Party Government in the United States of America

By William Milligan Sloane | Go to book overview

XXIV
SECESSION 1857-1861

The Dred Scott decision--Slave power legally triumphant--Its economical and political weakness--Its tripartite policy--Kansas and the administration--The action of Congress--The John Brown raid--Bribery investigation in Congress--The conventions and elections--Secession of Southern States--Republican measures in Congress.

THE decisions of the Supreme Court had hitherto influenced party politics little, if at all, except in so far as the interpretation of the Constitution at its hands tended toward national consolidation. No sooner had Buchanan pronounced a colorless inaugural than a decision taken the previous year, but kept private for fear of its consequences, was published to the world with the full knowledge that by it the door of compromise was closed for ever. Legally correct, it was a political thunderbolt. A Missouri slave taken by his master to Illinois, where slavery was prohibited by statute, had there married and was thereupon removed to Minnesota, a Territory subject to the ordinance of 1787 forbidding slavery. Thence his master had brought him back to Missouri, where he had suffered the chastisement of the whipping-post. Even there, under the laws and public opinion of a slave State, he secured a standing in court as a negro freed by residence on free soil, sued for damages and won. By successive appeals the case was carried to Washington as a test. By

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