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.