hence the following prelusive suggestions of his Inaugural Address:
We have recently passed through a Presidential contest, in which the passions of our fellow-citizens were excited to the highest degree by questions of deep and vital importance; but, when the people proclaimed their will, the tempest at once subsided, and all was calm.
The voice of the majority, speaking in the manner prescribed by the Constitution, was heard; and instant submission followed.
Our own country could alone have exhibited so grand and striking a spectacle of the capacity of man for self-government.
What a happy conception, then, was it for Congress to apply this simple rule — that the will of the majority shall govern — to the settlement of the question of domestic Slavery in the territories!
Congress is neither “to legislate Slavery 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.”
As a natural consequence, Congress has already prescribed that, when the Territory of Kansas shall be admitted as a State, it “ shall be received into the Union with or without Slavery, as their Constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission.”
A difference of opinion has arisen in regard to the point of time when the people of a territory shall decide this question for themselves.
This is, happily, a matter of but little practical importance.
Besides, it is a judicial question, which legitimately belongs to the Supreme Court of the United States, before whom it is now pending, and will, it is understood, be speedily and finally settled. To their decision, in common with all good citizens, I shall cheerfully submit.
Not many days thereafter, the decision and opinions thus heralded, and commended as a new and admirable exemplification of “Popular Sovereignty,” and the “happy conception” embodied in the Kansas
bill, were revealed, with due trumpeting and laudation, to an expectant world.
Chief Justice Taney
, in pronouncing the decision of the Court
, which nullified the Missouri Restriction
, or any
restriction by Congress on the boundless diffusion of Slavery throughout the territories of the Union
, commenced by denying to Dred Scott
, or to any person “whose ancestors were imported to this country and sold as slaves,” any right to sue in a court of the United States
The question before us is, whether the class of persons described in the plea in abatement compose a portion of this people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty?
We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.
On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.
The Chief Justice
proceeds to affirm, not only that no persons who had been, or whose ancestors had been, slaves, were regarded as citizens previously to, or at the time of, adopting the Federal Constitution
, but that no State has, or can have, any right to confer citizenship on such persons.
Bearing in mind the citations from our revolutionary and post
-revolutionary history, embodied in the earlier chapters of this work,1
the reader will be puzzled to decide whether Law, Humanity, or History, is most flagrantly defied in that portion of Chief Justice Taney
's opinion which follows:
In the opinion of the Court, the legislation and history of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become