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Speech at Springfield.

Reply to Judge Douglas.

Judicial Decisions Reviewed.

subject to be disturbed only by amendments of the Constitution, as provided in that instrument itself. More than this would be revolution. But we think the Dred Scott decision is erroneous. We know the court that made it has often overruled its own decisions, and we shall do what we can to have it overrule this. We offer no resistance to it.

“ Judicial decisions are of greater or less authority as precedents, according to circumstances. That this should be so, accords both with common sense, and the customary understanding of the legal profession.

"If this important decision had been made by the unanimous concurrence of the judges, and without any apparent partisan bias, and in accordance with legal public expectation, and with the steady practice of the departments, throughout our history, and had been in no part based on assumed historical facts which are not really true; or, if wanting in some of these, it had been before the court more than once, and had there been affirmed and re-affirmed through a course of years, it then might be, perhaps would be, factious, nay, even revojutionary, not to acquiesce in it as a precedent.

“But when, as is true, we find it wanting in all these claims to the public confidence, it is not resistance, it is not factious, it is not even disrespectful, to treat it as not having yet quite established a settled doctrine for the country. But Judge Douglas considers this view awful. Hear him:

The courts are the tribunals prescribed by the Constitu tion and created by the authority of the people to determine expound, and enforce the law. Hence, whoever resists the final decision of the highest judicial tribunal, aims a deadly blow to our whole Republican system of government-a blow which, if successful, would place all our rights and liberties at the mercy of passion, anarchy and violence. I repeat, there fore, that if resistance to the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, in a matter like the points decided in the Dred Scott case, clearly within their jurisdiction as Je

Speech at Springfield.

Reply to Judge Douglas.

A National Bank.

fined by the Constitution, shall be forced upon the country as a political issue, it will become a distinct and naked issue between the friends and enemies of the Constitution—the friends and enemies of the supremacy of the laws.'

“Why, this same Supreme Court once decided a national bank to be Constitutional; but General Jackson, as President of the United States, disregarded the decision, and vetoed a bill for a re-charter, partly on Constitutional ground, declaring that each public functionary must support the Constitu tion, as he understands it.' But hear the General's own words. Here they are, taken from his veto message :

“It is maintained by the advocates of the bank, that its Constitutionality, in all its features, ought to be considered as settled by precedent, and by the decision of the Supreme Court. To this conclusion I can not assent. Mere precedent is a dangerous source of authority, and should not be regarded as deciding questions of Constitutional power, except where the acquiescence of the people and the States can be considered as well settled. So far from this being the case on this subject, an argument against the bank might be based on precedent. One Congress, in 1791, decided in favor of a bank; another, in 1811, decided against it. One Congress, in 1815, decided against a bank; another, in 1816, decided in its favor. Prior to the present Congress, therefore, the precedents drawn from that source were equal If we resort to the States, the expression of legislative, judicial, and executive opinions against the bank have been probably to those in its favor as four to one. There is nothing in precedent, therefore, which, if its authority were admitted, ought to veigh in favor of the act before me.'

"I drop the quotations merely to remark, that all there ever was, in the way of precedent up to the Dred Scott decision, on the points therein decided, bad been against that decision. But bear General Jackson further :

" If the opiuion of the Supreme Court covered the whole

Speech at Springfield.

Reply to Judge Douglas.

The Dred Scott Decision.

ground of this act, it ought not to control the co-ordinate authorities of this Government. The Congress, the Executive and the Court, must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer, who takes an oath to support the Constitution, swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others.'

"Again and again have I heard Judge Douglas denounce that bank decision, and applaud General Jackson for disregarding it. It would be interesting for him to look over his recent speech, and see how exactly his fierce philippics against us for resisting Supreme Court decisions, fall upon his own head. It will call to mind a long and fierce political war in this country, upon an issue which, in his own language, and, of course, in his own changeless estimation, was 'a distinct issue between the friends and the enemies of the Constitution, and in which war he fought in the ranks of the enemies of the Constitution.

“I have said, in substance, that the Dred Scott decision was, in part, based on assumed bistorical facts which were not really true, and I ought not to leave the subject without giving some reasons for saying this; I, therefore, give an instance or two, which I think fully sustain me. Chief Jus. tice Taney, in delivering the opinion of the majority of the Court, insists at great length, that negroes were no part of the people who made, or for whom was made, the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution of the United States.

“On the contrary, Judge Curtis, in his dissenting opinion, shows that in five of the then thirteen States, to wit: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, an! North Carolina, free negroes were voters, and, in proportion to their numbers, had the same part in making the Constitution that the wbite people had. He shows this with so much

Spoech at Springfield.

Reply to Judge Douglas.

The Black Man's Bondage.

particularity as to leave no doubt of its truth ; and as a sort of conclusion on that point, holds the following language :

"The constitution was ordained and established by the people of the United States, through the action, in each State, of those persons who were qualified by its laws to act thereon in behalf of themselves and all other citizens of the State. In some of the States, as we have seen, colored persons were among those qualified by law to act on the subject. These colored persons were not only included in the body of the people of the United States,' by whom the Constitution was ordained and established; but in at least five of the States they had the power to act, and, doubtless, did act, by their suffrages, upon the question of its adoption.'

"Again, Chief Justice Taney says: It is difficult, at this day to realize the state of public opinion in relation to that unfortunate race, which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted.' And again, after quoting from the Declaration, he says: The general words above quoted would seem to include the whole human family, and if they were used in a similar instrument at this day, would be so understood.'

“In these the Chief Justice does not directly assert, but plainly assumes, as a fact, that the public estimate of the black man is more favorable now than it was in the days of the Revolution. This assumption is a mistake. In some trifling particulars, the condition of that race has been ameliorated; but as a whole, in this country, the change between then and now is decidedly the other way; and their ultimate destiny bas never appeared so hopeless as in the last three or

In two of the five States—New Jersey and North Carolina—that then gave the free negro the right of voting, the right has since been taken away; and in the third - New York-it has been greatly abridged; while it has not

four years.

peech at Springfield.

Reply to Judge Douglas.

The Black Man's Bondage.

been extended, so far as I know, to a single additional State, uhough the number of the States has more than doubled. In whose days, as I understand, masters could, at their own pleasure, emancipate their slaves; but since then such legal restraints have been made upon emancipation as to amount almost to prohibition. In those days Legislatures held the unquestioned power to abolish slavery in their respective States; but now it is becoming quite fashionable for State Constitutions to withold that power from the Legislatures. In those days by common consent, the spread of the black man's bondage to the new countries was prohibited ; but now, Congress decides that it will not continue the prohibitionand the Supreme Court decides that it could not if it would In those days our Declaration of Independence was held sacred by all, and thought to include all; but now, to aid in making the bondage of the negro universal and eternal, it is assailed, sneered at, construed, hawked at, and torn, till, if its framers could rise from their graves, they could not at all recognize it. All the powers of earth seem rapidly combining against him. Mammon is after him; ambition follows, philosophy follows, and the theology of the day is fast joining the cry. They have him in his prison-house; they have searched his person, and left no prying instrument with him. One after another they have closed the heavy iron doors upon him; and now they have him, as it were, bolted in with a lock of a hundred keys, which can never be unlocked without the concurrence of every key; the keys in the hands of a hundred different men, and they scattered to a bundred different and distant places; and they stand musing as to what invention, in all the dominions of mind and matter, can be produced to make the impossibility of his escape more complete than it is.

"It is grossly incorrect to say or assume, that the public estimate of the negro is more favorable now than it was at .the origin of the Government

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