Democratic Reaction

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Democrats, unwilling to let these Republican proclamations go unchallenged, mounted a strong defense of their own, especially in response to the conspiracy charges. Senator Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana refuted Senator Fessenden's argument in a speech to President Buchanan:

Senator [Fessenden] . . . says the Constitution does not recognize slaves as property, nor protect them as property, and his reasoning, a little further on, is somewhat curious . . . . Nothing but my respect for the logical intellect of the Senator from Maine [Fessenden] could make me treat this argument as serious, and nothing but having heard it myself would make me believe that he ever uttered it. [30]

As for Senator Seward's cries of conspiracy, Senator Benjamin simply asked to see the facts that proved these charges:

This man [Taney] has been charged by the Senator from New York [Mr. Seward] with a corrupt coalition with the Chief Magistrate of the Union. He charges in fact . . . that the Supreme Magistrate of the land and the judges of our highest court, and the parties to the Dred Scott case, got up a mock trial; that they were all in common collusion to cheat the country . . . . What are the facts? Men should be a little careful in making such accusations as these; unless, indeed they care not whether they be true or false . . . . [31]

Democrats also sought to depict Republicans as anti-Constitutional because they refused to completely submit to the decision of the Supreme Court, even though the Court's decision, according to the Democrats, had been entirely within their jurisdiction as defined in the Constitution. Stephen Douglas especially used this technique to vilify Abraham Lincoln during their debates in Illinois in 1858:

Mr. Lincoln goes for a warfare upon the Supreme Court of the United States, because of their judicial decision in the Dred Scott case. I yield obedience to the decisions in that court--to the final determination of the highest judicial tribunal known to our constitution.

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