1. What made the Dred Scott decision so important in American history?
The Dred Scott decision was ground breaking in several different ways, some that where shocking for the day and others that were lasting, and have lasted to the present. When Roger Taney read the majority opinion, years of policy and precedent were throw out the window and counted as naught. This was shocking at the time. The abolitionist where absolutely outraged, the Southerners were thrilled with delight and viewed the decision as an affirmation of their lifestyle.
The lasting effects of the Dred Scott decision are still seen in the United States today. The Dred Scott decision was the first time that the Supreme Court struck down a major piece of federal law as unconstitutional; In so doing, the Supreme Court of the 1850’s laid the ground work for a common legal tactic of our day. It is now very common place to use the courts to settle issues that should be left to the legislative branch.
Another lasting effect of the Dred Scott decision is the very existence of the modern Republican Party. A major plank of the Republican Party was taken away with the Dred Scott decision. Instead of destroying the party, the decision actually emboldened the leaders of the Republican Party and it actually gave the Republican the boost that they needed for Abraham Lincoln to win the presidency in the 1860 election. Since that time the Republican Party has been one of the major parties in the United States.
2. What does the decision tell us about the status of African Americans in the United States on the eve of the Civil War? The Dread Scott decision shows that even after 80 years of independence from Britain, there were many people in the United States that would not accept that African Americans could possibly be citizens of the United States. Many even still did not view African Americans as more than just property. Though in our day it is extreme to think that a person...
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