On 12 October 1864, Chief Justice Roger Taney, author of the Dred Scott decision, passed away. Abraham Lincoln (finally!) had the opportunity to replace that man. There was never a doubt that Lincoln would nominate a successor. On the other hand, there was no purpose in immediately naming a successor. The Senate was in recess and would not reconvene until after the election.
Following the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, there was some curiosity about Lincoln. Those debates concerned the future of slavery in this country. Senator Stephen Douglas, a Democrat, advanced the doctrine of “popular sovereignty”: that whatever the people of a territory might choose should decide the matter. Lincoln’s position was that the federal government could decide the matter of slavery in the territories; and should do so in order to prevent the spread of slavery. But this position was nuanced. It was only implicitly, it was only indirectly, it was only inevitably an attack on slavery.
As Lincoln put it, a house divided against itself cannot stand. Inevitably, the country would be either free or slave. Indirectly, by preventing the spread of slavery to the territories, the Senate as well as the House would tilt against slavery and doom that “peculiar institution.” Implicitly, slave owners, seeing that theirs was a “lost cause,” would seek a deal to preserve their financial interest in slavery in the ending of slavery, as through compensated emancipation.