Sunday, June 26, 2022

Lincoln on over-ruling a bad Supreme Court decision

Patrick Kurp on Lincoln and Dred Scott:
On June 26, 1857, in Springfield, Ill., his final resting place eight years later, Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech in reply to Stephen Douglas, who two weeks earlier had defended the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision. Lincoln spoke plainly, as usual, not indulging in safe generalities:
That decision declares two propositions – first, that a negro cannot sue in the U.S. Courts; and secondly, that Congress cannot prohibit slavery in the Territories. It was made by a divided court – dividing differently on the different points. Judge Douglas does not discuss the merits of the decision; and, in that respect, I shall follow his example...
Lincoln defers to the Constitution itself, as he often would as president, and even feigns compromise, for rhetorical effect, with Douglas:
We believe, as much as Judge Douglas, (perhaps more) in obedience to, and respect for the judicial department of government. We think its decisions on Constitutional questions, when fully settled, should control, not only the particular cases decided, but the general policy of the country, subject to be disturbed only by amendment of the Constitution as provided in that instrument itself. More than this would be revolution.
As always, Lincoln defends the Union. Secession, four years away, is still unthinkable – “revolution.” Preliminaries out of the way, Lincoln gets down to business:
But we think the Dred Scott decision is erroneous. We know the court that made it, has often over-ruled its own decisions, and we shall do what we can to have it to over-rule this. We offer no resistance to it. (emphasis added)
Patrick Kurp, "Read Through a Gold Eagle," Anecdotal Evidence, June 26, 2022.

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