While this story may not fall into the realm of Ancient American history, it is a big and relavent piece of history. The issue of slavery became a major issue leading up to the Civil War.There was a power struggle boiling between the states and National Government. Slaves were used throughout the United States with almost no remorse. Dred Scott was an African American who had been a slave and was trying to sue for his freedom and that of his family. Scott was a slave under the Blow family in the state of Virginia. His owners relocated into Alabama where he was sold to a military doctor. At the time, there were no laws that stated if a slave entered into a free state then they would be emancipated.This became a heavily heated argument and was the subject of many conversations. The people argued that Scott had previously been a slave in a “free” state.
After fighting and being defeated in his first case in 1847, Scott used a lawyer and the case went to a local federal court. 11 years afterwards the case finally reached The Supreme Court. One of the questions raised was if a black person could actually sue in the federal court. This initiated more problems for the government who questioned the state’s rights to transport slaves.
Roger B. Taney was the Chief Justice of the United States who contended that slaves were not able to be citizens. The republicans and President Abraham Lincoln alleged that Taney was ultimately trying to reverse the Kansas-Nebraska Act which outlawed slavery above the 36 º30’ latitude in the Louisianan territories. Even though this gave the states the rights to decide on the issue of slavery, these arguments started a nationwide dispute about which states had the right to have slaves. The Northern states were given the right to nullify slavery. The Southern States were more concerned with stretching slavery into the newer territories.
The people in the North and in the South both wanted to know if Dred Scott were to be freed from slavery. So much depended on this ruling. The Court first ruled that congress could not outlaw slavery, which was an effort to preserve the balance of power in Congress between slave and free states.Taney argued that Scott could not be a free man or citizen of the United States.Scott, being a very determined man got himself a lawyer and appealed the case. News of this case started to spread throughout the States. Dred Scott lost the case and afterwards was bought back by his original owners. He was set free by them in 1857 and died a year later.
As the United States tried to keep a balance, anti-slavery organizations started forming. The Blacks had a prominent speaker on their side by the name of Fredrick Douglas. He would later influence the Nation speaking on behalf of Dred Scott that slavery was unethical. This would enrage Taney who did not want the North to have control of the Southern States. The decision of the case in the Supreme Court had many effects that were the main reasons why the Civil War Began. Jurisdiction of power became the focal point in the case as the court argued that Scott should have sued for his freedom while he was in a free state. The south argued they could take their slaves into northern territories. With James Buchanan as President, the right to be a free black man became Lincoln’s main dilemma left to clean up. These issues created debates argued by Lincoln and Douglas whom were completely against the issues of slavery. One consequence that was an outcome of the decision was The Panic of 1857, which further divided the states.
With many of the states divided over the issue of slavery, and the North in fear of a slavery expansion in the newer states, the Southern states began to secede. The South was worried about the threat of the Republican Party. This marked the start of the Civil War. The outcome of this case eventually led to the adoption of the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments. These amendments were created in 1865 and 1868, and made everyone citizens despite race or previous conditions. This was a major and epic reconstruction of our Constitution. This decision did not only lead to the creation of new amendments, but also eventually started the movement to free slaves under the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln. The Northern States could no longer look away and try to keep slavery a little secret. This case raised many questions and concerns involving the powers between state and federal Governments and overall issue of slavery.
This case has influenced and shaped our Constitution in so many ways. If Dred Scott had not been so persistent and dedicated to the freedoms of his family we might not have been divided and the Civil War might not have ever happened. If this case had never reached the Supreme Court, then the Northern States would have never united with the abolitionists. We could very well be different socially, economically, and possibly not be one of the Super Powers that we are today. Our state shapes and territories would most likely be different. We could possibly have been united with other different countries, making our way of life altered. Not only did it rewrite our laws it inspired many to act on Scott’s behalf. By losing his case it basically started a landslide and woke up The United States to view slavery as immoral, unethical, and unjust.
Many others have been inspired and motivated to stand up for what they believe in. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks fought for civil rights and segregation. It is almost hard to imagine that 60 years ago there was segregation in our schools. Even today we can see the impressions of this Supreme Court Case from having our first Black President. Many wonder how slavery could have ever existed. To many of our founding fathers it was simply a way of life. They viewed slaves as property. A slave could be bought or sold for about 300 dollars; (roughly 2000 dollars today). This issue was unfortunately overlooked for too long while the South gained its power.
Today it would be hard to imagine this country with slaves. Our Nation would most likely be in chaos. This one decision in our Supreme Court was the reason that led to the Emancipation Proclamation that abolished slavery. We should all be thankful this case caught attention. There are still small tensions in some the Southern states today formed from the history of slavery. If the Confederate States might have won the Civil War it would have definitively changed the course of how our Government operates. This could have incited more racial hate groups and a significant border between our country. Cultural differences would create aggression between states and our Constitution would read completely the opposite. I feel that this decision has brought upon the most monumental changes in our Constitution and our Nation reflects it, or perhaps it used to. Now the government seeks to divide and conquer, by exploiting the minorities through using the unbelievable ,misanthropic farce, who are really the paid off and corrupted media.
Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854)
Retrieved from http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=28
The Missouri Compromise American Memory Historical Collections
Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/Missouri.html
Karen O’Conner & Larry J. Saboto (2009)
Retrieved from American Government ROOTS AND REFORM
Dred Scott case : The Supreme Court decision
Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2933.html