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The Rights of the People

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    THE DRED SCOTT DECISION

    As this precedent is so marked, so apt, so undeniable, so universally known, and withal so perfect a parallel with the “Christian nation” decision, it will be discussed here as fully as the question demands.ROP 153.3

    In noticing the “Christian nation” decision in previous chapters reference has been made more than once to the close parallel between it and the Dred Scott decision. For this reason the Dred Scott decision is of double value in this discussion, (a) in that it is such an undeniable national precedent as to the right of the people to appeal from a Supreme Court decision; and (b) in that the exact parallel between it and the “Christian nation” decision serves to set in the strongest possible light the perfect absurdity of the “Christian nation” decision throughout.ROP 153.4

    We shall therefore first set down the parallel between these two decisions in such a way that no one can fail to see it. Next we shall cite the arguments made in defense of the Dred Scott decision and those made against it, pointing out the application of both to the “Christian nation” decision, though indeed the application is so plain as scarcely to be mistakable.ROP 155.1

    The main point of the Dred Scott decision was the recognition of slavery as a national institution within the meaning and intent of the Constitution. And from the notice already given to the Christian nation decision it is perfectly clear that its main point is the recognition of the “Christian religion” as a national institution within the meaning and intent of the Constitution. The logic of the one made this a slave nation, as the logic of the other makes this a “Christian nation.”ROP 155.2

    No one denied that, under the Constitution, slavery was a State institution and a State question in such States as had it or chose to have it; the question involved in the Dred Scott decision was whether it was a national institution. Likewise no one can deny that, under the Constitution as it was originally made, religion was a State institution and a State question in such States as had it or chose to have it; the question involved in the Christian nation decision is whether it is a national institution.ROP 155.3

    The task therefore before the Dred Scott court was to show that slavery was, and was intended to be, included in the Constitution of the United States as a national affair; just as the task before the Christian nation court was to show that “Christianity, general Christianity,” is, and was intended to be, included in the Constitution of the United States as a national affair.ROP 155.4

    The Dred Scott court sought to acccomplish its task, not by the examination of the Constitution itself, nor by an examination of the proceedings of the conventions wherein it was made or the words and works of the men who made it-all this was left out; but by citing the history of European nations, the legislation of the Colonies, the Declaration of Independence (!), and the legislation of the States, precisely as the “Christian nation” court sought to accomplish its task. From this evidence the Dred Scott court drew the conclusion that “the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution; precisely as the Christian nation court, from parallel evidence, and by parallel method, has drawn the conclusion that the “meaning” of the language of the Constitution is that “this is a Christian nation.” Neither Madison, Jefferson, nor yet Washington is as much as named in the Dred Scott decision, anymore than in the Christian nation decision.ROP 155.5

    The Dred Scott court made as its leading statement the proposition that at the time of the adoption of the Constitution-ROP 156.1

    “They [the negro race] had for more than a century been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no right, which the white man was bound to respect; and the negro might justly be reduced to slavery for his [the whiteman’s] benefit.”ROP 156.2

    The Christian nation court made as its leading statement the proposition that-ROP 156.3

    “This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour there is a single voice making this affirmation.”ROP 156.4

    To prove its proposition that such is the meaning and intent of the Constitution-ROP 156.5

    The Dred Scott court said:-
    [1]
    “The public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken.... And in no nation was this opinion more firmly fixed or more uniformly acted upon than by the English government and English people....
    The opinion thus entertained and acted upon in England was naturally impressed upon the Colonies they founded on this side of the Atlantic.”
    The Christian nation court said:-
    [1]
    “The commission to Christopher Columbus prior to his sail westward, is from Ferdinand and Isabella, etc.... The first colonial grant, that made to Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1584, was from ‘Elizabeth, by the Grace of God, of England, France, and Ireland, queene, defender of the faith,’ etc.... The first charter of Virginia, granted by King James I.... Language of similar import may be found in the subsequent charters of that Colony from the same king.... In language more or less emphatic is the establishment of the Christian religion declared to be one of the purposes of the grant.”
    [2]
    “Accordingly, a negro of the African race was regarded by them [the Colonies] as an article of property, and held and bought and sold as such in every one of the thirteen Colonies which united in the Declaration of Independence, and afterwards formed the Constitution of the United States.... The legislation of the different Colonies furnishes positive and indisputable proof of this fact. It would be tedious ... to enumerate the various laws passed upon this subject.... As a sample of the legislation ... the province of Maryland, in 1717, passed a law, etc.
    “The other colonial law to which we refer was passed by Massachusetts in 1705,” etc. 30The Christian nation court could have obtained from this same law of Massachusetts additional valuable (?) evidence in favor of its theory; for twice in this act the definite phrase “Christian nation” is used. See decision, Appendix D.
    [2]
    “The celebrated compact made, by the pilgrims in the Mayflower 1620, recites, etc.
    “The fundamental orders of Connecticut, under which a provisional government was instituted in 1633, 1639, commence with this declaration, etc.
    “In the charter of privileges granted by William Penn to the province of Pennsylvania, in 1701, it is recited,” etc.
    [3]
    “The language of the Declaration of Independence is equally conclusive.”
    [3]
    “Coming nearer to the present time, the Declaration of Independence recognizes, etc.”
    [4]
    “When we look to the condition of this race in the several States at the time.... And we may here again refer ... to the plain and unequivocal language of the laws of the several States.... Their statue books are full of provisions relating to this class,” etc.
    “Thus Massachusetts, in 1786,” etc.
    “So, too, in Connecticut, 1774, 1781, 1833.”
    “By the laws of New Hampshire, collected and finally passed in 1815, ... a subsequent collection made in 1855.”
    “In 1822 Rhode Island, in its revised code, ... reenacted in its revised code of 1844.”
    [4]
    “If we examine the constitutions of the various States we find in them a constant recognition of religious obligations. Every constitution of every one of the forty-four States contains language which either directly or by clear implication recognizes,” etc.
    “The Constitution of Illinois. 1870,” etc.
    “The Constitution of Indiana, 1816,” etc.
    “The Declaration of Rights of the Constitution of Maryland 1867,” etc.
    “Or like ... the Constitution of Massachusetts, 1780,” etc.
    “Or ... the Constitution of Mississippi, 1832,” etc.
    “Or ... the Constitution of Delaware, 1776.”
    [5]
    “It would be impossible to enumerate ... the various laws marking the condition of this race.... In addition to those already referred to, it is sufficient to say that Chancellor Kent, whose accuracy and research no one will question, states,” etc.
    [5]
    “While, because of a general recognition of this truth, the question has seldom been presented to the courts, yet we find that in Updegraph vs. the Commonwealth, it was decided that ‘Christianity, general Christianity, is, and always has been, a part of the Common Law of Pennsylvania.... And in the People vs. Ruggles, Chancellor Kent, the great commentator on American law, ... said,” etc.
    [6]
    “They [these laws] ... are a faithful index to the states of feeling towards the class of persons of whom they speak.... They show that a perpetual and impassable barrier was intended to be erected between the white race and the one which they had reduced to slavery, and governed as subjects with absolute and despotic power....
    We refer to these historical facts for the purpose of showing the fixed opinions concerning that race, upon which the states men of that day spoke and acted. It is necessary to do this, in order to determine whether the general terms used in the Constitution of the United States as to the rights of man and the rights of the people was intended to include them, or to give to them or their posterity the benefit of any of its provisions.”
    “Now, as we have already said in an earlier part of this opinion, the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution.”
    [6]
    “Even the Constitution of the United States ... contains in the first amendment a declaration common to the constitutions of all the States.... There is no dissonance in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning; they affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation. These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons; they are organic utterances; they speak the voice of the entire people.”
    These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a christian nation.”

    In view of these quotations, no man can deny that the Dred Scott decision and the Christian nation decision are in principle and in method exactly parallel. And as certainly as the Dred Scott decision established slavery as a national institution, so certainly the Christian nation decision establishes “the Christian religion” as a national institution. According to the plain words of the Dred Scott decision, slavery is absolutism and despotism. This is the truth; and it is no less the truth that any governmental establishment of “the Christian religion” is also sheer absolutism and despotism. Slavery is civil despotism; established religion is religious despotism. Of the former Abraham Lincoln said: “When the white man governs himself, that is self-government; but when he governs himself and also another man, that is more than self-government-that is despotism.” 31Missouri Compromise Speech, before referred to. And of the latter say we: When any man chooses to be religious for himself, that is religious freedom; but when any man proposes to be religious for himself and also for another man, that is less than religious freedom-that is religious despotism. As certainly therefore as the Dred Scott decision, in nationalizing slavery, established a national civil despotism, if that decision had not been reversed, so certainly the Christian nation decision, in nationalizing “the Christian religion,” establishes a national religious despotism, if this decision shall not be reversed.ROP 159.1

    Undoubtedly the real bearing of the Dred Scott decision in all its parts was more clearly seen by Abraham Lincoln than, by any other man in the United States. The leadership of the opposition to the decision therefore naturally fell to him, while, from whatever cause, the defense of the decision devolved upon United States Senator Stephen A. Douglas. And not only does the parallel hold good as between these two decisions in themselves, but it continues throughout the discussion of the two decisions-the main arguments made in defense of the Dred Scott decision, or in apology for it, are precisely the ones that are now made in support of the Christian nation decision, or in apology for it, while every argument made against the Dred Scott decision is equally valid and lies with full force against the Christian nation decision. Indeed, in many instances the mere insertion of the words “Christian nation” instead of the words “Dred Scott,” and the words “religion” or “religious despotism” in place of the word “slavery,” will make whole pages of Lincoln’s speeches as applicable and as powerful against the Christian nation decision and its bearing as they were against the Dred Scott decision and its bearing.ROP 160.1

    Of course these arguments pro and con. cannot be given of even indicated here in detail. The main ones, however, even at some length, may properly be here set down, because it is in forgetting this history that this vital principle of the nation is forgotten. And let it not be forgotten that in reproducing this matter here, the sole object is to demonstrate the utter weakness of the “Christian nation” decision and of the arguments in its favor, and, on the other hand, to demonstrate the perfect propriety, and, indeed, the necessity of uncompromising opposition to that decision, upon national principle, upon national authority, and upon national precedent.ROP 161.1

    The arguments reproduced here as once made in behalf of the Dred Scott decision, are in very substance, and largely in very words, the arguments, and the only ones, that are now made or that can be made in behalf of the Christian nation decision. And the answer to these arguments in the former case are exactly our answers now in this latter case. The decisions and the arguments in favor of it were invalid in the former case, and so they are in the latter case, while the opposition and the arguments thereof, being proper, sound, and constitutional against the former decision, so they are also against the latter decision.ROP 161.2

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