sacred right of self-government,” which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That if any one man choose to enslave another
man shall be allowed to object.
That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska
bill itself, in the language which follows : “It being the true intent and meaning or this act not to legislate every into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom; but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States
Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of “Squatter Sovereignty
,” and “sacred right of self-government.”
“But,” said opposition members, “let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the Territory
may exclude slavery.”
“Not we,” said the friends of the measure ; and down they voted the amendment.
While the Nebraska
bill was passing through Congress, a law case
involving the question of a negro's freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free State and then into a Territory covered by the Congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave for a long time in each, was passing through the U. S. Circuit Court for the District of Missouri ; and both Nebraska
bill and law suit, were brought to a decision in the same month of May, 1554.
The negro's name was “Dred Scott
,” which name now designates the decision finally made in the case.
Before the then next Presidential election, the law case came to, and was argued in, the Supreme Court of the United States
; but the decision of it was deferred until after the election.
Still, before the election, Senator Trumbull
, on the floor of the Senate, requested the leading advocate of the Nebraska
bill to state his opinion
whether the people of a Territory can constitutionally exclude slavery from their limits ; and the latter answers : “That is. A question for the Supreme Court.”
The election came.
was elected, and the indorsement, such as it was, secured.
That was the second point gained.
The indorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority by nearly four hundred thousand votes, and so, perhaps, was not overwhelmingly reliable and satisfactory.
The outgoing President
, in his last annual message, as impressively as possible echoed back upon the people the weight and authority of the indorsement.
The Supreme Court met again ; did not announce their decision, but ordered a re-argument.
The Presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the court ; but the incoming President
in his inaugural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. Then, in a few days, came the decision.
The reputed author of the Nebraska
bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capital indorsing the Dred Scott
decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it. The new President
, too, seizes the early occasion of the Silliman letter to indorse and strongly construe that decision, and to express his astonishment that any different view had ever been entertained!
At length a squabble springs up between the President
and the author of the Nebraska
bill, on the mere question of fact
, whether the Lecompton Constitution
was or was not, in any just sense, made by the people of Kansas
; and in that quarrel the latter declares that all he wants is a fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted down
or voted up
. I do not understand his declaration that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up, to be intended by him other than as an apt definition of the policy he would impress upon the public mind — the principle for which he declares he has suffered so much, and, is ready to suffer to the end. And well may he cling to that principle.
If he has any parental feeling, well may he cling to it. That principle is the only shred left of his original Nebraska
Under the Dred Scott
decision “squatter sovereignty” squatted out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding-like the mould at the foundry served through one blast and fell back into loose sand-helped to carry an election, and then was kicked to the winds.
His late joint struggle with the Republicans, against the Lecompton Constitution