upon the public mind sufficiently to give promisethat such a decision can be maintained when made.11 8Lincoln then concluded by linking the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Douglas'smoral indifference to slavery, and Dred Scott into one large conspiracy inwhich "Stephan [Douglas] and Franklin [Pierce] and Roger [Taney] andJames [Buchanan] all understood one another ....and all worked upon acommon plan or draft before the first lick was struck."'19Because of his fear that if he didn't take his case to his constituents andprove the Republicans wrong, the Democrats might not prevail, Douglasreluctantly agreed to a series of seven debates with the obscure Springfieldlawyer who was his opponent.12 And just as Lincoln had devoted morethan 80 per cent of his House Divided speech to criticizing Taney'sdecision,r2 so, too, did the debates focus on that ruling. When oneconsiders all the important economic and social issues the candidatescould have debated' , the fact that the debates centered around thatSupreme Court case is just one more indication of how it had become THEissue of the day. Indeed, the Dred Scott decision pervaded the debates sothoroughly that in one, "a Douglas supporter shouted from the audience toLincoln: 'Give us something besides Dred Scott.' 123 Quick as a cat,116. Abraham Lincoln, A House Divided, Address Before the Republican State Convention(June 6, 1858), in 2 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, at 461-62 (Roy P. Basler et al.eds., 1953), available at .117. Id. at 461-67.118. Id. at 467.119. Id. at 466.120. FEHRENBACHER, supra note 3, at 485-86.121. Id. at486.122. Id.123. Id. at 491.2007]
NORTHERN KENTUCKY LAW REVIEWLincoln responded: 'Yes; no doubt you want to hear something that don'thurt.' 124While both candidates tried to portray the other as an extremist-Lincoln accusing Douglas of supporting the southern plot to nationalizeslavery and Douglass portraying Lincoln as an abolitionist dedicated tonegro equality, 25-it was Douglas' support of Taney's decision that did himin. The key debate took place at Freeport, Illinois on August 27, 1858.As Don E. Fehrenbacher noted, the "growing northern hostility to theslaveholding South, as distinguished from hostility to southern slavery"was seen by Republicans as the key to their success, "thus constituting themain causal connection between the Dred Scott decision and the comingof the Civil War.'2 6 And Lincoln's second question during that debatebecomes "one of those decisive moments on which destiny turns."127On August 27, after responding to a series of questions Douglas hadraised during their first debate, Lincoln asked his opponent fourquestions.128 The second directly related to the Dred Scott decision andthe Republican argument that it was the first step in nationalizingslavery. 29 Lincoln inquired: "Can the people of a United States Territory,in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States,exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formation of a StateConstitution?"'130 Douglas answered assuredly that they could.