Introduction to Constitutional Law

8 Cases Everyone Should Know from the Taney and Chase Courts

Prigg, Dred Scott, Merryman, Dewitt, Hepburn, Knox, Slaughter-House, and Bradwell

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Here is another preview of the 11-hour video library from our new book, An Introduction to Constitutional Law: 100 Supreme Court Cases Everyone Should KnowThis post will focus on cases from the Taney and Chase Courts.

Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842)

Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)

Ex Parte Merryman (1861)

United States v. Dewitt (1869)

Hepburn v. Griswold (1870)

Knox v. Lee (1871)

The Slaughter-House Cases (1873)

Bradwell v. Illinois (1873)

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  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the Bradwell case the majority simply applied the Slaughterhouse Cases and said the privileges and immunities don’t include working as attorneys, butchers, bakers, or candlestick makers, regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman.

    The passage from Bradwell which gets quoted most often was in a *concurrence* by some Justices who had *dissented* in the Slaughterhouse cases – in other words, they wanted to explain how come men had a constitutional right to be butchers while women didn’t have a right to be attorneys. Hence the bone-chilling language about man being woman’s natural protector and defender and so forth and so on.

    The concurrence gets cited to this day as if it was the majority opinion.

    1. Also, the Illinois legislature acted to let women be lawyers (Congress passed a similar law for practice in federal courts), and Bradwell ultimately got her license in Illinois and even was admitted to the Supreme Court bar.

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  2. The page on Dread Scott has the text for EX PARTE MERRYMAN and the EX PARTE MERRYMAN page has text about Dread Scott.

  3. It has been a while since my last legal history class, but I don’t believe Ex parte Merryman was a SCOTUS case. I thought it was decided in chambers by Taney while he was riding the circuit.

    1. “riding the circuit,” eh? Is that what the kids are calling it nowadays?

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