America in the 1850s

The Supreme Court Decides

Why did Chief Justice Taney go so far in the landmark decision?

The chief justice was not accustomed to explaining his decisions beyond what was handed down in the ruling. Roger Taney was not a diarist, either, and we moderns have to guess what influenced him in 1857.

Taney was from Maryland, a state that would play an outsized role throughout the Civil War, including the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Taney may have believed he was striking a blow for his fellow Marylanders, but his keen jurist’s mind should have enabled him to rise above such parochial concerns. Much more likely is that Taney saw himself as the last person on the scene from the time of the founding fathers and that he intended to speak on their behalf. This supposition on our part naturally begs a follow-up question.


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