Lincoln and Taney's bitter disagreements began with Taney's Dred Scott opinion in 1857, when the chief justice declared that the Constitution did not grant the black man any rights that the white man was bound to honor. In the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln attacked the opinion as a warped judicial interpretation of the Framers' intent and accused Taney of being a member of a pro-slavery national conspiracy.In his first inaugural address, President Lincoln insisted that the South had no legal right to secede. Taney, who administered the oath of office to Lincoln, believed that the South's secession was legal and in the best interests of both sections of the country.Once the Civil War began, Lincoln broadly interpreted his constitutional powers as commander in chief to prosecute the war, suspending the writ of habeas corpus, censoring the mails, and authorizing military courts to try civilians for treason.
Taney opposed every presidential wartime initiative and openly challenged Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. He accused the president of assuming dictatorial powers in violation of the Constitution. Lincoln ignored Taney's protest, convinced that his actions were both constitutional and necessary to preserve the Union.Almost 150 years after Lincoln's and Taney's deaths, their words and actions reverberate in constitutional debate and political battle. Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney tells their dramatic story in fascinating detail.
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Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican President and led the Union during the Civil War. Roger B. Taney was a distinguished jurist who served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court before the Civil War and is now best remembered for the Dred Scott decision. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 only deferred and did not eliminate the deep divide in philosophical and economic feelings about slavery and its extension to new territories. Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860, the principal southern states began to threaten and then to achieve secession before Lincoln's inauguration. In the Dred Scott decision, the US Supreme Court outraged opinion in the North by interpreting slaveholding rights as extending anywhere, including free states. Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, whose appointments are for life, have a single vote in decisions but are instrumental in forming court opinions. Habeas Corpus is a judicial writ requiring a government that is holding a person to show why they should be allowed to continue to do so.