the powers of government (and the Constitution
of each State has the same provision) shall be divided into three departments-executive, legislative, and judicial.
The right and the province of expounding the Constitution
, and constructing the law, is vested in the judiciary established by the Constitution
As a lawyer, I feel at liberty to appear before the Court
and controvert any principle of law while the question is pending before the tribunal ; but when the decision is made, my private opinion, your opinion, all other opinions must yield to the majesty of that authoritative adjudication.
I wish you to bear in mind that this involves a great principle, upon which our rights, our liberty and our property all depend.
What security have you for your property, for your reputation, and for your personal rights, if the courts are not upheld, and their decisions respected when once fairly rendered by the highest tribunal known to the Constitution
I do not choose, therefore, to go into any argument with Mr. Lincoln
in reviewing the various decisions which the Supreme Court has made, either upon the Dred Scott
case, or any other.
I have no idea of appealing from the decision of the Supreme Court upon a Constitutional question to the decisions of a tumultuous town meeting.
I am aware that once an eminent lawyer of this city, now no more, said that the State of Illinois
had, the most perfect judicial system in the world, subject to but one exception, which could be cured by a slight amendment, and that amendment was to so change the law as to allow an appeal from the decisions of the Supreme Court of Illinois
, on all Constitutional questions, to Justices
of the Peace.
My friend, Mr. Lincoln
, who sits behind me, reminds me that that proposition was made when I was Judge
of the Supreme Court.
Be that as it may, I do not think that fact adds any greater weight or authority to the suggestion.
It matters not with me who was on the bench, whether Mr. Lincoln
or myself, whether a Lockwood or a Smith, a Taney or a Marshall; the decision of the highest tribunal known to the Constitution
of the country must be final till it has been reversed by an equally high authority.
Hence, I am opposed to this doctrine of Mr. Lincoln
, by which he proposes to take an appeal from the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States
, upon this high constitutional question, to a Republican caucus sitting in the country.
Yes, or any other caucus or town meeting, whether it be Republican, American, or Democratic.
I respect the decisions of that august tribunal ; I shall always bow in deference to them.
I am a law-abiding man. I will sustain the Constitution
of my country as our fathers have made it. I will yield obedience to the laws, whether I like them or not, as I find them on the statute book.
I will sustain the judicial tribunals and constituted authorities in all matters within the pale of their jurisdiction as defined by the Constitution
But I am equally free to say that the reason assigned by Mr. Lincoln
for resisting the decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott
, case, does not in itself meet my approbation.
He objects to it because that decision declared that a negro descended from African
parents, who were brought here and sold as slaves, is not, and cannot be, a citizen of the United States
He says it is wrong, because it deprives the negro of the benefits of that clause of the Constitution
which says that citizens of one State shall enjoy all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several States ; in other words, he thinks it wrong because it deprives the negro of the privileges, immunities and rights of citizenship, which pertain, according to that decision, only to the white man. I am free to say to you that in my opinion this government of ours is founded on the white basis.
It was made by the white man, for the benefit of the white man, to be administered by white men, in such manner as they should determine.
It is also true that a negro, an Indian, or any other man of inferior race to a white man, should be permitted to enjoy, and humanity requires that he should have all the rights, privileges and immunities which he is capable of exercising consistent with the safety of society.
I would give him every right and every privilege which his capacity would enable him to enjoy, consistent with the good of the society in which he lived.
But you may ask me, what are these rights and these privileges?
My answer is, that each State must decide for itself the nature and extent of these.