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Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession, and the President's War Powers

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  151 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
The clashes between President Abraham Lincoln and Chief Justice Roger B. Taney over slavery, secession, and the president's constitutional war powers went to the heart of Lincoln's presidency. James Simon, author of the acclaimed What Kind of Nation -- an account of the battle between President Thomas Jefferson and Chief Justice John Marshall to define the new nation -- br ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published November 7th 2006 by Simon & Schuster
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revised 8/21/11

Lincoln and Taney had a lot in common. Both abhorred slavery. Taney (pronounced tawney) freed his slaves early on. Both were ungainly, tall men, who wore ill-fitting clothes. The similarity ended there, for they had decidedly differing views on the future of slavery, secession, and presidential war powers. Taney opposed Lincoln for his suspension of many constitutional civil liberties (sounds like Bush, except that Bush had a Supreme Court in his pocket.) The first third or so of
Jul 20, 2012 Dale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting head-to-head biography about two gentlemen who went head-to-head quite often during the Civil War.

James F. Simon's Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney shines an interesting light on two overlooked aspects of 19th century American history.

The first overlooked aspect is the Supreme Court, specifically the person of Roger Taney (pronounced Tawney), the Chief Justice most famous for what may be known for all time as his single worst legal opinion, and one of the most controversial and i
Jeremy Perron
Sep 01, 2011 Jeremy Perron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my pervious review, I described Simon's other work, What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States, as the struggle between two American icons: Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall. This book is slightly different, although it also features the struggles of a famous president with the chief justice of the Supreme Court; this book features an American Icon vs. an American villain. It is unusual for me to name any historical figure a villain, ...more
David Beeson
Nov 30, 2015 David Beeson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was a fine idea of James F. Simon’s, to draw a parallel between the lives of Abraham Lincoln, arguably the best of all US Presidents, and Roger Taney, certainly the most controversial of Chief Justices.

Simon is particularly well suited for the task, since he’s both a historian and a lawyer. The same formula worked well in the first book of his I came across, and admired as much as this one: What kind of Nation traced the contrasts and conflicts between Thomas Jefferson and Chief Justice John
Blake Maddux
Sep 27, 2009 Blake Maddux rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent piece of scholarship and a highly-readable popular history. I learned and re-learned a great deal. (Page 217 is especially enlightning.) If nothing else, grab a copy from the library-or curl up with one at a bookstore-and read the superb Epilogue.
Oct 27, 2008 Mr. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not nearly as compelling as I had hoped. It is a decent read, but did not really bring to life these starkly different men.
Cassius Rovenstine
Professor James F. Simon labors mightily in this parallel biography to present Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, author of the infamous Dred Scott decision, in a light favorable enough to make him worthy of sharing a title with America’s most venerated president. But even with Simon’s efforts to demonstrate the respectability of Taney’s legal mind and career, the sickly old chief justice still comes across as a very small man, guided by petty regional and political loyalties in his legal opinions on ...more
Christopher Carbone
"Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney" is a very good book- solid, interesting and in very many ways informative. However, the one thing it is not is a "Ali-Frazier" or "France-Germany" or "Taste-Great v. Less Filling" rivaly; as much as the book tries to make Chief Justice Tawney as the great "other" to Abraham Lincoln, the book ultimately cannot deliver that dynamic.

Lincoln and Chief Justice Tawney is a book aboit two men in two time-periods brough together by Tawney's extraordinary ruling in the
Feb 24, 2011 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us-history
James F. Simon starts his work with a chapter each on Taney and Lincoln to provide a bit of their history. Points brought out in his discussion of the slavery issue raise questions in one's mind of who really started the Civil War. While it is said that when meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe Lincoln said something like "the little lady who started the war", I would suggest Steven Douglas gave it a greater impetus by his actions to get elected to the Illinois Senate. Though Taney is infamous for the ...more
Janice Hussock
Oct 31, 2013 Janice Hussock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The relationship between Lincoln and Taney interested me as I heard anecdotes during presentations at the National Constitution Center. Before the Center's programs, I assumed Taney was a small town racist hick jurist of no account. He was a great Chief Justice and a strong advocate of civil liberties, save for Dred Scott.

This book highlighted the different backgrounds of Lincoln and Taney long before Dred Scott came before the Court. Taney was a man of his time and home. I suppose I am the same
Jeni Enjaian
I really enjoyed this book, especially because the topics/events discussed coincided with the chapter I read in my American Constitutional History book. The writing is very readable without resorting to dumbing down history. Simon covers a vast range of topics in a neatly concise mannar.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Chief Justice Taney and how he ruled as chief justice. However, I wish more of the book had been spent on the "battle" between Lincoln and Taney. Seeing as how that's the
Katy Dickinson
This book presents the Civil War from the point of view of legal circumstances, particularly those major constitutional controversies considered by the Supreme Court. It is very well written and draws interest by presenting personal views from letters as well as opinions on the formal public record. Lincoln and Taney had much in common. However, after decades of admirable service, Taney threw away his chance to be remembered as a great Chief Justice by writing the Dred Scott opinion based on his ...more
Pierre Lauzon
Jan 01, 2014 Pierre Lauzon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book illuminates and fills many gaps in my knowledge of the Lincoln presidency and the Civil War. The books talks about the actions of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Taney) before and during the Civil War. There are many details of the Dred Scott decision, a decision that in many ways brought on the Civil War and brought Lincoln into his political destiny.

The author discusses the progress of the Civil War and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and its implications in a long
Sep 02, 2015 Socraticgadfly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A good explication of the evolution of Lincoln's thought, and the hardening of Taney's, as the nation lurched toward Civil War, including showing how Taney was not only a strict constructionist on the Constitution, but arguably an early "originalist."
Brad Austin
Overall I enjoyed the book. It started very strong with biographical information on the two men leading up to the Dred Scott decision that would link them. After that, the book takes a much heavier focus on Lincoln than on Taney; more importantly, the book does not delve deep enough into the Constitutional arguments.
Coleen Dailey
Jul 18, 2013 Coleen Dailey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find legal history fascinating and particularly the history of the Supreme Court. This is an interesting overview of the relationship between Taney and Lincoln, the Court and Congress and the important cases of the day. The epilogue compared Lincoln's actions to those of other war presidents which brought the entire conversation current (at least to date of publication). I would highly recommend to anyone interested in Civil War history or legal history.
Jason Tenenbaum
Apr 20, 2008 Jason Tenenbaum rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, history readers
Great book illustrating Lincoln's dedication to the abolition of slavery, how it framed his political career and led to his presidency. The discussion of his controversial suspension of civil rights, as well as chief justice Taney's judicial record is well-balanced and nuanced. This book views lincoln's ascendence through the lens of some of Taney's most infamous decisions (including the horrific Dred Scott decision).
Aug 30, 2016 Jonathan rated it liked it
It is an interesting book, but poor narrator. It took so long to finish because I never knew if I had listened to the whole thing so kept re-starting sections. Audible kept losing my place between devices. They do a better job of keeping track of current location between devices, but over the years they struggled. I am just going to mark it completed.
Oct 07, 2010 Tony rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: presidents
Had this book been consistent with its sub-title, it would have made for an interesting monograph, which the last third of the book actually was. However, in making this book-length, the author in fact tracked the two men in the manner of a dual biography. I found that uninspiring and wiki-ish.
B. Hallward
History remembers Justice Taney almost solely in terms of the Dred Scott decision, rightly perhaps, but getting a more complete portrait of him as a judge and a lawyer, and of the less famous slavery decisions of the Taney court was interesting. Well written.
Sean Chick
Far too kind to Taney, and hurt by an anticlimactic ending, this is a solid introduction to the antebellum crisis. It is also refreshing that the book does not devolve into Lincoln worship.
Jul 24, 2011 Richard rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed it. Saw another perspective of Lincoln - actions on civil liberties during the civil war. Good presentation of Justice Taney, Dred Scott decision author.
Michael Taylor
An extremely well-written and researched book. A wonderful introduction to the lives of both Lincoln and Taney and the fight over slavery that led to the Civil War.
Aug 09, 2012 Gabriel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The book was great. It was not bogged about too much analyzing and research where a non history person would enjoy the information.
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James F. Simon is the Martin Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus at New York Law School. He is the author of seven previous books on American history, law, and politics. His books have won the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award and twice been named New York Times Notable Books. He lives with his wife in West Nyack, New York.
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