The Dred Scott Case and Its Implications

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Hey Sir, I am writing to you from the 21st Century. As the Chief Justice of the United States’ Supreme Court in 1857, you made a ruling that has been regarded as one of the most racist rulings ever made by against the African American community. The Dred Scott case brought in front of so that you could make a judgment whether black people who were descendants of former slaves could be regarded as United States’ citizens. Though the Constitution expressly stated that human rights and equality amongst men are self-evident, your ruling was different from these provisions of the Bill of rights.

            To bring your ruling into context, let me remind you that your ruling’s underlying principle is that black people could not be regarded as U.S citizens since their ancestors were brought here as slaves. Using that argument, it seems that you were okay with slavery as an institution and saw nothing wrong with people being enslaved. Other than the color of the slaves’ skin, there were not many biological differences between white and black people. Therefore, the only reason that could have made you acknowledge that there was nothing wrong with slavery is that you were a racist who regarded black people to be below human status.

            Justice Taney, allow me to point to you the negative implication that your ruling had on the entire country. The domino effects of your ruling can still be felt in the current times which is almost over one and half century later. First, your ruling led to unnecessary tensions between the North and the South. While the Southern states were mostly pro-slavery, your ruling was such that it allowed Southerners to expand slavery into territories that were initially anti-slavery. For this reason, the Northerner perceived that the ruling was biased against them (Huebner, pp 256). What followed was distrust in the Supreme Court with most Northerners questioning the authority of the court.

            Further, your ruling also had negative economic implication on the North. In what is commonly referred to as the Panic of 1857, your ruling led to the collapse of the east-west railroad. The collapse, in turn, led to the collapse of several banking institutions thus negatively impacting the economy of the North (Bender, pp. 61). In sum, you are to blame for the people that lost their jobs due to the economic recession that ensued as a result of your ruling.

            Next, your slavery bolstered anti-black sentiments across the country. In a way, that led to social upheavals and divisions not only between blacks and the pro-slavery groups but also between the pro-slavers and the abolitionists. A classic example is the then Mississippi senator; Jefferson Davis, who reacted to your ruling by stating that the ruling was a question of whether “coffee should be kept in its normal condition or not.” In essence, coffee was a racial slur used against black people and in a way, you made the term more mainstream as a result of your pro-slavery ruling.  Since the abolitionists were primarily based in the Northern states, your ruling led to a division between the Northern and Southern states. Therefore, you are partly to blame for the American Civil War that started several years later between the Unionists and the Confederacy.


Works Cited

Bender, Brandon M. "America’s Most Infamous Chief Justice: A Profile of Roger B. Taney."           (2018).

Huebner, Timothy S. "“The unjust judge”: Roger B. Taney, the slave power, and the meaning of      emancipation." Journal of Supreme Court History

40.3 (2015): 249-262.

November 13, 2023
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