Dred Scott photograph circa 1857

On this day in 1820, President James Monroe signs the Missouri Compromise. The bill attempted to equalize the number of slave-holding states and free states in the country. Missouri, and that very Compromise would become pivotal in the Dred Scott Decision, issued also on this day, in 1857.

The United States Supreme Court was divided along slavery and antislavery lines, but had a majority of Southern justices. Thus, the Court ruled the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional. Ultimately, the court decided that Dred Scott had no legal right to request his freedom.

Even so, following the Dred Scott decision, Frederick Douglass urged his audiences to “walk by faith, not by sight.”

It will cease to be divided

Then, in June of 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech centered on the Dred Scott case.  The words of Jesus, as recorded in the three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, mark Lincoln’s famous “house divided” speech:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (emphasis added)
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing or all the other.
Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.
Have we no tendency to the latter condition?
Let any one who doubts, carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machinery so to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine, and the Dred Scott decision.”

From this speech alone Lincoln’s appreciation for the Bible is clear. Still, another quote from Lincoln about “this great book” inspired our “Lincoln Bible” shirt.

Dred Scott photograph circa 1857

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