February 11, 1897
FEBRUARY 12 is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.
Throughout the country on that day there will be held meetings, dinners, etc., at which many speeches will be made in honor of that man in whom were mingled so many of the elements of true greatness.
The AMERICAN SENTINEL heartily joins in the tribute of honor to the memory of Abraham Lincoln. We propose to honor him by honoring the principles to which he was so thoroughly devoted. And that this may be done in the best way, we give to him space in our columns to speak again in behalf of the great principles which called forth the highest efforts of his great powers.
Nor is this done merely as a tribute to his memory. It needs to be done again: because again the principle is attacked, to the advocacy of which he gave the best years of his life, and which he caused to triumph.
In principle, the situation to-day is precisely what it was in 1857-1860. And the position which Abraham  Lincoln occupied with reference to the situation as it was in his day needs to be recalled for the instruction of all the people respecting the situation as it is to-day.
The one great governmental principle to which Abraham Lincoln devoted his mighty energies from 1857 to 1861, is THE INALIENABLE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO THE UNITED STATES TO APPEAL FROM, AND TO REVERSE, DECISIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES UPON CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTIONS.
This principle was denounced at that time as revolutionary. For advocating this principle, Abraham Lincoln was denounced as preaching “monstrous revolutionary doctrine”; as being an enemy of the Constitution and the supremacy of the laws; as giving over the country to violence, to anarchy, to the rule of the mob.
In 1896, this identical principle, with all who advocated it, was denounced in the same way and in the same words. And it was done by men who profess to be not only admirers of Abraham Lincoln, but the very conservators of the principles maintained by him.
Perhaps these same men, on this Lincoln birthday occasion, will again contradict themselves and falsify history, by attempting to honor Lincoln in speech, while both in speech and action they repudiate his principles. We want the readers of the AMERICAN SENTINEL to be prepared to put into the hands of those men, and all to whom those men may speak, Lincoln’s own discussion of the principle which he so devotedly maintained.
In the month of March, 1857, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered a decision on the slavery question, in which the court gave to the Constitution a certain interpretation. The occasion of the decision is of no particular interest to-day; but the governmental principle developed upon the rendering of the decision is of vital interest always to the whole people of the United States.
No sooner had the decision been published than throughout the whole country there was a taking of sides for and against it. From whatever cause, it was but a little while before it was found that United States Senator Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln stood distinctly in the place of leaders of the respective sides to the controversy—Douglas for the decision, Lincoln against it.
DOUGLAMS AND LINCOLN AT SPRINGFIELD, ILL
The position and argument of those who accepted the decision of the court were stated by Senator Douglas at Springfield, Ill., about the second week of June, 1857, as follows:—
“The courts are the tribunals prescribed by the Constitution and created by the authority of the people to determine, expound, and enforce the law. Hence, whoever resists the final decision of the highest judicial tribunal, aims a deadly blow at our whole republican system of government—a blow which, if successful, would place all our rights and liberties at the mercy of passion, anarchy and violence. I repeat, therefore, that if resistance to the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States of the matter like the points decided in the Dred Scott case, clearly within their jurisdiction as defined by the Constitution, shall be forced upon the country as a pointed issue, it will become a distinct and naked issue between the friends and enemies of the Constitution—the friends and the enemies of the supremacy of the laws.”
In a speech at Springfield, “two weeks” later, June 26, 1857, Lincoln replied to this, as follows:—
“And now as to the Dred Scott decision…. Judge Douglas … denounces all who question the correctness of that decision, as offering violent resistance to it. But who resists it? Who has, in spite of the decision, declared Dred Scott free, and resisted the authority of his master over him?
“Judicial decisions have two uses—first, to absolve and determine the case decided; and, secondly, to indicate to the public how other similar cases will be decided as they arise. For the latter use they are called ‘proceedings’ and ‘authorities.’
“We believe as much as Judge Douglas (perhaps more) in obedience to, and respect for, the judicial department of the Government…. But we think the Dred Scott decision is erroneous. We know the court that made it, has often overruled its own decisions, and we shall do what we can to have it overrule this, and offer no resistance to it.
Judicial decisions are of greater or less authority and precedents, according to circumstances. That this shall be so, accords both with common sense, and the customary understanding of the legal profession.
“If this important decision had been made by the unanimous concurrence of the judges; and without any apparent partisan bias; and in accordance with the public expectation; and with the steady practice of the departments throughout our history; and had been in no part, based on assumed historical facts which are not really true; or, if wanting in some of these, it had been before the court more than once, and had there been affirmed and re-affirmed through a course of years; if then might be, perhaps would be, factious, nay, even revolutionary, not to acquiesce in it as a precedent.
“But when, as it is true, we find it wanting in all these claims to the public confidence, it is not resistance, it is not factious, it is not even disrespectful, to treat it as not having yet quite established a settled doctrine in the country. But Judge Douglas considers this view unlawful.”
In 1858 Lincoln and Douglas were rival candidates for the United States senatorship; and this supreme court decision was the leading issue. Friday evening, July 9, Senator Douglas made a speech in Chicago, which, noticing Lincoln’s speech upon his nomination as senator, he said:—
“The other proposition discussed by Mr. Lincoln in his speech, consists in a crusade against the Supreme Court of the United States on account of the Dred Scott decision. On this question also I desire to say to you, unequivocally, that I take direct and distinct issue with him. I have no warfare to make on the Supreme Court of the United States, either on account of that or any other decision which they have pronounced from the bench. 
“The Constitution of the United States has provided that 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 construing the law are 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 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 pace.
“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 is 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.”
The next night, July 10, 1858, Lincoln spoke in reply, and upon this point said:—
“Another of the issues he says that is to be made with me is upon his devotion to the Dred Scott decision, and my opposition to it.
“I have expressed heretofore, and I now repeat my opposition to the Dred Scott decision; but I should be allowed to state the nature of that opposition, and I ask your indulgence while I do so.
“What is fairly implied by the term Judge Douglas has used, ‘resistance to the decision’? I do not resist it. If I wanted to take Dred Scott from his master, I would be interfering with property, and that terrible difficulty that Judge Douglas speaks of, of interfering with property, would arise. But I am doing no such thing as that; but all that I am doing is refusing to obey it as a political rule. If I were in Congress, and a vote should come up on a question whether slavery should be prohibited in a new territory, in spite of the Dred Scott decision I would vote that it should.
“That is what I should do. Judge Douglas said last night that before the decision he might advance his opinion, and it might be contrary to the decision when it was made, but after it was made, he would abide by it until it was reversed. Just so! We let this property abide by the decision, but WE WILL TRY TO REVERSE THAT DECISION. We will try to put it where Judge Douglas would not object, for he says he will obey it until it is reversed. SOMEBODY HAMS TO REVERSE THAT DECISION, since it was made, and WE MEAN TO REVERSE IT, and we mean to do it peaceably.
“What are the uses of decisions of courts?—They have two uses. As rules of property they have two uses. First, they decide upon the question before the court. They decide in this case that Dred Scott is a slave; nobody resists that. Not only that, but they say to everybody else that persons standing just as Dred Scott stands, are as he is. That is, they say that when a question comes up upon another person, it will be so decided again, unless the court decides in another way, unless the court overrules its decision. Well, we mean to do what we can to have the court decide the other way. This is one thing we mean to try to do.
“The sacredness that Judge Douglas throws around this decision is a degree of sacredness that has never been before thrown around any other decision. I have never heard of such a thing. Why, decisions apparently contrary to that decision, or that good lawyers thought were contrary to that decision, have been made by that very court before. It is the first of its kind: it is an astonisher in legal history; it is a new wonder of the world.
“It is based upon falsehood in the main as to facts; allegations of facts upon which it stands are not facts at all in many instances, and no decision made on any question—the first instance of a decision made under so many unfavorable circumstances—thus placed, has ever been held by the profession as law, and it has always needed confirmation before the lawyers regarded it as settled law.
“But Judge Douglas will have it that all hands must take this extraordinary decision, made under these extraordinary circumstances, and give their vote in Congress in accordance with it, yield to it, and obey it in very possible sense.”
DOUGLAMS AT BLOOMINGTON
Again: In a speech at Bloomington, Illinois, July 16, 1858, Senator Douglas said:—
“I therefore take issue with Mr. Lincoln directly in regard to this warfare upon the Supreme Court of the United States. I accept the decision of that court as it was pronounced. Whatever my individual opinions may  be, I, as a good citizen, am bound by the laws of the land as the legislature makes them, as the court expounds them, and as the executive officer administers them. I am bound by our Constitution as our fathers made it, and as it is our duty to support it. I am bound as a good citizen to sustain the constituted authorities, and to resist, discourage, and beat down, by all lawful and peaceful means, all attempts at exciting mobs, or violence, or any other revolutionary proceedings, against the Constitution and the constituted authorities of the country.”
LINCOLN SUSTAINED BY AUTHORITY
The next night, July 17, at Springfield, Lincoln replied and said:—
“Now as to the Dred Scott decision, for upon that he makes his last point at me. He boldly takes ground in favor of that decision.
“This is one-half the onslaught, and one-third of the plan, of the entire campaign. I am opposed to that decision in a certain sense, but not in the sense which he puts on it. I say that in so far as it decided in favor of Dred Scott’s master, and against Dred Scott and his family, I do not propose to disturb or resist the decision.
“I never have proposed to do any such thing. I think that in respect for judicial authority my humble history would not suffer in comparison with that of Judge Douglas.
“He would have the citizen conform his vote to that decision; the member of Congress, his: the President, his use of the veto power. He would make it a rule of political action for the people and all the departments of the Government. I would not. By resisting it as a political rule, I disturb no right of property, create no disorder, excite no mobs.
“When he spoke at Chicago, on Friday evening of last week, he made this same point upon me. On Saturday evening I replied, and reminded him of a Supreme Court decision which he opposed for at least several years. Last night, at Bloomington, he took some notice of that reply, but entirely forgot to remember that part of it.
“He renews his onslaught upon me, forgetting to remember that I have turned the tables against himself on that very point. I renew the effort to draw his attention to it. I wish to stand erect before the country, as well as Judge Douglas, on this question of judicial authority; and therefore I add something to the authority in favor of my own position. I wish to show that I am sustained by authority, in addition to that heretofore presented….
“In public speaking it is tedious reading from documents; but I must beg to indulge the practice to a limited extent. I shall read from a letter written by Mr. Jefferson in 1820, and now to be found in the seventh volume of his correspondence, at page 177. It seems he had been presented by a gentleman of the name of Jarvis with a book, or essay, or periodical, called the ‘Republican,’ and he was writing in acknowledgment of the present, and noting some of its contents. After expressing the hope that the work will produce a favorable effect upon the minds of the young, he proceeds to say:—
“‘That it will have this tendency may be expected, and for that reason I feel an urgency to note what I deem an error in it, the more requiring notice as your opinion is strengthened by that of many others. You pages 84 and 148, to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions,—a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us upon the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as human as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps. Their maxim is, “Boni judicis est … are jurisdictionem:” and their power is the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible to the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that, to whatever hands confided, with the corruption of time and party, its members would become deeper. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equaled, co-sovereign within themselves.’
“Thus we see the power claimed for the Supreme Court by Judge Douglas, Mr. Jefferson holds, would reduce us to the despotism of an oligarchy.
“Now, I have said no more than this,—in fact, not quite so much as this: at least I am sustained by Mr. Jefferson.
“Let us go a little further. You remember we … had a National Bank. Some one owed the bank a dollar, he was sued, and sought to avoid payment on the grounds that the bank was unconstitutional. The case went to the Supreme Court, and therein it was decided that the bank was constitutional. The whole Democratic party revolted against that decision. General Jackson himself, asserted that he, as President, would not be bound to hold a National Bank to be constitutional, even though the court had decided it to be so. He fell in precisely with the view of Mr. Jefferson, and acted upon it under his official oath, in vetoing a charter for a National Bank.”
The declaration that Congress does not possess the constitutional power to charter a bank has gone into the Democratic platform, at their national conventions, and was brought forward and reaffirmed in their last conventions at Cincinnati. They have contended for that declaration, in the very teeth of the Supreme Court, for more than a quarter of a century. In fact, they have reduced the decision to an absolute nullity.
“That decision, I repeat, is repudiated in the Cincinnati platform; and still, as if to show that effrontery can go no farther, Judge Douglas vaunts in the very speech in which he denounces me for opposing the Dred Scott decision that he stands on the Cincinnati platform.
“Now, I wish to know what the judge can charge upon me, with respect to the decisions of the Supreme Court, which does not lie in all its length, breadth, and proportions at his own door….
“Free men of Sangamon, free men of Illinois, free men everywhere, judge ye between him and me upon this issue.”
THE FAMOUS DEBATE
Shortly after the foregoing speech at Springfield, arrangements were made, and the famous debate between Lincoln and Douglas, was entered into. The first discussion was at Ottawa, August 21, 1858. Upon this question, Mr. Douglas said nothing: but Lincoln spoke as follows:—
“Let us see what influence he [Judge Douglas] is exerting on public sentiment. In this and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.
“This must be borne in mind, as also the additional fact that Judge Douglas is a man of vast influence, so great that it is enough for many men to profess to believe anything, when they once find out that Judge Douglas professes to believe it. Consider also the attitude he occupies at the head of a large party,—a party which he claims has a majority of all the voters in the country.
“This man sticks to a decision … not because he says it is right in itself,—he does not give any opinion on that,—but because it has been decided by the court; and being decided by the court, he is, and you are, bound to take it in your political action as law, not that he judges at all of its merits, but because a decision of the court is to him a ‘Thus saith the Lord.’
“He places it on that ground alone; and you will bear in mind that thus committing himself unreservedly to this decision commits him to the next one just as firmly as to this. He did not commit himself on account of the merit or demerit of the decision, but it is a ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ The next decision, as much as this, will be a ‘Thus saith the Lord.’
There is nothing that can divert or turn him away from this decision. It is nothing that I point out to him that his great prototype, General Jackson, did not believe in the binding force of decisions. It is nothing to him that Jefferson did not so believe.
“I have said that I have often heard him approve of Jackson’s course in disregarding the decision of the Supreme Court pronouncing a National Bank constitutional. He says, I did not hear him say so. He denies the accuracy of my recollection. I say he ought to know better than I, but I will make no question about this thing, though it still seems to me that I heard him say it twenty times.
“I will tell him, though, that he now claims to stand on the Cincinnati platform, which affirms that Congress cannot charter a National Bank, in the teeth of that old standing decision that Congress can charter a bank.”
LINCOLN AT GALESBURG, ILL
The next place at which the subject of the nature of Supreme Court decisions was discussed was Galesburg, October 7, 1858. There, on this point, Lincoln spoke as follows:—
“I have turned his [Judge Douglas’s] attention to the fact that General Jackson differed with him in regard to the political obligation of a Supreme Court decision. I have asked his attention to the fact that Jefferson differed with him in regard to the political obligation of a Supreme Court decision.
“Jefferson said that ‘Judges are as honest as other men, and not more so.’ And he said, substantially, that ‘whenever a free people should give up in absolute submission to any department of government, retaining for themselves no appeal from it, their liberties were gone.’
“I have asked his attention to the fact that the  Cincinnati platform upon which he says he stands, disregards a time-honored decision of the Supreme Court, in denying the power of Congress to establish a National Bank….
“So far in this controversy I can get no answer at all from Judge Douglas upon these subjects. Not one can I get from him, except that he swells himself up and says, ‘All of us who stand by the decision of the Supreme Court are the friends of the Constitution: all you fellows that dare question it in any way, are the enemies of the Constitution.’ Now, in this very devoted adherence to this decision, in opposition to all the great political leaders whom he has recognized as leaders, in opposition to his former self and history, there is something very marked.
“And the manner in which he adheres to it,—not as being right upon the merits, as he conceives (because he did not discuss that at all), but as being absolutely obligatory upon every one, simply because of the source from whence it comes,—as that which no man can gainsay, whatever it may be; this is another marked feature of his adherence to that decision.
“It marks it in this respect that it commits him to the next decision whenever it comes, as being as obligatory as this one, since he does not investigate it, and won’t inquire whether this opinion is right or wrong. So he takes the next one without inquiring whether it is right or wrong. He teaches men this doctrine, and in so doing prepares the public mind to take the next decision when it comes, without any inquiry.”
At Quincy, Ill., October 13, 1858, Mr. Lincoln said:—
“We oppose the Dred Scott decision in a certain way, upon which I ought perhaps to address you a few words. We do not propose that when Dred Scott has been decided to be a slave by that court, we, as a mob, will decide him to be free.
“We do not propose that, when any other one, or one thousand, shall be decided by the court to be slaves, we will in any violent way disturb the rights of property thus settled: but we nevertheless do oppose that decision as a political rule which shall be binding on the voter to vote for nobody who thinks it wrong; which shall be binding on the members of Congress or the President to favor no measure that does not actually concur with the principles of that decision.
“We do not propose to be bound by it as a political rule in that way because we think it lays the foundation, not merely of enlarging and spreading out what we consider an evil, but it lays the foundation for spreading that evil into the States themselves.
“We propose so resisting it as to have it reversed if we can, and A NEW JUDICIAL RULE ESTABLISHED UPON THIS SUBJECT.”
To this and Lincoln’s position altogether, on this subject, Judge Douglas on the same occasion replied as follows:—
“He tells you that he does not like the Dred Scott decision. Suppose he does not: how is he going to help himself? He says he will reverse it. How will he reverse it? I know of but one mode of reversing judicial decisions, and that is by appealing from the inferior to the superior court. But I have never yet learned how or where an appeal could be taken from the Supreme Court of the United States! The Dred Scott decision was pronounced by the highest tribunal on earth. From this decision there is no appeal this side of heaven.”
And to this Lincoln responded:—
“But he is desirous of knowing how we are going to reverse the Dred Scott decision. Judge Douglas ought to know how.
“Did not he and his political friends find a way to reverse the decision of that same court in favor of the constitutionality of the National Bank? Didn’t they find a way to do it so effectually that they have reversed it as completely as any decision ever was reversed, so far as its practical operation is concerned?
“And let me ask you didn’t Judge Douglas find a way to reverse the decision of our Supreme Court when it decided that Carlin’s father—old Governor Carlin—had the constitutional power to remove a Secretary of State. Did he not appeal to the ‘MOBS,’ as he calls them? Did he not make speeches in the lobby to show how villainous that decision was, and how it ought to be overthrown? Did he not succeed, too, in getting an act passed by the legislature to have it overthrown? And didn’t he himself sit down on that bench as one of the five judges, who were to overslaugh the four old ones,—setting his name of ‘Judge’ in that way, and no other? If there is a villainy in using disrespect or making opposition to Supreme Court decisions, I commend it to Judge Douglas’s earnest consideration.”
At Columbus, Ohio, September 16, 1859. Lincoln spoke the following suggestive words:—
“I wish to say something now in regard to the Dred Scott decision…. I undertake to give the opinion, at least, that if the Territories attempt by any direct legislation to drive the man with his slave out of the Territory, or to decide that his slave is free because of his being taken in there, or to tax him to such an extent that he cannot keep him there, the Supreme Court was unhesitatingly decide all such legislation unconstitutional, as long as that Supreme Court is constructed the Dred Scott Supreme Court is….
“In my judgment there is no avoiding the result save that the American people shall see that constitutions are better construed than our Constitution is construed in that decision. They must take care that it, more faithfully and truly carried out, than it is there expounded.”
The very next day—September 17, 1859—at Cincinnati, he also proclaimed the following all-important truth:—
“THE PEOPLE OF THESE UNITED STATES ARE THE RIGHTFUL MAMSTERS OF BOTH CONGRESSES AND COURTS: NOT TO OVERTHROW THE CONSTITUTION; BUT TO OVERTHROW THE MEN WHO PERVERT THE CONSTITUTION.”
AT THE NATION’S CAPITOL
At the Capitol of the nation, March 4, 1861, when about to take the oath of office as President of the United States, in his inaugural address, and as the final word in a discussion which brought him to the headship of the nation, Lincoln again stated the principle, as follows:—
“I do not forget the position assumed by some that Constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court, nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case upon the parties to a suit, as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to a very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the Government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice.
“At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, as in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.
“Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges.”
LINCOLN’S PRINCIPLE AGAIN REPUDIATED
Thus from the beginning to end of a discussion and campaign continuing for four years, Abraham Lincoln steadfastly and courageously proclaimed the governmental principle of the right of the people of the United States to call in question, to sit in judgment upon, and to reverse, a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States touching the meaning of the Constitution.
To his position as to the principle he was able to bring the weighty authority of Thomas Jefferson—“the author of the Declaration of Independence, and otherwise a chief factor in the Revolution; then a delegate in Congress; afterward, twice President; who was, is, and perhaps will continue to be, the most distinguished politician in our history.”
In addition to this he was able to bring to his support the national precedent of President Jackson and the great party of which he was the leader; and even the precedent of Senator Douglas himself, his own chief opponent.
And beyond this, he was sustained in his position by the overwhelming voice of the whole nation, in making him President, as the result of a campaign in which this was the chief issue.
Yet in the face of all this, in 1896 such prominent men as Benjamin Harrison, Chauncey M. Depew, and Bourke Cochran, denounced as revolutionary a resolution embodying the identical principle for which Abraham Lincoln contended and which he sustained by national authority and national precedent.
A SERIES OF STULTIFICATIONS
And as though to illustrate how completely a man of national prominence can stultify himself, the plainest history, and even his hero Mr. Depew, in delivering an oration in “honor” of Abraham Lincoln, at Galesburg, Ill., October 7, 1896, on the very spot where Lincoln spoke twenty-eight years before, attempted to divorce Abraham Lincoln from the principle which he unswervingly maintained, and to commit him to a view that he never even referred to but once in the whole four years’ record, and then only to show that it did not apply. Mr. Depew said:—
“If the court interpreted the Constitution against his judgment and conscience, he would bow to its opinion, but agitate to so amend the charter as to clearly establish liberty in that instrument.”
All that any one needs to do to see how entirely Lincoln is misrepresented in this statement by Mr. Depew, is simply to glance again at the words of Lincoln as printed in the foregoing columns. We have printed all that has been preserved of what he said on that subject from beginning to end. And in it all, there is not a single sentence to justify Mr. Depew’s statement.
The interpretation of the Constitution by the Court, was against his judgment and conscience. But he did not “bow to its opinion.” He distinctly said that he did not, and that he would not. He distinctly said that if he were in Congress and a vote should come up on a question whether Congress could do what the Court said it could not do, “in spite of the Dred Scott decision” he would vote that it could. He distinctly said “refuse to obey it as a political rule.” “We oppose that decision as a political rule which shall be binding on the voter, on the members of Congress, or the President;” “We do not propose to be bound by it as a political rule.”
If that indicates the attitude of one who bows to the opinion of the court in interpreting the Constitution, then we should like very much to have Mr. Depew’s definition of the attitude of a man who refused to bow to such an opinion.
Nor is Mr. Depew any more fortunate in his statement that Lincoln would “agitate to amend the Constitution,” etc. The plain truth is that in the whole four years’ discussion and agitation on this subject by Abraham Lincoln there is not to be found a single sentence that can be construed into an agitation to amend the Constitution as a remedy for the decision which he opposed.
From beginning to end his agitation was solely, his call was only, “Reverse that decision.” “Somebody has to reverse that decision, since it was made, and we mean to reverse it.” “We propose so resisting it as to have it reversed if we can, and [not an amendment to the Constitution, but] A NEW JUDICIAL RULE established on this subject.” “The American people shall see that constitutions are [not amended, but] better construed than our Constitution is construed in that decision.”
These are not the words of a man who was agitating for an amendment to the Constitution as a remedy for an interpretation of it that was against his judgment and conscience. Abraham Lincoln was too well acquainted with the fundamental principles of the Constitution of the  Government of the United States, and had too much respect for the liberties of the people, to pursue a course that would “establish the despotism of an oligarchy.”
As certainly therefore as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson, were right, so certainly Benjamin Harrison, Chauncey M. Depew, and Bourke Cochran, are wrong. If, however, it shall be insisted by anybody that Harrison, Depew, and Cochran, are right, then it will have to be claimed the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Jackson, were wrong: and in that case a new set of principles will have to be recognized, which will develop shortly a different order of government from that established by the fathers and maintained by Lincoln—an order of government that will not be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Were Lincoln alive he might well exclaim again: “Free men everywhere: judge ye between them and me upon this issue.”