LINCOLN, Abraham, President. Autograph letter signed ("A. Lincoln") to B.C[larke] Lundy, Springfield, 20 July 1857. 1 full page, 4to, several tiny holes at folds, just catching parts of one or two letters, otherwise in good condition.
LINCOLN ARRANGES THE PUBLICATION OF HIS ATTACK ON THE DRED SCOTT DECISION
A letter regarding the publication and distribution of Lincoln's key address of 26 June 1857, constituting his first public reaction to news of the Supreme Court's momentous decision in Dred Scott vs. Sandford, soon to become the primary issue in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates and of the "House Divided" address (16 June 1858). The Dred Scott ruling "was clearly a shock to Lincoln, and he saw it as an important landmark in America's decline from the political principles of the founding fathers" (Neely). Here, just after the address in Springfield, Lincoln writes: "Senator Trumbull's speech and my own have both been published in pamphlet form, at the Illinois Journal office, but the copies printed off have been exhausted." Apparently, Lundy had inquired about obtaining a copy and Lincoln assures him that "They will have a new supply printed, by the time this reaches you...Their price is a dollar per hundred" for the publication, which is "much larger and better print than it was in the Journal paper." Lincoln suggests that Lundy "Send directly to the Journal for the number of each you want, directing them how, and where to send them." Responding to a suggestion regarding a political tactic, he adds: "What you say about our party the [Republicans] doing something this year is perfectly right," and suggests that he correspond with Illinois politican (and Lincoln's future state campaign manager) Norman B. Judd, of Chicago, "telling him I suggested it to you. I believe you are in the Peoria Senatorial District. Outside of it, up your way, does not need much." He concludes mysteriously: "I have another matter in contemplation, which I will not mention now, but concerning which, I may write you in a month or so."
The March 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford ruling held that Scott, a black and a slave under the laws of Missouri, had no constitutional right to sue in Federal court to obtain his freedom. But the case and the opinions embodied a number of explosive issues growing out of slavery and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which had repealed the prohibition of slavery from the northern part of the Louisiana purchase territories. The ruling, particularly Roger B. Taney's opinion, further stipulated that Congress did not have the Constitutional power to prohibit slavery in any of the territories, an enormous setback to the anti-slavery forces. The case provoked a storm of controversy which did much to heighten sectional tensions and helped precipitate the Civil War. In his 26 June address, replying to one of Douglas two weeks prior, Lincoln sided with the two dissenting justices, McLean and Curtis. He expressed respect for the judicial system, but posited that full settlement of a question rested not only in the Court, but also on the "public confidence," objected that the decision could not be decisive, and attacked Douglas' claim that the decision represented an authoritative settlement of the issue. He also took issue with Taney's assertion that the founders had not intended blacks to be included in the provisions of either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, citing Curtis's finding that free blacks were voters in five states in 1787; rights which had subsequently been revoked or abridged in several states.
Lincoln's next public address regarding the Dred Scott case came in his well-known "House Divided" speech of 16 June, 1858. Lyman Trumbull (1813-1896), a fellow moderate Republican, who shared the Springfield platform with Lincoln on 26 June, also shared Lincoln's opinion that the ruling was not an absolute political doctrine. In 1858, the Senator joined forces to oppose Douglas' senatorial campaign, and in 1864, as chairman of the judiciary committee, he introduced a resolution which became the foundation for the thirteenth Amendment.
The letter is published in Collected Works, ed. R.P. Basler, 2:412; the 26 June 1858 address at 2:398-410.