Gamaliel Bailey and Antislavery Union

By Stanley Harrold | Go to book overview

chapter fifteen
Imperfect Union

Throughout his career Bailey had raised funds to pay the legal expenses of fugitive slaves, their white abettors, and free blacks threatened with reenslavement. Although he had publicly separated himself and his paper from the illegal measures employed by Daniel Drayton and Edward Sayres in 1848 and by William Chaplin in 1850, he had immediately sought to provide those people with legal aid. In the early 1850s he brought suit in Maryland to secure the freedom of three blacks who had been fraudulently deprived, he believed, of their freedom; he assumed financial responsibility for similar cases throughout the decade.1 It was not surprising, therefore, that he became involved in the case of Dred Scott v. Sanford when it was appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

The case, which had been pursued since 1846 on the grounds that Scott, a Missouri slave, was legally free because he had lived in territory declared free by the Missouri Compromise, involved fundamental issues of black citizenship and the authority of Congress over slavery in the territories. In December 1854 Montgomery Blair, a Washington attorney and son of Francis P. Blair, Sr., had been asked to represent Scott before the Supreme Court. After consulting with his father, Blair sought Bailey's advice and the two agreed that if Blair would provide legal services without charge, Bailey "would see to the necessary expenses of the case." When the Supreme Court heard the case in March 1857, Bailey paid the costs by raising two dollars from each Republican member of Congress and paying four dollars himself.2 Because of his inside knowledge Bailey was among the first editors to recognize the importance of the case, and following the seven to two decision denying Scott his freedom, Bailey joined other Republican journalists in condemning it without qualification. Like Horace Greeley he declared the important part of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney's opinion, which held that blacks were not

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