Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Dred Scott v. Sanford (Part VI)

Without Dred Scott the practice of slavery would have persisted and what’s worse Crittenden’s Amendments had a better chance of passing. This would have been more catastrophic then the bloodiest War in American history. Slavery is not mentioned in the Constitution, but the addition of Crittenden’s amendments would have added the word slavery to the Constitution 15 times officially legalizing the practice. Time would have erased slavery, but at what cost and how much longer would the practice survived? It is hard to say, but the Dred Scott decision definitely expedited the end to the evil that divided the Union from its inception. Without Dred Scott it is possible that slavery would have lasted long into the twentieth century. Most cases about race kept prejudice and discrimination alive and well for nearly one hundred years until Brown v. School Board (1954) ended Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896 – Separate but equal doctrine). Other cases such as the Slaughter House Cases (eliminating the privileges and immunities clause from the Fourteenth Amendment), Cruikshank v. United States (the Bill of Rights did not apply to the states who were free to discriminate), and the Civil Rights Cases (held the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and 1873 were unconstitutional) are examples of cases where racism and discrimination were upheld by the Court. The cost of freedom was high and sometimes that is forgotten. Today, we still talk about the evils of slavery and the Dred Scott decision (rightly so), but very rarely to talk about the bloody conflict that was needed to settle these issues once and for all. That being said, had slavery persisted in the South into the twentieth century who knows how big an impact of ending slavery would have had on our history and the loss of life.

The final major significance of the Dred Scott case was the effect it had on the Supreme Court during the Civil War. Lincoln violated many constitutional rights of the American Citizens to fight the Civil War. He suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus and ignored Justice Taney’s decision in Ex Parte Merryman saying only Congress had the authority to do such an act (Taney was right). The administration also ignored Constitutional concerns from Taney about a 3% income tax to fund the war (Taney was right). Taney kept silent when Congress passed an Act to abolish slavery in the Territories reversing his Dred Scott decision. In essence, the Supreme Court lost a great deal of respect and power due to its Dred Scott ruling. Many thought that Lincoln should have pressured Taney to resign or retire and replace him with a Republican. Lincoln never considered these overtones and for good reason. He knew that such a move would violate the separation of powers and set a very bad precedent. Lincoln also understood that Taney and the Court were damaged goods and he could do what he needed (yes – violate the Constitution) to fight the Civil War. A weakened Supreme Court definitely helped the Northern and Republican effort in the Civil War.

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