Monday, February 2, 2009

Dred Scott, the Slavery Compromise, and Who to Trust

There's a reason "I Put no trust in princes..." (Psalms 146:3). Even if I hadn't read what the Bible has to say about the reliability of secular institutions, I know too much history to assume that 'the government' belongs at the top of my 'trust' list.

I'm an American citizen, and I think this country is a pretty good place to live. As Winston Churchill said, "...democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." And I think the American economic system's opportunities are part of the reason so many people have been trying to break into this country.

Whaddaya Know: America isn't Perfect

Over the years, I've run into a few people who seem to think that America is perfect: real-life versions of Doonsbury's B.D. If they really think that America has had an error-free history, they haven't done their homework.

Having worked with people who had escaped to America, I appreciate what a fine place this is for someone who's willing to work with the system. But: Perfect? This is firebase Earth. Don't expect perfection here.

Doing research for another post, I ran into some details (or trivia - you decide) about the slavery compromise of 1787 or thereabouts, and the Dred Scott decision. It didn't quite belong in that post. But, I don't like letting research go to waste, so here it is.

History, Civil Rights, and Religious Stuff

Hypothetically, let's say that someone asked, "wait a minute! This is a blog about being a Catholic in America. What's history and civil rights doing in a religious blog?" That depends on what you mean by 'being religious.'

There are people who seem to be 'too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.' And people who want to be so 'spiritual' that they can't soil their hands with mundane affairs. I'm not talking about cloistered orders here, but 'nice' people who think it's 'not nice' to discuss controversial issues or unpleasant topics.

If giving a rip about what happens to people means I'm not 'nice,' I can live with that.

And from what I've learned, the Catholic Church isn't very 'nice' either.

Neither was its founder, for that matter. You may have heard about the disturbance Jesus caused in Jerusalem's temple (John 2:14-16). Or his distinctly counter-cultural approach to adultery (John 8:1-11).

So here's what I dug up about one of America's very messy problems. Before diving into that, though: a reminder.

There have been a few notable events since 1787 and the slavery compromise, including:
I sincerely hope that it doesn't take something like two centuries and a major war to sort out the question of whether or not it's okay to kill babies, cut up (living) people for parts, or make one class of people fair game for doctors with an urge to experiment.

"Dred Scott v. Sandford" (1857)

Cultural assumptions being what they are, I think I'd better make this disclaimer: In my considered opinion,
  • Slavery is a really bad idea
  • The Dred Scott decision was a mistake
  • It's wrong to consider people as more or less valuable based on
    • What they look like
    • Who their ancestors were
What follows are excerpts from "Dred Scott v. Sandford" (1857), as provided by the 'Lectric Law Library. (Despite the whimsical name, 'Lectric Law Library had what appears to be a complete copy of the Dred Scott decision - there's another at Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center.)

These excerpts are not in the order in which they appear in the Dred Scott decision.
"...Hence it follows, necessarily, that a slave, the peculium or property of a master, and possessing within himself no civil nor political rights or capacities, cannot be a CITIZEN. For who, it may be asked, is a citizen? What do the character and status of citizen import?"

"By the references above given it is shown, from the nature and objects of civil and political associations, and upon the direct authority of history, that citizenship was not conferred by the simple fact of emancipation,..."

"We give both of these laws in the words used by the respective legislative bodies, because the language in which they are framed, as well as the provisions contained in them, show, too plainly to be misunderstood, the degraded condition of this unhappy race. They were still in force when the Revolution began, and are a faithful index to the state of feeling towards the class of persons of whom they speak, and of the position they occupied throughout the thirteen colonies, in the eyes and thoughts of the men who framed the Declaration of Independence and established the State Constitutions and Governments. They show that a perpetual and impassable barrier was intended to be erected between the white race and the one which they had reduced to slavery, and governed as subjects with absolute and despotic power, and which they then looked upon as so far below them in the scale of created beings, that intermarriages between white persons and negroes or mulattoes were regarded as unnatural and immoral, and punished as crimes, not only in the parties, but in the person who joined them in marriage. And no distinction in this respect was made between the free negro or mulatto and the slave, but this stigma, of the deepest degradation, was fixed upon the whole race."

"But there are two clauses in the Constitution which point directly and specifically to the negro race as a separate class of persons, and show clearly that they were not regarded as a portion of the people or citizens of the Government then formed."

"In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument."

"And still further pursuing its legislation, we find that in the same statute passed in 1774, which prohibited the further importation of slaves into the State, there is also a provision by which any negro, Indian, or mulatto servant, who was found wandering out of the town or place to which he belonged, without a written pass such as is therein described, was made liable to be seized by any one, and taken before the next authority to be examined and delivered up to his master -- who was required to pay the charge which had accrued thereby. And a subsequent section of the same law provides, that if any free negro shall travel without such pass, and shall be stopped, seized, or taken up, he shall pay all charges arising thereby. And this law was in full operation when the Constitution of the United States was adopted, and was not repealed till 1797. So that up to that time free negroes and mulattoes were associated with servants and slaves in the police regulations established by the laws of the State."
('Lectric Law Library)

Dred Scott, the Constitution, the 3/5ths Rule, and an Update on Current Events

Interestingly, the "3/5" ratio doesn't appear in copies of the Dred Scott decision I read and searched.

However, defining a 'non-free' person as 3/5 of a person is in the American Constitution. How the slavery compromise of 1787 is presented depends, I think, on how the particular college or university wants students to feel about America.

The Emory University School of Law has a pretty good copy online, with interesting sidelights, like "Amendments never ratified." The "3/5" ratio is in Section 2, Clause 3 ("Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned ... determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.2...") (Constitution for the United States of America, 1787)

No comments:

Like it? Pin it, Plus it, - - -

Pinterest: My Stuff, and More


Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store

Popular Posts

Label Cloud

1277 abortion ADD ADHD-Inattentive Adoration Chapel Advent Afghanistan Africa America Amoris Laetitia angels animals annulment Annunciation anti-catholicism Antichrist apocalyptic ideas apparitions archaeology architecture Arianism art Asperger syndrome assumptions asteroid astronomy Australia authority balance and moderation baptism being Catholic beliefs bias Bible Bible and Catechism bioethics biology blogs brain Brazil business Canada capital punishment Caritas in Veritate Catechism Catholic Church Catholic counter-culture Catholicism change happens charisms charity Chile China Christianity Christmas citizenship climate change climatology cloning comets common good common sense Communion community compassion confirmation conscience conversion Corpus Christi cosmology creation credibility crime crucifix Crucifixion Cuba culture dance dark night of the soul death depression designer babies despair detachment devotion discipline disease diversity divination Divine Mercy divorce Docetism domestic church dualism duty Easter economics education elections emotions England entertainment environmental issues Epiphany Establishment Clause ethics ethnicity Eucharist eugenics Europe evangelizing evolution exobiology exoplanets exorcism extremophiles faith faith and works family Father's Day Faust Faustus fear of the Lord fiction Final Judgment First Amendment forgiveness Fortnight For Freedom free will freedom fun genetics genocide geoengineering geology getting a grip global Gnosticism God God's will good judgment government gratitude great commission guest post guilt Haiti Halloween happiness hate health Heaven Hell HHS hierarchy history holidays Holy Family Holy See Holy Spirit holy water home schooling hope humility humor hypocrisy idolatry image of God images Immaculate Conception immigrants in the news Incarnation Independence Day India information technology Internet Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Japan Jesus John Paul II joy just war justice Kansas Kenya Knights of Columbus knowledge Korea language Last Judgment last things law learning Lent Lenten Chaplet life issues love magi magic Magisterium Manichaeism marriage martyrs Mary Mass materialism media medicine meditation Memorial Day mercy meteor meteorology Mexico Minnesota miracles Missouri moderation modesty Monophysitism Mother Teresa of Calcutta Mother's Day movies music Muslims myth natural law neighbor Nestorianism New Year's Eve New Zealand news Nietzsche obedience Oceania organization original sin paleontology parish Parousia penance penitence Pentecost Philippines physical disability physics pilgrimage politics Pope Pope in Germany 2011 population growth positive law poverty prayer predestination presumption pride priests prophets prostitution Providence Purgatory purpose quantum entanglement quotes reason redemption reflections relics religion religious freedom repentance Resurrection robots Roman Missal Third Edition rosaries rules sacramentals Sacraments Saints salvation schools science secondary causes SETI sex shrines sin slavery social justice solar planets soul South Sudan space aliens space exploration Spain spirituality stem cell research stereotypes stewardship stories storm Sudan suicide Sunday obligation superstition symbols technology temptation terraforming the establishment the human condition tolerance Tradition traffic Transfiguration Transubstantiation travel Trinity trust truth uncertainty United Kingdom universal destination of goods vacation Vatican Vatican II veneration vengeance Veterans Day videos virtue vlog vocations voting war warp drive theory wealth weather wisdom within reason work worship writing

Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.