View single post by Mark
 Posted: Tue Apr 17th, 2012 02:51 pm
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Joined: Mon Mar 30th, 2009
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I confess to still being confused. I am merely trying to explain how most mid-19th century jurists (including Lincoln) interpreted the Constitution. If you want to talk about what the founding fathers thought about slavery, that is an entirely different matter. As to your points:

1) I'm not saying Taney was right, I'm just telling you what the court decided. He had a questionable interpretation (esp. in regards to Congressional power over the territories). Can you provide an example of an abolitionist tract that shows your line of argument? I'm not aware of one. Since (for the most part) slaves were considered chattel in the eyes of the law most Americans (like Lincoln) agreed that the best the Federal government could do through the Constitution would be to restrict the growth of slavery in the West and let it wither. The war intervened. In the end, that why the Constitution needed a 13th Amendment--because most people assumed that the document did protect slavery through property rights.

2) I think you are overestimating the number of abolitionists in the US (and I'm using the strict definition of the term- that is one who advocated for the immediate, uncompensated abolition of slavery). They were a very vocal (and at times militant) minority. I would suggest to you that "bleeding Kansas" had more to do with "free soil" ideology than abolitionism. Of course many abolitionists were involved (like John Brown and James Montgomery) but most anti-slavery immigrants to Kansas wanted to prevent plantation slave labor from being used to undercut white labor in the state.

3) I guess I didn't explain my point well enough here. I'm merely saying that many abolitionists saw the Constitution as the problem rather than the solution. You are correct when you state that the members of that wing of the abolitionist movement argued that their authority came from a power higher than the constitution. For example, William Seward (anti-slavery though not an abolitionist) once said, "But you answer, that the Constitution recognizes property in slaves. It would be sufficient, then, to reply, that this constitutional recognition must be void, because it is repugnant to the law of nature and of nations." In other words, if the Constitution recognizes slavery, it must be wrong because slavery is a violation of the higher laws of nature and nations.

Last edited on Tue Apr 17th, 2012 02:52 pm by Mark

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