Skip to comments.On this day (March 6, 1857) - Dred Scott v. Sanford decided
Posted on 03/06/2006 1:46:57 AM PST by Tarkin
Dred Scott was an American slave who was taken first to Illinois, a free state, and then to Minnesota, a free territory, for an extended period of time, and then back to the slave state of Missouri. After his original master died, he sued for his freedom. He initially won his freedom from a Missouri lower court, but the decision was reversed by the Missouri Supreme Court and remanded to the trial court. Simultaneously, Scott had filed suit in federal court, where, after prevailing on the issue of his status as a citizen of Missouri, he lost a trial by jury. Scott appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which used the case to fundamentally change the legal balance of power in favor of slaveholders.
The Court ruled that:
No Negroes, not even free Negroes, could ever become citizens of the United States. They were "beings of an inferior order" not included in the phrase "all men" in the Declaration of Independence nor afforded any rights by the Constitution. The exclusion of slavery from a U.S. territory in the Missouri Compromise was an unconstitutional deprivation of property (Negro slaves) without due process prohibited by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This is the first appearance in American constitutional law of the concept of "substantive due process," as opposed to procedural due process.
Dred Scott was not free, because Missouri law alone applied after he returned there
Dred Scott v. Sanford 60 U.S. 393, 407
In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument.
It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in relation to that unfortunate race, which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted. But the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken.
They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it. This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race. It was regarded as an axiom in morals as well as in politics, which no one thought of disputing, or supposed to be open to dispute; and men in every grade and position in society daily and habitually acted upon it in their private pursuits, as well as in matters of public concern, without doubting for a moment the correctness of this opinion.
(60 U.S. 393, 572-573) At the time of the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, all free native-born inhabitants of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, though descended from African slaves, were not only citizens of those States, but such of them as had the other necessary qualifications possessed the franchise of electors, on equal terms with other citizens.
I could see Shumer now screaming:
Stare decisis, Stare decisis !!! To anyone who would challange this case ... am I wrong?
Of course. If it hadn't been "overruled" by the 13th and 14th Amendment the Democrats would defend it. Remember the Southern Manifesto? The document was largely drawn up to counter Brown v. Board of Education, which de facto overruled Plessy v. Ferguson. It was signed by 77 Members of the House and 19 Senators. Only 2 of them were Republicans.
"There comes vividly to mind a portrait by Emanuel Leutze that hangs in the Harvard Law School: Roger Brooke Taney, painted in 1859, the 82d year of his life, the 24th of his Chief Justiceship, the second after his opinion in Dred Scott. He is all in black, sitting in a shadowed red armchair, left hand resting upon a pad of paper in his lap, right hand hanging limply, almost lifelessly, beside the inner arm of the chair. He sits facing the viewer, and staring straight out. There seems to be on his face, and in his deep set eyes, an expression of profound sadness and disillusionment. Perhaps he always looked that way, even when dwelling upon the happiest of thoughts. But those of us who know how the lustre of his great Chief Justiceship came to be eclipsed by Dred Scott cannot help believing that he had that case--its already apparent consequences for the Court, and its soon to be played out consequences for the Nation--burning on his mind. I expect that two years earlier he, too, had thought himself "call[ing] the contending sides of national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution."
Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992) (SCALIA, J., concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part)
The Democrats at this point still supported their 1850 Fugitive Slave Act which was very unconstitutional but was possible because Democrats controlled the House and the federal courts.
Republicans revenged the Fugative Slave Act in 1872 by passing the very unconstitutional anti-KKK Act. Republicans used the Fugative Slave Act that Democrats adored as precedent for passing the anti-KKK act. Ohhhh did Democrats scream and hollar!! What goes around comes around :-)