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Roger Taney and Injustice: The Dred Scott Decision

David Blight: “Could the War have been Prevented?”

Finkleman, Paul. Dred Scott v. Sandford: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.

Fehrenbacher, Don E. The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Lincoln, Abraham, “The Dred Scott Decision: Speech at Springfield, Illinois, June 26, 1857,” in, Roy P. Basler, ed. Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings. Cambridge: Da Capo, 2001.

Maltz, Earl M. Dred Scott and the Politics of Slavery. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007.

Newmyer, R. Kent. The Supreme Court under Marshall and Taney. Arlington Heights, IL: Harlan Davidson,

Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861. New York: Harper, 2011.

Simon, James F. Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession, and the President’s War Powers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006.

CENTRAL QUESTION: Can good intentions result in a bad consequence?

There are times when we want to help someone solve a problem. We might be guided by the best of intentions, but things sometimes do not go as planned or lead to unintended consequences.


  • Ask the students to respond to the following journal prompt, Was there ever a time in your life when you had good intentions to solve a problem but things did not turn out as planned?
  • After giving them some time to reflect and write, ask students to volunteer to share their experience. Follow up with:
    • Were your intentions good or self-serving?
    • Did you not have enough information to offer advice?
    • Were you intervening in a problem you were ill-equipped to solve?
    • Were you too arrogant in thinking you could have solved the problem?
    • Should you have just have not gotten involved?
    • Why did bad consequences result from your intervention despite your good intention?
  • Explain that many important leaders in politics, the military, business, or local communities have made decisions that had good intentions but bad consequences. Ask, How can I avoid this situation in the future with a greater sense of the virtue of humility?

This optional introductory activity is designed to support you in the classroom. However, the primary narratives and photos in the section that follows can be used with or without this introduction.

Student Handouts

Related Resources