I readily agree that if all had
a chance to vote, they ought to have voted. If, on the contrary, as they
allege, and Judge Douglas ventures not to particularly contradict, few
only of the free State men had a chance to vote, they were perfectly right
in staying from the polls in a body.
By the way since the Judge spoke,
the Kansas election has come off. The Judge expressed his confidence that
all the Democrats in Kansas would do their duty-including "free state Democrats"
of course. The returns received here as yet are very incomplete; but so
far as they go, they indicate that only about one sixth of the registered
voters, have really voted; and this too, when not more, perhaps, than one
half of the rightful voters have been registered, thus showing the thing
to have been altogether the most exquisite farce ever enacted. I am watching
with considerable interest, to ascertain what figure "the free state Democrats"
cut in the concern. Of course they voted—all democrats do their duty—and
of course they did not vote for slave-state candidates. We soon shall know
how many delegates they elected, how many candidates they had, pledged
for a free state; and how many votes were cast for them.
Allow me to barely whisper my suspicion
that there were no such things in Kansas "as free state Democrats"—that
they were altogether mythical, good only to figure in newspapers and speeches
in the free states. If there should prove to be one real living free state
Democrat in Kansas, I suggest that it might be well to catch him, and stuff
and preserve his skin, as an interesting specimen of that soon to be extinct
variety of the genus, Democrat.
And now as to the Dred Scott decision.
That decision declares two propositions—first, that a Negro cannot sue
in the U.S. 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. But we think the Dred Scott decision is erroneous.
We know the court that made it, has often over-ruled its own decisions,
and we shall do what we can to have it to over-rule this. We offer no resistance
the first chapter and overview of
To Glory: The Powerful Stirring of the Black Man
Judicial decisions are of greater
or less authority as precedents, according to circumstances. That this
should be so, accords both with common sense, and the customary understanding
of the legal profession.
If this important decision had been
made by the unanimous concurrence of the judges, and without any apparent
partisan bias, and in accordance with legal public expectation, and with
the steady practice of the departments throughout our history, and had
been in no part, based on assumed historical facts which are not really
true; or, if wanting in some of these, it had been before the court more
than once, and had there been affirmed and re-affirmed through a course
of years, it then might be, perhaps would be, factious, nay, even revolutionary,
to not acquiesce in it as a precedent.
But when, as it is true we find it
wanting in all these claims to the public confidence, it is not resistance,
it is not factious, it is not even disrespectful, to treat it as not having
yet quite established a settled doctrine for the country—But Judge Douglas
considers this view awful. Hear him:
"The courts are the tribunals prescribed
by the Constitution and created by the authority of the people to determine,
expound and enforce the law. Hence, whoever resists the final decision
of the highest judicial tribunal, aims a deadly blow to our whole Republican
system of government—a blow, which if successful would place all our rights
and liberties at the mercy of passion, anarchy and violence. I repeat,
therefore, that if resistance to the decisions of the Supreme Court of
the United States, in a matter like the points decided in the Dred Scott
case, clearly within their jurisdiction as defined by the Constitution,
shall be forced upon the country as a political issue, it will become a
distinct and naked issue between the friends and the enemies of the Constitution—the
friends and the enemies of the supremacy of the laws."
Why this same Supreme court once
decided a national bank to be constitutional; but Gen. Jackson, as President
of the United States, disregarded the decision, and vetoed a bill for a
re-charter, partly on
constitutional ground, declaring
that each public functionary must support the Constitution, "as he understands
it." But hear the General’s own words. Here they are, taken from his veto
"It is maintained by the advocates
of the bank, that its constitutionality, in all its features, ought to
be considered as settled by precedent, and by the decision of the Supreme
Court. To this conclusion I cannot assent. Mere precedent is a dangerous
source of authority, and should not be regarded as deciding questions of
constitutional power, except where the acquiescence of the people and the
States can be considered as well settled. So far from this being the case
on this subject, an argument against the bank might be based on precedent.
One Congress in 1791, decided in favor of a bank; another in 1811, decided
against it. One Congress in 1815 decided against a bank; another in 1816
decided in its favor. Prior to the present congress, therefore the precedents
drawn from that source were equal. If we resort to the States, the expressions
of legislative, judicial and executive opinions against the bank have been
probably to those in its favor as four to one. There is nothing in precedent,
therefore, which if its authority were admitted, ought to weigh in favor
of the act before me."
I drop the quotations merely to remark
that all there ever was, in the way of precedent up to the Dred Scott decision,
on the points therein decided, had been against that decision. But hear
Gen. Jackson further—
"If the opinion of the Supreme court
covered the whole ground of this act, it ought not to control the co-ordinate
authorities of this Government. The Congress, the executive and the court,
must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution.
Each public officer, who takes an oath to support the Constitution, swears
that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood
Again and again have I heard Judge
Douglas denounce that bank decision, and applaud Gen. Jackson for disregarding
it. It would be interesting for him to look over his recent speech, and
see how exactly his fierce philippics against us for resisting Supreme
Court decisions, fall upon his own head. It will call to his mind a long
and fierce political war in this country, upon an issue which, in his own
language, and, of course, in his own changeless estimation, was "a distinct
and naked issue between the friends and the enemies of the Constitution,"
and in which war he fought in the ranks of the enemies of the Constitution.
I have said, in substance, that the
Dred Scott decision was, in part, based on assumed historical facts which
were not really true; and I ought not to leave the subject without giving
some reasons for saying this; I therefore give an instance or two, which
I think fully sustain me. Chief Justice Taney, in delivering the opinion
of the majority of the Court, insists at great length that Negroes were
no part of the people who made, or for whom was made, the Declaration of
Independence, or the Constitution of the United States.
On the contrary, Judge Curtis, in
his dissenting opinion, shows that in five of the then thirteen states,
to wit, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina,
free Negroes were voters, and, in proportion to their numbers, had the
same part in making the Constitution that the white people had. He shows
this with so much particularity as to leave no doubt of its truth; and,
as a sort of conclusion on that point, holds the following language:
"The Constitution was ordained and
established by the people of the United States, through the action, in
each State, of those persons who were qualified by its laws to act thereon
in behalf of themselves and all other citizens of the State. In some of
the States, as we have seen, colored persons were among those qualified
by law to act on the subject. These colored persons were not only included
in the body of ‘the people of the United States,’ by whom the Constitution
was ordained and established; but in at least five of the States they had
the power to act, and, doubtless, did act, by their suffrages, upon the
question of its adoption."
Again, Chief Justice Taney says:
"It is difficult, at this day to realize the state of public opinion in
relation to that unfortunate race, which prevailed in the civilized and
enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence,
and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted."
And again, after quoting from the Declaration, he says: "The general words
above quoted would seem to include the whole human family, and if they
were used in a similar instrument at this day, would be so understood."
In these the Chief Justice does not
directly assert, but plainly assumes, as a fact, that the public estimate
of the black man is more favorable now than it was in the days of the Revolution.
This assumption is a mistake. In some trifling particulars, the condition
of that race has been ameliorated; but, as a whole, in this country, the
change between then and now is decidedly the other way; and their ultimate
destiny has never appeared so hopeless as in the last three or four years.
In two of the five States—New Jersey and North Carolina —that then gave
the free Negro the right of voting, the right has since been taken away;
and in a third—New York—it has been greatly abridged; while it has not
been extended, so far as I know, to a single additional State, though the
number of the States has more than doubled. In those days, as I understand,
masters could, at their own pleasure, emancipate their slaves; but since
then, such legal restraints have been made upon emancipation, as to amount
almost to prohibition. In those days, Legislatures held the unquestioned
power to abolish slavery, in their respective States; but now it is becoming
quite fashionable for State Constitutions to withhold that power from the
Legislatures. In those days, by common consent, the spread of the black
man’s bondage to new countries was prohibited; but now, Congress decides
that it will not continue the prohibition, and the Supreme Court decides
that it could not if it would. In those days, our Declaration of Independence
was held sacred by all, and thought to include all; but now, to aid in
making the bondage of the Negro universal and eternal, it is assailed,
and sneered at, and construed, and hawked at, and torn, till, if its framers
could rise from their graves, they could not at all recognize it. All the
powers of earth seem rapidly combining against him. Mammon is after him;
ambition follows, and philosophy follows, and the Theology of the day is
fast joining the cry. They have him in his prison house; they have searched
his person, and left no prying instrument with him. One after another they
have closed the heavy iron doors upon him, and now they have him, as it
were, bolted in with a lock of a hundred keys, which can never be unlocked
without the concurrent of every key; the keys in the hands of a hundred
different men, and they scattered to a hundred different and distant places;
and they stand musing as to what invention, in all the dominions of mind
and matter, can be produced to make the impossibility of his escape more
complete than it is.
It is grossly incorrect to say or
assume, that the public estimate of the Negro is more favorable now than
it was at the origin of the government.
Three years and a half ago, Judge
Douglas brought forward his famous Nebraska bill. The country was at once
in a blaze. He scorned all opposition, and carried it through Congress.
Since then he has seen
himself superseded in a Presidential
nomination, by one indorsing the general doctrine of his measure, but at
the same time standing clear of the odium of its untimely agitation, and
its gross breach of national faith; and he has seen that successful rival
Constitutionally elected, not by the strength of friends, but by the division
of adversaries, being in a popular minority of nearly four hundred thousand
votes. He has seen his chief aids in his own State, Shields and Richardson,
politically speaking, successively tried, convicted, and executed, for
an offense not their own, but his. And now he sees his own case, standing
next on the docket for trial.
There is a natural disgust in the
minds of nearly all white people, to the idea of an indiscriminate amalgamation
of the white and black races; and Judge Douglas evidently is basing his
chief hope, upon the chances of being able to appropriate the benefit of
this disgust to himself. If he can, by much drumming and repeating, fasten
the odium of that idea upon his adversaries, he thinks he can struggle
through the storm. He therefore clings to this hope, as a drowning man
to the last plank. He makes an occasion for lugging it in from the opposition
to the Dred Scott decision. He finds the Republicans insisting that the
Declaration of Independence includes ALL men, black as well as white; and
forthwith he boldly denies that it includes Negroes at all, and proceeds
to argue gravely that all who contend it does, do so only because they
want to vote, and eat, and sleep, and marry with Negroes! He will have
it that they cannot be consistent else. Now I protest against that counterfeit
logic which concludes that, because I do not want a black woman for a slave
I must necessarily want her for a wife. I need not have her for either,
I can just leave her alone. In some respects she certainly is not my equal;
but in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands
without asking leave of any one else, she is my equal, and the equal of
Nigeria -- Slave Trade History
Chief Justice Taney, in his opinion
in the Dred Scott case, admits that the language of the Declaration is
broad enough to include the whole human family, but he and Judge Douglas
argue that the authors of that instrument did not intend to include Negroes,
by the fact that they did not at once, actually place them on an equality
with the whites. Now this grave argument comes to just nothing at all,
by the other fact, that they did not at once, or ever afterwards, actually
place all white people on an equality with one or another. And this is
the staple argument of both the Chief Justice and the Senator, for doing
this obvious violence to the plain unmistakable language of the Declaration.
I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all
men, but they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects.
They did not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral
developments, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness,
in what respects they did consider all men created equal—equal in "certain
inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
This they said, and this meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious
untruth, that all were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet, that
they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact they had no
power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so
that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should
permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should
be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly
labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated,
and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting
the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.
The assertion that "all men are created equal" was of no practical use
in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the
Declaration, not for that, but for future use. Its authors meant it to
be, thank God, it is now proving itself, a stumbling block to those who
in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths
of despotism. They knew the proneness of prosperity to breed tyrants, and
they meant when such should re-appear in this fair land and commence their
vocation they should find left for them at least one hard nut to crack.
I have now briefly expressed my view
of the meaning and objects of that part of the Declaration of Independence
which declares that "all men are created equal."
Now let us hear Judge Douglas’ view
of the same subject, as I find it in the printed report of his late speech.
Here it is:
"No man can vindicate the character,
motives and conduct of the signers of the Declaration of Independence,
except upon the hypothesis that they referred to the white race alone,
and not to the African, when they declared all men to have been created
equal—that they were speaking of British subjects on this continent being
equal to British subjects born and residing in Great Britain—that they
were entitled to the same inalienable rights, and among them were enumerated
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration was adopted
for the purpose of justifying the colonists in the eyes of the civilized
world in withdrawing their allegiance from the British crown, and dissolving
their connection with the mother country."
My good friends, read that carefully
over some leisure hour, and ponder well upon it—see what a mere wreck—mangled
ruin—it makes of our once glorious Declaration.
"They were speaking of British subjects
on this continent being equal to British subjects born and residing in
Great Britain!" Why, according to this, not only Negroes but white people
outside of Great Britain and America are not spoken of in that instrument.
The English, Irish and Scotch, along with white Americans, were included
to be sure, but the French, Germans and other white people of the world
are all gone to pot along with the Judge’s inferior races.
I had thought the Declaration promised
something better than the condition of British subjects; but no, it only
meant that we should be equal to them in their own oppressed and unequal
condition. According to that, it gave no promise that having kicked off
the King and Lords of Great Britain, we should not at once be saddled with
a King and Lords of our own.
I had thought the Declaration contemplated
the progressive improvement in the condition of all men everywhere; but
no, it merely "was adopted for the purpose of justifying the colonists
in the eyes of the civilized world in withdrawing their allegiance from
the British crown, and dissolving their connection with the mother country."
Why, that object having been effected some eighty years ago, the Declaration
is of no practical use now—mere rubbish—old wadding left to rot on the
battle-field after the victory is won.
I understand you are preparing to
celebrate the "Fourth," to-morrow week. What for? The doings of that day
had no reference to the present; and quite half of you are not even descendants
of those who were referred to at that day. But I suppose you will celebrate;
and will even go so far as to read the Declaration. Suppose after you read
it once in the old fashioned way, you read it once more with Judge Douglas’
version. It will then run thus: "We hold these truths to be self-evident
that all British subjects who were on this continent eighty-one years ago,
were created equal to all British subjects born and then residing in Great
And now I appeal to all—to Democrats
as well as others,—are you really willing that the Declaration shall be
thus frittered away?—thus left no more at most, than an interesting memorial
of the dead past? thus shorn of its vitality, and practical value; and
left without the germ or even the suggestion of the individual rights of
man in it?
But Judge Douglas is especially horrified
at the thought of the mixing blood by the white and black races: agreed
for once—a thousand times agreed. There are white men enough to marry all
the white women, and black men enough to marry all the black women; and
so let them be married. On this point we fully agree with the Judge; and
when he shall show that his policy is better adapted to prevent amalgamation
than ours we shall drop ours, and adopt his. Let us see. In 1850 there
were in the United States, 405,751, mulattoes. Very few of these are the
offspring of whites and free blacks; nearly all have sprung from black
slaves and white masters. A separation of the races is the only perfect
preventive of amalgamation but as all immediate separation is impossible
the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together.
If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never
mix blood in Kansas. That is at least one self-evident truth. A few free
colored persons may get into the free States, in any event; but their number
is too insignificant to amount to much in the way of mixing blood. In 1850
there were in the free states, 56,649 mulattoes; but for the most part
they were not born there—they came from the slave States, ready made up.
In the same year the slave States had 348,874 mulattoes all of home production.
The proportion of free mulattoes to free blacks—the only colored classes
in the free states—is much greater in the slave than in the free states.
It is worthy of note too, that among the free states those which make the
colored man the nearest to equal the white, have, proportionally the fewest
mulattoes the least of amalgamation. In New Hampshire, the State which
goes farthest towards equality between the races, there are just 184 Mulattoes
while there are in Virginia—how many do you think? 79,775, being 23,126
more than in all the free States together.
These statistics show that slavery
is the greatest source of amalgamation; and next to it, not the elevation,
but the degeneration of the free blacks. Yet Judge Douglas dreads the slightest
restraints on the spread of slavery, and the slightest human recognition
of the Negro, as tending horribly to amalgamation.
This very Dred Scott case affords
a strong test as to which party most favors amalgamation, the Republicans
or the dear union-saving Democracy. Dred Scott, his wife and two daughters
were all involved in the suit. We desired the court to have held that they
were citizens so far at least as to entitle them to a hearing as to whether
they were free or not; and then, also, that they were in fact and in law
really free. Could we have had our way, the chances of these black girls,
ever mixing their blood with that of white people, would have been diminished
at least to the extent that it could not have been without their consent.
But Judge Douglas is delighted to have them decided to be slaves, and not
human enough to have a hearing, even if they were free, and thus left subject
to the forced concubinage of their masters, and liable to become the mothers
of mulattoes in spite of themselves—the very state of case that produces
nine tenths of all the mulattoes—all the mixing of blood in the nation.
Of course, I state this case as an
illustration only, not meaning to say or intimate that the master of Dred
Scott and his family, or any more than a percentage of masters generally,
are inclined to exercise this particular power which they hold over their
I have said that the separation of
the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation. I have no right
to say all the members of the Republican party are in favor of this, nor
to say that as a party they are in favor of it. There is nothing in their
platform directly on the subject. But I can say a very large proportion
of its members are for it, and that the chief plank in their platform—opposition
to the spread of slavery—is most favorable to that separation.
Such separation, if ever effected
at all, must be effected by colonization; and no political party, as such,
is now doing anything directly for colonization. Party operations at present
only favor or retard
colonization incidentally. The enterprise
is a difficult one; but "when there is a will there is a way;" and what
colonization needs most is a hearty will. Will springs from the two elements
of moral sense and self-interest. Let us be brought to believe it is morally
right, and, at the same time, favorable to, or, at least, not against,
our interest, to transfer the African to his native clime, and we shall
find a way to do it, however great the task may be. The children of Israel,
to such numbers as to include four hundred thousand fighting men, went
out of Egyptian bondage in a body.
How differently the respective courses
of the Democratic and Republican parties incidentally bear on the question
of forming a will—a public sentiment—for colonization, is easy to see.
The Republicans inculcate, with whatever of ability—they can, that the
Negro is a man; that his bondage is cruelly wrong, and that the field of
his oppression ought not to be enlarged. The Democrats deny his manhood;
deny, or dwarf to insignificance, the wrong of his bondage; so far as possible,
crush all sympathy for him, and cultivate and excite hatred and disgust
against him; compliment themselves as Union-savers for doing so; and call
the indefinite outspreading of his bondage "a sacred right of self-government."
The plainest print cannot be read
through a gold eagle; and it will be ever hard to find many men who will
send a slave to Liberia, and pay his passage while they can send him to
a new country, Kansas for instance, and sell him for fifteen hundred dollars,
and the rise.