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Dred Scott and the Problem of Constitutional Evil (Cambridge Studies on the American Constitution) Hardcover – July 3, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0521861656 ISBN-10: 0521861659 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews


"In this tough-minded and unstinting tour de force, Mark Graber uses the infamous Dred Scott case to highlight the difficult choices constitutional democracies face when people with radically different views must find ways to live together. By showing how plausible Dred Scott was in its own day, Graber offers a brilliant and sobering meditation on whether, in shaping our constitutional life, we should choose peace over justice."
Jack M. Balkin, Yale Law School

"To say that Professor Graber has written an important book is an understatement. No book published in recent years is more illuminating both about the practice of constitutional interpretation and the sometimes pernicious effects of the basic structures of American government established by the Constitution. Every scholar must read this book. More to the point, so should anyone who is concerned with the health of the American polity."
Sanford Levinson, University of Texas Law School

"Here is one of the most provocative books on constitutional law you will ever read, about history's most reviled case. Bucking the tide, Graber argues the Supreme Court actually got it right in Dred Scott. Constitutions, Graber explains, often are compromises with the devil. Once made, there are no tricks of constitutional law or interpretation that can make the evil go away."
Barry Friedman, New York University School of Law

"Constitutional 'evil' is an unsettling idea. It is a wrenching and embarrassing part of American constitutional history, but it is often painted with a light brush. In this fascinating book, Mark Graber has brilliantly compelled us to do much more. No longer can we ignore evil in our own experience. The emphasis on the Dred Scott case is a superb choice to highlight within the many other examples that are also considered. It provokes us to think about evil in its many forms -- from racial to institutional. It is a powerful solvent against the notion of American exceptionalism."
Thomas D. Morris, author of Southern Slavery and the Law, 1619-1860 and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law

"Mark Graber shows that, sadly, the Dred Scott decision's grim affirmation of slavery's constitutionality was an all too reasonable reading of American law. He then poses an even more painful question: whether the Civil War was the best route to eradicating that great constitutional evil. His sobering reflections will stimulate disagreements but also deeper understanding of monumental issues that are very much with us today."
Rogers M. Smith, University of Pennsylvania

"...one of the best and most fascinating works of constitutional theory to emerge in the past decade..."
The American Prospect , Scott Lemieux

"Dred Scott and the Problem of Constitutional Evil is the most interesting and original book on American constitutionalism that I have read in years."
Thomas M. Keck, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, The Law and Politics Book Review

"this very important work recovers suprisingly significant elements of antebellum constitutional thought. It is relentlessly discomfiting and it forces one to recognize how strongly constitutional evil drove early American political development. It deserves a wide reading." - Richard M. Valelly, Swarthmore College

"This is a sharp and refreshingly realistic book about the limits of constitutional law." - Gerard N. Magliocca, Indiana University School of Law

"Graber offers an interesting, if controversial, approach to understanding constitutional history and the role of both the President and the Supreme Court in constitutional changes." -Council on National Literatures

Book Description

Dred Scott and the Problem of Constitutional Evil offers a new interpretation of the constitutional law and politics of slavery. The Taney Court's conclusions that former slaves could not be American citizens and that slavery could not be banned in American territories was a plausible interpretation of the antebellum constitution.

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies on the American Constitution
  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (July 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521861659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521861656
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,673,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paul Ramshaw on August 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
Almost everyone trashes the Dred Scott decision. Graber argues that the decision was, in fact, quite true to the Constitution, whose point was to come up with a governmental structure that would keep the North and the South together in one nation by preventing either section from being able to control what happened in the other. E.g., the slavery question was at the heart of not only the three-fifths compromise and the fugitive slave clause, but also the structure of the U.S. Senate.

It is, however, very difficult to read if you come to it as a layperson new to the field. The whole first half of the book is a "critique of the critiques," i.e., his criticism of what other scholars have written about the decision. If you are not already fairly familiar with what those other people said, plowing through Graber's criticisms of them is tough going.
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32 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Liberty and Union on November 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting effort to revive the horrible historical reputation of the dreadful Dred Scott decision. Although well researched and written in a smooth style, I question the use of 20th and 21st Century contract law analysis to criticize Lincoln's view of slavery restriction in the territories. Also, Graber limits his view of Madison's thoughts on slavery in the territories to the period around the Missouri Compromise. Later in life, Madison did accept that the Constitution provided Congress with the legislative discretion to ban slavery there. Graber appears to argue throughout the book that the Constitution required compromise on the slavery issue. Congress had the right to ban slavery there and nothing in the Constitution limited citizenship to whites. Just because the people of the time were divided on both notions does not mean that such public opinion is controlling. Waiting for majorities to catch up on such issues dispels any need for judicial review, does it not? When the slavocracy leaders of the South fought tooth and nail to end the Missouri Compromise, many in the North felt there was no requirement to continue to give in to the South's wishes. Give them Nebraska, they wanted Cuba and Mexico. That's required in the Constitution? Reading this book was worthwhile. I was just disappointed in the penchant of the author to support his views with incomplete or undeveloped arguments. Nice research, subpar analysis.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lois on March 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I bought it for a class. It is an interesting premise but rather dull reading. I would not recommend it.
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