The Person & the Court

April 2006By Timothy P. Collins

Timothy P. Collins, M.D., is Board Certified in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology, and a Fellow of the College of American Pathologists.

In 1833 a surgeon in the U.S. Army, Dr. John Emerson, residing in St. Louis, Mo., purchased from one Peter Blow a piece of property with the name of Dred Scott. Scott was a black man of African descent, and he was at that time about 33 years old. He had been born in Virginia in 1799, born a slave to the Blow family.

Now this was not, of course, unusual in those days. A slave was a valuable asset. In large numbers, they were primarily property of the wealthy, but certainly those of solid middle-class means could afford to own one or two. Slaves were major assets, not unlike large farm animals of the day, or expensive machinery of our own time. They were elements of status, but more than that, they were expected to produce income for their owners. Though human, they were nevertheless property and they were treated and disposed of as such. Their humanity wasn't the issue. The issue was whether these humans, these people, had any rights or protections under the laws of the U.S., or whether they were merely property, to be dealt with as such. No, said the U.S. Supreme Court, black Africans, or blacks of African descent, slave or free, cannot be citizens, cannot sue in Federal courts, have no rights and no protections under the laws of the land. This decision was settled law.

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Primo: Roger Taney was NOT supportive of slavery. He detested the institution and "whose vermin who trade in human flesh".

Secondo: The opinion was carefully phrased. Blacks [Negroes] did NOT have automatic right to citizenship [which was a state option]. The attempt to find fault with the opinion is but an attempt to cover up the shameful acceptance by the U.S. of the condition of slavery. It was quite common in the North as well as the South. The last auction of slaves in New Jersey, for example, was held in 1846.
Posted by: Gabriel Austin
March 26, 2009 01:46 PM EDT
When I first read this article, I tried this argument--which I think is very cogent--out on a few people I know. But it didn't get very far. Usually, we'd wind up lapsing into an uncomfortable silence, and then we'd walk away shaking our heads. Rational debate seems to bounce right off the die-hard abortionists. Why is this? Posted by: mlhearing
March 14, 2009 09:26 AM EDT
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