“Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically, just so much. Public opinion on any subject always has a ‘central idea,’ from which all its minor thoughts radiate. That ‘central idea’ in our political public opinion at the beginning was, and until recently has continued to be, ‘the equality of men.’ And although it has always submitted patiently to whatever of inequality there seemed to be as matter of actual necessity, its constant working has been a steady progress towards the practical equality of all men. The late presidential election was a struggle by one party to discard that central idea and to substitute for it the opposite idea that slavery is right in the abstract; the workings of which as a central idea may be the perpetuity of human slavery and its extension to all countries and colors.... All of us who did not vote for Mr. Buchanan, taken together, are a majority of four hundred thousand. But in the late contest we were divided between Fremont and Fillmore. Can we not come together for the future? Let every one who really believes, and is resolved, that free society is not and shall not be a failure, and who can conscientiously declare that in the past contest he has done only what he thought best—let every such one have charity to believe that every other one can say as much. Thus let bygones be bygones; let past differences as nothing be; and with steady eye on the real issue, let us reinaugurate the good old ‘central ideas’ of the republic. We can do it. The human heart is with us; God is with us. We shall again be able, not to declare that ’all States as States are equal,’ nor yet that ‘all citizens as citizens are equal,’ but to renew the broader, better declaration, including both these and much more, that ‘all men are created equal.’”
Buchanan Elected President—The Dred Scott Decision—Douglas’s Springfield Speech, 1857—Lincoln’s Answering Speech—Criticism of Dred Scott Decision—Kansas Civil War—Buchanan Appoints Walker—Walker’s Letter on Kansas—The Lecompton Constitution—Revolt of Douglas
The election of 1856 once more restored the Democratic party to full political control in national affairs. James Buchanan was elected President to succeed Pierce; the Senate continued, as before, to have a decided Democratic majority; and a clear Democratic majority of twenty-five was chosen to the House of Representatives to succeed the heavy opposition majority of the previous Congress.
Though the new House did not organize till a year after it was elected, the certainty of its coming action was sufficient not only to restore, but greatly to accelerate the pro-slavery reaction begun by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. This impending drift of national policy now received a powerful impetus by an act of the third cooerdinate branch, the judicial department of the government.