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.
or theory of “unfriendly legislation,” to which Lincoln’s searching interrogatories drove him in the great Lincoln-Douglas debates of the following year.  Repeated and amplified at that time, it became in the eyes of the South the unpardonable political heresy which lost him the Presidential nomination and caused the rupture of the Democratic National Convention at Charleston in the summer of 1860.  For the moment, however, the sophism doubtless satisfied his many warm partisans.  He did not dwell on the dangerous point, but trusted for oratorical effect rather to his renewed appeals to the popular prejudice against the blacks, so strong in central Illinois, indorsing and emphasizing Chief-Justice Taney’s assertion that negroes were not included in the words of the Declaration of Independence, and arguing that if the principle of equality were admitted and carried out to its logical results, it would necessarily lead not only to the abolition of slavery in the slave-States, but to the general amalgamation of the two races.

The Republican party of Illinois had been greatly encouraged and strengthened by its success in electing the State officers in the previous autumn; and as their recognized leader and champion, Lincoln made a reply to this speech some two weeks later, June 26, 1857, also at Springfield.  Though embracing other topics, the question of the hour, the Dred Scott decision, was nevertheless its chief subject.  The extracts here presented from it will give the reader some idea of its power of statement and eloquence: 

And now [said Mr. Lincoln] 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 cannot 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 on 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 resists 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 questions, when fully settled, should control, not only the particular cases decided, but the general policy of the country, subject to be disturbed only by amendments of the Constitution as provided in that instrument itself.  More than this would be revolution. 
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Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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