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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Douglas' Chicago Speech vs. his Freeport Speech.


September 9, 1858.
[From the Chicago Press and Tribune, Aug. 20th.]
What the Supreme Court Says.

The Little Dodger Cornered And Caught.

Mr. Douglas has at last, to use his own chaste and classic language, been "rotted out," and "brought to his milk." The effort has been in progress for four years, with very little prospect of success, but on Friday last he was brought up "with a round turn" by Mr. Lincoln, and made to "let down." During the struggle over the Kansas Nebraska bill, Mr. Douglas voted in the Senate against an amendment asserting the right of the Territorial Legislature to exclude slavery. He was interrogated upon the point as to whether a Territorial Legislature had the right to exclude the institution, both in the United States Senate and upon the stump — in 1854 and in 1856 — all along through the exciting discussion which have grown out of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise; and in every instance, without a solitary exception, when so interrogated, his reply was, "That is a question for the Supreme Court of the United States to determine." Well the Supreme Court did determine the question in its decision of the famous Dred Scott case. Here is what it said:

"We are satisfied that no one who reads attentively the pages in Peter's Reports to which have referred, can suppose that the Court meant in that case to say that Congress had a right to prohibit a citizen of the United States from taking any property which he lawfully held into a Territory of the Territory of the United States. And if Congress itself cannot do this — if it is beyond the powers conferred on the Federal Government — it will be admitted, we presume, that it could not authorize a Territorial Government to exercise them. And if the Constitution recognizes the right of property of the master in a slave, and makes no distinction between that description of property and other property owned by a citizen, no tribunal, acting under the authority of the United States, whether it be LEGISLATIVE, executive or judicial, has a right to draw such a distinction, or deny to it the benefit of the provision of private property against the encroachments of the Government. — Dred Scott Decision delivered by Chief Justice Taney, p. 451.

There is no chance for mistaking the language here employed. It is clear and conclusive upon the point which Mr. Douglas had always said could be decided only by the Supreme Court. The doctrine embraced, to with: that the federal constitution carries slavery into all the Territories belonging to the United States, and protects it there in defiance of Congressional intervention or the enactments of the Territorial Legislatures, has been accepted by all the slaveholding States and adopted by the Democratic Party without a dissenting voice. Mr. Buchanan, the present head and chief exponent of that party, in his famous Salliman letter of last September, declared that:
"Slavery existed at that period, and still exists, in Kansas, UNDER THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES. This point has at least been finally settled by the highest tribunal known to our laws. How it could ever be seriously doubted is a mystery."

Mr. Douglas, himself, again and again indorsed this decision. He indorsed it in all his speeches in this State last summer and fall; he indorsed it during the winter upon the floor of the Senate, he has indorsed it in all his speeches delivered since his return from Washington, up to last Friday. The point of his acquiescence in that decision has been made upon him scores of times, and still in every speech, his reply, in substance, has been: "The Supreme Court has so declared. I sustain the action of the Court. The Court can do no wrong." At Freeport, however, the subject was pressed home upon him, in terms, in a manner that compelled him to give a categorical answer. He was literally "trotted out and brought to his milk," [unknown] in "[unknown]" where he had threatened to perform that interesting operation upon his opponent, but in Northern Illinois, where the free soil sentiment is all powerful, and in a Senatorial District which he is laboring very hard to carry. Had Mr. Lincoln waited until they had gone down to Egypt; "the milk," doubtless, would have been of a different color and consistency; but the free soil atmosphere with which Douglas was surrounded worked wonders upon his political lacteals. That our readers may see how entirely he swallowed Dred Scott in Chicago, and how he was compelled to throw him up again at Freeport, we place in parallel columns his remarks on this subject as each place:

July 9, 1858.
The other proposition advanced by Mr. Lincoln in his speech consists in a crusade against the Supreme Court of the United States on the ground of the Dred Scott Decision. On this question also I desire to say to you unequivocally that I take direct or distinct issue with him. I have no warfare to make on the Supreme Court of this United States [applause] either on account of that or any other decision which they have pronounced from that bench. The Constitution of the United States have provided that the power of the Government — and the Constitutions of the several States had the same provisios — shall be divided into three department — the executive, legislative and judiciary. The right and the province of expounding the Constitution and the construction of law is vested in the Judiciary established by the Constitution. As a lawyer, I feel as liberty to appear before a court and controvert any principle of law while the question is pending before the tribunal; but when a decision is made, my private opinion, your opinions, all our opinions must yield to the majesty of that authoritative adjudication. [Cries of "Good," and cheers.]

I do not choose, therefore to go into an argument with Mr. Lincoln in reviewing the various decisions that the Supreme Court has made either upon the Dred Scott case or any other, and I have no idea of appealing from the decision of the Supreme Court upon a constitutional question to a decision of a town meeting; hence I am opposed to this doctrine of Mr. Lincoln's by which he proposes to take an appeal from the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States upon these high constitutional questions, to a Free Soil or Republican caucus situated in the country— yes, or to any other caucus or town meeting. I respect the decision of that [unknown] tribunal; I shall bow in deference to it.

Aug. 27, 1858.
The next question Mr. Lincoln propounded to me is, "Can the people of a Territory exclude slavery from their limits by any legal means, before it comes into the Union as the State?" I answer emphatically, as Mr. Lincoln has heard me answer a hundred times, on every stamp in Illinois, that in my opinion the people of a Territory, can, by lawful means, exclude slavery before it comes in as a State. [Cheers.] Mr. Lincoln knew that I had given that answer over and over again. He heard me argue the Nebraska Bill on that principle, all over the State in 1854-'5 and '6, and he has now no [unknown] so pressed to have any doubt upon that subject. Whatever the Supreme Court may hereafter decide as to the abstract question of whether slavery may go in under the Constitution or not, the people of a Territory have the lawful means to admit it or exclude it as they please or the reason that slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere, unless supported by local police regulations, furnishing remedies and means of enforcing the right to hold slaves. There local and police regulations can only be furnished by the legal legislature. If the people of the Territory are opposed to slavery they will elect members to the Legislature who will adopt unfriendly legislation to it. If they are for it they will adopt the legislative measures friendly to slavery. Hence, no matter what may be the decision of the Supreme Court on that abstract question, still the right of the people to make it a shove Territory is perfect and completely under the Nebraska Bill. I hope Mr. Lincoln will deem my answer satisfactorily on this point.

Now, mark: at Chicago, Mr. Douglas takes "direct issue with Mr. Lincoln" on the subject of the Dred Scott decision. Mr. Lincoln had objected to that decision chiefly on the ground of its declaration that the Federal Constitution carried slavery into the Territories, and protected it there against all legislative, executive or judicial interference, whether federal or local. To this objection of Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Douglas took "direct or distinct issue" in his Chicago speech. He was for the decision, he "respected" it, and bowed in deference to it." At Bloomington he was equally explicit, his language at that place being:
"I have no issue to make with the Supreme court. I have no crusade to preach against that august body. I have no warfare to make against it. I receive the final decision of the Judges of that Court, when pronounced, on the final adjudication upon all questions within their jurisdiction."

The same language was substantially held by Mr. Douglas in his subsequent speeches. His followers throughout the State seek their case from the held manner in which he uttered his approval of that decision and indorsed all its consequences. A writer in the Chicago Times elaborated a series of articles to establish the wisdom and justice of the dictum which makes slavery the common law of the land, and the editor of the Times indorsed the views of the writer. Other Douglas organs followed in the wake of the Times. The Douglas party in Illinois was as fully committed to the doctrine as its acknowledged leader and his subalterns had it in their power to commit it. Those who took the stump for Douglas came square up to the mark, swallowing Dred Scott at a single gulp. At Vandalia, on the 18th inst., Captain Post, a prominent Douglas candidate for nomination to Congress from the 7th District, discoursed on the subject after the following fashion:
"I know, I once preached the doctrine, that the people of a Territory had the right, by the passage of a territorial law, to establish or exclude slavery. I know that was the doctrine formerly maintained by the Democratic party; but I have become notified we were wrong. If I own a horse in Kentucky I am at liberty to take that horse into any Territory of the United States. Why? Because he is my property. The case is precisely the same with my nigger. The Constitution of the United States protects me in the enjoyment of my property anywhere in the Territories."

Captain Post had just heard Douglas's speeches all through Central and Southern Illinois; he had conversed and counseled with him in private. He understood the position of his master fully. He knew what his opinions for that latitude were. He gave free expression to them, not dreaming, we presume, that Mr. Douglas would seek to convey a different impression in another part of the State.

We now call the reader's special attention to the extract which we have copied above from the Freeport speech. Mr. Douglas, with an audacity that no one but himself could assume, boldly declares that he has asserted "on every stump in Illinois that in his opinion the people of a Territory can, by lawful means, exclude slavery, before it comes in as a State." Now, we assert that Mr. Douglas has not declared any such thing on any one stump in the State. From 1854 to 1857, when asked for his opinion on this subject, and he was often asked, he invariably referred his interrogator to the Supreme Court for an answer; since the Dred Scott decision of that body, when asked for his opinion, his answer has been such as he gave in his Chicago speech — "I respect that (the Dred Scott) decision I bow with deference to it." We ask the people of Illinois, of every party, if this is not so. And if it is, what shall we think is not so. And if it is, what shall we think of the man who thus impudently and unblushingly falsifies his own record in the face of assembled thousands?

The other point to which we direct attention is, that while Mr. Douglas sought to impress his audience with the belief that he repudiated the most objectionable feature of the Dred Scott decision, he in reality did not commit himself against it. His position is, that notwithstanding the Dred Scott decision carries slavery into the Territories, still the people thereof can exclude it or admit it just as they please, for the reason that slavery cannot exist in a day or an hour anywhere, unless supported by local police regulations; that these police regulations can only be furnished by local legislature, and hence a people who do not desire slavery in their Territory, have only to elect a legislature of their mind — and the federal constitution and that "august tribunal," the Supreme Court, are nowhere! Mr. Douglas was once a Judge of the Supreme Court of Illinois; he still claims to be a lawyer, and boasts of being deeply learned in the constitution. If he is honest in this exposition of constitutional law, what becomes of his claims as a statesman? If it was his intention to practice a deception upon the people as to his real sentiments, his claims to honesty and truthfulness are still less.

Look at the fallacy of the position. What local police regulations are necessary for the protection of slaves? Mr. Douglas is a slaveholder; will he in his next speech have the goodness to name the police regulations by which he holds his slaves in Mississippi? If any one is desirous of provoking his rage and hearing him pour out his choices [unknown] let him propound that question to Douglas at his next appointment. So far as the Territories are concerned, the argument of Douglas carries its refutation upon its face, and is in direct conflict with the dictum of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case. The language of the Court is:
"And if the Constitution recognizes the right of property of the master in a slave, and makes no distinction between that description of property and other property owned by a citizen, no tribunal, acting under the authority of the United States, whether LEGISLATIVE, Executive or Judicial, has a right to draw such a distinction, or DENY to it the benefit of the provisions and guarantees which have been provided for the protection of private property against the encroachments of the Government."

Here then, if "local police regulations" are necessary to the maintenance of slavery, the Supreme Court has decided that the local Legislature has not the right to DENY the benefit of the provisions and guarantees which have been provided for its protection. In other words the local Legislature is REQUIRED to furnish the necessary police regulations. But suppose it refuse and neglect the requirement what then? Is the federal government powerless to protect private rights within its jurisdiction? Where are the Governor, the U.S. Marshal, the United States Army, and what their business in the Territories if it be not to protect private rights and enforce the guarantees of the Constitution!

Here, then, is Mr. Douglas' last definition of the right of the people of the Territories to govern themselves. Their right is a mere negation. If they do not wish to have slavery, they cannot exclude it, for the Dred Scott decision is in the way; but they may refrain from passing local police regulations for its protection! That is all there is of Popular Sovereignty by his own admission; and even that can avail nothing, since the Dred Scott decision declares that the constitution guarantees the right of property in slaves in the Territories, and the federal government has the power and is compelled to enforce that guarantee. Said we not truly, that "the little dodger is cornered and caught?"