Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Captial Hill 1

On Monday I my day was filled with giving three visitors from India a sightseeing tour of Washington DC. The major event on the schedule was a staff led two hour tour of Capital Hill that I had arranged with a Congressman from Iowa. Below are a few pictures taken during the tour.

There will be more pictures posted tomorrow. The first is the inside the Rotunda looking up into the Capital Hill Dome.

Below is the a crystal chandelier containing 20,000 plus crystals.

Above is a hallway on the House side. Below are two pictures of the Supreme Court from 1810 to 1860 when the Supreme Court building was completed. The Supreme Court was housed inside the Capital (below the Rotunda and to the House side). This was the site of the infamous Dred Scott decision.


Jenn said...

what is the dred scott decision?

Barbara said...

beautiful buildings. It sounds like it was a much better day then if you were stuck at your desk.

Dave said...

Jenn, the Dred Scott decision was in 1856 (initial suit Scott filed was in 1846, and his first hearing was in 1847).

Dred Scott and his wife were slaves had lived in states and territories where slavery was illegal. The court ruled seven to two against Scott, finding that neither he, nor any person of African ancestry, could claim citizenship in the United States, and that therefore Scott could not bring suit in federal court under diversity of citizenship rules.

The case raised the issue of a black slave who lived in a free state. Congress had not asserted whether slaves were free once they stepped foot on Northern soil. The ruling arguably violated the Missouri Compromise because, based on the court's logic, a white slave owner could purchase slaves in a slave state and then bring his slaves to a state where slavery was illegal without losing rights to the slaves. This factor upset the Northern Republicans and further split Northern and Southern relations.

Scott traveled with his master Dr. John Emerson, who was in the army and often transferred (Emerson bought Scott from the Blows while he was stationed in St. Louis). Scott's extended stay with his master in Illinois, a free state, gave him the legal standing to make a claim for freedom, as did his extended stay at Fort Snelling in the Wisconsin Territory, where slavery was also prohibited. But Scott never made the claim while living in the free lands—perhaps because he was unaware of his rights at the time, or fearful of possible repercussions. After two years, the army transferred Emerson to the South: first to St. Louis, Missouri, then to Louisiana. In just over a year, the recently married Emerson summoned his slave couple. Instead of staying in the free territory of Wisconsin, or going to the free state of Illinois, the two traveled nearly 2000 km, apparently unaccompanied, down the Mississippi River to meet their master. Only after Emerson's death in 1843, when Emerson's widow hired out Scott to an army captain, did Scott seek freedom for himself and his wife. First he offered to buy his freedom from Emerson's widow, Irene Emerson — then living in St. Louis — for $300. The offer was refused, leaving Scott to seek freedom through the courts.

In effect, the Court ruled that slaves had no claim to freedom; they were property and not citizens; they could not bring suit in federal court; and because slaves were private property, the federal government could not revoke a white slave owner's right to own a slave based on where he lived, thus nullifying the essence of the Missouri Compromise. Taney, who was the Chief Justice, speaking for the majority, also ruled that since Scott was an object of private property, he was subject to the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution which prohibits taking property from its owner "without due process".

The essence of the Court's ruling was that any person descended from black Africans, whether slave or free, is not a citizen of the United States, according to the Declaration of Independence.
It noted that the Ordinance of 1787 could not confer freedom or citizenship within the Northwest Territory to black people. Hence, Scott remained a slave. The Court in essence said that even free blacks were not citizens (which Lincoln addressed in his emancipation declaration).

As a twist of fate, Scott's owner died and his widow sold Scott to another military man, a man who sometime later ended up as a patient in an insane asylum. With the new owner in an insane asylum Scott and his wife's ownership reverted to the widow who was engaged. The man to whom she was engaged was an abolishionist Congressman in Washington DC just a few months before the marriage. When the widow married the Congressman the month before the ruling it was too late for the Congressman to intervene and free Scott. As DC was slave territory the Congressman discovered that there was a law that prohibited him from freeing Scott who was still back at his wife's home (widow's home) in St. Louis. The transferred ownership to the Blow family, the family who owned Scott prior to him being sold to Emerson. Congressman Chaffee persuaded the Blows to emancipate Scott in May 1857.