Then followed his demonstration, through the incidents of the Nebraska legislation, the Dred Scott decision, and present political theories and issues, which would by and by find embodiment in new laws and future legal doctrines. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise, the language of the Nebraska bill, which declared slavery “subject to the Constitution,” the Dred Scott decision, which declared that “subject to the Constitution” neither Congress nor a Territorial Legislature could exclude slavery from a Territory—the argument presented point by point and step by step with legal precision the silent subversion of cherished principles of liberty. “Put this and that together,” said he, “and we have another nice little niche, which we may ere long see filled with another Supreme Court decision, declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not permit a State to exclude slavery from its limits.... Such a decision is all that slavery now lacks of being alike lawful in all the States.... We shall lie down,” continued the orator, “pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free; and we shall awake to the reality instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State.”
His peroration was a battle-call: “Our cause, then, must be intrusted to and conducted by its own undoubted friends, those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work, who do care for the result. Two years ago the Republicans of the nation mustered over thirteen hundred thousand strong. We did this under the single impulse of resistance to a common danger, with every external circumstance against us. Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy. Did we brave all then to falter now?—now, when that same enemy is wavering, dissevered, and belligerent? The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail—if we stand firm we shall not fail. Wise counsels may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but sooner or later the victory is sure to come.”
[Sidenote] See O.J. Hollister, “Life of Colfax,” pp. 119-22.
[Sidenote] J. Watson Webb to Bates, June 9, 1858. MS.