The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics
The Dred Scott case is arguably the most famous judicial decision in American history. It is certainly he most famous example of a judicial failure--"the most frequently overturned decision in history." Examined here in breadth and in depth by a distinguished historian, the case becomes a point... show more
The Dred Scott case is arguably the most famous judicial decision in American history. It is certainly he most famous example of a judicial failure--"the most frequently overturned decision in history." Examined here in breadth and in depth by a distinguished historian, the case becomes a point of illumination, casting light upon more than a century of American history.
On March 6, 1957, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivered the Supreme Court's decision against Dred Scott, a slave who maintained he had been emancipated as a result of having lived with his master in the free state of Illinois and in federal territory where slavery was forbidden by the Missouri Compromise. The decision did much more than resolve the fate of an elderly black man and his family. (Scott was manumitted anyway and died sixteen months later, even as Lincoln and Douglas were still debating his case. Dred Scott v. Sandford was the first instance in which the Supreme Court invalidated a major piece of federal legislation. The deciison declared that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in the federal territories, thereby striking a severe blow at the legitimacy of the emerging Republican party and intensifying the sectional conflict over slavery. Many view the case as one of the principal causes of the Civil War.
This book represents a masterful review of the issues before America on the eve of the Civil War. only one-third of the book deals with the case itself and the Court's decision. The rest of the book puts the legal and judicial question of slavery into the broadest possible American context. Fehrenbacher discusses the legal bases of slavery, the debate over the Constitution, and the dispute over slavery and continental expansion. He also considers the immediate and long-range consequences of the decision. "Much of the American past," Fehrenbacher writes, "clung to the Dred Scott case, and come of the American future was embodied in it."
Publish date: 2001-04
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pages no: 754
Edition language: English