Dred Scott Case Protecting and Denying State’s Rights
With tensions at an all time high and the nation at a potential breaking point, the decision in the Dred Scott Case came as a surprise to both the North and the South. The decision had drastic consequences, southern principles were validated while northern liberties were threatened. Therefore it is not surprising that The New York Herald and The Charleston Mercury had very different view points and reporting styles. The northern newspaper viewed the decision’s impact as having “tremendous consequences,” the article included how the Supreme Court’s ruling dismantled northern states’ rights, threatened their liberty and state constitutions. While the southern newspaper saw the decision as a “triumph” for southern rights, likely because it granted and validated property rights, and limited Congress’ political debates over slavery. The Federal government could no longer meddle in state affairs and ended the need for compromises between anti and pro-slavery states. Although the North and the South had very different opinions on the decision’s impact, one thing was clear this decision was not the end of the agitation between anti and pro-slavery states. Political agitations prior to the Dred Scott case influenced how this dynamic decision was viewed and reported in The New York Herald, “The Decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott Case, and Its Tremendous Consequences” and in The Charleston Mercury, “The Dred Scott Case-The Supreme Court on the Rights of the South”.
This case came to be yet another symbol of the agitation between the two halves of the nation. The mere impact of the case of one man’s legal fight to obtain his freedom was felt everywhere. Dred Scott, who was born a slave in Virginia, went through the legal system in the hopes of becoming a free man. Upon his master’s death in 1846, he sued the state of Missouri for his freedom based on living in the free-soil territories of Wisconsin and Illinois. At one point the lower court in Missouri asserted that “once free, always free.” However, this finding would not stand. Eventually the case made it to the highest court in the nation, and the findings of the Justices would turn the northern sense of liberty on its ear while giving rights to slave holders and pro-slavery states.1 The Supreme Court’s decision only enhanced existing political tensions and further divided the Nation.
After years in the court system the Justices, in a 7-2 vote, finally concluded four major points that would effect the nation in the years leading up to the Civil War. First, the Supreme Court found that African Americans were not citizens. Chief Justice Roger Taney, from Maryland, and a former slaveowner who eventually emancipated his slaves wrote that slaves were “to be bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it.” In other words Scott was not a citizen and...