Chief Justice Roger Taney and the U. S. Supreme Court in Dred Scott v Sandford in 1857 declared the third provision of the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional because Congress had no power to pass a law which took slave property from their owners in this territory.
James Madison, over eighty years old by this time, denied that nullification was what he argued for in the Virginia Resolution and disavowed Calhoun’s arguments. Calhoun eventually resigned as Vice President in 1832 when the South Carolina legislature chose him to be a new U. S. Senator from South Carolina, and he assumed leadership of those in South Carolina supporting nullification.
Hayne attempted to use the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 to support his view. John C. Calhoun was Vice President of the United States, and thus President of the Senate, during the Hayne-Webster debate and supported Hayne’s view. Webster’s unionist view was supported by fellow U. S. Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky as well as by former President John Quincy Adams and President Andrew Jackson.
Northerners who had never been seriously anti-slavery now witnessed public capture and extradition of runaway slaves that revealed slavery in all its cruelty. This served to add to Northern opposition to slavery. The Act also resulted in the growth of the Underground Railroad, a network of people providing shelter and other assistance for escaped slaves traveling north.
Less than two days after congressional adoption of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, violence broke out in Kansas leading to bloodshed in what became called “Bleeding Kansas.” Threats of secession were again heard in some states. There were numerous political consequences: the Democratic Party suffered in the North; the Whig Party fell apart; the Know-Nothing movement surged for a while; and the new Republican Party emerged at Ripon, Wisconsin. Dismayed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Abraham Lincoln, a former one-term Congressman from Illinois, re-entered politics to lead this new Republican Party in Illinois and engaged in a series of historic debates with Senator Douglas. One of the nation’s most recognized scholars on the Civil War, Professor James McPherson, in his Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, writes: “The Kansas-Nebraska Act may have been the most important single event pushing the nation toward civil war.”
Lincoln defended the Republican Party’s view that Congress had the power under the U. S. Constitution to control slavery in new territory. He asserted that the party’s view on this issue was identical to that of a majority of the men who signed the new Constitution. He referred to the Northwest Ordinance’s prohibition of slavery in new territory adopted in 1787 and reauthorized by the First Congress in 1789 as further proof that Congress was understood to have the power to ban slavery.
Lincoln stated the Republican Party’s position should not alarm Southerners because he acknowledged that the national government did not have the power to free the slaves in the states where is already existed. But he urged his fellow Republicans not to surrender to Southern demands to recognize slavery as being right. He concluded: “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
Lincoln’s speech excited his listeners and gained him political support for the Republican presidential nomination in New York, Seward’s home territory.
Supreme Court Cases
Seven of the nine Supreme Court Justices concluded that the Scotts remained slaves. Chief Justice Roger Taney authored the most important opinion for a majority of the Court. Taney first addressed the question of whether the Scotts were citizens and thus entitled to bring suit in a U. S. court. He wrote: “We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution and can, therefore, claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.” Still writing for a majority of the Court, Taney also wrote: “…it is the opinion of the Court that the Act of Congress (the Missouri Compromise of 1820) which prohibited a citizen from holding and owning property of this kind in the territory of the United States north of the line therein mentioned, is not warranted by the Constitution, and is therefore void.” The Court thus declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and in the process emphasized the importance of protecting property rights, in this case property being slaves.
The first sentence of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment added to the Constitution in 1868 declares that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” It was written and added to the Constitution for the specific purpose of overruling the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v Sanford.