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Secession Era Editorials Project

Furman University Department of History

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The Question Settled. -- Black Republicanism vs. the Constitution.

Concord, New Hampshire, New Hampshire Patriot [Democratic]

(18 March 1857)

We give in this paper an abstract of the decision of the U S. Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case, in which it is solemnly adjudged and decided, by the highest judicial tribunal of the Union, that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional, and that Congress has no constitutional power or authority to legislate upon the subject of slavery in the Territories. It will be seen that other incidental questions were decided in this case, but this is the one of the most political importance, and interest. It utterly demolishes the whole black republican platform and stamps it as directly antagonistical to the constitution. This is the end of the matter, so far as argument and voting and legislation are concerned. The constitution is the supreme law; the Supreme Court is the authorized interpreter of the constitution; the construction which that tribunal puts upon that instrument is, for all practical purposes, the constitution itself, and therefore their decision must be fully and freely acquiesced in by all good citizens. That decision is now the supreme law of the land; it is practically the constitution itself, being the meaning and intent of that instrument as officially interpreted and declared by the tribunal authorized to interpret it, and from whose decision there is no appeal. Resistance to that decision is, therefore, resistance to the constitution -- to the government -- to the Union itself. It cannot be made legally , rightfully, peacefully, or with the least chance or hope of success. That decision must be carried into effect -- that interpretation must be acquiesced in and acted upon, or else it must be resisted by force. There is no other alternative. It is the law, the constitution, and will be respected and acted upon by the constituted authorities, no matter to what party they belong nor what their private views may be in regard to it. It cannot be evaded; if Congress and the President should undertake to resist it, the effort would be futile. In a word, we repeat, nothing but force, open rebellion, can successfully oppose the practical application and enforcement of the decision of the court in this case.

But what is the course and talk of the black republican organs upon this subject? Why, one would suppose, from their talk, that the decision of the highest judicial tribunal of the Union is of no binding force! The N Y. Tribune even declares that their decision in this case is entitled to "no more weight than would be the judgment of a majority in a Washington bar-room," and other black papers declare the judges to be "scoundrels," and Benedict Arnolds, and the black press and pulpit unite in reviling the court and denouncing their decision!

Now this only goes prove, what we have heretofore alleged, that the black republican creed and purposes are at war with the constitution, are treasonable, and contemplate the overthrow of the Union. It only goes to show that their leaders stand precisely upon Garrison's platform, and that the road to the attainment of their objects lies over the ruins of the constitution and the Union. There is no escape from this; they preach resistance to law, to the supreme law -- resistance to what is authoritatively adjudged to be the constitution. Such resistance, if carried into practical effect, would be treason; and all who preach it, preach treason, and all who seek to make a practical thing of it, seek to overthrow the constitution. This is the sum and substance of the matter; and all patriotic citizens -- all who have a regard for the continued existence, peace and prosperity of the country, will [illegible] constitution, and to the government which is bound to respect and enforce it.

This decision effects a legal and constitutional settlement of the sectional issue which has so long agitated the country and endangered the very existence of the government. Of course, no one expects it will stop the mouths or check the efforts of the professional agitators; for, as Daniel Webster well and truly said in his Buffalo speech in 1851, "their livelihood consists in agitating; their freehold, their copyhold, their capital, their all in all, depend on the excitement of the public mind." These men will agitate still; the noise and rant and howl of interested fanaticism will still resound. But it will be without substantial foundation, without plausible object, and with the palpable certainty that no good can come from it, but that it is an agitation and a warfare against the constitution itself. With this fact before the eyes of all men, such agitation must be up-hill work, however industriously it may be prosecuted.

The Washington Union, in view of this decision, well and truly says that "the Democratic party is now enjoying the greatest triumph -- not merely that they have elected their candidates and secured four more years of party ascendency in the executive branch of the government, but that their victory has been won on the most momentous issue that ever divided the public mind, and that political triumph has been confirmed and endorsed by the highest judicial tribunal known to the constitution.

If the sectional question be not now settled, then we may despair of the republic. We believe it is settled, and that henceforth sectionalism will cease to be a dangerous element in our political contests. No issue was ever more directly and squarely made than that on which Mr. Buchanan was elected. The result was an unmistakable popular judgment against sectionalism, and in favor of a broad, conservative, constitutional nationalism. The questions involved in the canvass could not have been more fairly and directly made and maintained, and if the success of the democratic nominees did not settle those questions as fully as a popular decision could settle any question, then it is idle to rely on popular elections as tests of political principles.

There was but one thing needed to give to the result in the Presidential contest the force of an absolute and final settlement of the sectional issue. That thing was the judgment of the Supreme Court in confirmation of the Democratic doctrines which had received the popular endorsement. The decision in the Dred Scott case has furnished the closing and clinching confirmation needed, and henceforth sectional fanaticism cannot maintain its warfare without arraying itself distinctly against the constitution. The people have decided that sectional agitation must cease, and the highest judicial authority has declared that the people have decided in accordance with the constitution.

Whoever now seeks to revive sectionalism, arrays himself against the constitution, and consequently, against the Union. Of course, it is to be expected that fanaticism will rave and clamor against the decision of the Supreme Court. But fanaticism ceases to be a formidable enemy when it seeks to measure strength with the Union-loving spirit of the people, sustained and confirmed by the great arbiter of constitutional questions. Fanaticism becomes powerless against such a combination, and hence we may smile at the madness with which the organs of black republicanism assail the late decision of the Supreme Court. It is the last dying fit of fanatical sectionalism. It will have the effect of fixing public attention upon the reckless wickedness which has heretofore impelled the sectional agitators to force the republic to the very verge of disruption.

We feel, therefore, that the danger is for the present over; that sectionalism is virtually dead -- that it has been crushed out by the popular verdict in the presidential election; and that the decision of the Supreme Court had left nothing vital in republicanism, and has placed the Democratic party beyond and above all competition as the constitutional, national, Union party of the country. Mr. Buchanan takes the helm under these auspicious circumstances, and his acts thus far give token of a successful and prosperous administration.

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