Friday, March 02, 2007

Scott v. Emerson V: "Times Are Not Now As They Were"

Now Justice Scott comes to the heart of the matter. "[T]he comity shown to the laws of other States, is a matter of discretion, to be determined by the courts of that State in which the laws are proposed to be enforced" -- that is, in this instance, by the courts of the State of Missouri.

Even so, why should Missouri, after thirty years, decline to enforce the laws of other States concerning slave freedom? Justice Scott's answer says volumes for the increasing anger and distrust between the sections in the early 1850s:
If it is a matter of discretion, that discretion must be controlled by circumstances. Times are not now as they were when the former decisions on this subject were made. Since then not only individuals but States have been possessed with a dark and fell spirit in relation to slavery, whose gratification is sought in the pursuit of measures, whose inevitable consequences must be the overthrow and destruction of our government. Under such circumstances, it does not behoove the State of Missouri to show the least countenance to any measure which might gratify this spirit. She is willing to assume full responsibility for the existence of slavery within her limits, nor does she seek to share or divide it with others.

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