Worsening Crisis 1857-1858

 

A. Dred Scott - sued that residence in a free territory made him free, but the court ruled that Scott had no rights as a slave because he was not a citizen.

            Chief Justice Roger Taney, offered an obiter dicta (clarification)

            1. Blacks were not or could not ever be citizens. Black had no rights that whites were obliged to respect.

            2. Slaves were property, the Constitution protected property; therefore, Congress could not deprive someone of their property by banning slavery in the territories. The Court said that the Missouri Compromise had been unconstitutional.

 

            The Court did not say so explicitly' but the decision implied that a future Court might rule that

            slaves could be taken anywhere in the United Stets, including free states

                       

The Dred Scott decision also seemed to imply that Popular Sovereignty was unconstitutional. For, If Congress could not ban slavery in a territory, neither could the inhabitants of a territory.

                        The  Dred Scott decision also meant that the Republican platform of antislavery was thus unconstitutional.

                        Lincoln and Republicans denounced the decision as further proof of the Slave Power.

 

B. Depression of 1857 - involved weak prices and hit the North hard. But it did not impact the South's cotton prices or the South's economy. *The South came to believe that since cotton stood strong during the depression, they did not need the North.

C. Lecompton pro-slave constitution for Kansas (1857), further proof of Slave Power.

            President Buchanan attempted to force congress to accept a fraudulent proslavery constitution for Kansas. (Clear violation of Douglas's idea of Popular Sovereignty.) More Northerners became Republicans when they saw this as an attempt to subvert the popular will in Kansas. Congress returned the Lecompton constitution to Kansas for a real vote, and it was defeated by a margin of 11:1.

 

D. Road to Secession 1859-1860: John Brown's Raid at Harper's Ferry in 1859.

 

John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859 angered the South. May southerners became convinced that John Brown's raid was the logical result of Republican antislavery ideas even though Republicans condemned the raid. Southerner's felt that they could not safely remain in the Union if a Republican became President.

 

John Brown, with monetary support from Northern Abolitionists (The Secret Six), raised a group of 18 men including 5 blacks in an attempt to seize the Federal Arsenal and Armory in Harper's Ferry. He wanted to arm slaves and provoke an uprising. Failing that, he wanted to spark a sectional crisis that would provoke sectional crisis leading to war and an end of slavery.

 

After his capture, Brown transformed his image from an avenging angel to a sorrowful prophet.

 

When Lincoln was elected President in 1860 in a four way contest with 39% of the votes, Southerners felt threatened and left the Union (7 states total). They believed that a Republican President would encourage further Brown-like raids and that he would not, like Buchanan, order federal troops to suppress such raids. They also feared that a republican President would convince Congress to vote funds to encourage Border States to emancipate their slaves and thus start a chain-reaction of emancipation.