Schuyler Colfax to Abraham Lincoln, August 25, 1858

    Source citation
    Schuyler Colfax to Abraham Lincoln, August 25, 1858, Oxford, IN, Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress,
    Date Certainty
    Transcribed by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College, Galesburg, IL
    Adapted by Ben Lyman, Dickinson College
    The following transcript has been adapted from the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.

    Oxford Ind, Aug 25, 1858.

    My dear sir,

    I have been absent from my home at South Bend nearly a month canvassing my District & speaking every day; but have not been an inattentive spectator of the great contest in your State. Every where's the deepest interest is felt in it; & having just read in the Ch. Press & Tribune, the report of your encounter with Douglas at Ottawa, in which you so signally triumphed, pardon me for dropping a suggestion or two.

    1. In regard to the Dred Scott decision, on which you & Douglas have an issue, I find a quotation from Jackson's Veto Message July 10. 1832, in a speech made Mch 31. 1858 by Hon S P. Walton of Vr, which seems very apropos. It is as follows;

    "The opinion of the Judges has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress has over the Judges; & on that point the President is independent of both. The authority of the Supreme Court must not therefore be permitted to control Congress or the Executive, when acting in their legislative capacities, but to have only such influence as the force of their reasoning may deserve."

    As this is a clincher, it might be well to verify it by comparison with the message itself, which I believe can be found in E. Walker's "Statesman's Manual," a work which Editors obtained a few years ago for advertising it.

    In the Convention which framed the National Constitution, Mr. Madison said (5 Elliots Debates 337) "If it be a fundamental principle of free government that the legislative, executive & judicial powers should be separately exercised, it is equally so that they be independently exercised."

    2. Mr. Walton states the new Democratic creed a la Dred Scott, very pointedly as follows;

    Slavery is to go there; Congress cannot prevent.

    Slavery is to stay there until State organization, neither Congress nor the people can prevent.

    Slavery cannot be excluded, even by the State organization (see Buchanan's message) without compensation.

    3. One point which I find tells in all my speeches is, that our whole History proves that Slavery goes wherever it is not prohibited. There were 13 states at the outset; 32 now. Not one of the whole 19 of New States has come in as a Free State, except where Slavery has been expressly prohibited by local or territorial laws. California, which is the only State which has come in Free, & which was not protected by Congressional prohibition, had the Mexican anti slavery law to protect her.

    Pardon me for these volunteered suggestions, prompted by deep interest in your success; & believe me, in haste

    Yours very truly

    Schuyler Colfax

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