Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Speech at Springfield.

Reply to Judge Douglas.

Kansas Elections.

[ocr errors]

"It appears extraordinary that Judge Douglas should make such a statement. He knows that, by the law, no one can vote who has not been registered ; and he knows that the Free State men place their refusal to vote on the ground that but few of them have been registered. It is possible this is not true, but Judge Douglas knows it is asserted to be true in letters, newspapers, and public speeches, and borne by every mail, and blown by every breeze to the eyes and ears of the world. He knows it is boldly declared, that the people of many whole counties, and many whole neighborhoods in others, are left unregistered; yet he does not venture to contradict the declaration, or to point out how they can vote without being registered ; but he just slips along, not seeming to know there is any such question of fact, and complacently declares, ' There is every reason to hope and believe that the law will be fairly and impartially executed, so as to insure to every bona fide inhabitant the free and quiet exercise of the elective franchise.'

“I readily agree that if all had a chance to vote, they ought to have voted. If, on the contrary, as they allege, and Judge Douglas ventures not particularly to contradict, few only of the Free State men had a chance to vote, they were perfectly right in staying from the polls in a body.

'By the way, since the Judge spoke, the Kansas election has come off. The Judge expressed his confidence that all the Democrats in Kansas would do their duty-including Free State Democrats' of course. The returns received here, as yet, are very incomplete ; but, so far as they go, they indicate that only about one-sixth of the registered voters, have really voted; and this, too, when not more, perhaps, than one-half of the rightful voters have been registered, thus showing the thing to have been altogether the most exquisite farce ever enacted. I am watching with considerable interest, to ascertain what figure 'the Free State Democrats' cut in the concern. Of course they voted-all Democrats do their

Speech at Springfield.

Reply to Judge Douglas.

Dred Scott Decision.

duty-and of course they did not vote for Slave State candidates. We soon shall know how many delegates they elected, how many candidates they have pledged to a free State, and how many votes were cast for them.

“Allow me to barely whisper my suspicion, that there were no such things in Kansas as 'Free State Democrats'that they were altogether mythical, good only to figure in newspapers and speeches in the free States. If there should prove to be one real, living free State Democrat in Kansas, I suggest that it might be well to catch him, and stuff and preserve his skin, as an interesting specimen of that soon to be extinct variety of the genus Democrat.

And now, as to the Dred Scott decision. That decision declares two propositions—first, that a negro cannot sue in the United States Courts; and secondly, that Congress can not prohibit slavery in the Territories. It was made by a divided court—dividing differently on the different points. Judge Douglas does not discuss the merits of the decision, and in that respect, I shall follow his example, believing I could no more improve upon McLean and Curtis, than he could on Taney.

“He denounces all who question the correctness of that decision, as offering violent resistance to it. But who résists it? Who has, in spite of the decision, declared Dred Scott free, and resisted the authority of his master over him?

“Judicial decisions have two uses---first, to absolutely determine the case decided; and secondly to indicate to the public how other similar cases will be decided when they arise. For the latter use, they are called 'precedents' and "authorities.'

" We believe as much as Judge Douglas (perhaps more) in obedience to, and respect for the judicial department of Government. We think its decisions on Constitutional ques tions, when fully settled, should control, not only the partic ular cases decided, but the general policy of the country

Speech at Springfield.

Reply to Judge Douglas.

Judicial Decisions Revievel.

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 revoTutionary, 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 de

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 weigh 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, had been against that decision. But hear General Jackson further :

". If the opinion 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 historical 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 Justice 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, and North Carolina, free negroes were voters, and, in proportion to their numbers, had the same part in making the Constitution that the white people had. He shows this with so much

« ZurückWeiter »