Paul Finkelman


Dred Scott, without doubt, is the most controversial case in the history of the United States Supreme Court. Unlike the controversies that surround other decisions of the Court, the controversy surrounding Dred Scott does not turn on if the outcome or Chief Justice Taney's analysis was wrong, but rather on why the outcome and Chief Justice Taney's analysis were wrong. This article focuses on the political goals Taney attempted to accomplish through his decision in Dred Scott. Though there existed reasons for Taney's belief that his decision in Dred Scott would once and for all end the political debate over slavery in the territories, his decision ultimately served as a key catalyst in creating the crisis that led to Abraham Lincoln's election, secession, civil war, and, ultimately, the end of slavery

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