Secession Era Editorials Project

The Opinion of Chief Justice Taney

Albany, New York, Evening Journal [Republican]

(10 March 1857)

We print to-day a sophistical, dogmatic, muddy, and extreme Pro-Slavery document, which future historians will speak of as the present age speaks of the edicts of Jeffries and the Star Chamber. Unworthy of the Bench from which it was delivered, unworthy even of the previous reputation of the jurist who delivered it, unworthy of the American people, and of the nineteenth century, it will be a blot upon our National character abroad, and a long-remembered shame at home. It declares that the slaveholder may take his Slaves and hold them in any Territory under Federal control, and that neither Congress, nor the Territorial Government, nor the People, have the power now or hereafter to forbid him. It declares that the Constitution, though established "to secure Liberty," nowhere protects the existence of Freedom, and though it never mentions the word "Slave," everywhere legalizes Slavery! The monstrous absurdity of the argument, is only equalled by the astonishing revolution it seeks to effect in our jurisprudence. It falsifies the most reliable history, abrogates the most solemn Law, belies the dead and stultifies the living, -- in order to make what has heretofore been a local evil, hereafter a National institution!

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