“The Decision in the Case of Dred Scott.” Editorial.


In this Republican-leaning editorial from the Pittsburgh Gazette, the author rails against the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dred Scott case – claiming it ignores the will of the people to decide what’s best in individual states – and implores the voters to rise up and vote for a different path.


[1] We do not know how other persons may feel in view of the recent dicta of the Supreme Court in the case of Dred Scott, [2] an abstract of which was published in our telegraphic column on Saturday morning, but it appears to us that the almost diabolical spirit it evinces in going out of the way to Freedom at the expense of Slavery, ought to be sufficient to arouse to indignation the coolest and most torpid of northern men. The decision is a fitting crown to the aborted tyranny which has just submerged with Pierce; an iron clasp, well forged to link the dead with the living administration. It comes pat upon the recent inaugural, “rounds and caps it to the tyrant’s eye” and just fills up the cup of inequity. [3]

What matter is it that this decision upsets those we have on record? New lights have arisen with the progress of revolving years, and Story and Marshall, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe hide their twinkling lights before the full-orbed glory of Douglas, Pierce and Davis. [4] The Supreme Court has aimed a blow at State Sovereignty which is baser and more iniquitous than any thing we had before conceived of. The State of Illinois for example, under this decision in her legislative capacity, has no power to enact such a law as can make a slave coming there with the consent of his master a freeman! The decision that the Court has no jurisdiction in this case make all the other remarks from the bench touching the ordinance of 1787, [5] and the compromise of 1820, [6] mere obiter dicta, [7] it is true, but the fact that the Court has gone out of its way to say what it has, shows its animus, and trumpets to the four corners of the earth the eager alacrity with which it echoes the mouthings of demagogues like Pierce and Douglas. We may henceforth throw to the winds the reasoning of Story and the decisions of Marshall, so far as this court is concerned, and submit to seeing the government surrendered, bound hand and foot to the same power which has given Kansas over to blood and desolation, elevated a weak old man to the executive chair, given the Treasury, the Post Office, the Army, the Navy and the Department of the Interior to be its willing servants and exhilarated and energized by its success, pressed on to the Supreme Court, made that the echo of its will and left no place for hope to rest upon, but the virtue of the masses of the people, to which we must henceforth appeal. Let them come in their might and at the ballot box root up the rotten fabric to its foundations which four years of misrule has served so much to weaken, and which the four years to come will doubtless not improve or strengthen.




Pittsburgh Gazette


[1] Gazette. Pittsburgh, PA. 7 March, 1857. 

[2] See the Dred Scott Decision in this archive. 

[3] This editorial is published three days after the ending of Franklin Pierce’s term and the beginning of James Buchanan’s term as President of the United States. 

[4] Justice Joseph Story and Chief Justice John Marshall, Supreme Court; Stephen Douglas, Democratic Senator from Illinois; Jefferson Davis, then-Democratic Senator from Mississippi. 

[5] The Northwest Ordinance was adopted on July 13, 1787. It charted a government and bill of rights for the Northwest Territory, and provided a process for admitting new states into the Union. 

[6] See the Missouri Compromise in this archive. 

[7] Obiter dicta: An incidental remark. 

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