The hope, which Taney is known to have entertained, that his judgment would compose excited public opinion, was by no means fulfilled. It raised fierce excitement. What practical effect would hereafter be given to the opinion of six out of the nine judges in that Court might depend on many things. But to the Republicans, who appealed much to antiquity, it was maddening to be thus assured that their whole “platform” was unconstitutional. In the long run, there seems to be no doubt that Taney helped the cause of freedom. He had tried to make evident the personal sense of compassion for “these unfortunate people” with which he contemplated the opinion that he ascribed to a past generation; but he failed to do this, and instead he succeeded in imparting to the supposed Constitutional view of the slave, as nothing but a chattel, a horror which went home to many thousands of the warm-hearted men and women of his country.
For the time, however, the Republicans were deeply depressed, and a further perplexity shortly befell them. An attempt, to which we must shortly return, was made to impose the slave system on Kansas against the now unmistakable will of the majority there. Against this attempt Douglas, in opposition to whom the Republican party had been formed, revolted to his lasting honour, and he now stood out for the occasion as the champion of freedom. It was at this late period of bewilderment and confusion that the life-story of Abraham Lincoln became one with the life-story of the American people.
THE RISE OF LINCOLN
1. Lincoln’s Return to Public Life.
We possess a single familiar letter in which Lincoln opened his heart about politics. It was written while old political ties were not yet quite broken and new ties not quite knit, and it was written to an old and a dear friend who was not his political associate. We may fittingly place it here, as a record of the strong and conflicting feelings out of which his consistent purpose in this crisis was formed.