The Supreme Court and Slavery- the Duty Before Us

    Source citation
    “The Supreme Court and Slavery- the Duty Before Us,” National Era 11, no. 532, Washington D.C., 12 March 1857, p. 42.
    Newspaper: Publication
    Washington (DC) National Era
    Newspaper: Headline
    The Supreme Court and Slavery- the Duty Before Us
    Newspaper: Page(s)
    Leah Suhrstedt
    Transcription date
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print.  Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.


    We have taken great pains to put our readers in possession of the views of the Supreme Court of the United States on the questions concerning Slavery, which have agitated the country so long. Although the opinions delivered ought not to be received as decisions, still they show clearly what would be the action of the majority of the Court, were these questions before it properly for its adjudication.

    Those conservative people of the free States who have hitherto reposed their trust in the impartiality of the Court, and its supposed exemption from political bias, will feel their confidence rudely shaken. They will now perhaps acknowledge that the men who pointed to the sectional character of the Bench, and more than insinuated that it was the bulwark of Slavery, were not so uncharitable as they thought. When they learn that Chief Justice Taney and a majority of the Court concur in opinion on all the questions relating to Slavery, with the Disunion and Fillibustering School of Pro-Slavery men- with Messrs. Calhoun, Atchison, Wise, Mason, Quitman, and Davis- that they ignore or controvery the doctrines entertained by Jefferson, Madison, Clay, and Webster, by the framers of the Federal Constitution, and hitherto by a majority of the most distinguished jurists of the slaveholding States- that they sanction a policy which is a gross innovation of that initiated by the Congress of the Confederation, expanded by the first Congress under the Constitution, and carried out to a greater or less extent by the action of the Federal Government, down to the organization of Oregon as a Territory in 1848, they will be apt to feel both indignant and alarmed. They will soon have an opportunity to read the opinions of the Court in detail. Meantime we call their attention to the abstract we present in the following article. They will there find that Chief Justice Taney and a majority of the Court hold that the Constitution recognises slaves as property; that such property differs in no respect from any other property; that the slaveholder may carry his slaves into any Territory of the United States- Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota- hold them there, use them there as property; that there is no power in the Territorial Government, and none in the Congress, to interfere with his rights; but that, holding and using his human chattels there under the guaranties of the Federal Constitution, it is the duty of the Courts of the United States to protect and enforce his rights, should any obstruction be attempted to their exercise; that the Wilmot Proviso is unconstitutional, but not more so than what is called Squatter Sovereignty, or the right of the People to govern themselves; that the policy of General Cass and the Northern Democratic Party, is just as repugnant to the Constitution as that of Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic followers!

    Remember, in this connection, that Mr. Buchanan, our new President, by his Inaugural, stands committed in advance to these opinions of the Court.

    What is to be done? It is useless to rail and denounce; the crisis calls for action. The Slaveholding Oligarchy have the Administration, the majority in the Senate and in the House, and the Supreme Court. What is left to the People? The Ballot Box! If they would prevent the theory of this Oligarchy- that Slavery is the fundamental law of this Union- from becoming a fact, they must lay aside all differences of opinion on other questions, and rally, as one man, at the ballot box, for the overthrow of the Oligarchy and its allies in the free States. They must make their fifty-four man majority in the house a majority for Freedom- their four majority in the Senate a majority for Freedom. They must by strict attention to the municipal and local elections secure ascendancy in every free State, preparatory to national ascendancy at Washington in 1860. This they can do; this they must do, or make up their minds to be the political slaves of the slaveholders, and to see this American Union dedicated to the spread and support of Slaveholding Institutions, as its great mission.

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