Americana: Ableman versus Booth


ABLEMAN vs. BOOTH

Ableman vs. Booth was a Supreme Court case that occurred in 1859 that maintained the supremacy of federal law and federal courts over the state courts and governments; brought about by the anger of abolitionists over the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the Dredd Scott decision – all over the issue of slavery, that should not have been continued after the Constitution of the United States was written and approved of and the United States of America established as a sovereign country.

Background: Editor of an abolitionist publication, Sherman M. Booth, was arrested in 1854 for violating the Fugitive Slave Act when he helped incite a mob to rescue a black fugitive from Wisconsin federal marshal, Stephen V. R. Ableman. Booth appealed to the state supreme court, which ruled the federal law unconstitutional and ordered Booth’s release. When Mr. Ableman turned to
the federal courts, the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed Booth’s release and again declared the Fugitive Act of 1850 unconstitutional.
According to Chief Justice Roger B. Taney in his opinion, state courts had no power to review or interfere with federal laws. Chief Justice Taney was involved in the Dred Scott Decision of 1848.
The Supreme Court was divided at the time over the issue of slavery being legal in a republic under a democratic form of
government whose constitution, the law of the nation, has the following phrase in its introduction: …all men are created equal.
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