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Roger Taney

Roger Taney

Roger Taney became Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1836, when President Andrew Jackson appointed him to succeed John Marshall. During an earlier term as Jackson's Secretary of the Treasury, Taney helped the president shut down the powerful Bank of the United States. The scion of a wealthy, slaveholding Maryland family of tobacco planters, Taney found himself the object of northern fury when in 1857 he ruled on the case of Scott v. Sandford. In this matter, also known as the Dred Scott case, a slave had sued for his freedom after his master took him into free territory. In the Supreme Court's majority opinion, Taney ruled that the Constitution did not recognize the citizenship of African-Americans. Furthermore, Taney struck down the time-honored Missouri Compromise when he found that states could not lawfully prohibit slavery from taking root within their boundaries. This opinion seemed to pave the way for Stephen Douglas' policy of "popular sovereignty," or local control of the slavery issue. The ruling enraged many northerners, and led Lincoln and other Republicans to argue that Democrats had engaged in a corrupt conspiracy to open up the entire nation to slavery.

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©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project