Saturday, December 16, 2006


In the mid-1800's, the United States was polarized on the issue of slavery. Congress repeatedly attempted compromises that would mollify both sides without ever addressing the fundamental moral issue. As states were added to the union, however, the short-sighted flaws of these compromises were exposed and violence seemed increasingly imminent. Finally, the Supreme Court took action. The primary issue addressed by the infamous Dred Scott Decision was whether Dred Scott, a slave held by an army officer in a northern state which prohibited slavery, was a free man, entitled to constitutional protection. The decision rendered denied personhood to slaves and declared them "beings of an inferior order . . . unfit to associate with the white race . . . and so inferior that they had no rights . . ." Ignoring the basic moral injustice, Chief Justice Rodger Taney, a slave owner himself, chose expediency. Northern laws prohibiting slavery were deemed unconstitutional and toleration of slavery was forced on citizens who found it odious and unconscionable.

The consequences of this decision was war. Today all morally thinking people regard the Dred Scott Decision as a travesty. It stands as an embarrassing blemish on American judicial history, which is mitigated only given a civil war and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. Sadly, however, these amendments seem to have escaped the notice of the current Supreme Court. The clear intent of the Fourteenth Amendment, that "no person . . . shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property . . .," is being ignored daily in the case of unborn people who cannot speak for themselves. Can we draw on our national historical experience or must we accommodate the grossest injustice in the name of pluralism? Will we press the truth in the face of ridicule or choose the wide road of conformity? Our answers to these questions will shape our country's history.

[From 'A Resource Manual']

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