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Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession, and the President's War Powers

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By James F. Simon

This insightful, and accessible, account of the dramatic rivalry between President Lincoln and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger Brooke Taney provides a window on a lesser-known Civil War battleground, Washington, D.C. Taney’s decades-long service as Chief Justice, which began in the 1830s, was marked by clever decisions on commerce, but is remembered most for the 1857 decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford. The pro-South, pro-slavery Taney and the anti-slavery Lincoln soon became enemies, and James Simon makes clear that their disagreements had both legalistic and rancorously personal elements. As Lincoln pushed the limits of presidential power during wartime, Taney worked assiduously to counter many of his actions through the court. Simon makes both history and law come alive, showing that the decidedly uncivil war between these two figures had profound repercussions, both in their time and after.