Do you promise to uphold our pact with hell?

The Senate will confirm a chief justice of the federal Supreme Court today; I was struck by how narrowly focused the questioning was and how trivial the traps appeared by Civil War era standards.

They didn’t hold confirmation hearings then, but can you imagine our modern political intelligentsia coping with figures from that time? Try this on for a "gotcha."

Senator: Mr. Chase, welcome to these hearings for chief justice of the Supreme Court. You are a friend of William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips.

Chase: That is correct, Senator.

Senator: Do you now or have you ever agreed with them that the Constitution of the United States is a "pact with hell?"

Chase: I don’t believe I have ever used the term "pact with hell" myself, although it did come up in meetings in which I was present.

Senator: Meetings with Mr. Lincoln?

Chase: Meetings in which Mr. Lincoln might have been present, although I don’t recall him using that phrase directly. You know how often he emphasized the supremacy of the Declaration over the Constitution and I tended to agreed with him.

Senator: Mr. Chase, will you be able to uphold this "pact with hell" if confirmed to the Court?

Talk about a broad spectrum of political philosopy in society today? I think not. There is no political party or mainstream movement that today considers the Constitution "a pact with hell."

(The possibility that our Constitution may still be such a thing remains a reasonable philosophical question, however, as you can read here.)

There is an odd thing about the ever-narrowing spectrum of opinion in this country. Socially and politically we have all become Abolitionists and Radicals, just as we have all become 1860 Democrats in our Constitutional and judicial outlooks.

There's an outcome for you.