Dred Scott and the Dangers of a Political Court

Dred Scott and the Dangers of a Political Court

by Ethan Greenberg

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Overview

The Dred Scott decision of 1857 is widely (and correctly) regarded as the very worst in the long history of the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision held that no African American could ever be a U.S. citizen and declared that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was unconstitutional and void. The decision thus appeared to promise that slavery would be forever protected in the great American West. Prompting mass outrage, the decision was a crucial step on the road that led to the Civil War. Dred Scott and the Dangers of a Political Court traces the history of the case and tells the story of many of the key people involved, including Dred and Harriet Scott, President James Buchanan, Chief Justice Roger Taney, and Abraham Lincoln. The book also examines in some detail each of the nine separate Opinions written by the Court's Justices, connecting each with the respective Justices' past views on slavery and the law. That examination demonstrates that the majority Justices were willing to embrace virtually any flimsy legal argument they could find at hand in an effort to justify the pro-slavery result they had predetermined. Many modern commentators view the case chiefly in relation to Roe v Wade and related controversies in modern constitutional law: some conservative critics attempt to argue that Dred Scott exemplifies 'aspirationalism' or 'judicial activism' gone wrong; some liberal critics in turn try to argue that Dred Scott instead represents 'originalism' or 'strict constructionism' run amok. Here, Judge Ethan Greenberg demonstrates that none of these modern critiques has much merit. The Dred Scott case was not about constitutional methodology, but chiefly about slavery, and about how very far the Dred Scott Court was willing to go to protect the political interests of the slave-holding South. The decision was wrong because the Court subordinated law and intellectual honesty to politics. The case thus exemplifies the dangers of a political Court.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739137598
Publisher: Lexington Books
Publication date: 08/11/2010
Pages: 340
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Ethan Greenberg is an Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice and an Adjunct Professor at Fordham Law School.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction Part 2 Part I. History Chapter 3 Chapter 1. Preface—Dred Scott in a House Divided Chapter 4 Chapter 2. A Slave's Life Chapter 5 Chapter 3. False Promise of Freedom—Scott's State Court Trials Chapter 6 Chapter 4. "A Dark and Fell Spirit"—Missouri's Supreme Court Reverses Chapter 7 Chapter 5. New Trial and Defeat in St. Louis Federal Court Chapter 8 Chapter 6. At the Summit—Argument and Reargument Chapter 9 Chapter 7. The President-Elect Secretly Intervenes Chapter 10 Chapter 8. "The South is Doomed"—Chief Justice Roger Taney Part 11 Part II. Law Chapter 12 Chapter 9. Taney's Opinion of the Court: An Overview Chapter 13 Chapter 10. Can a Black Man Be a True American?—Taney on Negro Citizenship Chapter 14 Chapter 11. "Upon These Considerations"—Taney Strikes Down the Missouri Compromise Chapter 15 Chapter 12. The Road Not Taken—Taney on Choice of Law and Res Judicata Chapter 16 Chapter 13. The Majority Concurs (After a Fashion) Chapter 17 Chapter 14. Two Ringing Dissents Chapter 18 Chapter 15. Reaction and the Way to Civil War Part 19 Part III. Analysis Chapter 20 Chapter 16. The Use and Misuse of History Chapter 21 Chapter 17. The Aspirationalist Critique—"Indifference to Injustice" Chapter 22 Chapter 18. The Originalist Critique—"First Cousin to Roe" Chapter 23 Chapter 19. The Traditional "Judicial Restraint" Critique Chapter 24 Chapter 20. Dred Scott and the Dangers of a Political Court

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