— George William Curtis American writer 1824 - 1892
Context: This negative doctrine of Mr. Douglas that there are no rights anterior to governments is the end of free society. If the majority of a political community have a right to establish slavery if they think it for their interest, they have the same right to declare who shall be enslaved. The doctrine simply substitutes the despotic, irresponsible tyranny of many for that of one. If the majority shall choose that the interest of the State requires the slaughter of all infants born lame, of all persons more than seventy years of age, they have the right to slaughter them, according to what is called the Democratic doctrine. Do you think this a ludicrous and extreme case? But if the majority have a right to deprive a man of his liberty at their pleasure, they have an equal right to take his life. For life is no more a natural right than liberty. The individual citizen, according to Mr. Douglas, is not secure in his person, in his property, in his family, for a single moment from the whim or the passion or the deliberate will of the majority, if expressed as law. Might is not right. I have the power to hold a child by the throat until he turns purple and dies. But I have not the right to do it. A State or a Territory has the power to steal a man's liberty or labor, and to hold him and his children's children forever in slavery. It has the power to do this to any man of any color, of any age, of any country, who is not strong enough to protect himself. But it has no more right to do it to an African than to an American or an Irishman, no more right to do it to the most ignorant and forsaken foreigner than to the prosperous and honored citizen of its own country. We are going to do what Patrick Henry did in Virginia, what James Otis and Samuel Adams did in Massachusetts, what the Sons of Liberty did in New York, ninety years ago. We are going to agitate, agitate, agitate. You say you want to rest. Very well, so do we — and don't blame us if you stuff your pillow with thorns. You say you are tired of the eternal Negro. Very well, stop trying to turn a man into a thing because he happens to be black, and you'll stop our mouths at the same time. But while you keep at your work, be perfectly sure that we shall keep at ours. If you are up at five o'clock, we shall be up at four. We shall agitate, agitate, agitate, until the Supreme Court, obeying the popular will, proclaims that all men have original equal rights which government did not give and cannot justly take away.