and, in that squabble, the latter declares 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 declaration that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up, to be intended 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 much, and is ready to suffer to the end.
"And well may he cling to that principle. If he 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 scaffolding-like the mould at the foundry, served through one blast, and fell back into loose sand-helped to carry an election, and then was kicked to the winds. His late joint struggle with the Republicans, against the Lecompton Constitution, involves nothing of the original Nebraska doctrine. That struggle was made on a point-the right of a people to make their own Constitution-upon which he and the Republicans have never differed.
"The several points of the Dred Scott decision, in connection with Senator Douglas's 'care not' policy, constitute the piece of machinery in its present state of advancement. The working points of that machinery are:
"First, That no negro slave, imported as such from Africa, and no descendant of such, can ever be a citizen of any State,