And so, on March 6, 1857, before a country that was a tinderbox, the court struck a match. In a harsh, racially driven majority opinion written by Chief Justice Taney, the court rejected Dred Scott's claim for freedom, holding that blacks in bondage were property without rights and Congress had no power to halt the spread of slavery.
Chief Justice Taney intended to end the slavery controversy forever by resolving every slavery issue in favor of the South. Instead, his opinion, which effectively nationalized slavery, made sectional compromise impossible and hurled the country toward the abyss. A wave of Northern outrage descended on Chief Justice Taney, while the South warned that unless the North accepted the opinion, there would be disunion.The law of unintended consequences ruled the day - something the chief justice came bitterly to understand.
Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision that effectively launched the United States into Civil War.