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Westward Expansion, Preappointment Politics, and the Making of the Southern Slaveholding Supreme Court

  • Justin Crowe (a1)

In this article, I trace the historical lineage and dynamic processes leading to the creation of the Southern slaveholding Supreme Court of antebellum America. Supported by case studies of several Jeffersonian and Jacksonian era legislative battles over judicial reform, I argue that the complex, multistage creation of the Southern slaveholding Court—the Court that decided cases such as Prigg v. Pennsylvania, Dred Scott v. Sandford, and Ableman v. Booth—was the inadvertent result of certain institutional strictures concerning the size of the Court and the geographic organization of the federal circuit system. In so doing, I illustrate how the creation of a fundamentally Jacksonian but also disproportionately Southern and undeniably slaveholding Court was not simply about who was appointed but about the structures that determined who might be appointed, who could be appointed, and who should be appointed. It was these considerations, in turn, that shaped not only the makeup and composition of the Court during this tumultuous period of American political development but also the very character of the momentous decisions it was likely to make.

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Studies in American Political Development
  • ISSN: 0898-588X
  • EISSN: 1469-8692
  • URL: /core/journals/studies-in-american-political-development
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