In the face of abolitionist pressure
and the organization of the new Republican Party, President James Buchanan
and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger Taney moved to resolve
the questions of race and slavery in America in the years before the
Civil War. Buchanan, a northern Democrat, attempted to appease pro-slavery
southerners who vociferously demanded control of federal slavery policy.
Taney struck another blow for white supremacy in the Dred Scott decision.
Announced just days before Buchanan took office, Taney's verdict denied
the petition of the slave Dred Scott, whose master had transported him
from Missouri into Illinois and later Minnesota. Scott claimed that
he had become free once he reached free territory. But Taney argued
that African-Americans like Scott could not sue for their freedom because
blacks could not be American citizens. Furthermore, individual states
and territories could not prohibit slavery within their borders. Buchanan
and Taney's actions elicited howls of protest among northern abolitionists,
and served to galvanize moderates like Abraham Lincoln to action. Regardless
of their real intentions, the President and the Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court seemed to be moving in tandem to secure slavery's future
in the United States. Such appearances fueled northerners' political
fears of the southern "slave power," and boosted the Republican Party
to rapid prominence as the vehicle of their fears.