Bates, Edward (1793-1869) to Joseph Barrett
Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC01567
Author/Creator: Bates, Edward (1793-1869)
Place Written: St. Louis, Missouri
Type: Letter signed
Date: 8 March 1860
Pagination: 4 p. ; 23.1 x 18 cm.
Summary of Content: Written before the Republican Party Convention. Responds to a note from Barrett, fielding questions on legal matters and slavery. Argues that the United States should not extend slavery into free territories. Attests that in the Dred Scott case, Scott ”being a negro could not be a citizen of Missouri therefore could not bring the actions in the Federal Court.” Argues that the Constitution does not carry slavery into the Territories. Regarding a homestead bill, remarks that public lands ”ought to be as little as possible, the subject of trade & speculation... I think it would be a wise and beneficent policy to give freely homes to such actual settlers...” Thinks Kansas should be admitted to the Union without delay.
Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860
Full Transcript: [draft], St. Louis March 8, 1860 , Joseph H Bassett Esq , Dear Sir, , Your note which is just received, asks me to state my opinions upon certain points now involved in the current politics of the country. viz: , 1. As to the extension of negro slavery into free territory, by authority of the United States. , 2. As to the Dred Scott case - what was really determined by the court in that case - , 3. Whether the Constitution of the United States does or does not carry slavery into all the Territories of., 4. A homestead bill , 5. The admission of the new state of Kanzas. , In regard to the various questions I should not be able to answer your letter in the brief time allowed me, but for the fact, that for several,  I have thought a great deal on these subjects, & have spoken & written not a little And I should ask to be excused altogether, but for the fact that you are a Delegate to the Chicago Convention. & desire the information for the use of yourself [struck: & your], as a Delegate from the State of Ohio. , You do not ask me for an argument or even a statement in detail, & therefore I proceed to answer your inquiries with as much brevity as consits with [clearness]. , As to the first - the extenesion of slavery. In my opinion, slavery is ”a domestic relation” belonging to & only to the several states where it exists by law. The nation is under no legal obligation to propagate or extend it; & the Government in wisdom & sound policy, ought not to plant it in any free Territory. , As to the second - The Dred Scott case - In my opinion, the only point of law determined by the court in that case, is that Scott the plaintiff, being a negro could not be a citizen of Missouri,  and therefore could not bring the action in the Federal court, & that for this reason, & this alone, the court had no jurisdiction of the cause, & no power to hear & determine the merits, & give judgment for or against either party. Whatever therefore any of the learned judges may have said about the supposed unconstitutionality of the Missouri compromise Act, I consider outside of the case & of no authority. , As to the third - In my opinion the Constitution of the United States does not carry slavery into the Territories. Within & over the States it is the Supreme law, as well where slavery is as where it is not, but it no more carries slavery into Kanzas & Nebraska than it does into Ohio & Pennsylvania. , As to the fourth -- The Public Land, , It has long been my opinion that the Public lands ought to be as little as possible, the subject of trade & speculation. Being a great national estate, it ought to be kept  for the actual use of the poeple [sic], whenever they are able & willing to occupy & improve it; and, to that end, I think it would be a wise & beneficent policy to give freely homes to such actual settlers, as will encounter the labor privation of subduing the wilderness, & thus giving increased value to the remaining public lands. , As to the fifth - I think that the New State of Kanzas ought to be admitted without delay, And indeed I suppose that under existing circumstances no serious objection need be anticipated. , I write this note in great haste & as I expect to be called on in a few days to write one more leisurely, I would prefer that this should not be published. Though written hurriedly, it is substantially correct, & contains no new opinions, but very old opinions of long standing. , , Edward Bates
Keywords/Subjects: African American History;, Slavery;, US Constitution;, Republican Party;, Politics;, Election;, Law;, Dred Scott;, Judiciary;, Suffrage;, Westward Expansion;, Land Transaction;, Statehood;
Sub Era: Age of Jackson
Background: Bates was a U.S. Representative from Missouri 1827-1828 and U.S. Attorney General 1861-1864. He also served various political posts in the State of Missouri. Barrett, from Vermont, was editor of the Cincinnati Daily Gazette 1859-61 and a delegate to the Republican National Convention of 1860.Order Image