Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 377 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, a History Volume 02.

Difficult as this made his task of reconciling his favorite theory with the Dred Scott decision, such was his political boldness, and such had been his skill and success in sophistry, that he undertook even this hopeless effort.  Douglas, therefore, made a speech at Springfield, Illinois, on the 12th of June, 1857, in which he broadly and fully indorsed and commended the opinion of Chief-Justice Taney and his concurring associates, declaring that “Their judicial decisions will stand in all future time, a proud monument to their greatness, the admiration of the good and wise, and a rebuke to the partisans of faction and lawless violence.  If unfortunately any considerable portion of the people of the United States shall so far forget their obligations to society as to allow the partisan leaders to array them in violent resistance to the final decision of the highest judicial tribunal on earth, it will become the duty of all the friends of order and constitutional government, without reference to past political differences, to organize themselves and marshal their forces under the glorious banner of the Union, in vindication of the Constitution and supremacy of the laws over the advocates of faction and the champions of violence.”

Proceeding then with a statement of the case, he continued:  “The material and controlling points in the case, those which have been made the subject of unmeasured abuse and denunciation, may be thus stated:  1st.  The court decided that under the Constitution of the United States, a negro descended from slave parents is not and cannot be a citizen of the United States. 2d.  That the act of March 6, 1820, commonly called the Missouri Compromise act, was unconstitutional and void before it was repealed by the Nebraska act, and consequently did not and could not have the legal effect of extinguishing a master’s right to his slave in that Territory.  While the right continues in full force under the guarantees of the Constitution, and cannot be divested or alienated by an act of Congress, it necessarily remains a barren and a worthless right, unless sustained, protected, and enforced by appropriate police regulations and local legislation, prescribing adequate remedies for its violation.  These regulations and remedies must necessarily depend entirely upon the will and wishes of the people of the Territory, as they can only be prescribed by the local legislatures.  Hence the great principle of popular sovereignty and self-government is sustained and firmly established by the authority of this decision.”

It is scarcely possible that Douglas convinced himself by such a glaring non sequitur; but he had no other alternative.  It was a desperate expedient to shield himself as well as he might from the damaging recoil of his own temporizing statesmanship.  The declaration made thus early is worthy of historical notice as being the substance and groundwork of the speaker’s famous “Freeport doctrine,”

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Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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