Abraham Lincoln (18091865). Political Debates Between Lincoln and Douglas 1897.
property means the controlling of it for the benefit of the owner of it. While I have no doubt the Supreme Court of the United States would say God speed to any of the Territorial Legislatures that should thus control slave property, they would sing quite a different tune if, by the pretense of controlling it, they were to undertake to pass laws which virtually excluded it,and that upon a very well known principle to all lawyers, that what a Legislature cannot directly do, it cannot do by indirection; that as the Legislature has not the power to drive slaves out, they have no power, by indirection, by tax, or by imposing burdens in any way on that property, to effect the same end, and that any attempt to do so would be held by the Dred Scott court unconstitutional.
Douglas is not willing to stand by his first proposition that they can exclude it, because we have seen that that proposition amounts to nothing more or less than the naked absurdity that you may lawfully drive out that which has a lawful right to remain. He admitted at first that the slave might be lawfully taken into the Territories under the Constitution of the United States, and yet asserted that he might be lawfully driven out. That being the proposition, it is the absurdity I have stated. He is not willing to stand in the face of that direct, naked, and impudent absurdity; he has, therefore, modified his language into that of being controlled as other property.
The Kentuckians dont like this in Douglas! I will tell you where it will go. He now swears by the court. He was once a leading man in Illinois to break down a court, because it had made a decision he did not like. But he now not only swears by the court, the courts having got to working for you, but he denounces all men that do not swear by the courts, as unpatriotic, as bad citizens. When one of these acts of unfriendly legislation shall impose such heavy burdens as to, in effect, destroy property in slaves in a Territory, and show plainly enough that there can be no mistake in the purpose of the Legislature to make them so burdensome, this same Supreme Court will decide that law to be unconstitutional, and he will be ready to say for your benefit, I swear by the court; I give it up; and while that is going on he has been getting all his men to swear by the courts,