Today in History, March 6: 1857 – The Dredd Scott Decision. Dredd Scott was a slave whose owner had traveled and lived in “free states” and had promised him his freedom. When his owner died, Scott sued for his freedom, because he had lived in “free” states. The case worked it’s way up the chain to the Supreme Court, which at that time was loaded with Southerners. Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote the majority opinion that declared that no slave could possibly be a citizen, therefore they had no standing to sue. Also that the Federal Government had no right to regulate slavery in the states and territories. Obviously a biased, politically motivated opinion, the decision, in part, led to the horrific, devastating American Civil War. So our lesson is complex. The Supreme Court, while our highest court, is not infallible. It’s bad decisions lead to horrific consequences for the nation. It DOES make political decisions. And this theory does not end with Dredd Scott.
One has to wonder what Roger Taney was thinking when he had to swear President Abraham Lincoln in to office in his position as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He forever tainted and brought into question decisions made by the Court.