New York Herald, “Practical Effect of the Dred Scott Judgment,” March 11, 1857

    Source citation
    "Practical Effect of the Dred Scott Judgment," New York Herald, March 11, 1857, p. 4: 3-4.
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    New York Herald
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    Practical Effect of the Dred Scott Judgment
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    Zak Rosenberg, Dickinson College
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    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

    PRACTICAL EFFECT OF THE DRED SCOTT JUDGMENT.-The effect produced by the judgment of the United States Supreme Court in the famous Dred Scott case is only just beginning to be felt and appreciated in the Northern States. The great points decided by the Chief Justice and the majority of the court may as well be recapitulated. First, it is decided that negroes are not citizens of the United States. Secondly, the Missouri compromise is pronounced unconstitutional. Thirdly, it is settled that a slave is not made free by being taken to a free State and maintained there by his master.

    One of the first consequences of this most important decision is that it will become necessary to amend all those State constitutions which assume that persons of color can become citizens of the United States. Our own constitution for instance makes allusion to "men of color...these years citizens of this State," and so on; and very many others, if not all, contain like provisions. In this State, a movement is on foot to abolish the property qualification at present essential to confer rights of citizenship on negroes: the other day, a resolution that it was expedient to do so passed the State Senate by a vote of 21 to 5: all this must now be stopped. As it is, negroes possessing a freehold worth $250 can vote' were the clause in the constitution referring to the subject expunged, as the friends of the negro desire, the suffrage would be confined to "citizens," among whom negroes are not to be classed, according to the Dred Scott case. In some States, negroes enjoy the right of suffrage without property qualifications; as for instance in Rhode Island, where no distinction is drawn between free and colored men. But as the constitution of Rhode Island expressly restricts the right of voting to United States citizens, the decision in the Supreme Court actually disfranchises a number of persons who have voted in Rhode Island for years. A bill is to be introduced in the General Assembly to relieve them.

    Altogether the sensation produced is great, and must increase. Had the partisans of anti-slavery principles hired the United States Supreme Court to give them help and comfort, they could not have been more faithfully, more dexteriously or more opportunely served. No sooner does the fire threaten to go out for want of fuel than this Supreme Court appears, and loads the embers with dry combustible material. The Kansas election in June and Convention in September, with the possibility of a violent collision between the anti-slavery majority and the pro-slavery majority, with a Legislature and Governor at swords points, with a condition of morals and manners in the Territory favorable to every ebullition of passion-this is the second act of the drama. Where will the third find us?

    The Lemmon case, we hear, will still be brought before the Supreme Court, and confident hopes are entertained by parties interested that the judgment of the Court below will be reversed. No less could be expected from the expression of legal opinion given by Chief Justice Taney in the Dred Scott case. Should they both be decided in favor of the Southern claimants, the principle will be settled that Southern men, removing to the North, without an intention to settle, merely sojourning, as it were, (which may imply a residence of twenty-five years) among us, may bring their slaves with tem, and exercise the authority of a master over them. This new feature in the slavery dispute would be likely to create some attention.

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