The Dred Scott Decision: Judge Taney and Charles Francis Adams on History

    Source citation
    “The Dred Scott Decision: Judge Taney and Charles Francis Adams on History,” Vermont Watchman and State Journal, September 4, 1857,p. 1: 3.
    Date Certainty
    Matt Dudek
    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.


    In the June number of the Law Reporter there is a long and learned Review of the decision of Judge Taney upon the case of Dred Scott, which completely upsets the law and the history of the court.
    There is also an appendix to the article from the pen of Charles Francis Adams, the Hon. Grandson of John Quincy Adams, and who bears living testimony that the Adams family has suffered no deterioration in him. Mr. Adams is the author of the life of John Adams, and for accurate historical knowledge, has not his superior in the land.
    We quote from the appendix to the Reporter, which the reader will bear in mind is from Mr. Adams’s pen:
    “Since that part of the foregoing review which relates to the citizenship of free Negroes was printed, our attention has been directed to the case of the seaman taken out of the American frigate Chesapeake, by the British ship of war, Leopard, in 1807, which was the beginning of the difficulty between the United States and Great Britain. The Committee of the House of Representatives, to whom the subject was referred, reported to the House “that it has been incontestably proven, as the accompanying printed document No. 8 will show, that” three of the men taken (naming them) “are citizens of the United States.” By the document referred to, it appears that two of these three men were colored, one of them the child of a female slave, and who had himself formerly been held as a slave. See report of the Committee, pp. 31-36, 43, 44, 49. President Jefferson in his proclamation interdicting our harbors and waters to British vessels, issued immediately after the outrage, said-“That no circumstance might be wanting to mark its character, it had been previously ascertained that the seamen demanded were natives of the United States,” p. 6. This proclamation was countersigned by Mr. Madison, then Secretary of State.
    Mr. Madison, in his letter to Mr. Munroe, then the minister of the United States, at London, instructing him to demand reparation of the British Government, dwells upon the fact that the men were citizens of the United States; and Mr. Munroe, in his formal demand upon the British Government, said: “I have the honor to transmit you documents which will, I presume, satisfy you that they were American citizens.” Correspondence between Mr. Madison, Mr. Munroe and Mr. Canning on the subject of the attack on the Chesapeake, pp. 6, 10, 27. All the above references are to the public documents printed by order of the House of Representatives, at the first session of the tenth Congress.- It thus appears, not only that three of the first five Presidents of the United State, two of them men who had taken as great a part as any in the framing of our national policy and system of government, spoke of colored men as citizens of the United States; but that the government made the defence of their rights as citizens a cause for putting the nation in a hostile attitude towards a foreign power.
    We may also well allude in this connection to the proclamation issued by Gen. Jackson, dated Mobile, Sept. 21, 1814, addressed “to the free colored inhabitants of Louisiana,” in which he says: “Through a mistaken policy you have heretofore been deprived of a participation in the glorious struggle for national rights, in which our country is engaged. This no longer shall exist. As sons of freemen, you are now called upon to defend our most inestimable blessing. As Americans, your country looks with confidence to her adopted citizens for a valorous support, as a faithful return for the advantages enjoyed under her mild and equitable government. On enrolling yourselves in companies, the Major General commanding will select officers for your government from your white fellow citizens. Your non-commissioned officers will be appointed from among yourselves.’”
    Now these are facts, and they prove conclusively of themselves that neither Jefferson, Madison, nor Jackson ever questioned the citizenship of colored free men born upon our soil. We should like to have the eulogists of Taney’s law, and the advocates of pro-Slavery Federalism, abuse Jefferson, Madison and Jackson for their “nigger principles,” as they have the Republicans for reasserting the precise views entertained by these great lights of real democracy.

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