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The American Civil War Timeline- 150th Anniversary


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We now have an index of posts, thanks to BobbyLayne: The Mexican American War The Wilmot Proviso The Southern Perspective Northern perspectives The Compromise of 1850 The Fugitive Slave Act Uncle Tom'

I took a detour to the Battery after work yesterday and took some pictures for this thread. Fort Sumter pictures from the Battery

Yes, yes.....I'm sure this is the direction we're heading.

Once again, we see the South working within the confines of the Constitution to affect policy so long as they get what they want. The story repeats itself so much that sometimes I'm truly amazed that anyone tries to couch the actions of the rebels in terms other then criminal and traitor.

There is no reason to use inflammatory language while you are making your point. Such tactics only weaken your argument.
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Robert E. Lee referred to him as "my bad old man" because of his predilection for streams of profanity.

:lmao:

Yep. He was also the one person most responsible for the "Lost Cause" movement in the South after the war.

Thanks Great, Great, Great, Great Uncle Jubal! (not)

Yup, that's the legacy.

He was a hard hitter when he was a regiment/brigade leader under Ole Blue Light. Pretty decent at the Divisional command level as well. Like a few leaders, didn't shine in Corps or independent command. But by then ('64-65), they were up against some pretty long odds.

hehe....just remembered this...didn't Lewis Armistead break a plate over Jubal's head at West Point? Pretty sure he got kicked out for it.

One thing that makes the Confederate generals a more interesting study is they had so many characters. More than their fair share of lawyers, guys who loved to argue - and often ended up getting in petty disputes that resulted in court martial trials. Lee usually had his hands full (ditto for Bragg in the Western theater) with all that acrimonious quarreling.

Edited by BobbyLayne
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Robert E. Lee referred to him as "my bad old man" because of his predilection for streams of profanity.

:lmao:

Yep. He was also the one person most responsible for the "Lost Cause" movement in the South after the war.

Thanks Great, Great, Great, Great Uncle Jubal! (not)

Yup, that's the legacy.

He was a hard hitter when he was a regiment/brigade leader under Ole Blue Light. Pretty decent at the Divisional command level as well. Like a few leaders, didn't shine in Corps or independent command. But by then ('64-65), they were up against some pretty long odds.

hehe....just remembered this...didn't Lewis Armistead break a plate over Jubal's head at West Point? Pretty sure he got kicked out for it.

One thing that makes the Confederate generals a more interesting study is they had so many characters. More than their fair share of lawyers, guys who loved to argue - and often ended up getting in petty disputes that resulted in court martial trials. Lee usually had his hands full (ditto for Bragg in the Western theater) with all that acrimonious quarreling.

Yes to all of the above.

My second favorite thing about 'ole Jube (after the habitual swearing) was that he was pretty incompetent when it came to figuring out where he was. Early in the war, Jubal would frequently get his troops lost and/or bogged down in dense woods while a battle was raging nearby. No wonder he was so free with the cuss words.

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Bleeding Kansas Pt 1

Having lost the battle in Congress for a free Kansas, antislavery men determined to wage the war on the prairie itself. "Since there is no escaping your challenge," William H. Seward told southern senators on May 25, 1854, "I accept it on behalf of the cause of freedom. We will engage in competition for the virgin soil of Kansas, and God give the victory to the side which is stronger in numbers as it is in right." In Massachusetts, Amos Lawrence was chief financial backer of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, formed that same summer to promote free-soil settlement of Kansas. Lawrence's role was reflected in the name of the town that became HQ for the free-state forces in the territory.

However, Missourians from just across the border were stronger in numbers than the free soilers and at least equal in determination. "We are playing for a mighty stake," wrote Senator David Atchinson of Missouri. "The game must be played boldly...if we win, we carry slavery to the Pacific Ocean. If we fail we lose Missouri Arkansas Texas and all the territories." To Jefferson Davis, he said, "We are organizing. We will be compelled to shoot, burn, and hang...the Abolitionists."

Into this maelstrom arrived Andrew Reeder, a Pennsylvania Democrat appointed by Pierce as territorial governor, and he immediately called an election for a delegateto send to Congress. This became the first of many Kansas elections in which the normal rowdiness of frontier politics was magnified x 100 by the contest over slavery. Atchinson and other prominent Missourians led an invasion of "border ruffians" into Kansas to swell the vote for the proslavery candidate, and ensure he was elected. The Senator's lieutenants rallied their troops, and one of them, John Stringfellow, said before a mass audience:

Mark every scoundrel among you that is the least tainted with free-soilism, or abolitionism, and exterminate him! To those who are having qualms of conscience, the time has come when such impositions must be disregarded, as your lives and property are in danger. Enter every election district in Kansas, and vote at the point of a Bowie knife or a revolver! There are 1,100 men coming over from Platte Country (Missouri) to vote, and if that ain't enough we can send 5,000- enough to kill every God-damned abolitionist in the territory!

5,000 was about the number that came and cast illegal ballots to elect a territorial legislature of 36 proslavery men and 3 free soilers. "Missourians have nobly defended our rights," stated an Alabama newpaper. And the proslavery Leavensworth Herald blared: "All Hail! Come on Southern men! Bring your slaves and fill up the Territory. Kansas is saved!"

Governor Reeder was appalled by these proceedings. He had come to Kansas sympathetic toward slavery, but death threats from Missourians if he at all interfered with their activities changed his mind. He ordered new elections in one third of the districts. Free soil candidates won most of these, but when the legislature met in July 1855 it contemptuously seated the original proslavery victors. Reeder had meanwhile gone to Washington, where he pleaded with Pierce to repudiate this burlesque, But the President was swayed by arguments by Atchinson and Douglas that it was the abolitionists and the their Emigrant Aid Company that had provoked the problem and that even now Yankee newspapers were blowing it out of proportion. At Atchinson's urging Reeder was replaced with Wilson Shannon, who was from Ohio but favoring slavery. Shannon's first action as governor was to enforce a slave code which included a fine and imprisonment for expressing opinions against slavery, authorized the death penalty for encouraging slave revolts or helping slaves to escape, and required all citizens to take a public oath promising to uphold these laws. The code, which had been written by the new proslavery legislature, also stated that no prior residence in Kansas was required for voting, which was an attempt to sanctify the votes of the border ruffians.

There was just one little problem with all of these pro-slavery shenanigans: the majority of those who settled in Kansas were free-soilers who despised slavery. And they were not going to obey legislators who they believed did not represent them.

And all hell broke loose...

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In Brooklyn, Henry Ward Beecher was using money from his mock slave auctions and donations from Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims congregation to purchase 'bibles'.

Beecher's Bibles

Beecher's Bibles" was the name given to the breech loading Sharps rifles that were supplied to the anti-slavery immigrants in Kansas.

The name came from the eminent New England minister Henry Ward Beecher, of the New England Emigrant Aid Society, of whom it was written in a February 8, 1856, article in the New York Tribune:

"He (Henry W. Beecher) believed that the Sharps Rifle was a truly moral agency, and that there was more moral power in one of those instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles. You might just as well. . . read the Bible to Buffaloes as to those fellows who follow Atchison and Stringfellow; but they have a supreme respect for the logic that is embodied in Sharp's rifle."

Additionally, the arms were often shipped in wooden crates marked "Bibles" or "books." They were intended for the conflicts fought over slavery in the Kansas Territory leading up to its induction into statehood. As decreed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the issue of slavery in the new state was to be determined by popular sovereignty, thus unleashing a wave of bloody violence between pro- and anti-slavery forces throughout Kansas. The Beecher family were some of the foremost abolitionists in the country; Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Ward's sister in 1852 had written the abolitionist classic Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Most are famaliar with the mural Bleeding Kansas, which depicts a crazed John Brown holding a gun in one hand, and a bible in the other, and today hangs in the state capital. The man on the left calmly holding his copy of the scriptures? Henry Ward Beecher.
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And all hell broke loose...

Heh..... one of the more perfect uses of the phrase. This proxy war in Kansas was the Civil War on a smaller stage. A test track, if you will. Would have been nice if we could have just kept it in Kansas. Never make it a state, just a territory where people with different political ideas can go fight it out. Put a wall around the entire state and then let them at it. Who knows.....
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And all hell broke loose...

Heh..... one of the more perfect uses of the phrase. This proxy war in Kansas was the Civil War on a smaller stage. A test track, if you will. Would have been nice if we could have just kept it in Kansas. Never make it a state, just a territory where people with different political ideas can go fight it out. Put a wall around the entire state and then let them at it. Who knows.....
Reminds me of how some of the threads around here work.
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Bleeding Kansas Continued

Free Soil Kansas had no intention of either obeying the slave code laws or the "bogus legislature" that had passed them. Northern settlers armed with new Sharps breechloading rifles from New England organized and called for a convention to meet in Topeka. They drew up a free state constitution and called elections for a new legislature and governor. Proslavery voters of course boycotted these elections. By January 1856 Kansas had two territorial governments: the official one at Lecompton and an unofficial one at Topeka representing the majority of actual residents.

Partisans of both siddes in the territory were walking arsenals; it was only a matter of time before a shooting war broke out. The murder of a free-soil settler by a proslavery man in November 1855 set off a series of incidents that seemed likely to start the war. Some 1,500 Missourians crossed the border to march on the free-soil stronghold of Lawrence, where 1,000 men waited to receive them with Sharps rifles and a howitzer. Federal troops stood idly by because they had received no orders from the inert Pierce administration. Governor Shannon went to Lawrence and persuaded both sides to disband their forces. He told the Missourians: "If you attack Lawrence now, you attack a mob, and what would be the result? You could cause the election of an abolition president, and the ruin of the Democratic party. Wait a little. You cannot now destroy these people without losing more than you would gain."

This reasoning hardly encouraged prospects for a permanent peace. As the election year of 1856 progressed, Kansas erupted. Proslavery Judge Samuel Lecompte, who had been appointed by the proslavery legislature, instructed a grand jury to indict all members of the free-state government for treason. Since many of these men lived in Lawrence, the attempt to arrest them provided another opportunity for Missourians, now deputized as a posse, to attack this bastion of Yankee abolitionists. Dragging along 5 cannon, they entered the town on May 21, demolished its two newspaper offices, burned the hotel and the home of the elected free soil governor, and plundered shops and houses.

At this key juncture two men now entered into American history, bringing the country closer to Civil War than it had ever been: Preston Brooks and John Brown. I will now discuss each of these men and the impact of their actions (in the case of Brown, this was only the beginning.)

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The Brooks-Sumner Affair Part 1

Bleeding Kansas occurred against the backdrop of a national debate. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress introduced bills for the admission of Kansas as a state- the former under the Topeka free-state constitution, the letter after an election of a new constitutional convention to be adminstered by Lecompton (the proslavery government). Southerners viewed the matter as crucial to their future. But since Republicans controlled the House, and Democrats the senate, neither party's Kansas bill could become law. Both parties focused on the propaganda value of the issue looing toward the presidential election. Republicans gained more from this strategy because of Democratic support of proslavery excesses in Kansas. The Northern newspapers exploited Bleeding Kansas for all it was worth.

Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts now delivered a famous (or infamous, depending on who you were) and passionate speech about Kansas, in which he was not shy about who to blame. "Murderous robbers from Missouri," he cried, "hirelings picked from the drunken spew and vomit of an uneasy civilization had committed a rape of a virgin territory, compelling it to the hateful embrace of slavery." Sumner singled out members of the F Street Mess for specific attack, including South Carolina's Andrew P. Butler, who had "discharged the loose expectoration of his speech" in demanding the disarming of free-state men in Kansas. Butler's home state with "its shameful imbecility from Slavery" had sent to the Senate in his person a "Don Quixote who had chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though polluted in the sighte of the world, is chaste in his sight- I mean the harlot, Slavery."

Sumner's speech produced an uproar- in the Senate, where several Democrats rebuked him, and in the press, where even Republican praise was tempered by reservations about the rhetoric. THe only thing that prevented some southerner from challenging Sumner to a duel was the knowledge that he would refuse. Besides, dueling was for social equals; someone as low as this Yankee blackguard deserved a horsewhipping- or a caning.

So felt Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina, a cousin of Andrew Butler. Two days after the speech Brooks walked into the nearby empty Senate chamber after adjournment and approached the desk where Sumner was writing letters. "Your speech", he told the senator, "is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine." As Sumner started to rise, the frenzied Brooks beat him over the head 30 times or more with a gold-headed cane as Sumner, his legs trapped under the bolted-down desk, finally wrenched it loose from the floor and collapsed with his head covered by blood.

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Brooks was accompanied by Keitt and Henry A. Edmundson of Virginia. Sumner was trapped under the heavy desk (which was bolted to the floor), but Brooks continued to bash Sumner until he ripped the desk from the floor. By this time, Sumner was blinded by his own blood, and he staggered up the aisle and collapsed, lapsing into unconsciousness. Brooks continued to beat Sumner until he broke his cane, then quietly left the chamber. Several other senators attempted to help Sumner, but were blocked by Keitt who was brandishing a pistol and shouting "Let them be!" (Keitt would be censured for his actions and later died of wounds in 1864 fighting for the Confederacy during the US Civil War.)Sumner was unable to return to his Senate duties for more than three years while he recovered. He later became one of the most influential Radical Republicans throughout the conduct of the American Civil War, and on through the early years of Reconstruction.After the attack South Carolinians sent Brooks dozens of brand new canes, with one bearing the phrase, "Hit him again." The Richmond Enquirer crowed: "We consider the act good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in consequences. These vulgar abolitionists in the Senate must be lashed into submission." The University of Virginia's Jefferson Literary and Debating Society sent a gold-headed cane to replace Brooks's broken one.Brooks survived an expulsion vote in the House but resigned his seat, claiming both that he "meant no disrespect to the Senate of the United States" by attacking Sumner and that he did not intend to kill him, for he would have used a different weapon if he had. His constituents thought of him as a hero and returned him to Congress.

Crazy times...
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So felt Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina, a cousin of Andrew Butler. Two days after the speech Brooks walked into the nearby empty Senate chamber after adjournment and approached the desk where Sumner was writing letters. "Your speech", he told the senator, "is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine." As Sumner started to rise, the frenzied Brooks beat him over the head 30 times or more with a gold-headed cane as Sumner, his legs trapped under the bolted-down desk, finally wrenched it loose from the floor and collapsed with his head covered by blood.

:goodposting:Makes today's Congress look downright civilized.
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Robert E. Lee referred to him as "my bad old man" because of his predilection for streams of profanity.

:goodposting:

Yep. He was also the one person most responsible for the "Lost Cause" movement in the South after the war.

Thanks Great, Great, Great, Great Uncle Jubal! (not)

Yup, that's the legacy.

He was a hard hitter when he was a regiment/brigade leader under Ole Blue Light. Pretty decent at the Divisional command level as well. Like a few leaders, didn't shine in Corps or independent command. But by then ('64-65), they were up against some pretty long odds.

hehe....just remembered this...didn't Lewis Armistead break a plate over Jubal's head at West Point? Pretty sure he got kicked out for it.

One thing that makes the Confederate generals a more interesting study is they had so many characters. More than their fair share of lawyers, guys who loved to argue - and often ended up getting in petty disputes that resulted in court martial trials. Lee usually had his hands full (ditto for Bragg in the Western theater) with all that acrimonious quarreling.

Yes to all of the above.

My second favorite thing about 'ole Jube (after the habitual swearing) was that he was pretty incompetent when it came to figuring out where he was. Early in the war, Jubal would frequently get his troops lost and/or bogged down in dense woods while a battle was raging nearby. No wonder he was so free with the cuss words.

Couple minor corrections to my prior post: Armistead resigned after he assaulted his fellow cadet; he managed to nonethelelss secure an Army commission, serving for more than 20 years before joining the Confedracy.

Early did spend most of '62-63 under Stonewall Jackson (aka Ole Blue Light), but was not in the famous Valley campaign. He was wounded at Williamsburg in May '62 during the Pennisula campaign. As an aside, there are always ironic connections in these ACW battles: Armistead's closest friend in the pre-war army was Hancock, whose brigade it was attempting a flank attack when Jubal was wounded.

Edited by BobbyLayne
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The Brooks-Sumner Affair Part Two

The caning incensed even those Yankees who had little use for Sumner. "Bleeding Sumner" joined Bleeding Kansas as a symbol of the slave power's iniquities. The South, declared one newspaper, "cannot tolerate free speech anywhere, and would stifle it in Washington with the bludgeon and the bowie-knife, Has it come to this," asked William Cullen Bryant of the New York Evening Post, "that we must speak with bated breath in the presence of our Southern masters? Are we to be chastised as they chastise their slaves? Are we too, slaves, slaves for life, a target for their brutal blows, when we do not comport ourselves to please them?"

Adding insult to injury, the South lionized Brooks as a hero. Although some moderate southerners regretted the affair and warned of its galvanizing effect on the North, public approval of Brook's act far outweighed qualms. Newspapers in his own state expressed pride that Brooks had "stood forth so nobly in defense of the honor of South Carolinians." The Richmond Enquirer pronounced "the act good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in consequence. The vulgar Abolitionists in the Senate are getting above themselves...They have grown saucy, and dare to be impudent to gentlemen! The truth is, they have been suffered to run too long without collars. They must be lashed into submission." A Louisiana planter and former army officer by the name of Braxton Bragg (who sometime later will become one of the major characters in this narrative) wrote that the House should pass a vote of thanks to Brooks. Brooks himself boasted that "every Southern man sustains me. the fragments of the stick are begged for as sacred relicts." When the House voted 121 to 95 to expel Brooks, southern opposition prevented the necessary 2/3rds majority. Brooks resigned anyway and returned home to seek vindication by re-election. South Carolinians obliged; his re-election was unopposed and near unanimous. From all over the South, Brooks received dozens of new canes, some inscribed with mottoes such as "Hit Him Again!"

This southern response outraged northern moderates even more than the caning had done. "It was not the attack itself (horrible as that was) that excited me," wrote an old-line Whig who thereafter voted Republican, "but the tone of the Southern Press, & the approbation, apparently, of the whole Southern people." A Boston conservative who had previously defended the South now "must in sorrow concede a lower civilization than I would ever before believe, though Theodore Parker & those called extreme have often & calmly insisted upon this very fact, while I have warmly denied it." Republican organizers reported that they had "never before seen anything at all like the present state of deep, determined & desperate feelings of hatred & hostility to the further extension of slavery, & it's political power."

Brooks's only punishment was a $300 fine levied by a district court. Sumner's injuries, complicated by a post-traumatic syndrome that turned into a disability, kept him away from the Senate for most of the next 4 years. During that time the Massachusetts legislature reelected him as a symbolic rebuke to the "barbarism of slavery." A good many Yankees wanted to go beyond such passive protest. Now a 56 year old fanatic abolitionist in Kansas who believed in the Old Testament injunction of an eye for an eye decided he would do it himself.

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Bleeding Kansas Continued

Free Soil Kansas had no intention of either obeying the slave code laws or the "bogus legislature" that had passed them. Northern settlers armed with new Sharps breechloading rifles from New England organized and called for a convention to meet in Topeka. They drew up a free state constitution and called elections for a new legislature and governor. Proslavery voters of course boycotted these elections. By January 1856 Kansas had two territorial governments: the official one at Lecompton and an unofficial one at Topeka representing the majority of actual residents.

Partisans of both siddes in the territory were walking arsenals; it was only a matter of time before a shooting war broke out. The murder of a free-soil settler by a proslavery man in November 1855 set off a series of incidents that seemed likely to start the war. Some 1,500 Missourians crossed the border to march on the free-soil stronghold of Lawrence, where 1,000 men waited to receive them with Sharps rifles and a howitzer. Federal troops stood idly by because they had received no orders from the inert Pierce administration. Governor Shannon went to Lawrence and persuaded both sides to disband their forces. He told the Missourians: "If you attack Lawrence now, you attack a mob, and what would be the result? You could cause the election of an abolition president, and the ruin of the Democratic party. Wait a little. You cannot now destroy these people without losing more than you would gain."

This reasoning hardly encouraged prospects for a permanent peace. As the election year of 1856 progressed, Kansas erupted. Proslavery Judge Samuel Lecompte, who had been appointed by the proslavery legislature, instructed a grand jury to indict all members of the free-state government for treason. Since many of these men lived in Lawrence, the attempt to arrest them provided another opportunity for Missourians, now deputized as a posse, to attack this bastion of Yankee abolitionists. Dragging along 5 cannon, they entered the town on May 21, demolished its two newspaper offices, burned the hotel and the home of the elected free soil governor, and plundered shops and houses.

At this key juncture two men now entered into American history, bringing the country closer to Civil War than it had ever been: Preston Brooks and John Brown. I will now discuss each of these men and the impact of their actions (in the case of Brown, this was only the beginning.)

And this doesn't even get into the Lecompton Constitution and the moment of clarity that Stephen Douglass suffered.

Kansas had about 4 actual Constitutions that were reviewed and voted on in some capacity and there were probably dozens more floating around the state throughout the various factions of mobs, lynching parties, outright criminals, and everything else running the gauntlet of groups in the state as the formation of the state government was contemplated. The Lecompton Constitution was the most important one however.

It's important to remember that the overwhelming majority of people that actually settled and lived in Kansas at the time were likely to vote for a free-state, which is why the problems over sitting the pro-slavery government became such an issue. But once the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution became a public document it created a series of rather momentus political problems.

Initially it was clear that only pro-slavery forces drafted and supported the thing and it was clear that no serious anti-slavery support was coming. In fact, just about all anti-slavery forces boycotted the convention that gave rise and tried to implement the Lecompton plan. Buchanan's territorial government, Robert Walker saw the writing on the wall with the Lecompton Constitution and actually broke ranks and resigned rather than enforce it. He argued that the clear voting irregularities and fraud that produced the document would do more harm than good and make the Democratic party look bad. Though he didn't personally break with the party immediately, by 1861 he couldn't be called a Democrat anymore and he openly supported and favored the Union. Lincoln gave him a federal position where he worked on securing long term European loans for the federal government.

But, with that break at Lecompton something was made very obvious to all involved - the deep southern wing of the Democratic party not only too the power that we have discussed before and the power that Stephen Douglass saw as his backbone to the White House, but they took it way too far. It became rather clear that legality and proper procedure meant little to that power base in the face of what they demanded from the government and slavery policy. They continued to favor and push Lecompton in the face of Buchanan's administration being fractured with it, and suffering a moment of clarity, Stephen Douglass and many northern democrats fell on the side of killing Lecompton to come up with a better (read that as more legal, not so much less pro-slavery) alternative. And in fact over the next couple years two other main Constitutions were penned but the political writing was on the wall.

The Democratic Party and the deep southern power bloc in particular, did their best to destroy their political opposition in the Whigs and did it well. But like a shark who smells blood and doesn't let go from the hunt, the deep south didn't take a moment of pause to make sure they added some legitimacy to their actions going forward in Kansas. The northern portion of the party, and the portion of the party that was closest to the anti-slavery public and heard the rumblings against this attack on basic procedural fairness, had to take a step back. In that, the democratic party fractured. Stephen Douglass backed off his quest with the deep south as his core and tried to fall back to a more legitimate process that still met the same ends.

With the party that fractured, the seeds were sown for 1860. The death of the Whigs gave rise to the Republicans and after a very contentious convention and several ballots, the party nominated Abraham Lincoln partly to secure the western vote. The democratic party fissure grew and the party platofrm was boycotted by several prominent members leading to basically a split party. The northern wing nominated Stephen Douglass for President and the Southern Wing nominated John Breckenridge. Thw remianing Whigs that couldn't find a home with the GOP or the broken democrats on either side formed their own party and nominated John Bell over Sam Houston. The resulting campaign was truly remarkable. Given the divisions of the country and within the democratic party, Lincoln and Douglas campaigned in the north and Breckenridge and Bell campaigned against each other in the south. The only cross over candidate was Douglass but the party was too fractured to matter and the result was the election of the lawyer from Ilinois whoserved one term in Congress and never held an executive position before. Many thought he wsas incapable and that he was doomed to failure giveen the sectional strife and impending Civil War.

History proved them wrong.

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So felt Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina, a cousin of Andrew Butler. Two days after the speech Brooks walked into the nearby empty Senate chamber after adjournment and approached the desk where Sumner was writing letters. "Your speech", he told the senator, "is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine." As Sumner started to rise, the frenzied Brooks beat him over the head 30 times or more with a gold-headed cane as Sumner, his legs trapped under the bolted-down desk, finally wrenched it loose from the floor and collapsed with his head covered by blood.

:popcorn:Makes today's Congress look downright civilized.
It is. It's too civilized.
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The Brooks-Sumner Affair Part Two

The caning incensed even those Yankees who had little use for Sumner. "Bleeding Sumner" joined Bleeding Kansas as a symbol of the slave power's iniquities. The South, declared one newspaper, "cannot tolerate free speech anywhere, and would stifle it in Washington with the bludgeon and the bowie-knife, Has it come to this," asked William Cullen Bryant of the New York Evening Post, "that we must speak with bated breath in the presence of our Southern masters? Are we to be chastised as they chastise their slaves? Are we too, slaves, slaves for life, a target for their brutal blows, when we do not comport ourselves to please them?"

Adding insult to injury, the South lionized Brooks as a hero. Although some moderate southerners regretted the affair and warned of its galvanizing effect on the North, public approval of Brook's act far outweighed qualms. Newspapers in his own state expressed pride that Brooks had "stood forth so nobly in defense of the honor of South Carolinians." The Richmond Enquirer pronounced "the act good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in consequence. The vulgar Abolitionists in the Senate are getting above themselves...They have grown saucy, and dare to be impudent to gentlemen! The truth is, they have been suffered to run too long without collars. They must be lashed into submission." A Louisiana planter and former army officer by the name of Braxton Bragg (who sometime later will become one of the major characters in this narrative) wrote that the House should pass a vote of thanks to Brooks. Brooks himself boasted that "every Southern man sustains me. the fragments of the stick are begged for as sacred relicts." When the House voted 121 to 95 to expel Brooks, southern opposition prevented the necessary 2/3rds majority. Brooks resigned anyway and returned home to seek vindication by re-election. South Carolinians obliged; his re-election was unopposed and near unanimous. From all over the South, Brooks received dozens of new canes, some inscribed with mottoes such as "Hit Him Again!"

This southern response outraged northern moderates even more than the caning had done. "It was not the attack itself (horrible as that was) that excited me," wrote an old-line Whig who thereafter voted Republican, "but the tone of the Southern Press, & the approbation, apparently, of the whole Southern people." A Boston conservative who had previously defended the South now "must in sorrow concede a lower civilization than I would ever before believe, though Theodore Parker & those called extreme have often & calmly insisted upon this very fact, while I have warmly denied it." Republican organizers reported that they had "never before seen anything at all like the present state of deep, determined & desperate feelings of hatred & hostility to the further extension of slavery, & it's political power."

Brooks's only punishment was a $300 fine levied by a district court. Sumner's injuries, complicated by a post-traumatic syndrome that turned into a disability, kept him away from the Senate for most of the next 4 years. During that time the Massachusetts legislature reelected him as a symbolic rebuke to the "barbarism of slavery." A good many Yankees wanted to go beyond such passive protest. Now a 56 year old fanatic abolitionist in Kansas who believed in the Old Testament injunction of an eye for an eye decided he would do it himself.

It's remarkable that the kind of personal political attacks and questions of honor that we see in this moment in history didn't make anyone pause and remember the past. During the revolution and the Constitutional convention there were heated arguments, flaming speeches that mocked and ridiculued the opposition, all manner of professional debate and attack - but there was also a sense of something more with the men who did the arguing . The only thing I can call it is a spirit of togetherness that the common goal is too important. Sure, there were battles to get the country formed and then the Constitution ratified, but they were all arguing in the same or very close to the same language. And except for a small handful of personal incidents, the debates never boiled over the personal violence that the debates moving towards civil war brought. The closest thing we have to the Sumner caning was the duel between Burr and Hamilton, but the lesson of that duel was that it should never get that far and the code that gave rise to those questions of honor basically disintegrated after that when people finally realized what was going on. Basically, the founding generation learned from their mistakes.

It seems the next generation was unable to. There was no reason for the violent reaction. Firestorm speeches - sure. Newspaper wars, fine. But a brutal attack like that was just almost a break with reality. The founders that built so much and worked so hard had to look down at their sons and grandson's in horror as they almost destroyed what was built. Very few if any revolutions turn into solid governments made up of the very laws the revolutionaries fought for. More often then not they turn into the French Revolution and despotism. The founders didn't suffer that fault but their children and grandchildren did.

You have to wonder at certain points in history if a more adult action could have changed anything. Instead of the violent attack, Brooks challenged Sumner to public debates or even sued him in a court where the argument could be set in the public and heard in a respectful manner, if it would have changed anything at all. For all the fire the democrats clearly had a wing ready to work a little more legitimately and carefully.

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So felt Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina, a cousin of Andrew Butler. Two days after the speech Brooks walked into the nearby empty Senate chamber after adjournment and approached the desk where Sumner was writing letters. "Your speech", he told the senator, "is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine." As Sumner started to rise, the frenzied Brooks beat him over the head 30 times or more with a gold-headed cane as Sumner, his legs trapped under the bolted-down desk, finally wrenched it loose from the floor and collapsed with his head covered by blood.

:rolleyes:Makes today's Congress look downright civilized.
It is. It's too civilized.
"You lie!"
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Anyone else grow up using the expression "well I'll be John Brown!" ?

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John Brown in Kansas

A little later in the narrative I'm going to get into a more detailed analysis of John Brown and his actions. For now, let me just say that, despite the fact that this man is revered in many quarters as a true American hero, and despite his devotion to the abolitionist movement, there is no modern definition of a terrorist that does not apply to John Brown. He was a fanatic who, as we shall see, was willing and eager to kill innocent people to achieve his ends; those ends being the spread of terror as a means to bring about the end of slavery.

The father of 20 children, Brown had enjoyed little success over the years in his various business and farming enterprises. In 1855 he joined 6 of his sons and a son-in-law who had taken up claims in Kansas. A zealot on the subject of slavery with an almost mesmeric influence over many of his associates, Brown enlisted in a free-state military company (which included his sons) for service in the guerilla conflict that was spreading during the spring of 1856. On their way to help defend Lawrence against the Missourians in May, this company learned that the unresisting town had been pillaged. The news threw Brown into a rage at the proslavery forces and a contempt for the failure of Lawrence men to fight. We must "fight fire with fire", must "strike terror into the hearts of the proslavery people."

When further word reached Brown's party of the caning of Sumner in Washington, Brown "went crazy- crazy," accordding to witnesses. "Something must be done to show these barbarians that we, too, have rights," Brown declared. He reckoned that proslavery men had murdered at least 5 free-soliers in Kansas since the troubles began. Brown conceived of a "radical, retaliatory measure" against "thes slave hounds" of his own neighborhood near Pottawatomie Creek- none of whom had anything to do with those murders. With 4 of his sons and 3 other men, Brown abducted 5 proslavery settlers from their cabins on the night of May 24-25 and cooly split open their skulls with broadswords. An eye for an eye.

This shocking massacre went unpunished by legal process, Federal officials did manage to arrest 2 of Brown's sons who had not taken part in the affair, while proslavery bands burned the Brown homestead. The twin traumas of Lawrence and Pottawatomie escalated the bushwacking war in Kansas. One of Brown's sons was among 200 men killed in this conflict. Considering themselves soldiers in a holy war, Brown and his other sons somehow evaded capture and were never indicted for the Pottawatomie killings. And despite strenuous efforts by the U.S. army to contain the violence, the troops were too few to keep up with the hit and run raids that characterized the fighting.

As news of the Pottawatomie Massacre, as it has become known in American history, traveled eastward, a legend grew among antislavery people that Brown was not involved or that if he was he had acted in self-defense. Republicans preferred to dwell on the "barbarism" of border ruffians and Preston Brooks rather than on Brown. Exactly the opposite reaction emerged from the South, where John Brown and his men represented everything that was threatening their lands: savage and fanatical northerners out to not only destroy their way of life, but to murder them.

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Yankee has covered Lecompton, which concludes Bleeding Kansas. (Although the struggles went on there between the two sides all the way into the next decade). Yankee did not cover the election of 1856, but it's not crucial to detail that in this narrative. Basically the colorless 65 year old bachelor Democrat James Buchanan won out over the first Republican candidate, Fremont, because many Northerners still believed a compromise with the South was possible and desirable. The key events that would cause enough of these to change their minds and elect a Republican four years later all had yet to occur: the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and Harper's Ferry. These are three of the most important events in American history, the three key events of the Buchanan years, and they paved the way the inevitable split between North and South and Civil War. It is now time in the narrative to cover these three events, each of which will require many posts to describe accurately. Bear with me.

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Dred Scott Part One

Dred Scott lived all but 2 of his 60 odd years in obscurity. The fame he acheived late in life was not for himself but for what he represented. Scott had been a slave of army surgeon John Emerson, who had taken him from Missouri to posts in Illinois and at Fort Snelling in the northern part of the Louisiana Purchase (now Minnesota) for several years in the 1830s. At Fort Snelling, Scott married a slave also owned by Emerson. She gave birth to a daughter in territory made free by the Missouri Compromise while Emerson was returning the Scotts to Missouri. After Emerson died and his widow inherited the Scotts, white friends of Dred Scott in St. Louis advised him in 1846 to sure for freedom on grounds of prolonged residence in a free state and a free territory. Thus began an 11 year saga that started off as a simple freedom suit and escalated into the most notorious cause celebre in American constitutional history.

Scott first lost his appeal then eon it on re-trial in St. Louis county court in 1850. On appeal the Missouri supreme court overturned this decision in 1852 and remanded the Scotts to slavery. The case was beginning to acquire political significance. Missouri courts had previously granted freedom to slaves in cases similar to to Scott's. In overturning these precedents and asserting that Missouri law prevailed despite Scott's residence in free territory, the state supreme court was reacting to proslavery pressures. Scott's lawyers, who now included a Vermont-born resident of St.Louis, thought they could win the case if they could get it before a federal court. Scott's owner having moved to New York, the lawyers appealed to federal circuit court under the diverse-citizenship clause of the Consititution which gives federal courts jurisdiction over cases involving citizens of different states. In 1854 the circuit court for Missouri accepted the case (thereby affirming Scott's status as a citizen) but upheld the Missouri court's denial of his suit for freedom. Scott's lawyers appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Proslavery elements welcomed this move. The potential of the case for resolving crucial constitutional issues had become clear. And the Supreme Court had a southern majority.

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Dred Scott, Continued

The Supreme Court first heard arguments on the case in 1856 and held it over for reargument in the 1856-57 session- perhaps to avoid rendering a decision before the presidential election. Three main questions were before the Court:

1. As a black man, was Scott a citizen with a right to sue in federal courts?

2. Had prolonged residence (two years in each place) in a free state and territory made Scott free?

3. Was Fort Snelling actually free territory? That is, did Congress in 1820 have the right to ban slavery in the Louisiana Purchase north of 36 30?

The Court could have ducked questions 1 and 3 merely by reaffirming the decisions of the Missouri supreme court and the federal circuit court that Missouri law governed Scott's status. Precedents existed for doing so; the Supreme Court itself in Strader vs. Graham (1851) had refused to accept an appeal from the Kentucky supreme court which had ruled that slaves from Kentucky taken temporarily to Ohio remained slaves under Kentucky law. And indeed, for a time it appeared that the Court would take this way out. On February 14, 1857, a majority of justices voted to reaffirm the Strader principle and let it go at that. Justice Samuel Nelson of New York began to write the decision. But a few days later the majority reversed itself and decided to issue a comprehensive ruling covering all aspects of the case.

Why did the Court take this fateful step? Answers to this question have been uncertain and partisan. Only fragmentary accounts of the justices' confidential discussions leaked out, some of them years later. One interpretation of the evidence maintains that the two non-Democrats on the Court, John McLean of Ohio and Benjamin Curtis of Massachusetts, stated their intention to dissent from the narrow decision prepared by Nelson. Their dissent would not only uphold Scott's freedom but would also affirm black citizenship and endorse the right of Congress to prohibit slavery in the territories. Not wishing these dissents to stand as the Court's only statement on such contentious issues, the southern majority reconsidered its decision to ignore them and vote to have Chief Justice Roger B. Taney write a comprehensive ruling. Thus, according to this interpretation, McLean and Curtis were responsible for provoking the vexatious Dred Scott decision that superseded Nelson's innocuous opinion. For nearly a century afterward, this has been the standard explanation, taught in history books and law schools.

But more recent scholarship by historians of the Court suggest that the truth appears to be more complex. For a decade the question of slavery in the territories had threatened the Union. Politicians had been trying to pass the buck to the courts since the Compromise of 1850, which had provided for expedited appeal to the Supreme Court of any suit concerning slave property in the territories of Utah and New Mexico- a provision repeated verbatim in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The problem was that because these territories did not prohibit slavery, so such suit materialized. But here, conveniently, came a suit from another part of the Louisiana Purchase. The yearning for settlement of this question by "judicial statesmanship" was widespread in Washington during the winter of 1856-57, especially among southerners. Alexander Stephens, a friend of Justice James M. Wayne of Georgia and a distant cousin of Justice Robert Grier of Pennsylvania, wrote privately in December 1856: "I have been urging all the influence I could bring to bear upon the Sup. Ct. to get them no longer to postpone the case on the Mo. Restriction...I have reason to believe they will decide that the restriction was unconstitutional," Other southerners exerted similar pressures on the Court. They seemed to be succeeding. Two weeks later Stephens reported that "from what I hear sub rosa the decision will be according to my own opinions upon every point...The restriction of 1820 will be held to be unconstitutional. The Judges are all writing out their opinions I believe seriatim. The Chief Justice will give an elaborate one."

The 5 southern justices id want to rule against Congress's right to ban slavery from the territories. Some of them had indeed begun writing opinions to that effect. But the difficulty was in getting the two northern Democratic justices, Grier and Nelson, to go along with them. This was why the southerners had reluctantly decided to sidestep the issue with Nelson's narrow ruling. Word that McLean and Curtis would raise the broader questions in their dissents gave southern justices the pretext they needed to change their minds. They approved a motion by Wayne that Taney should prepare a decision covering all aspects of the case.

(Though I'm not going to do this very often, I think it's important to note here that the above listed analysis of the reasoning behind the Dred Scott decision, which I got from Battle Cry of Freedom was originally developed by Don E. Fehrenbacker in his work The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics, published in 1978. Apparently this work, as well as an earlier study by James A Rawley in 1969, significantly changed the historical intepretation of these events, and this analysis has now become standard.)

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Dred Scott, Continued

There still remained the problem of cajoling a concurrence from at least one Northern justice to avoid the appearance of a purely sectional ruling. Nelson could not be persuaded- he had already written his opinion and was probably miffed by his colleagues' intent to bypass it. But Grier was pliable. He was also from Buchanan's home state. The president-elect was anxious to have the territorial question resolved. In response to a suggestion from Justice John Carton of Tennessee, Buchanan brought highly improper but efficacious influence to bear on Grier, who succumbed. Taney had his northern justice and could proceed with his ruling.

It was an opinion Roger Taney had long wanted to write. 80 years old, the chief justice was frail and ill. The death of his wife and daughter two years earlier in a yellow fever epidemic had left him heart-stricken. Yet he clung to life determined to defend his beloved South from the malign forces of Black Republicanism. In his younger days Taney had been a Jacksonian committed to liberating American enterprise from the shackles of special privilege. As Jackson's secretary of the treasury he had helped destroy the Second Bank of the United States. His early decisions as chief justice had undermined special corporate charters. But the main theme of his 28 year tenure on the Court was the defense of slavery. Taney had no great love of the institution for his own sake, having freed his own slaves. But he did have a passionate commitment "to southern life and values, which seemed organically linked to the peculiar institution and unpreservable without it." In private letters Taney expressed growing anger toward "northern agression." "Our own southern countrymen" were in great danger, he wrote; "the knife of the assassin is at their throats." Taney's southern colleagues on the Court shared this apprehension; Justice Peter Daniel of Virginia was a brooding proslavery fanatic, and the other three were unreserved defenders of slavery.

Because of this emotional commitment so intense that it made perception and logic utterly subservient, the Dred Scott decision was essentially visceral in origin, a work of unmitigated partisanship, polemical in spirit with an extraordinary, cumulation of error, inconsistency, and misrepresentation. It is, in fact, quite simply the worst Supreme Court decision in American history. My next few posts will contain a full synopsis.

Edited by timschochet
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Dred Scott Part One

Dred Scott lived all but 2 of his 60 odd years in obscurity. The fame he acheived late in life was not for himself but for what he represented. Scott had been a slave of army surgeon John Emerson, who had taken him from Missouri to posts in Illinois and at Fort Snelling in the northern part of the Louisiana Purchase (now Minnesota) for several years in the 1830s. At Fort Snelling, Scott married a slave also owned by Emerson. She gave birth to a daughter in territory made free by the Missouri Compromise while Emerson was returning the Scotts to Missouri.

Actually, Emerson did not initially own the female slave. Dred Scott and she met and fell in love at the fort, and Emerson purchased her from her owner so they could be together.

I don't have links for anything I say here, but I took a class in college called Prelude to the Civil War, where a very well respected professor went into great detail, and I remember a lot of it.

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Yankee's excellent summary has saved me time again. After John Brown in Kansas, I will go directly to Dred Scot.

Will you be citing Thoreau's account of John Brown?
:thumbup:
Not sure what you find so funny, unless you have not read Thoreau's plea for John Brown. Which would not surprise me.

LINKY

If Walker may be considered the representative of the South, I wish I could say that Brown was the representative of the North. He was a superior man. He did not value his bodily life in comparison with ideal things. He did not recognize unjust human laws, but resisted them as he was bid. For once we are lifted out of the trivialness and dust of politics into the region of truth and manhood. No man in America has ever stood up so persistently and effectively for the dignity of human nature, knowing himself for a man, and the equal of any and all governments. In that sense he was the most American of us all. He needed no babbling lawyer, making false issues, to defend him. He was more than a match for all the judges that American voters, or office-holders of whatever grade, can create. He could not have been tried by a jury of his peers, because his peers did not exist. When a man stands up serenely against the condemnation and vengeance of mankind, rising above them literally by a whole body,--even though he were of late the vilest murderer, who has settled that matter with himself,--the spectacle is a sublime one,--didn't ye know it, ye Liberators, ye Tribunes, ye Republicans?--and we become criminal in comparison.

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Yankee's excellent summary has saved me time again. After John Brown in Kansas, I will go directly to Dred Scot.

Will you be citing Thoreau's account of John Brown?
:sadbanana:
Not sure what you find so funny, unless you have not read Thoreau's plea for John Brown. Which would not surprise me.

LINKY

If Walker may be considered the representative of the South, I wish I could say that Brown was the representative of the North. He was a superior man. He did not value his bodily life in comparison with ideal things. He did not recognize unjust human laws, but resisted them as he was bid. For once we are lifted out of the trivialness and dust of politics into the region of truth and manhood. No man in America has ever stood up so persistently and effectively for the dignity of human nature, knowing himself for a man, and the equal of any and all governments. In that sense he was the most American of us all. He needed no babbling lawyer, making false issues, to defend him. He was more than a match for all the judges that American voters, or office-holders of whatever grade, can create. He could not have been tried by a jury of his peers, because his peers did not exist. When a man stands up serenely against the condemnation and vengeance of mankind, rising above them literally by a whole body,--even though he were of late the vilest murderer, who has settled that matter with himself,--the spectacle is a sublime one,--didn't ye know it, ye Liberators, ye Tribunes, ye Republicans?--and we become criminal in comparison.

GG, my discussion of Brown so far was restricted to his actions in Kansas. The statement you quoted was made after the events of Harper's Ferry, which we will get to later in the narrative.
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Dred Scott, Continued

Taney's opinion took up first the question whether Dred Scott, as a black man, was a citizen with the right to sue in federal courts. Taney devoted more space to this matter than anything else. Why he did so is puzzling, for in the public mind this was the least important issue in the case. But southern whites viewed free blacks as an anomaly and a threat to the stability of slavery; Taney's own state of Maryland contained the largest free Negro population of any state. The chief justice's apparent purpose in negating U.S. citizenship for blacks, wrote Fehrenbacher, was "to launch a sweeping counterattack on the antislavery movement and...to meet every threat to southern stability by separating the Negro race absolutely from the the federal Constitution and the rights that it bestowed." To do so, however, he had to juggle history, law, and logic in a "gross perversion of the facts."

Negroes had not been part of the "sovereign people" who made the Constitution, Taney ruled; they were not included in the "all men" whom the Declaration of Independence proclaimed "created equal." After all, the author of that Declaration and many of the signers owned slaves, and for them to have regarded members of the enslaved race as potential citizens whould have been "utterly and flagrantly inconsistent with the principles they asserted." For that matter, wrote Taney, at the time the Constitution was adopted Negroes "had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order...so far inferior, that they had no rights which a white man was bound to respect."

This was false as Curtis and McLean pointed out in their dissents. Free blacks in 1788 and later had many legal rights (to hold and bequeath property, make contracts, seek redress in courts, among others). In 5 of the 13 states that ratified the Constitution black men were legal voters and participated in the ratification process. No matter, said Taney, these were rights of state citizenship and the question at issue was United States citizenship. A person might "have all of the rights and privileges of the citizen of a State," opined the chief justice, and "yet not be entitled to the rights and privileges of a citizen in any other State"- a piece of judicial legerdemain that contradicted Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution: "The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states."

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Yankee's excellent summary has saved me time again. After John Brown in Kansas, I will go directly to Dred Scot.

Will you be citing Thoreau's account of John Brown?
:confused:
Not sure what you find so funny, unless you have not read Thoreau's plea for John Brown. Which would not surprise me.

LINKY

If Walker may be considered the representative of the South, I wish I could say that Brown was the representative of the North. He was a superior man. He did not value his bodily life in comparison with ideal things. He did not recognize unjust human laws, but resisted them as he was bid. For once we are lifted out of the trivialness and dust of politics into the region of truth and manhood. No man in America has ever stood up so persistently and effectively for the dignity of human nature, knowing himself for a man, and the equal of any and all governments. In that sense he was the most American of us all. He needed no babbling lawyer, making false issues, to defend him. He was more than a match for all the judges that American voters, or office-holders of whatever grade, can create. He could not have been tried by a jury of his peers, because his peers did not exist. When a man stands up serenely against the condemnation and vengeance of mankind, rising above them literally by a whole body,--even though he were of late the vilest murderer, who has settled that matter with himself,--the spectacle is a sublime one,--didn't ye know it, ye Liberators, ye Tribunes, ye Republicans?--and we become criminal in comparison.

Yes, I had read it, and its a ridiculous defense of a terrorist. But we'll get to that, be patient.
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Dred Scott, Continued

Having established to his satisfaction that blacks were not citizens, Taney could have stopped there and refused jurisdiction because the case was not properly before the court. That he did not do so rendered the remainder of his decision, in the opinion of many contemporaries and the earliest generation of historians, obiter dictum- a statement in passing on matters not formerly before the Court and therefore without force of law. But Taney insisted that because the circuit court had considered all aspects of the case and decided them "on their merits," the whole case including the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise restriction upon which Scott based part of his suit for freedom was properly before the Court. Modern scholars agree. Whatever else Taney's ruling was, it was not obiter dictum.

Taney and 6 other judges (with only Curtis and McLean dissenting) concurred that Scott's "sojourn" for two years in Illinois and for a similar period at Fort Snelling, even if the latter was free territory, did not make him free once he returned to Missouri. To this matter Taney devoted only one of the 55 pages of his opinion. The constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise received 21 pages of labored prose arguing that Congress never had the right to prohibit slavery in a territory. That the Constitution (Article IV, Section 3) gave Congress the power to "make all needful rules and regulations" for the territories was not relevant, said the chief justice in a typical example of hair-splitting, because rules and regulations were not laws. The Fifth Amendment protecte persons from being deprived of life, liberty, or property without the process; slavery was no different from other propery. "And if Congress itself cannot do this," continued Taney in what he intended as a blow against popular sovereignity, "it could not authorize a territorial government to exercise" such a power. This clearly was obiter dictum, since the question of the power of a territorial government over slavery was not part of the case.

So here was the Dred Scott decision, declaring that blacks were non-citizens, and that Congress could not make slavery illegal anywhere. Before I get to the dissents and the effect that the decision would have on the nation, I want to add as a side note that, ten weeks after the decision was released, Scott's owner manumitted him. Scott died a year later.

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timschochet - have you come across the inauguration incident? Taney whispered something to Buchannon on the platform - of course, only two people ever knew what was said - and then in his speech the new President referred to the territorial question as "happily, a matter of but little practical importance" since the Supreme Court was about to settle it "speedily and finally."

Two days later, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (a fellow alumnus of Dickinson College) delivered the Dred Scott Decision.

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timschochet - have you come across the inauguration incident? Taney whispered something to Buchannon on the platform - of course, only two people ever knew what was said - and then in his speech the new President referred to the territorial question as "happily, a matter of but little practical importance" since the Supreme Court was about to settle it "speedily and finally." Two days later, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (a fellow alumnus of Dickinson College) delivered the Dred Scott Decision.

I did not hear that, but there seems to be no doubt that Buchanan was aware of what was going to happen. What's astonishing to me, though, is this naive attitude on the part of Buchanan, Stephens, Taney, etc, that simply issuing a Supreme Court decision would settle the matter. Both abolitionists and fire-eaters had demonstrated already multiple times that obeyance of the law meant nothing to them. Why would an additional law, even established by the Supreme Court, make any difference? The other thing that surprises me is that Buchanan and the northern Democrat justice would go along with doing away with the Missouri Compromise.
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timschochet - have you come across the inauguration incident? Taney whispered something to Buchannon on the platform - of course, only two people ever knew what was said - and then in his speech the new President referred to the territorial question as "happily, a matter of but little practical importance" since the Supreme Court was about to settle it "speedily and finally."

Two days later, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (a fellow alumnus of Dickinson College) delivered the Dred Scott Decision.

I did not hear that, but there seems to be no doubt that Buchanan was aware of what was going to happen.

What's astonishing to me, though, is this naive attitude on the part of Buchanan, Stephens, Taney, etc, that simply issuing a Supreme Court decision would settle the matter. Both abolitionists and fire-eaters had demonstrated already multiple times that obeyance of the law meant nothing to them. Why would an additional law, even established by the Supreme Court, make any difference?

The other thing that surprises me is that Buchanan and the northern Democrat justice would go along with doing away with the Missouri Compromise.

Agree, but I actually think that they (or at least Taney for sure) thought a SCOTUS ruling would move it beyond the politcal realm. Taney's life took some sad turns afterward.

These were not reasonable times. Not to jump ahead, because we'll get there, but since GG alluded to and posted Thoreau's defense of Capt Brown...think about what would be the equivalent of the man who founded the idea of passive civil disobedience getting caught up in the times and advocating violent overthrow of injustice. That would be like Ralph Nader giving a drill, baby drill speech.

I appreciate that you have patiently and methodically waded through the lead up to the war (and we're really just scratching the surface).

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timschochet - have you come across the inauguration incident? Taney whispered something to Buchannon on the platform - of course, only two people ever knew what was said - and then in his speech the new President referred to the territorial question as "happily, a matter of but little practical importance" since the Supreme Court was about to settle it "speedily and finally." Two days later, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (a fellow alumnus of Dickinson College) delivered the Dred Scott Decision.

Upon reading a little more I have learned that these "whisperings" at the inaugural were actually very important as a conspiracy theory for Lincoln and Seward and played a role in leading up to the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which we shall cover very shortly here.
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Yankee has covered Lecompton, which concludes Bleeding Kansas. (Although the struggles went on there between the two sides all the way into the next decade). Yankee did not cover the election of 1856, but it's not crucial to detail that in this narrative. Basically the colorless 65 year old bachelor Democrat James Buchanan won out over the first Republican candidate, Fremont, because many Northerners still believed a compromise with the South was possible and desirable. The key events that would cause enough of these to change their minds and elect a Republican four years later all had yet to occur: the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and Harper's Ferry. These are three of the most important events in American history, the three key events of the Buchanan years, and they paved the way the inevitable split between North and South and Civil War. It is now time in the narrative to cover these three events, each of which will require many posts to describe accurately. Bear with me.

Didn't know you needed me to but there are a few points of the Election of 1856 that should be given some notice.John C. Fremont was the first Republican party candidate for PResident. His platform was the first of its kind in the nation as it openly attacked slavery, slavery power of the deep south and condemned outright the Kansas-Nebraska Act and ensuing pro-slavery events. James Buchanan ran as a tempered Democrat that called the Republicans extremists and his platofrm favored a popular sovereignty attitude towards the territories. Former President Millard Fillmore took the reigns of a third party - the Know Nothings (very apt name) - and ran a campaign that virtually ignored slavery all together. They didn't garner much votes.Incumbant Franklin Pierce, a democrat, failed so much in his time in the White House that the slogan of the official Democratic Party at their convention was , Anyone But Pierce. He didn't garner enough votes in convention to be a serious contended for renomination or reelection. The fissure that attacked the democratic party in 1860 was beginning to show some signs here, as Stephen Douglass entered the race and made his name available as against Pierce. Given that Pierce was being hit from all sides, the party began to encircle around Buchanan and not Pierce. It was becoming obvious that votes from Pennsylvania and other western leaning states were becoming more and more important. At the convention, Buchanan was the early favorite with Pierce in second and Douglass a distant third but as they went to more and more ballots Douglass took away basically all of Pierce's support in an effort to stop Buchanan. It's interesting that the battle for the nomination erased the sitting President and ended up being between two "northern" democrats. Between 1854 when the Whigs died and the Republican Party was formed, and the election of 1856, the GOP had already gained seats in Congress and even some capital buildings. They managed to absorb most of the 3rd parties and anti-democratic groups in the country to become a party of a collection of different thoughts and policies, although the overriding central policy was anti-slavery. Fremont got the nomination rather easily, but the nomination for Vice-President began the national campaign volleys of a really tall lanky attorney from Illinois. Lincoln finished second in the VP vote but his presence was obvious.The Whig Party, what was left of it, couldn't find their own candidate and endorsed Fillmore. They were already dead but this sealed their fate.Unlike their inability to keep the party together in 1860, the Democrats managed to get in line behind Buchanan and the result was his election, where the GOP got close to zero votes in slave states - not a percentage close to zero, but a nmuber actually close to zero. I checked wiki and they count the vote for the GOP in the south as 0 except for Delaware and Maryland who gave him a combined 500 votes. That's probably right. In the end, thw writing was on the wall. A party that campaigned openly against slavery as the GOP did would not get a single vote in the south. And if the democrats could stay together and united they still had enough power in 1856, and probably 1860, to keep their party in the White House.But the party that thought Buchanan could lead them better then Pierce got a rude awakening. Meanwhile, the GOP who was just 2 years old was immediately a force and the clear enemy of the pro-slavery movement. And While Fremont was their first choice, the first convention allowed the movers and shakers in the party to meet and come to terms with a rising star that they would lean on in Illinois in 1858. And his performance there made them give him a key note speech in Cooper Union. And that speech gave him the nomination for PResident in 1860.
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Dred Scott, Continued

There still remained the problem of cajoling a concurrence from at least one Northern justice to avoid the appearance of a purely sectional ruling. Nelson could not be persuaded- he had already written his opinion and was probably miffed by his colleagues' intent to bypass it. But Grier was pliable. He was also from Buchanan's home state. The president-elect was anxious to have the territorial question resolved. In response to a suggestion from Justice John Carton of Tennessee, Buchanan brought highly improper but efficacious influence to bear on Grier, who succumbed. Taney had his northern justice and could proceed with his ruling.

It was an opinion Roger Taney had long wanted to write. 80 years old, the chief justice was frail and ill. The death of his wife and daughter two years earlier in a yellow fever epidemic had left him heart-stricken. Yet he clung to life determined to defend his beloved South from the malign forces of Black Republicanism. In his younger days Taney had been a Jacksonian committed to liberating American enterprise from the shackles of special privilege. As Jackson's secretary of the treasury he had helped destroy the Second Bank of the United States. His early decisions as chief justice had undermined special corporate charters. But the main theme of his 28 year tenure on the Court was the defense of slavery. Taney had no great love of the institution for his own sake, having freed his own slaves. But he did have a passionate commitment "to southern life and values, which seemed organically linked to the peculiar institution and unpreservable without it." In private letters Taney expressed growing anger toward "northern agression." "Our own southern countrymen" were in great danger, he wrote; "the knife of the assassin is at their throats." Taney's southern colleagues on the Court shared this apprehension; Justice Peter Daniel of Virginia was a brooding proslavery fanatic, and the other three were unreserved defenders of slavery.

Because of this emotional commitment so intense that it made perception and logic utterly subservient, the Dred Scott decision was essentially visceral in origin, a work of unmitigated partisanship, polemical in spirit with an extraordinary, cumulation of error, inconsistency, and misrepresentation. It is, in fact, quite simply the worst Supreme Court decision in American history. My next few posts will contain a full synopsis.

Taney had some bad ones, that is for sure.

I know the popular interpretation of the reasons for the decision, but there is more to it that I think never gets reported. Buchanan and many democratc like him wanted the Supreme Ccourt to give them legal standing to protect slavery. It was something they didn't have for the most part. A case such as this where the Court could say once and for all the answer to many of the questions that plagued the daily political battles would go a long way to add legitmacy to the cause. I truly believe that Buchanan had more of a hand in this then simply getting one justice to back down a little. I think he worked with Taney to get this done. And I think Taney wanted to do this and was happy to find an excuse to do it.

In writing the decision Taney gave Buchanan what he thought he wanted and Taney got to say what he wanted to say. It effectively ended any historical support for Taney and his service. By the outbreak of Civil War he became a joke of a Justice who brought more ridicule to the Court then it probably deserved. But Buchanan thought that one holding would solve the question and that he could move on with other stuff. It only goes to show his inability to grasp the concept of what was going on. This was a PResident that tried to start a war in Utah based on one false report by one official that wasn't corroberated, reviewd or even checked on before the order to send troops was given. Buchanan reacted to Washington rumor without fact.

Similarly he fell into the trap of the deep south's rhetoric that an act of legitimacy would protect their interests. Taney was all too willing to give it to them and Buchanan was as well. He basically wanted all the important decisions of the day to be handled by someone else for him. That's why he backed this holding. That's why he backed the Lecompton Constitution even going so far as to get supporters of it by giving them jobs. His inability to lead was the final in the party coffin and they should have seen it coming. As part of the Pierce administration he wrote the policy to buy Cuba from Spain for the express purpose of extending slavery there which became one of the political blunders of the Pierce administration - and there were a lot. The one time Buchanan put his name and face forward on an affirmative act it backfired. This wasn't a man capable of leading the country. The Democrats would have been better served to nominate Douglass, but again, the deep south resisted someone who didn't back without question the ideals of the Lecompton Constitution.

Dred Scott just happened to be a fairly good focal point of all this different tracts of policy and power struggle that hit each other at the same time. I don't know if I consider it the spark that ignited war that many think, but it did clearly show everyone that when all these problems hit each other head on, the problem was much much worse then one territory, one policy, or one admiinstration.

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Great stuff Yankee. I'm fascinated by the fact that Taney freed all of his own slaves, but I'm unable in my sources or on the internet to find anything more about this: the reasons why, whether Taney himself had moral trouble with slavery, etc. Do you know anything more?

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Dred Scott, Continued

Taney's opinion took up first the question whether Dred Scott, as a black man, was a citizen with the right to sue in federal courts. Taney devoted more space to this matter than anything else. Why he did so is puzzling, for in the public mind this was the least important issue in the case. But southern whites viewed free blacks as an anomaly and a threat to the stability of slavery; Taney's own state of Maryland contained the largest free Negro population of any state. The chief justice's apparent purpose in negating U.S. citizenship for blacks, wrote Fehrenbacher, was "to launch a sweeping counterattack on the antislavery movement and...to meet every threat to southern stability by separating the Negro race absolutely from the the federal Constitution and the rights that it bestowed." To do so, however, he had to juggle history, law, and logic in a "gross perversion of the facts."

Negroes had not been part of the "sovereign people" who made the Constitution, Taney ruled; they were not included in the "all men" whom the Declaration of Independence proclaimed "created equal." After all, the author of that Declaration and many of the signers owned slaves, and for them to have regarded members of the enslaved race as potential citizens whould have been "utterly and flagrantly inconsistent with the principles they asserted." For that matter, wrote Taney, at the time the Constitution was adopted Negroes "had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order...so far inferior, that they had no rights which a white man was bound to respect."

This was false as Curtis and McLean pointed out in their dissents. Free blacks in 1788 and later had many legal rights (to hold and bequeath property, make contracts, seek redress in courts, among others). In 5 of the 13 states that ratified the Constitution black men were legal voters and participated in the ratification process. No matter, said Taney, these were rights of state citizenship and the question at issue was United States citizenship. A person might "have all of the rights and privileges of the citizen of a State," opined the chief justice, and "yet not be entitled to the rights and privileges of a citizen in any other State"- a piece of judicial legerdemain that contradicted Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution: "The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states."

He had to start there to get his holding to come close to logicial. If they ahd any rights as citizens the rest of holding bears little legitimacy. What Taney wanted to do was get the question not only settled but unable to come back by removing the right of blacks to come before the court. The question also had practical implications for the time because if you remove black sfrom the federal system then the only place they can find redress is in the state system, if at all. No southern state was about to allow a black man before the court so that wasn't an issue, but in the Kansas Nebraska fight it was important. The state courts in Missouri could deal with the question on their own, and we've seen what happened in that area when those states were left to their own actions regarding slavery.

He tried to kill 3 or 4 birds with one rhetorical stone. It only made him look like a fool.

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Dred Scott, Continued

Having established to his satisfaction that blacks were not citizens, Taney could have stopped there and refused jurisdiction because the case was not properly before the court. That he did not do so rendered the remainder of his decision, in the opinion of many contemporaries and the earliest generation of historians, obiter dictum- a statement in passing on matters not formerly before the Court and therefore without force of law. But Taney insisted that because the circuit court had considered all aspects of the case and decided them "on their merits," the whole case including the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise restriction upon which Scott based part of his suit for freedom was properly before the Court. Modern scholars agree. Whatever else Taney's ruling was, it was not obiter dictum.

Taney and 6 other judges (with only Curtis and McLean dissenting) concurred that Scott's "sojourn" for two years in Illinois and for a similar period at Fort Snelling, even if the latter was free territory, did not make him free once he returned to Missouri. To this matter Taney devoted only one of the 55 pages of his opinion. The constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise received 21 pages of labored prose arguing that Congress never had the right to prohibit slavery in a territory. That the Constitution (Article IV, Section 3) gave Congress the power to "make all needful rules and regulations" for the territories was not relevant, said the chief justice in a typical example of hair-splitting, because rules and regulations were not laws. The Fifth Amendment protecte persons from being deprived of life, liberty, or property without the process; slavery was no different from other propery. "And if Congress itself cannot do this," continued Taney in what he intended as a blow against popular sovereignity, "it could not authorize a territorial government to exercise" such a power. This clearly was obiter dictum, since the question of the power of a territorial government over slavery was not part of the case.

So here was the Dred Scott decision, declaring that blacks were non-citizens, and that Congress could not make slavery illegal anywhere. Before I get to the dissents and the effect that the decision would have on the nation, I want to add as a side note that, ten weeks after the decision was released, Scott's owner manumitted him. Scott died a year later.

Modern scholars do their best to protect the integrity of the Court. I have no doubt that Taney's reason for the remaining aspects of the holding were more dicta in the sense that he wanted to pen his thoughts regardless of what was actually required. He couched them in legalisms to be sure and in the end it probably was proper to address the points.
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Great stuff Yankee. I'm fascinated by the fact that Taney freed all of his own slaves, but I'm unable in my sources or on the internet to find anything more about this: the reasons why, whether Taney himself had moral trouble with slavery, etc. Do you know anything more?

He inherited them from his father's estate andprobably knew many of them growing up. I don't know the main reason but it was either economical or emotional. He didn't need an abundance of slaves given his profession so he could have looked at it as a thing to do to ensure he family wasn't saddled with the burden of caring for them. Who knows. Trying to understand most of these guys is maddening.
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John C. Fremont was the first Republican party candidate for PResident. His platform was the first of its kind in the nation as it openly attacked slavery, slavery power of the deep south and condemned outright the Kansas-Nebraska Act and ensuing pro-slavery events.

Lincoln is known to have stated his intent was to preserve the Union. Do you think Fremont's position in the '56 election branded the party as anti-slavery and regardless of what Lincoln said 1860 he was running as a Republican and therefore anti-slavery in the eyes of Southerners?

Meanwhile, the GOP who was just 2 years old was immediately a force and the clear enemy of the pro-slavery movement.

That just seems odd.
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John C. Fremont was the first Republican party candidate for PResident. His platform was the first of its kind in the nation as it openly attacked slavery, slavery power of the deep south and condemned outright the Kansas-Nebraska Act and ensuing pro-slavery events.

Lincoln is known to have stated his intent was to preserve the Union. Do you think Fremont's position in the '56 election branded the party as anti-slavery and regardless of what Lincoln said 1860 he was running as a Republican and therefore anti-slavery in the eyes of Southerners?

Meanwhile, the GOP who was just 2 years old was immediately a force and the clear enemy of the pro-slavery movement.

That just seems odd.
1. Lincoln became nationally famous as a result of his debates with Douglas, which we are about to get to. In those debates, he defined himself and the South knew what they were getting. As to what his real intentions were in 1860, and what the South perceived they were, these are both issues that we need to discuss in depth when the narrative reaches the 1860 election.

2. Fremont was a glory-hunter who's primary purpose in life was his own ambition, and he was joined at this by his wife, who had the same purpose. We will get to them a little later, they both played a role in some of the early battles out west.

3. The term "Grand Old Party" as a definition of the Republican party was first coined in 1876, so Yankee was being anachronistic here. No harm done.

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