Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 2.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Fragment on the Dred Scott Case [1]

[January, 1857?]

What would be the effect of this, if it should ever be the creed of a dominant party in the nation? Let us analyse, and consider it.

It affirms that, whatever the Supreme Court may decide as to the constitutional restriction on the power of a teritorial Legislature, in regard to slavery in the teritory, must be obeyed, and enforced by all the departments of the federal government.

Now, if this is sound, as to this particular constitutional question, it is equally sound of all constitutional questions; so that the proposition substantially, is ``Whatever decision the Supreme court makes on any constitutional question, must be obeyed, and enforced by all the departments of the federal government.''

Page  388Again, it is not the full scope of this creed, that if the Supreme court, having the particular question before them, shall decide that Dred Scott is a slave, the executive department must enforce the decision against Dred Scott. If this were it's full scope, it is presumed, no one would controvert it's correctness. But in this narrow scope, there is no room for the Legislative department to enforce the decision; while the creed affirms that all the departments must enforce it. The creed, then, has a broader scope; and what is it? It is this; that so soon as the Supreme court decides that Dred Scott is a slave, the whole community must decide that not only Dred Scott, but that all persons in like condition, are rightfully slaves

Annotation

[1]   AD, DLC-RTL. This two-page document has been given the date [1856?] in the Lincoln Papers, probably by Nicolay and Hay. The content indicates that composition antedated the Dred Scott decision, and also that Lincoln was exploring the position taken by Douglas and his followers at the time when the Supreme Court was known to be actively considering the case---December, 1856-March, 1857.