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The Worst Contract Ever

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4 Responses

  1. A.W. says:

    mmm, well at the risk of being really dark, jeez, if i was in the shoes of a slave on one of those ships, i’m not sure i would see death as such a bad option. although personally i would prefer to go all “amistad” on them.

    And this is dark, too, but i have always wondered how the treatment of a slave differed from livestock in the middle passage, both in terms of the contract and in terms of the actual shipboard conditions. i have a creeping feeling that the contracts are similar, but the actual conditions are even worse for humans. Slaves as a rule were treated in a way that you wouldn’t treat a dog or a cow, and that is even if we ignore the issue of rape.

    Sorry to take things that dark, but there you go.

    On a less dark note, I have always thought that the Amistad case was underestimated as precedent. i think you have to remember that Amistad stood for a very different set of principles than Dredd Scott. Where DS said that black people were not entitled to any rights that the white man was bound to respect, Amistad said that a free black man could fight and even kill a white man to defend his freedom, if he was illegally enslaved. now, of course the term “illegally enslaved” is pretty disgusting, because to us no one should ever be legally enslaved, but it really was a much better ruling than dredd scott on that count: slaves had no rights, but free black people did.

    That is part of what was so shocking, then, about Dredd Scott to the North, and why it gave white southerners so much confidence going forward. And you have to realize that it was the flagrant disregard of precedent that alarmed the northerners like Lincoln, because it meant you really had no idea what the Supeme Court would do next.

  2. Manny J says:

    I don’t think the Northerners were too worried about what would come next from the Court. The Court wasn’t generally making radical decisions, except on the issue of race, and there wasn’t a lot worse it could do on that than rule that blacks had no rights anywhere in America full stop. That was enough to undo the last 80 years of compromises all by itself, and to make it theoretically possible to export the poisonous Southern economic system to Northern mines and mills.

    Of course, Chief Justice Taney saw himself as an originalist. His opinion is larded with carefully-slanted history to “prove” that America had always been a Christian, er, I mean, a racist nation. It was supposed “radical Republicans” like Lincoln who scandalized the law-n-order crowd by proposing that Dredd Scott be treated as a one-day ticket with no precedential value. That kind of arbitrary power in the hands of the Executive was even scarier than in the hands of the Court.

    Amazingly, we have now managed to come up with a Court that combines the horrors of the time: radical, unpredictable, willing to write one-off opinions, originalist only on the topics it favors and using only the history it likes, and infatuated with executive power.

  3. A.W. says:

    Manny

    > I don’t think the Northerners were too worried about what would come next from the Court. The Court wasn’t generally making radical decisions, except on the issue of race, and there wasn’t a lot worse it could do on that than rule that blacks had no rights anywhere in America full stop.

    That was percisely what they were worried about, and the erosion of white freedom, for instance in the fugitive slave act, which purported to give the government the right to conscript anyone into the service of catching slaves.

    > That kind of arbitrary power in the hands of the Executive was even scarier than in the hands of the Court.

    Lincoln was technically right. a decision only rules one person and its reasoning can be overturned. and at Cooper’s union, Lincoln made a powerful argument that as original intent went, taney was wrong.

    Taney may have pretended to be an originalist, but he was anything but. there mere fact he declared that Scott was not a citizen, but then turned around and decided the merits anyway, was the most obvious evidence that this was a politically motivated decision. if DS was not a citizen, it was absolutely improper to reach the merits.

  4. Raymond Takashi Swenson says:

    This seems to be akin to the tort rules that allowed the survivor of a train accident to sue, but barred the family of a deceased passenger from making any claim. I remember in law school being told that this rule was so notorious that the axes kept in rail cars were said to be for the use of the crew to dispatch any surviving accident victims to decrease the plaintiff class.