The road not taken: Dred Scott, judicial authority, and political questions

Keith E. Whittington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The Supreme Court's decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford is widely regarded as among the worst decisions it has ever made. In addition to embracing reviled substantive values, the decision deeply wounded the Court's status and authority. By embracing a theory of judicial supremacy that held that the Court alone could resolve all important constitutional disputes, however, the Court had been gradually moving toward such a debacle. An important Jeffersonian tradition criticized the Court for encouraging political actors to forego their own constitutional responsibilities. The dissenting opinion of Justice Benjamin Curtis suggested a more appropriate course for the Court, one that carved out a clear place for the exercise of judicial review but that recognized an important sphere of constitutional politics outside the judiciary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-391
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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