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« Kangaroo Court | Main | The Morning Wrap »

March 05, 2007


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» Round-Up from SCOTUSblog
The AP has this article on the Court's decision to deny review of former WorldCom chief Bernard Ebber's appeal, challenging his trial and conviction for fraud and conspiracy. The AP has this report on the Supreme Court's ruling in Sinochem... [Read More]

» Unhappy Anniversary: from The Volokh Conspiracy
Today marks the 150th Anniversary of Dred Scott v. Sandford. Tony Mauro comments at BLT here. [Read More]

» Dred Scott and the Legacy of Slavery from La Shawn Barber's Corner
Can a negro, 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 the rights, an... [Read More]

» 150 Years Ago from Three Sources
Dred-ed Anniversary 150 years ago Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a long, muddled opinion in Scott v. Sandford, which Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes later said was the Court’s greatest “self-inflicted wound.” The case was brought by Dred Scott (r... [Read More]

» Hasty Thoughts on The Anniversary of Dred Scott from Positive Liberty
Today is the 150th anniversary of the most notoriously wrong decision in the history of American law: Dred Scott v. Sandford. In recent decades, a revisionist interpretation of Dred Scott has arisen among supposed “originalists,” led primarily by ... [Read More]


Kevin Baker

Hmm.... That was not exactly what I meant to say. Expanded commentary here.

David Hardy

I found in a volume of American State Trials, a trail where a young lawyer named Roger Taney defended a minister accused of violating Maryland's slave codes by giving a strong (to the point of suggesting that if the slaves rose up, it would be entirely justified) antislavery sermon, to an audience which included slaves.

Taney gave a heck of a closing argument and won, quoting Patrick Henry, Jefferson and other framers who had said as much as what the minister said, and asking if the founding fathers were to be considered criminals, too.

Kevin Baker

Chief Justice Taney reached a deplorable conclusion, but he did it based on a flawless understanding of the law as it stood, and of the meaning and intent of the Bill of Rights. The Justice wrote that blacks - free or slave - could not be citizens because: "For if they were so received, and entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens, it would exempt them from the operation of the special laws and from the police regulations which they considered to be necessary for their own safety. It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognised as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went. And all of this would be done in the face of the subject race of the same color, both free and slaves, and inevitably producing discontent and insubordination among them, and endangering the peace and safety of the State."

He was right - they would. Faced with decades of precedent, regardless of his personal opinion (and that of six other Justices) he didn't have a lot of choice (though he far overstepped what was legally necessary.)

But upon passage of the 13th and 14th Amendments after a bloody war over just who was and wasn't a citizen, the Supreme Court saw to it that those privileges and immunities remained restricted from blacks, and later, anyone else the majority felt necessary.

Say what you will about the decision, Chief Justice Taney declined to "legislate from the Bench" in 1857. Chief Justice Waite in 1875 took it upon himself to do that in U.S. v Cruikshank.

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