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James Buchanan and the Dred Scott Decision


During the mid-Nineteenth Century, all three branches of the United States government wrestled with the question of whether the unrestricted spread of slavery was protected by the Constitution. In this lesson, students will evaluate President James Buchanan’s reaction to the Dred Scott decision in light of our nation’s highest principles.


Students will:

  • Trace the events surrounding the Dred Scott decision.
  • Examine President Buchanan’s statements regarding the Dred Scott decision and the spread of slavery.
  • Assess contemporary reactions to the Dred Scott decision expressed in newspaper editorials.
  • Evaluate various statements regarding the institution of slavery, considering to what extent those statements reflect our nation’s highest principles.