In my series concerning the 14th Amendment and the Dredd Scott case ( Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, & Part 5) we discussed a number of issues concerning slavery, who a slave was, who the 14th Amendment applied to, how it was conceived, and to what purpose it would serve. I attempted to leave behind any and all thoughts of rightness or wrongness of slavery itself. However, in this piece I intend to touch base on how wrong slavery is, and was.
One of the greatest Libertarian minds that our Founding Fathers rested on was that of John Locke. In his book “The Second Treatise of Civil Government,” this was written in 1690, he stated outright the following: “THE natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of nature for his rule.” This is a strong indication that his thoughts on freedom were for ALL men and left little to no room for debate on the issue of slavery. Furthermore, those famous words of Thomas Jefferson within the confines of that famous document the Declaration of Independence were, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These are very strong sentiments of a man, or of men, concerning the rights of man.
Unfortunately, those who owned slaves considered slaves as property, or chattel, much like cattle or real estate. Throughout the Dredd Scott case it was understood and explained that slaves were not part of “We the People” in the sense that they were people, but as property. They, slaves, were considered “persons” (US Constitution, Article IV, section 2) in the legal sense of the word; which meant “In general usage, a human being; by statute, however, the term can include firms, labor organizations, partnerships, associations, corporations, legal representatives, trustees, trustees in Bankruptcy, or receivers.” Also, a corporation is a “person” for purposes of the constitutional guarantees of equal protection of laws and Due Process of Law. In the US Constitution, Article I, section 2 slaves were classified as “all other Persons” and were valued at 3/5 of a person for purposes of taxation and representation. Another of the great depravities of slavery was the fact the wealthy did not want to pay to get their crops harvested; most of them felt it an unnecessary hindrance to their wealth to house and feed those who did the work.
Now, I personally do not believe in slavery; however, had I been brought up in the south with slaves as part of my culture I may think differently on the matter. The bible mentions slavery in several instances. It has been customary throughout history to enslave those peoples who were conquered.
For a moment let us consider the dissenting opinions of the Justices on the Dredd Scott case, Justices Curtis and McLean.
In his dissent, Justice Curtis rightly stated, “Before our Revolution, all free persons born within the dominions of the King of Great Britain, whatever their color or complexion, were native-born British subjects-those born out of his allegiance were aliens. Slavery did not exist in England, but it did in the British colonies. Slaves were not in legal parlance persons, but property. The moment the incapacity, the disqualification of slavery, was removed, they became persons, and were then either British subjects, or not British subjects, according as they were or were not born within the allegiance of the British King. Upon the Revolution, no other change took place in the laws of North Carolina than was consequent on the transition from a colony dependent on a European King, to a free and sovereign State. Slaves remained slaves. British subjects in North Carolina became North Carolina freemen. Foreigners, until made members of the State, remained aliens. Slaves, manumitted here, became freemen, and therefore, if born within North Carolina, are citizens of North Carolina, and all free persons born within the State are born citizens of the State.” (DRED SCOTT v. SANDFORD, 1856)
William Lloyd Garrison stated it quite well in this sentiment, “The right to enjoy liberty is inalienable. To invade it is to usurp the prerogative of Jehovah. Every man has a right to his own body ’ — to the products of his own labor — to the protection of law — and to the common advantages of society. It is piracy to buy or steal a native African, and subject him to servitude. Surely, the sin is as great to enslave an American as an African.” (Garrison, 1833)
According to William Ellery Channing, two years later, “The very idea of a slave is, that he belongs to another, that he is bound to live and labor for another, to be another’s instrument, and to make another’s will his habitual law, however adverse to his own. Another owns him, and, of course, has a right to his time and strength, a right to the fruits of his labor, a right to task him without his consent, and to determine the kind and duration of his toil, a right to confine him to any bounds, a right to extort the required work by stripes, a right, in a word, to use him as a tool, without contract, against his will, and in denial of his right to dispose of himself, or to use his power for his own good. “A slave,” says the Louisiana code, “is in the power of the master to whom he belongs. The master may sell him, dispose of his person, his industry, his labor; he can do nothing, possess nothing, nor acquire anything, but which must belong to his master.” “Slaves shall be deemed, taken, reputed, and adjudged,” say the South-Carolina laws, “to be chattels personal in the hands of their masters, and possessions to all intents and purposes whatsoever.” Such is slavery, a claim to man as property.” In his assertions a human being cannot be justly owned, with which I truly concur. (Channing, 1835)
Even in the Dredd Scott case in the dissenting vote were several references to the laws of the states and territories. Once the “slave” was brought in to the territory, such as Wisconsin, the US Laws (as opposed to states laws) ruled. All new territories and states under US Laws and under the Constitution, in order to become a state, slavery was not to be recognized. In fact, in Justice Curtis’ dissent, the Missouri Compromise was mentioned where this was part of the compromise to become a state, which rendered any and all state laws recognizing slavery as null and void. Justice Curtis also mentions the language of the Constitution where it discussed “natural born citizen”, continuing on with the fact that citizenship is granted at birth (US Constitution, Article II, section 1)
How could this subject be complete without some reference to the bible? The bible does mention slavery and slaves; however, for the most part, it deals with the subjugation of a conquered people. References are made to slaves that they should essentially be happy and do their due diligence to the best of their abilities. The problem being is that God gave each and every man (women included) freewill, which grants us each the ability to do as we please provided we do not hinder the rights and liberties of another. And since these rights are granted to us by our creator, no one can abrogate, abridge, or take them from us. However, if we do not fight for our rights, who will fight for us? Your rights are precious, all of them! We must be willing to fight for each and every one of them, regardless of the consequences.
I hope this was of interest to you, please let me know your thoughts on this subject.
Channing, W. E. (1835). A Human Being Cannot Be Justly Owned. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from The Libertarian Library: http://www.libertarianism.org/publications/essays/human-being-cannot-be-justly-owned
DRED SCOTT v. SANDFORD, 60 U.S. 393 (U.S. Supreme Court December 1856).
Garrison, W. L. (1833, December 13). Man Cannot Hold Property in Man. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from The Libertarian Library: http://www.libertarianism.org/publications/essays/man-cannot-hold-property-man
John Locke-Slavery. (2007, October 28). Retrieved October 1, 2012, from Study Mode: http://www.studymode.com/essays/John-Locke-Slavery-123778.html
Locke, J. (1690). The Second Treatise of Civil Government. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from Constitution.org: http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtreat.htm
Madison, J. (1787, September 17). U.S. Constitution. The Constitution of the United States .