Page images

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."

[ocr errors]

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 has never appeared so hopeless as in the last three or four years. 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 been extended, so far as I know, to a single additional State, though the number of the States has more than doubled. In those 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 withhold 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 hundred 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.

Three years and a half ago Judge Douglas brought forward his famous Nebraska bill. The country was at once in a blaze. He scorned all opposition, and carried it through Congress. Since then he has seen himself superseded in a Presidential nomination, by one indorsing the general doctrine of his measure, but at the same time standing clear of the odium of its untimely agitation, and its gross breach of national faith; and he has seen that successful rival constitutionally elected, not by the strength of friends, but by the division of his adversaries, being in a popular minority of nearly four hundred thousand votes. He has seen his chief aids in his own State, Shields and Richardson, politically speaking, successively tried, convicted, and executed, for an offense not their own, but his. And now he sees his own case, standing next on the docket for trial.

There is a natural disgust, in the minds of nearly all white people, to the idea of an indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races; and Judge Douglas evidently is basing his chief hope upon the chances of his being able to appropriate the benefit of this disgust to himself. If he can, by much drumming and repeating, fasten the odium of that idea upon his adversaries, he thinks he can struggle through the storm. He, therefore, clings to this hope, as a drowning man to the last plank. He makes an occasion for lugging it in from the opposition to the Dred Scott decision. He finds the

Republicans insisting that the Declaration of Independence includes ALL men, black as well as white, and forthwith he boldly denies that it includes negroes at all, and proceeds to argue gravely that all who contend it does, do so only because they want to vote, eat and sleep, and marry with negroes! He will have it that they can not be consistent else. Now, I protest against the counterfeit logic which concludes that, because I do not want a black woman for a slave, I must necessarily want her for a wife. I need not have her for either. I can just leave her alone. In some respects she certainly is not my equal; but in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands, without asking leave of any one else, she is my equal, and the equal of all others.

Chief Justice Taney, in his opinion in the Dred Scott case, admits that the language of the Declaration is broad enough to include the whole human family; but he and Judge Douglas argue that the authors of that instrument did not intend to include negroes, by the fact that they did not at once actually place them on an equality with the whites. Now, this grave argument comes to just nothing at all, by the other fact, that they did not at once, or ever afterward, actually place all white people on an equality with one another. And this is the staple argument of both the Chief Justice and the Senator for doing this obvious violence to the plain, unmistakable language of the Declaration.

I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what respects they did consider all men created equal-equal with "certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This they said, and this meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth, that all were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet, that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit.

Mr. Lincoln, in conclusion, pointed out in a clear and forcible manner the real distinction between his own views and those of Mr. Douglas on this question, as he has done in other speeches.



The Lecompton Struggle.-The Policy of Douglas Changed.-He Breaks with the Administration and Loses Caste at the South.Republican Sympathies.-Douglas Falters, but Opposes the English Bill.-Passage of that Measure.-Democratic State Convention of Illinois. Douglas Indorsed, and Efforts for his Re-Election Commenced. The Democratic Bolt.-Meeting of the Republican State Convention in June.-Mr. Lincoln named as the First and Only Choice of the Republicans for Senator.-His Great Speech Before the Convention at Springfield.-Douglas and Lincoln at Chicago.— Speeches at Bloomington and Springfield.—Unfairness of the Apportionment Pointed out by Mr. Lincoln.—He Analyzes the Douglas Programme.-Seven Joint Debates.-Douglas Produces a Bogus Platform, and Propounds Interrogatories." Unfriendly Legislation."-Lincoln Fully Defines his Position on the Slavery Question.-Result of the Canvass.-The People for Lincoln, the Apportionment for Douglas.-Public Opinion.

THE Lecompton Convention did its work according to the programme laid down at Washington. It adopted the Constitution desired, and probably devised, at the national capital, with the design of forcing slavery upon an unwilling people. One of the chief instruments in the execution of this work, so far as it could be consummated at Lecompton, was John Calhoun, an Illinois politician. The act under which that Convention was assembled, had received an unreserved and complete indorsement from Douglas, as "fair and just." He was emphatically committed in advance by his Springfield speech to the action of that Convention, which exercised no powers not distinctly conferred upon it by the act thus indorsed, or not in strict accordance with what was contemplated from the first by its framers. Yet late in the autumn of 1857, a rumor began to be circulated that Douglas was hes. itating about sustaining the Lecompton Constitution. Know

ing his previous attitude, people were generally incredulous in regard to this report. After a time, however, some of the leading Democratic papers of Illinois began to break ground against the Lecompton scheme, and when Congress assembled, in December, there were serious doubts as to whether Douglas did not intend to break with the Admisistration on this subject. Suspense on this point was soon relieved. Immediately after the annual message of Mr. Buchanan was read in the Senate, Douglas took occasion to announce his disagreement with the President on the Kansas question, and this notice was followed up by an elaborate speech the next day, in which he boldly talked against "forcing this Constitution down the throats of the people of Kansas, in opposition to their wishes and in violation of our pledges." He ignored all his recent attempts to charge the responsibility upon the nonvoters if the Constitution did not suit them. He seemed to forget his declaration that the act calling the Lecompton Convention was "just and fair in all its objects and provisions." He now denied the right of the minority represented at Lecompton, in accordance with the well-understood "objects and provisions" of that act, "to defraud the majority of that people out of their elective franchise."

In brief, whatever his motives-and these may be left to himself he had completely changed his attitude during the last few months, and now co-operated with the Republicans in opposing the Lecompton policy to which the President and the Democratic party had become definitely committed before the world. These two facts, however, are undeniable. The re-election of Douglas as Senator was to depend on the coming election in Illinois, and without some definite change of course, from that he had indicated at Springfield in June previous, he would be compelled to yield his place to Abraham Lincoln, as the associate of Lyman Trumbull.

It is not necessary here to follow the history of the desperate struggle which this change cost him during the long session of Congress. He carried with him but two Democratic Senators out of nearly forty, and only a little larger fraction of the Democratic members of the House. He was generally

« PreviousContinue »