DRED SCOTT, CIVIL WAR, RECONSTRUCTION, LINCOLN AND BEYOND
Author- Shyamveer Singh
Today marks 212th Birth anniversary of 16th president of United States Abraham Lincoln, He was the first Republican president. This article is dedicated to his memory. He is regarded as greatest US President by Historians. I cannot discuss his whole life in a single Article so i have confined myself to his work regarding 'Abolition of Slavery ' as I have wriiten a similar Article regarding Slavery on this website.
Slavery was legally practiced in some states in USA. The Northern states of the country outlawed the practice and had abolished it, while the Southern states allowed it. Now, the US constitution Although did not refer directly to slaves, it did not ignore them entirely. As i stated on my earlier post (Link) US Constitution gave enough space for slavery to bloom.
Infamous case of Dred Scott v. Sandford, (1857)
During the 1830s, Dred Scott an enslaved man was taken from Missouri (a slave state) to Illinois (state where slavery was outlawed). When Scott returned to Missouri, he filed for his freedom from slavery stating that his temporary removal to free soil made him legally free. The case ultimately reached the Supreme Court of the United states! (S.C.T.O.U.S) in the famous case of Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857).
Scott had the law on his side, as the Missouri Supreme Court in Winny v. Whitesides, had laid down the doctrine of ‘once free, forever free’.
However unfortunately for Dred Scott; In March 1857, the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision against Dred Scott. In an opinion written by Chief Justice Roger Taney, the Court ruled that black people "are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word 'citizens' in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States." Taney supported his ruling with an extended survey of American state and local laws from the time of the Constitution's drafting in 1787 that purported to show that a "perpetual and impassable barrier was intended to be erected between the white race and the one which they had reduced to slavery."
Because the Court ruled that Scott was not an American citizen, he was also not a citizen of any state and, accordingly, could never establish the "diversity of citizenship" that Article III of the US Constitution requires for a US federal court to be able to exercise jurisdiction over a case.
Simply put Court ruled against Scott stating that he was a slave so he is not a citizen so has no Legal right like a citizen to come before SCTOUS. Court held that the US Constitution was not meant to include American citizenship for black people, regardless of whether they were enslaved or free, and so the rights and privileges that the Constitution confers upon American citizens could not apply to them.
Chief Justice Taney was a Southerner and had himself engaged in trade of slaves in his youth. The remaining Justices also supported slavery, with the exception of two Judges Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis and John McLean, the only two justices who dissented in Dred Scott.
AMERICAN CIVIL WAR:
Lincoln denounced Dred Scott Judgement he said it as the product of a conspiracy of Democrats to support the Slave Power. He argued the decision was at variance with the Declaration of Independence; he said that while the founding fathers did not believe all men equal in every respect, they believed all men were equal "in certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".
Throughout the 1850s, Lincoln had doubted the prospects of civil war, and his supporters rejected claims that his election would incite secession.
After Abraham Lincoln won the November 1860 presidential election on an anti-slavery platform, an initial seven slave states declared their secession from the country to form the Confederacy. Confederacy grew to control at least a majority of territory in those eleven states (out of the 34 U.S. states in February 1861).
On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that as of January 1, 1863, all enslaved people in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
Lincoln didn’t actually free any of the approximately 4 million men, women and children held in slavery in the United States when he signed the formal Emancipation Proclamation the following January. The document applied only to enslaved people in the Confederacy, and not to those in the border states that remained loyal to the Union.
But although it was presented chiefly as a military measure, the proclamation marked a crucial shift in Lincoln’s views on slavery. Emancipation would redefine the Civil War, turning it from a struggle to preserve the Union to one focused on ending slavery, and set a decisive course for how the nation would be reshaped after that historic conflict.
States that remained loyal to the U.S. were known as the Union and they were against Slavery. Confederate States were in favor of Slavery. Civil War effectively ended on April 9, 1865, when Confederate surrendered Slavery was abolished, and four million enslaved Black people were freed.
Contribution of Abraham Lincoln in Civil war and in passing of 13th Amendment is depicted in Lincoln (Movie) a 2012 American biographical historical drama film directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as United States President Abraham Lincoln. I strongly suggest all readers to watch this magnum opus work.
Although majority slaves had been declared free by Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, their legal status after the Civil War was in limbo.
Hence need for Reconstruction amendments which were Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution, adopted between 1865 and 1870, the five years immediately following the Civil War. The Reconstruction amendments were a part of implementing the Reconstruction of the American South after the war. Their proponents saw them as transforming the United States from a country that was (in Abraham Lincoln's words) "half slave and half free" to one in which the constitutionally guaranteed "blessings of liberty" would be extended to the entire populace, including the former slaves and their descendants.
The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime.
14th amendment addresses citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws.
15th amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Although Great Abraham Lincoln was not able to outlive 14th Amendment. His contributions towards abolition of Slavery by Legal means as well by Civil war make him one of the Greatest Leader of all time. He believed in Universal Equality and worked for it.
He died an Iconic death too as depicted in Movie Lincoln. He died his breathing grew quieter, his face calmer. According to some accounts, at his last drawn breath, on the morning after the assassination, he smiled broadly and then expired. One of his aid says "Now he belongs to the ages”, indeed he does.
I would like end this article by Quoting lines of a great poet "Yet meet we shall, and part, and meet again, where dead men meet, on lips of living men". This article is a tribute to Mysteriously beautiful mind, body and spirit of Abraham Lincoln with a Prayer of Hope to see such Personality in future too.