Slavery in the Territories- Important Decision of the Supreme Court.
The most important decision ever made by the Supreme Court of the United States was pronounced yesterday,- and a summary of its leading points will be found among our telegraphic dispatches. That supreme tribunal of the land decides that the Ordinance of 1787- so far as it prohibited Slavery from the Northwest Territory, was unconstitutional:- that the Missouri Compromise, so far as it excluded Slavery from the Louisiana Territory north of the 36º 30’, was unconstitutional;- that Congress had no power to prohibit Slavery from any portion of the Federal territory, nor to authorize the inhabitants thereof to do so;- that negroes are not citizens of the United States;- and that the residence of a slave in a free State does not affect his legal condition upon his return to a State where Slavery is allowed by law.
Thus at one blow all the legislation of the country, from the formation of the Constitution to the present day, against the extension of Slavery, is swept away;- and the Supreme Court decides that the Constitution ex proprie vigore carries Slavery into every portion of the federal territory, or what amounts to the same thing, authorizes the Slaveholder to carry it thither, in spite of Congress or the will of its inhabitants. The power of Congress over the subject, and the modern doctrine of Popular Sovereignty in the Territories, are alike repudiated and annulled. It is not in the power, either of the Federal Government or of the Federal Territories, to exclude Slavery therefrom.
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this decision. It gives the sanction of constitutional law to the practical revolution which for some years past has been going on in the policy of the Government upon this subject, and engrafts upon the theory of the Republic the doctrines upon which, Mr. CALHOUN labored in vain, during the last years of his life, to rally even the people of the Southern States. But one more decision is needed to make Slavery the actual law of the whole Republic, and render its prohibition in any of the States null and void;- and this we shall probably have when the Lemmon case reaches the same tribunal which has just reversed the whole policy of the Government in regard to slavery.
No popular revolution will follow this decision, startling as it will be to the opinions and principles of three-fourths of the people of the United States. It will be accepted as the authoritative exposition of the Constitution, and regarded by all departments of the Government and by the people as the law of the land. No issue will probably ever be made upon it before the people,- for the practical settlement of the question will anticipate any political result that might be reached. But it will profoundly affect the public mind in regard to the general question of Slavery, and will change the issues which must inevitably come up sooner or later in reference to it. That it will render them less absorbing in their nature, less disturbing in their progress or more safe and peaceful in their results, no one who knows anything of the temper of the American people can for a moment believe.