Saturday, December 26, 2009

Could Obamacare Be Our Dred Scott Decision?

Could the Democrat Health Care Bill be our generation's Dred Scott Decision? We the people are being ignored by the "ruling" party as they ram through a nation changing bill that the large majority of Americans have openly rejected, without regard to the overwhelming feelings of their constituents. This is governance by arrogance of government, not by will of the people. How can they not expect a backlash?

Before the Civil War in the ongoing battle over slavery an arrogant decision by a pro-slavery Supreme Court Chief Justice ignited a backlash that swept the new Republican party into power.

After his 1856 election victory, James Buchanan, gave an inaugural speech stating that the slavery question "belongs to the Supreme Court of the United States, before whom it is now pending, and will, it is understood, be speedily and finally settled." It is widely rumored that Buchanan had already been informed by the Chief Justice what his decision would be. At the very least, it was a terminal case of wishful thinking.

The case Buchanan was talking about had been brought on behalf of Dred Scott, the slave of John Emerson, an army doctor from Missouri. Scott had been taken to different army posts in the United States and the western territories, and having spent two years in the free territory of Minnesota, he claimed he was no longer a slave under the Missouri Compromise. Backed by abolitionists, Scott sued for his freedom in 1846 after failing to purchase his and his wife's freedom from Emerson's widow.

This began an eleven-year legal battle that changed American history. New York abolitionist John F. A. Sanford bought Dred Scott in order to take the case to court. )Sandford's name was misspelled as the other party in Dred Scott v Sandford.) The case went through a number of lower courts, all but one ruling against Scott, until 1855, when it reached the Supreme Court. The case was argued by Montgomery Blair, the son of prominent Democratic politician and later Lincoln's Postmaster General. The Chief Justice, Roger B. Taney, was an eighty-year-old Marylander, Andrew Jackson, appointee to fill the vacancy left by the death of the legendary John Marshall. Taney had freed his own slaves in 1818, but believed passionately that slavery was necessary. The Court's decision came right after Buchanan's inaugural in a 7-2 vote. (seven Democratic justices were opposed by two Republican justices) This was a huge blow to the hopes of anti-slavery factions. Although nine different opinions were issued, Taney's were the most far reaching.

First, Taney said that no black man, free or slave, was a U.S. citizen: therefore a black man had o right to sue in federal court. He could have stopped there without further comment, but he seemed bent on the complete destruction of every piece of anti-slavery legislation ever passed, going back to the Northwest Ordinance. Taney, speaking for the court, then ruled that Congress never had the right to ban slavery in territories because the Constitution protected people from being deprived of life, liberty, and property. According to Taney, slaves, like cows or goats, were property and could be taken anywhere under U.S. jurisdiction.

Slaveholders rejoiced and felt relief and vindication. One newspaper reported, "The Southern opinion upon the subject of Southern slavery... is now the supreme law of the land." Suddenly, the issue was not only non-extension of slavery, but the removal of all laws limiting or prohibiting slavery. Bills to reopen the African slave trade were offered in Congress.

Abolitionists, and moderate "non-extensionists" like Abraham Lincoln, were outraged. Journalists and poet William Cullen Byrant, an abolitionist and Republican party organizer, wrote that slavery was now "a Federal institution...Hereafter, whenever our..flag floats, it is the flag of slavery."

The irony is that the decision actually aided the anti-slavery cause. The new Republican party gained strength when many fence-sitters joined the ranks of those more passionately opposed to slavery. The decision also widened the divisions over slavery within the Democrat party. The Dred Scott decision went a long way toward building the foundation for a Republican victory in 1860.

Will Obamacare be that same catalyst for the rise of the Republican party and political suicide of the Democrats once again?

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