Archive for the ‘Chapter 19’ Category

Lincoln’s “House Divided” Speech

Research: why was Lincoln making this speech? What was he intending to do?

June 16, 1858

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention:

If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South.

Have we no tendency to the latter condition?

Let anyone who doubts carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machinery, so to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider, not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted, but also let him study the history of its construction and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidences of design and concert of action among its chief architects, from the beginning.

The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the states by state constitutions and from most of the national territory by congressional prohibition. Four days later commenced the struggle which ended in repealing that congressional prohibition. This opened all the national territory to slavery and was the first point gained.

But, so far, Congress only had acted; and an endorsement by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable to save the point already gained and give chance for more.

This necessity had not been overlooked, but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of “squatter sovereignty,” other-wise called “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, no third 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 of this act not to legislate slavery into an territory or state, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people there-of 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 United States Circuit Court for the district of Missouri; and both Nebraska Bill and lawsuit were brought to a decision in the same month of May 1854. 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. Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the endorsement, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained. The endorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority by nearly 400,000 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 endorsement. The Supreme Court met again, did not announce their decision, but ordered a reargument.

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 endorsing the Dred Scott decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it. The new President, too, seizes the early occasion of the Silliman letter to endorse 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 doctrine.

Under the Dred Scott decision, “squatter sovereignty” squatted out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding; like the mold 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 involves nothing of the original Nebraska doctrine. That struggle was made on a point — the right of a people to make their own constitution — upon which he and the Republicans have never differed.

The several points of the Dred Scott decision, in connection with Senator Douglas’ “care not” policy, constitute the piece of machinery in its present state of advancement. This was the third point gained. The working points of that machinery are:

First, that no Negro slave, imported as such from Africa, and no descendant of such slave can ever be a citizen of any state in the sense of that term as used in the Constitution of the United States. This point is made in order to deprive the Negro, in every possible event, of the benefit of that provision of the United States Constitution which declares that “the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.”

Second, that, “subject to the Constitution of the United States,” neither Congress nor a territorial legislature can exclude slavery from any United States territory. This point is made in order that individual men may fill up the territories with slaves, without danger of losing them as property, and thus enhance the chances of permanency to the institution through all the future.

Third, that whether the holding a Negro in actual slavery in a free state makes him free, as against the holder, the United States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by the courts of any slave state the Negro may be forced into by the master. This point is made, not to be pressed immediately but, if acquiesced in for awhile, and apparently endorsed by the people at an election, then to sustain the logical conclusion that what Dred Scott’s master might lawfully do with Dred Scott in the free state of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or 1,000 slaves, in Illinois or in any other free state.

Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mold public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, not to care whether slavery is voted down or voted up. This shows exactly where we now are; and partially, also, whither we are tending.

It will throw additional light on the latter to go back and run the mind over the string of historical facts already stated. Several things will now appear less dark and mysterious than they did when they were transpiring. The people were to be left “perfectly free,” “subject only to the Constitution.” What the Constitution had to do with it, outsiders could not then see. Plainly enough, now, it was an exactly fitted niche for the Dred Scott decision to afterward come in and declare the perfect freedom of the people to be just no freedom at all.

Why was the amendment expressly declaring the right of the people voted down? Plainly enough, now, the adoption of it would have spoiled the niche for the Dred Scott decision. Why was the Court decision held up? Why even a senator’s individual opinion withheld till after the presidential election? Plainly enough, now, the speaking out then would have damaged the “perfectly free” argument upon which the election was to be carried. Why the outgoing President’s felicitation on the endorsement? Why the delay of a reargument? Why the incoming President’s advance exhortation in favor of the decision? These things look like the cautious patting and petting of a spirited horse preparatory to mounting him when it is dreaded that he may give the rider a fall. And why the hasty after-endorsement of the decision by the President and others?

We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen — Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance — and when we see these timbers joined together and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortises exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few, not omitting even scaffolding, or, if a single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared yet to bring such piece in — in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck.

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Eric Foner on Dred Scott and Lincoln

From The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, by Eric Foner, chapter 4.

Two days after the inauguration of James Buchanan in March 1957, the Supreme Court handed down one of the most infamous decisions in its history. During the 1830s, Dred Scott, a slave of Dr. John Emerson of Missouri, resided with his owner in Illinois, where state law prohibited slavery, and the Wisconsin territory, from which it had been barred by the Missouri Compromise. He married another slave, Harriet Scott, and in 1846, after returning to Missouri, the Scott family, by now consisting of husband, wife, and two daughters, went to court claiming that residence on free soil had made them free. In time, the case made its way to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, supported by sic other members of the court, concluded that the Scotts must remain slaves. No black person, Taney declared, could be a citizen of the United states and thus the Scotts had no standing to sue in court. The case could have ended there. Taney, however, went on to argue that because the Constitution “distinctly and expressly affirmed” the right to property in slaves, slaveholders could bring them into federal territories. The Missouri Compromise– repealed three years earlier by the Kansas-Nebraska Act– had therefore been unconstitutional. Only once before, in the landmark case of Marbury v. Madison, which established the principle of judicial review, had the Court invalidated an act of Congress on constitutional grounds.

Much of Taney’s opinion consisted of a historical discussion purporting to demonstrate that the founding fathers had not recognized black persons as part of the American people. The framers of the Constitution, he insisted, regarded blacks, slave and free, as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race.. and so far inferior, that they had no rights that the white man was bound to respect.” (This statement, Thaddeus Stevens later remarked, “damned [Taney] to everlasting fame; and, I fear, everlasting fire.”) States could make free blacks citizens if they wished, but this did not require the federal government or other states to recognize them as such. No state could unilaterally “introduce a new member into the political community created by the Constitution”– a community, according to Taney, limited to white persons.

“The most important decision ever made by the Supreme Court,” as the New York Times described it, Dred Scott was the work of a chief justice who belonged to a long-established planter family in Maryland. Taney had manumitted his own slaves in the 1820s but strongly believed in black inferiority. He seems to have thought that the Supreme Court could restore sectional harmony by resolving the slavery controversy. The decision had precisely the opposite effect. As a Georgia newspaper exulted, it “covers every question regarding slavery and settles it in favor of the South.” Taney had declared unconstitutional the platform of the nation’s second largest political party. His ruling also seemed to undercut Stephen A. Douglas’s popular sovereignty doctrine, for if Congress lacked the authority to deprive slaveholders of their constitutionally guaranteed right to bring slaves into a territory, how could a territorial legislature created by Congress do so?

…The Dred Scott decision propelled to the forefront of public debate questions that would dominate politics until the outbreak of the Civil War: the founders’ intentions regarding slavery; whether slavery should be viewed as a local or national institution; and the constitutional authority of the federal government to prohibit slavery in the territories. Lincoln had already expressed his opinion on these issues and would continue to do so between 1857 and 1860. But the decision inspired him to elaborate his views on a subject about which he had previously said very little, the place of blacks in American society. Lincoln knew that this question carried an explosive political charge. Soon after the Court issued its ruling, Stephen A Douglas delivered impassioned speeches declaring that the Declaration of Independence and Constitution had been written for whites and charging that Republicans who opposed the Dred Scott decision favored “perfect and absolute equality of the races.” Lincoln believed that rhetoric of this kind had played a role in Fremont’s defeat in the presidential election of the previous November. Republicans, Lincoln wrote, had been “constantly charged with seeking an amalgamation of the white and black races; and thousands turned from us… fearing to face it themselves.” If others would not “face it,” he would.

Lincoln later called Dred Scott a “burlesque upon judicial decisions.” On June 26, 1857, two weeks after Douglas spoke in Springfield in its support, Lincoln responded in the same city. The decision, he argued, was so erroneous that it could not be viewed as having established a “settled doctrine for the country.” Nearly all Republican leaders agreed. But unlike most Republicans politicians, who preferred to attack Taney for having taken on the territorial question when he need not have done so and who devoted most of their attention to the constitutional power of Congress to bar the institution in the territories, Lincoln addressed head-on the vexatious question of black citizenship. He denied that Taney had presented a plausible account of the founders’ racial outlook. Free blacks, he pointed out, echoing Justice McLean’s dissent, had voted in several states at the time the Constitution was ratified, indicating that they were them viewed as members of the body politic. Taney, moreover, was “grossly incorrect” to imply that “the public estimate of the negro” had improved since the revolutionary era; in fact, “the change between then and now is decidedly the other way.” Lincoln conspicuously failed to mention the deteriorating situation in Illinois, whose voters and legislature within the past decade had approved measures barring free blacks from entering the state….

More information on Dred Scott from PBS here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2932.html

John Brown’s Body….

Go here: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/johnbrown/brownbody.html

Here’s the song:

Here’s the Battle Hymn of the Republic:

Chapter 19 questions due next Monday

Questions Chapter 19

Answer fully and in your own words.

1. What specific event provoked the writing of Uncle Tom’s Cabin? What impact did it have worldwide, especially politically? How did it impact the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law?
2. What previous movement had influenced Harriet Beecher Stowe? Use the index to find where her family (the Beechers) had been mentioned in our text, and summarize their claims to fame.
3. How did Uncle Tom’s Cabin help win the war for the North, both at home and abroad?
4. What was Hinton R. Helper’s argument against slavery? What was the fate of both Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Impending Crisis of the South, politically and culturally?
5. What were Beecher’s Bibles? Who would use them, where, and why? Who were “border ruffians?”
6. Use specific facts to explain why it was illogical and impractical to think that Kansas would become a slave state. By 1855, what did the Southerners expect to happen to the status of Kansas?
7. How did “squatter sovereignty” lead to illegality and fraud in Kansas’ elections, and who was perpetrating the fraud? Make sure you discuss the dueling capitals and the “rape of Lawrence” as a symptom of this dysfunction.
8. Describe the misadventures of John Brown in this chapter, including his actions at Pottawatomie Creek as well as Harper’s Ferry.
9. What was the trick involved in the Lecompton Constitution? Why would the election over it then appear to be unrepresentative and fraudulent?
10. What stance did President Buchanan take on the Lecompton Constitution, and what effect did this have on the Democratic Party? What stand did Stephen Douglas take, and what were the consequences for his ambitions?
11. Explain why Charles Sumner got beaten to a pulp by Preston Brooks. Why did Brooks decided not to challenge Sumner to a duel? How did this incident– and the responses of the various sections of the country to it– reveal a widening and alarming increase in sectional tensions?
12. Why did Douglas not get the Democrats’ presidential nomination in 1856? What other parties and candidates ran against Buchanan—the Dem’s eventual choice? What were their campaign slogans and basic beliefs?
13. Why did Buchanan win? What were the reasons why the Republicans lost? Why was this probably a lucky thing? What was the significance about this election?
14. Explain the several parts of the Dred Scott decision. What were the consequences of each of these parts? What was considered to be the most outrageous part? How did the Republicans try to deny the legitimacy of the decision?
15. What were the causes of the Panic of 1857? What attitude did the South take after this panic, and why?
16. Why was the idea of free Western homesteads so controversial, both in the East and in the South? Why did Buchanan veto the act passed in 1860?
17. What two economic issues did the Panic provide to the Republicans for use in 1860?
18. Describe Lincoln’s background and early career?
19. What office did Lincoln attempt to gain in 1858? Who was his opponent? How were these officeholders chosen at this time in US history? Who won the seat in the end?
20. Describe the basic points of the argument of each of the candidates during the Lincoln-Douglas debates. How did these debates make Lincoln a national figure?
21. What happened to the Democrats? Explain the outcome of each of the conventions they held in 1860. What did their platform include?
22. Who supported the Constitutional Union Party, and why? Explain the nicknames associated with them. Who was their candidate?
23. What happened to the Republicans as they searched for a presidential candidate in 1860? List the main points of the Republican platform.
24. Explain the claims that Lincoln was a minority president and a sectional president. Why could the Dems not have won even if they had been unified?
25. Explain the timeline for the creation of the Confederate States of America, beginning, of course, with the actions of South Carolina.
26. What did John Crittenden propose? When did he propose it, and why did Lincoln reject it?
27. Explain the phrase “the despotic majority of numbers,” and “vassalage.” Why is the South described as a “subnation?”

A Link about the connection between the 1840s and the Civil War

Americans during the 1840s experienced many events that pushed the US inexorably toward the final showdown with the South. In this link, Professor Waldo E. Martin, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, discusses the linkages between Manifest Destiny and the Civil War: http://www.learner.org/biographyofamerica/prog10/transcript/page02.html

The entire set of pages containing this  review begins here (http://www.learner.org/biographyofamerica/prog10/feature/index.html) and contains audiovisuals including maps to help you review the time period from 1848-1860.

Links on the election of 1860 and the Crittenden Compromise

The election of 1860, from nominating conventions to results: http://elections.harpweek.com/1860/overview-1860-1.htm

The Crittenden Compromise: http://sunsite.utk.edu/civil-war/critten.html

Videos: Popular Sovereignty and the Significance of the Kansas-Nebraska Act

Take notes. None of these are more than 2 minutes long.

Popular Sovereignty

The Significance of the Kansas-Nebraska Act

And John Brown

The full timeline that these videos are drawn from (this is excellent) can be found here: http://www.jocolibrary.org/default.aspx?id=17586

You can also type “Jeremy Neely” into youtube to find more of these.