Page:Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1892).djvu/667

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ADDRESS AT LINCOLN HALL.

Its judges live, and ought to live, an eagle's flight beyond the reach of fear or favor, praise or blame, profit or loss. No vulgar prejudice should touch the members of that court anywhere. Their decisions should come down to us like the calm, clear light of infinite justice. We should be able to think of them and to speak of them with profoundest respect for their wisdom and deepest reverence for their virtue; for what his Holiness the Pope is to the Roman Catholic Church, the Supreme Court is to the American state. Its members are men, to be sure, and may not, like the Pope, claim infallibility, and they are not infallible, but they are the supreme law-giving power of the nation, and their decisions are law until changed by that court.

What will be said here to-night will be spoken, I trust, more in sorrow than in anger; more in a tone of regret than in bitterness and reproach, and more to promote sound views than to find bad motives for unsound views.

We cannot, however, overlook the fact that though not so intended, this decision has inflicted a heavy calamity upon seven millions of the people of this country, and left them naked and defenseless against the action of a malignant, vulgar and pitiless prejudice from which the Constitution plainly intended to shield them.

It presents the United States before the world as nation utterly destitute of power to protect the constitutional rights of its own citizens upon its own soil. It can claim service and allegiance, loyalty and life from them, but it cannot protect them against the most palpable violation of the rights of human nature; rights to secure which governments are established. It can tax their bread and tax their blood, but it has no protecting power for their persons. Its national power