Schulten on Slavery’s End in the Territories

Susan Schulten, of the University of Denver, has published an excellent piece in yesterday’s Disunion in the New York Times, which nicely compliments my Tuesday post on Congress ending slavery in the territories on June 19, 1862. Schulten, like myself, notes that this law was passed with surprisingly little controversy given the passion the issue of slavery in the territories generated before the Civil War.

Susan Schulten though gets into the controversy, much more than I did, over whether Congress had the authority to pass a law ending slavery in the territories. 1857’s Dred Scott decision by the U.S. Supreme Court had called into serious question the legislative branch’s authority over the peculiar institution. This uncertainty about congressional authority over slavery, which I discuss in my own upcoming piece in Disunion about Congress and emancipation, explains ultimately why the body decided to abolish slavery through a constitutional amendment process instead of simply legislatively. A constitutional amendment put the legality of emancipation beyond legal question and also made it essentially impossible to reverse.

In any case, I highly recommend Schulten’s piece in Disunion to the readers of this blog. Here is a <link> to it.

About Donald R. Shaffer

Donald R. Shaffer is the author of _After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans_ (Kansas, 2004), which won the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship in 2005. More recently he published (with Elizabeth Regosin), _Voices of Emancipation: Understanding Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files_ (2008). Dr. Shaffer teaches online exclusively (i.e., a virtual professor). He lives in Arizona and can be contacted at
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