The Execution of Michael Brown And Missouri's Planter Class Mentality

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St. Louis Prosecutor Bob McCulloch -- widely believed to have worked to let Wilson walk

James Monroe was president when the Missouri Compromise became an issue of historical, political and moral significance and his impact seemed minimal.

On the other hand, after Ferguson exploded with the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, President Obama directly intervened by sending a high level delegation to investigate and act.

As the community in Ferguson, Missouri awaited the Grand Jury decision on whether to indict officer Darren Wilson for the killing of the unarmed teenager and in anticipation Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in readiness of unlawful behavior; a young rapper and activist remarked to CNN Anchor Don Lemon, covering developments, “The racism of white supremacy is in the DNA of this state.” 

This belief, therefore, forces a look at some aspects of the state’s history particularly from the inception of the Missouri Compromise of 1820; a significant milestone in the question of slavery and subsequently inequality of Blacks in that now famous or infamous state of Missouri, the “Show Me State!”

The Missouri Compromise was an important development in the legislative history of the New American Republic coming as it did in aftermath of the War of 1812 which ended in 1815 and the beginning of Internal Improvements as the Industrial Revolution began to take hold in America.

That year of 1820, with the Compromise of 1787 or “Three-fifths Clause” as a backdrop designed to appease the slave holding South, efforts to occupy and exploit the vast tracts of land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, the future of enslaved Blacks in American was bleak at best.

The dynamics unleashed in the Cotton Gin revolution of 1793 conflicted with the shortcomings stemming from outlawing the slave Trade in 1808 then the labor demands and wealth aspirations of plantation owners mounted and they demanded much from legislatures and protective forces.

In Florida, generally under Spanish rule, the Seminole nation --Native Americans-- had long been a place of refuge for runaway Blacks that was a source of irritation for slave-holding elements. So General Andrew Jackson was dispatched with a force to cross over to Florida to punish Seminoles for their acts of mercy in aiding runaways.

This occurred in 1818 and if you add the creation of horrendous “slave farms” producing dreaded coffles of slaves chained and restrained in the most barbaric manner, this signaled Black lives within and outside the United States was not worth much, except as a commodity to a heartless, get rich slave owner class. After all, the entire “New World” seemed an enormous plantation where professing Christian White men, guided by the Bible, practiced the most inhuman crime against humanity lasting for centuries.

Thus, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was accepted to achieve political balance by admitting into the Union one Slave State, Missouri; and one Free State, Maine.

Harold G. Syrell in American Historical Documents (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1960; 1965: 177) explained it best in the following statement. “Missouri, part of the Louisiana Purchase, applied for admission to the union as a slave state in 1819. At the time there was an equal number of slave and free states, and neither wished the balance to be changed in favor of the other.

James Tallmadge, a representative from New York, offered an amendment to the enabling act that would have gradually eliminate slavery in Missouri. The act as amended passed in the House but failed in the Senate. Meanwhile in December, 1819, Maine applied for admission as a free state. In the Senate the two admission bills were combined and were finally accepted by the house after the addition of a compromise amendment, introduced by Senator Jesse B. Thomas of Illinois. In November, 1820, when Missouri’s constitution was submitted to Congress, it contained a clause unacceptable to the antislavery groups. Henry Clay, then, formulated a satisfactory compromise proposal, which was adopted on March 2, 1821.”

Constance Baker Motley, in an Introduction to “The Legal Status of the Negro in the United States” in John P. Davis’ The American Negro Reference Book (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1964: 484) discussed the case involving Dred Scott and its impact on the status of enslaved Africans in America languishing on the altar of the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

Ms. Motley writes: “In 1857 in the momentous Dred Scott case, nine members of the Supreme Court reviewed, at length, the prior and then current legal status of Negroes in the United States. At that time, most Negroes were slaves. Some had been freed by their masters in accordance with the legal procedures established by the law of the slaveholding states; others had likewise purchased their freedom.

Dred Scott had been a slave in Missouri. In 1834 he had been taken by his master, an army surgeon, into the free state of Illinois. Subsequently, he was taken to the territory which is now Minnesota. There slavery was prohibited by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1838 Scott was returned to Missouri and later sold to another army surgeon. In 1853 Scott Brought suit in a Federal court in Missouri claiming to be a free man. His claim was that he had become free upon being taken into free territory and consequently remained free upon his return to Missouri.” 

It is to be noted, the many years he was languishing as a slave in an institution where untold millions were supplying free labor generating a significant portion of the nation’s wealth.

However, as this writer noted: “The New York citizen who claimed  to be his master defended on the ground, among others, that Scott could not bring suit in a Federal court because he was not a citizen of Missouri. Scott had just lost a suit on his claim to freedom in Missouri courts. The New York master asserted the Federal court would have jurisdiction of the suit only if Scott could show diversity jurisdiction, i.e., a suit by a citizen of one state against a citizen of another. Thus two questions required resolution: first, whether Scott was a citizen of Missouri, and second, whether Scott had been freed by being taken into free territory. The latter question involved a determination whether Congress had the power under the constitution to prohibit slavery in the territories, thus making Scott a free man in Minnesota.

Chief Justice Taney’s  adverse conclusions on these questions were concurred in by the majority. He held Congress did not have power to prohibit slavery and consequently the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. He held Scott was still a slave because the highest court of the state of Missouri had held in Scott’s case when it was before it that under the law of that state a master did not lose his property right in his slave by taking him to a free state like Illinois.”Which, as stated above, “the legal procedures established by the law of the slave holding states” would have prevented Scott from being free and thus having no rights.

The tipping point in that famous Supreme Court case of Dred Scott v. Sandford of 1857, Chief Justice Taney ruled: “Can a negro [sic] whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all rights, privileges, and immunities, guaranteed by that instrument to the citizens? One of which rights is the privilege of suing in a court of the United States in the cases specified in the Constitution….The only matter in issue before the Court therefore, is, whether the descendants of such slaves, when they shall be emancipated, or who are born of parents who had become free before their birth, are citizens of a State, in the sense in which the word ‘citizen’ is used in the Constitution of the United States.’”

Ms. Motley concluded, “Taney ruled that Negroes were not citizens within the contemplation of the Constitution. He based this on what he claimed to be the Negro’s legal status throughout the civilized world at the time of the adoption of the Constitution. This status was a non-citizenship status, and he said, ‘so far inferior, that they [the Negroes] had no rights which a white man was bound to respect.”

Given that the civilized world created and perpetuated a barbaric system of inhumanity of man towards man;  yet, being born within the boundaries of the nation ought to have been enough. Such a situation later became law under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, but the Court seemed to be favoring the planter class who benefited from denying Africans those protections citizenship conferred.

Notwithstanding, even when the Civil War Amendments conferred this  right, it was often ignored and denied. In some respects, the oppressor tends to bend the law, and to ignore and suppress these rights.

Nevertheless, it goes to show, “This view of the Negro’s legal status  at the time of the adoption of the Constitution was disputed by the dissenting justices. One dissenting justice found that: ‘At the time of the ratification of the Articles of Confederation [which preceded the Constitution], all free native born inhabitants of the states of NewHampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, though descended from African slaves, were not  only citizens of those States, but such of them as had the other necessary qualifications possessed the franchise of electors on equal terms with other citizens.”

Given what is stated, Does the Roger Taney, planter class mentality still pervade in its many guises including in Missouri?

Editor's Note: Please sign and share the Petition demanding that the Department of Justice bring charges against Darren Wilson for violating Michael Brown's civil rights

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