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.