by Montgomery Blair Sibley, ©2021, blogging at Amo Probos
(Feb. 16, 2021) — I thought it appropriate at the half-way mark of “Black History Month” to add my two bits of Black History which necessarily includes “White History”; as if the two really can be separated.
On July 4, 1854, Dred Scott publishes a pamphlet, concluding: “I have no money to pay anybody at Washington to speak for me. My fellow-men, can any of you help me in my day of trial? Will nobody speak for me at Washington, even without hope of other reward than the blessings of a poor black man and his family? I do not know. I can only pray that some good heart will be moved by pity to do that for me which I cannot do for myself; and that if the right is on my side, it may be so declared by the high court to which I have appeal.”
By December 30, 1854, when the Supreme Court docketed Dred Scott v. Sandford, no attorney had stepped forward. Yet, Montgomery Blair agreed to take up a case so unpopular that no one in D.C. was willing to take it and risked his career. Why?
Montgomery Blair stated in a letter on December 24, 1856, “I believe in the Southern States, almost every lawyer feels bound to give his services when asked in such a case arising in the community to which he belongs.”
In 2007, I gave a 25-minute lecture on Montgomery Blair and the Dred Scott case and how it impacted Montgomery Blair personally.
[See the video here.]
While I won’t here sketch out the history and impact of the Dred Scott case as that is a book length chore, the March 6, 1857 decision by Chief Justice Taney held that the federal Constitution created a “perpetual and impassible barrier” between whites and blacks. This barrier defined blacks as a “subordinate and inferior class of being,” with no natural rights.
We have come a long way, though obviously not far enough.