The Dorr War: Republicanism on Trial, 1831-1861

By George M. Dennison | Go to book overview

8.
THE SUPREME COURT

Dorrism had been pronounced a "miserable stain."

Argument ended on the Luther cases in February 1848, but the Court delayed decision for nearly a year. Speculation about the outcome titillated the public mind. A New York Tribune correspondent reported that "Dorrism had been pronounced a 'miserable stain' by the Supreme Court ... composed of eight Loco-Foco and only one Whig." Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, "the friend and disciple of Jackson, is to be the Executor." No one knew whether there would be a dissent, although rumor had it that three of the justices "were in favor of sustaining Dorrism."1 According to this prediction, the Suffragists would lose because their friends on the high bench would desert them.

Benjamin F. Hallett, junior counsel for the Suffragists, advised Dorr even before the hearings ended that hope was fading fast. Most informed persons thought the Court would evade the substantive issues. Far too few people across the country recognized the need to defend "popular sovereignty." Conditions had changed so much in recent years that "it is considered rather disreputable by the people for any one to stand up on that side against the Aristocracy." He took pride that he had been able to "make the ' Dorr rebellion' and ' Dorr case' (as they sneeringly called it when I began), respectable."2 While the majority of Americans withheld their active support, they at least sympathized with the great cause of democracy.

Sympathy, however, was not enough. Hallett thought the Court would hold that the Luther cases involved "a political &

-169-

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The Dorr War: Republicanism on Trial, 1831-1861
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Prologue - THE BARRICADES 1
  • Part I - THE TRIAL 9
  • 2 - REFORM 32
  • 3 - PEACEABLE REVOLUTION 60
  • 4 - SUPPRESSION 84
  • Part II- THE TESTING 112
  • 6 - THE CONGRESS 126
  • 7 - THE JUDICIARY 141
  • 8 - THE SUPREME COURT 169
  • Epilogue - THE "PRECEDENT OF 1842" 193
  • Notes 207
  • BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY 235
  • Index 245
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