Constitution Sunday: “Cato” V

“Cato” V

New York Journal, November 22, 1787

Following are excerpts from an anonymous article published in the New York Journal:

To the Citizens of the State of New-York.

In my last number I endeavored to prove that the language of the article relative to the establishment of the executive of this new government was vague and inexplicit, that the great powers of the President Read more

A Supreme Court Tragedy: Dred Scott v. Sandford

The Taney Supreme Court.

In 1857, the United States Supreme Court decided one of the most controversial cases in the history of the country. Just days after James Buchanan began his term as president, Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote the opinion for the Court, ruling that neither slaves nor freedmen could be citizens of the United States. The implications of this decision, and its reasoning, have been analyzed, dissected, and discussed since 1857. While many have concluded it is one of the Supreme Court’s worst decisions, its impact on Antebellum America should not be overlooked.

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The Fugitive Slave

The Fugitive Slave. By: John Houston. 1853.

The Fugitive Slave Act, passed as part of the Compromise of 1850, was intended to resolve the tension surrounding the issue of slavery. Its provisions, however, ensured that it would not have such an alleviating effect.¹ The Act “denied the alleged fugitive any right to jury trial, not even guaranteeing it in the jurisdiction from which he had escaped.” David Potter, The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861, 131. It also allowed a court to appoint a commissioner to decide a fugitive slave’s case. See id. That commissioner was entitled to a $10 fee where the “alleged fugitive was delivered to the claimant,” but if the slave was set free, the commissioner would receive only a $5 fee, creating an incentive for returning fugitives to slavery. Id. Finally, the Act gave federal marshals the power “to summon all citizens to aid in enforcement of the Act.” Id. citing Stanley W. Campbell, The Slave Catchers: Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, 1850-1860 (Chapel Hill, 1968). Read more

Constitution Sunday: The Weaknesses of Brutus Exposed: “A Citizen of Philadelphia” [Pelatiah Webster]

The Weaknesses of Brutus Exposed: “A Citizen of Philadelphia” [Pelatiah Webster]

Philadelphia, November 8, 1787

Following is a series of excerpts from Pelatiah Webster’s article published in Philadelphia:

“This government must have a supreme power, superior to and able to controul each and all of its parts. ‘Tis essential to all governments, that such a power Read more

Bringing the Revolution into Focus

Siege of Yorktown. By: John Trumbull.

To fully understand the magnitude and impact of the American Revolution, context is crucial. While the Enlightenment was the process of society learning “the sources of a flourishing society and human happiness,” the Revolution was the process of finding the best form of government perhaps the world has ever known. See Gordon Wood, The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States, 59.

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The American Cincinnatus

George Washington. By: Gilbert Stuart.

George Washington, to some, is revered as a brilliant general. To others, he is to be remembered because in his will drafted in the summer of 1799, he freed all of his slaves and took the extra step of ensuring that the slaves would be taught to read and write and be prepared for “some useful occupation.” Gordon Wood, Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different, 40. Read more