Dred Scott, John McLean, and David Letterman
My Country – Dred Scott
On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court delivered one of its most debunked and despicable opinion. The Court denied Dred Scott his freedom.
Who was Dred Scott?
In 1846, Dred Scott asked the courts for his fredom. Basing his claim on the Missouri Compromise, Scott argued he became free when he entered the state of Illinois, where slavery was barred. Even when he returned to Missouri, by crossing the state line, he believed he was still free. Owned by an army officer, Scott moved frequently. Dred Scott married and have two children, who were born outside of Missouri. After his owner died, Scott asked to buy his freedom. But the widow would not allow that. Instead, he decided to take the matter to the courts to earn his rightful freedom. Unfortunately, the case went all the way to an incredibly racist and hateful Supreme Court.
The Dred Scott Decision
Chief Justice Roger Taney held that Congress had no ability to banish slavery from any of the states or territories. In his opinion, Taney asked,
[C]an a negro whose ancestors were imported into this country and sold as slaves become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guarantied by that instrument to the citizen, one of which rights is the privilege of suing in a court of the United States in the cases specified in the Constitution?
He answered the question in a most disgusting way.
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.
In addition, Taney voided the Missouri Compromise as an unconstitutional taking. A state could decide to allow slavery.
But let’s not focus anymore on the worthlessness of Chief Justice Roger Taney.
The Dred Scott Dissent
The dissenters argued that nothing Chief Justice Taney wrote really made sense. He argued that slaves and former slaves could never become citizens. He argued that by not allowing slavery in a state that the federal government was taking property away from citizens. And Justice McLean pointed out that none of that currently was true.
In the argument, it was said that a colored citizen would not be an agreeable member of society. This is more a matter of taste than of law. Several of the States have admitted persons of color to the right of suffrage, and, in this view, have recognised them as citizens, and this has been done in the slave as well as the free States. On the question of citizenship, it must be admitted that we have not been very fastidious. Under the late treaty with Mexico, we have made citizens of all grades, combinations, and colors. The same was done in the admission of Louisiana and Florida. No one ever doubted, and no court ever held that the people of these Territories did not become citizens under the treaty. They have exercised all the rights of citizens, without being naturalized under the acts of Congress.
He noted that states became to erase slavery immediately at the founding of the country, so the concept that the Constitution would not allow a state to decide to not include slavery was factually inaccurate. But none of that mattered as only two justice dissented.
The Dred Scott Decision and Abolitionists
Previouly, Justice Douglas wrote about William Lloyd Garrison. The firey Garrison was no fan of the Dred Scott decision. In an essay titled Dred Scott and Disunion, Garrison called for the practical enforcement of the Declaration of Independence. “Give us Disunion with liberty and a good conscience, rather than Union with slavery and moral degradation.” The Liberator fought against the decision. But it all came to head in only a few years when the Civil War began.
Justice Douglas concluded the entry nothing that the war and two constitutional amendments outlawed the Dred Scott decision. It took the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery and the Fourteenth Amendment to make all persons born or naturalized in the United States citizens.
As we stand tonight, another executive order has banned Muslims from coming into our country. Another Dred Scott-like decision that calls into question the humanity of an entire group of people sits in the halls of our government. How will our children look back at these days and wonder? Will it be like how we look at the suffering of Dred Scott and his family? Will you stand with Justice McLean and William Lloyd Garrison in noting the importance of the Declaration of Independence and the true history of our nation? Or you will be another Taney, a tainted racist man who put his own “taste” into the laws of our nation.
One hundred and sixty years ago, our country made a terrible decision. Today, we made another.
- Another disgusting Muslim ban.
- Based on the change in administrations, the Supreme Court had to kick the transgender case down to the lower courts again. One day, people will realize that the only people hurt in bathrooms are actually the transgendered youth, suffering by the hands of other people.
- In Pena Rodriguez v. Colorado, the Supreme Court held that courts must make an exception to the usual rule that jury deliberations are secret when evidence emerges that those discussions were marred by racial or ethnic bias. A juror said, “I think he did it because he’s Mexican, and Mexican men take whatever they want” before the jury deadlocked. The dissent argued that the jurors deserved privacy. Yeah, that’s what needs to matter in a criminal trial.
- Want to see what regulations do? Read this article about what they will no longer do. Glad the lobbyists are back in the West Wing. Here’s a few examples:
- companies do not need to take reasonable measures to ensure safely holding Social Security numbers.
- banks do not need to save extra money in case of high-risk losses, like say in 2008. So, yay, we will get the privilege to bail them out again!
- hunters can use lead bullets again. Phew.
- All you need to know about the new Republican health care plan. In other words, it’s Obamacare without any ramifications, an end to Medicaid expansion, and a whole bunch of new debt.
- This David Letterman interview is amazing. I was never a nightly watcher, but I respected his career and comedy style.
One Sentence Story
Just take the money.