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[34] declined to express any opinion upon any subject, but pointed to the National Constitution, without note or comment, as their political guide.

The politicians of only the two parties first named seemed to have positive convictions, as units, on the great subject which had so long agitated the nation, and they took issue squarely, definitely, and defiantly. A large portion of the Douglas party were also inclined to disregard the resolution which bound them to absolute submission to the decisions of the Supreme Court, and to stand firmly upon a pure “Popular Sovereignty” Platform, which that resolution had eviscerated, for they regarded a late decision of the majority of that court, in the case of Dred Scott,1 as sufficiently indicative of its opposition to the great doctrine of that platform. All parties were agreed in earnest professions of love for the Union and the Constitution; and, with such avowals emblazoned on their standards, they went. into the fight, each doubtful of success, and all conscious that a national crisis was at hand. There was a vague presentiment before the minds of reflecting men everywhere, that the time when the practical answer to the great question — What shall be the policy of the Nation concerning Slavery?--could no longer be postponed.

The conflict was desperate from July to November, and grew more intense as it approached its culmination at the polls. The Republicans and Douglas Democrats were denounced by their opponents as Abolitionists-treasonably sectional, and practically hostile to the perpetuation of the Union. The Breckinridge party, identified as it unfortunately was with avowed disunionists — men who for long years had been in the habit of threatening to attempt the dissolution of the Union by the process of secession, whenever the revelations of the Census or other causes should convince them that the domination of the Slave interest. in the National Government had ceased forever — men who rejoiced when they saw, in the absolute disruption of the Democratic party at Charleston and Baltimore, a prospect for the election of the Republican candidate, which might serve them as a pretext for rebellion — men who afterward became leaders in the great insurrection against the National Government — was charged with complicity in disunion schemes. In speeches, newspapers, and in social gatherings, these charges were iterated and reiterated; and yet there were but few persons in the Free-labor States who really believed that there were men mad enough and wicked enough to raise the arm of resistance to the authority of the Supreme Government, founded on the National Constitution.

But the election of Mr. Lincoln, which was the result of the great political conflict in the summer and autumn of 1860, soon revealed the existence of a well-organized conspiracy against the life of the Republic, widespread, powerful, and intensely malignant. The leading conspirators were few, and nearly all of them were then, or had been, connected with the

1 Dred Scott had been a slave in Missouri, but claimed to be a freeman on account of involuntary residence in a free State. The case did not require a decision concerning the right of a negro to citizenship; but the Chief-Justice took the occasion to give what is called an extra-judicial opinion. He decided that a freed negro slave, or a descendant of a slave, could not become a citizen of the Republic. He asserted, in that connection, that the language of the Declaration of Independence showed that the negroes were not included in the beneficent meaning of that instrument, when it said, “all men are created equal,” and that they were regarded “as so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

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