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Originally a curse for transgression upon the whole race, when, as by slavery, it is concen. trated on a part only, it becomes the double. refined curse of God upon his creatures.
Free labor has the inspiration of hope ; pure slavery has no hope. The power of hope upon human exertion and happiness is wonderful. The slave-master himself has a conception of it, and hence the system of tasks among slaves. The slave whom you cannot drive with the lash to break seventy-five pounds of hemp in a day, if you will task him to break a hundred, and promise him pay for all he does over, he will break you a hundred and fifty. You have subo stituted hope for the rod. And yet perhaps it does not occur to you that to the extent of your gain in the case, you have given up the slave system and adopted the free system of labor.
The Dred Scott Decision and the Dec laration of Independence
June 26, 1857 [This is an extract from a speech delivered in Springfield, Ill. It was intended as a reply to a speech of Stephen A. Douglas two weeks earlier upon the subject of slavery in the Terri. tories. Douglas was the author of the Kansas. Nebraska bill, passed in 1854, which gave the Territories the right to decide whether they would have slavery. The Dred Scott decision was published by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1857, and was to the effect that a slave or the descendant of a slave could not be a citizen of the United States or have any standing in the Federal courts. Lincoln con. trasts the spirit of this decision with that of the Declaration of Independence, with a skill and force that will be apparent to every reader. He repeated the substance of the argument over and over again in his joint debates with Douglas in the following year.)
I HAVE said, in substance, that the Dred Scott decision was in part based on assumed histori. cal 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 dissent. ing 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 conlusion on that point, holds the following language :
“ The Constitution was ordained and estab. lished by the people of the United States, through the action, in each State, of those persons who were qualified by its laws to act there. on 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 quali. fied by law to act on the subject. These col. ored 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 enNghtened 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 Declara. tion, 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 favor. able now than it was in the days of the Revo lution, This assumption is a mistake. In some trifling particulars the coridition 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 thirdNew 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 daye, 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 pro
hibition. In those days legislatures held the unquestioned power to abolish slavery in their respective States, but now it is becoming quits 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 the new countries was prohibited, but now Congress decides that it will not continue the prohibition, and the Su. preme 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. AU the powers of earth seem rapidly combining against him. Mammon is after him, ambition follows, 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 hun. dred keys, which can never be unlocked with. out the concurrence of every key--the keys in the bands of a hundred different men, and they scattered to a hundred different and distant places ; and they stand musing as to what in vention, in all the dominions of mind and man