After Lincoln's election, but before he took office, seven Southern states seceded from the Union: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.
Lincoln’s Inauguration - 1861
Firing on Ft. Sumter
Confederate flag flying over Fort Sumter
Soon, the slave states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas joined the Confederacy.
Abraham Lincoln in 1861
In the Anglo-American tradition, prisoners can petition a judge for what is known as a writ of habeas corpus. “Habeas corpus” is part of a latin phrase meaning “produce the body.”This writ refersr to a judicial order to a jailer to produce the prisoner’s body to the court.
Ft. McHenry in Baltimore
“I can see no ground whatever for supposing that the president, in any emergency, or in any state of things, can authorize the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, or the arrest of a citizen, except in aid of the judicial power. He certainly does not faithfully execute the laws, if he takes upon himself legislative power, by suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and the judicial power also, by arresting and imprisoning a person without due process of law.”
Taney ordered that his written opinion should ‘‘be laid before the president, in order that he might perform his constitutional duty, to enforce the laws, by securing obedience to the process of the United States.’’
The White House
According to Professor Seth Barrett Tillman, Taney merely had his opinion on the constitutionality of Lincoln’s action transmitted to the President.
“Taney issued no order to release Merryman. It follows, therefore, that Lincoln could not have ignored or defied it, nor could anyone else for that matter.”
The holding of Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) is well known: People of African descent — whether free or enslaved — could never be citizens of the United States. However, the facts that gave rise to Dred Scott are not well understood. This chapter will consider the specific mechanics of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney’s opinion.
Following the Constitution’s ratification, the slave states and the free states gradually became more bitterly divided. As time went by, each side feared that the other would gain more representation in Congress when new states were admitted to the Union. This fear resulted in the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which prohibited slavery in all new states north of the 36° 30′ line. The compromise was designed to preserve the political equipoise in Congress: For every new slave state that was admitted into the Union, a new free state would also be admitted.
Dred Scott is an infamous decision that belongs in the anti-canon. The case began when Dred and his wife Harriet, both slaves, were transported by their owner from Missouri to a U.S. Army fort located in the free Wisconsin territory (present-day Minnesota), and to the free state of Illinois.