Slavery, Law, and Politics: The Dred Scott Case in Historical Perspective

By Don E. Fehrenbacher | Go to book overview

2
Expansion and Slavery
in National Politics

The problem of territorial government and its relationship to slavery arose in the 1780s, when the first state cessions of western lands made it clear that the new United States was about to take on certain attributes of an empire. In 1784, a congressional committee headed by Thomas Jefferson presented an ambitious plan dividing the entire transappalachian West into at least fourteen states, each to be virtually self-governing from the start. To this liberal design Jefferson added several restrictions, one of which declared: "That after the year 1800 of the Christian era, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said states, otherwise than in punishment of crimes." The clause was deleted, however, upon the motion of a North Carolina delegate. The Ordinance of 1784, as finally enacted, therefore contained no reference to slavery. But then the Ordinance proved so impractical that it was never put into operation.

Instead, another committee drafted a new and much different plan of government for the West. After considerable debate and revision, it won the approval of Congress in July 1787. The measure included a repeal of the Ordinance of 1784, and a change of title made it explicitly applicable only to "the territory of the United States North West of the river Ohio." At almost the last moment before passage, a Massachusetts delegate moved an addition to the five "articles of compact between the original States

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Slavery, Law, and Politics: The Dred Scott Case in Historical Perspective
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Slavery and Race in the American Constitutional System 7
  • 2 - Expansion and Slavery in National Politics 41
  • 3 - Toward Judicial Resolution 72
  • 4 - The Taney Court and Judicial Power 102
  • 5 - The Dred Scott Case in Missouri 121
  • 6 - Before the Supreme Court 151
  • 7 - The Opinion of the Court 183
  • 8 - Concurrence, Dissent, and Public Reaction 214
  • 9 - The Lecompton and Freeport Connections 244
  • 10 - Not Peace but a Sword 273
  • 11 - In the Stream of History 295
  • Selected Books for Further Reading 309
  • Index 313
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