Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Supreme Court, & the Politics of Slavery

'We find it impossible to not believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning.' -- Abraham Lincoln

Lecture Description

In June 1858, Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech, famous for declaring that he believed the country could not last “half slave and half free.” In this same speech, Lincoln offered a theory that four men had conspired to perpetuate slavery throughout the United States: Lincoln’s senate rival Stephen Douglas, former president Franklin Pierce, President James Buchanan, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger Taney. Lincoln’s charge has been dismissed as exaggeration and political theater, but his view that members of all three branches of government could conspire was not unfounded. Lincoln may have gotten some of the details wrong, but in the context of antebellum politics, it was entirely possible that presidents, congressmen, and Supreme Court justices would be in regular contact about issues that affected the nation — particularly slavery.

CATEGORIES

Antebellum Lincoln

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