Charleston Mercury editorial on the Dred Scott case
Our columns, for some time past, have teemed with a record of facts that it is impossible to review without feelings of strong indignation, and even of amazement -- indignation at the humiliations that have been forced upon us, and amazement at the quiet submission that has marked our counsels and repressed our action.
The Supreme Court of the United States, in a recent case, has, by a decision of seven to two of the Judges, established as law what our Southern statesmen have been repeating daily for many years on the floors of Congress, that the whole action of this Government on the subject of slavery, for more than a quarter of a century, from the initiation of the Missouri Restriction in 1822, to the California Compromise in 1850, has been all beyond the limits of the Constitution; was without justifiable authority; and that the whole mass should be now proclaimed null and void, and that slavery is guaranteed by the constitutional compact.
In this decision of the Court there is certainly presented to the minds of all those anxious Union-savers south of MASON and DIXON'S line -- the men who have been teaching us so anxiously lessons of peace, and forbearance, and self-sacrifice -- a charming subject of contemplation and retrospection. It appears that we, Secessionists, have been all the while not disturbing the law, not intruding novelties upon the country, not seeking to break up established principles, but that we have been simply a step in advance of the highest tribunal in the country, in declaring what was the law of the land, and seeking honestly and faithfully to enforce it.
But it is a curious spectacle that the Southern people have presented to the world during this controversy. With a domain three times greater than that of the French Empire, with a population greater than that which FREDERICK of Prussia made the terror of Europe, with agricultural productions which govern the markets and freight the ships of the whole civilized world -- a people independent in themselves, necessary to all others, compact in the position of their territory, warlike in their character, and with their whole vast internal strength easily at command -- the South has, for a period of more than thirty years, allowed her public men to deal in windy boastings, and sometimes even to descend to servile entreaty, for the purpose of saving, from the abuse of demagogues and the persecution of traducers, those institutions which form her lifeblood, the sources of her prosperity, and the whole foundation of that social and industrial existence which makes her, more than any other people, the centre of civilization of the world. We have allowed ourselves to be assailed in our social, political, moral and legislative relations, and this by a people not distant or professedly hostile, but bound to us by the ties of a common Government -- bound by every consideration of political brotherhood, social sympathy and commercial interest, to treat us not only with forbearance, but even to stand as our friend against all aggressors from without -- by a people to whom we are indebted for no protection -- who have hung for half a century, for the support of their industry, upon that Central Government which we have fed and nurtured into strength, and who have a thousand times proclaimed that their country would become a howling wilderness but for the exactions which have wrested from the South the best part of the profits of her industry. Now the highest tribunal in the country decides that every principle on which the North has assailed us and sought to repress us in the exercise of our rights as a part of the Confederacy, and to limit the spread of our institutions, to undermine their stability and to endanger their peace, is false in law, and that every enactment of Congress tending to carry out these principles is null and void.
Now, however, we may congratulate ourselves that the highest tribunal has at last interposed and given its sanction to principles that recognize distinctly the equality of the States, and condemn the interference of the Federal Government with affairs that are peculiarly under their jurisdiction, and for interfering with which there is no warrant in our common Constitution, we cannot help feeling a sense of mortification that there has been so little of consistent union, on the part of the South, in the maintenance of principles on which depend absolutely her power, her industrial prosperity, and even her very existence. We might have made a better, as we might have made a more successful, battle in favor of interests so great and so vital. When all was at stake, we ought to have risked all, for the settlement of this question. What was it to us that there was a President to be elected, a Cabinet to be appointed, and a squad of subordinate officers to be placed or displaced. The sea is whitened with the rich freightage of our commerce, and the great country of our home is teeming with the abundant products of our peaceful industry. These are mighty interests, compared with which the shuffling game of politics is pitiful in the extreme; and these are the interests which we have too much allowed our public men to forget, or at least to make secondary to considerations of personal interest.