Secession Era Editorials Project

The Dred Scott Case and the Missouri Compromise

Natchez, Mississippi, Courier [American]

(14 March 1857)

We have already published the fact that the U S. Supreme Court had decided this much talked of case, involving the Missouri Compromise question, and pronouncing the latter unconstitutional. We find in the St. Louis Intelligencer of the 7th inst., a telegraphic synopsis of the decision, which our readers will deem interesting.

It will be seen that the Court have also decided that Congress cannot confer on a territorial legislature, power to make enactments relative to the personal property of citizens of the United States in federal territory. This is a seeming blow at the doctrine of squatter sovereignty, but not quite as hard a one as we could wish the Court had given. As Congress has no power to exclude slavery from the territory and confer freedom upon negroes, it cannot confer that power on territorial agents. The stream can rise no higher than the fountain, as a matter of course. But Gen. Cass contends that the territories have this power, not so much by donation from Congress, as by some inherent sovereignty of their own. And this inherent squatter-sovereignty, (not derivative jurisdiction,) the Court did not pass upon. The question probably did not come before the Court. The opinion, however, as to Congressional power, is full of interest and point.

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