The latest episode of TAH.org‘s Landmark Supreme Court Cases Saturday Webinars aired live on Saturday, 15 October 2016, with Dred Scott v. Sandford as the focus. Prof. Chris Burkett of Ashland University moderated the discussion between Profs. Lucas Morel and Jonathan White, and included a live teacher audience of over 100. In addition to the background of the case itself, the panelists discussed the following question, most of which were posed by teachers from the audience:
- Did Justice Taney believe that the decision in the case would put an end to sectional differences over slavery?
- Were there political motives behind Taney’s decision?
- What were the main points of the dissenting opinions?
- How did Taney justify and rationalize his decision?
- How did the decision reflect or relate to the positions of other leaders of the time, including Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and Alexander Stephens?
An interesting point related to the case is that of the perceptions of the Founder’s intent. Essentially, Taney asserted that the Founders never intended for African-Americans to be treated and seen as anything but property, and that they were truly lesser beings. If anyone believed otherwise, Taney’s response would be that they misunderstood the Founders’ true intentions. Alexander Stephens, on the other hand, asserted that although the Founders did promote equality of all people, they were wrong by including, even if only by implication, non-whites, and that the Southern view of the races, based in ‘science,’ was the correct one. Finally, it was Lincoln who believed that the Founders did include non-whites as people and therefore entitled to certain natural rights, and that if anything, it was the generations of leaders since who’d failed to continue to reach for those goals.