Blogs > Liberty and Power > The Bribe of the Righteous

May 30, 2006 3:09 pm

The Bribe of the Righteous

"The bribe of the righteous is usually a supposed good to be secured by a little twisting of principle, of course only this once."

Isabel Paterson,"The Riddle of Chief Justice Taney in the Dred Scott Decision," Georgia Review 3 (Summer 1949), 201.

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Geoffrey Allan Plauche - 7/25/2006

If you have it in pdf format, I'd love to see it. My email address is

David T. Beito - 5/31/2006

It is very hard to summarize quickly. She is critical of the decision but her analysis of why it was wrong strikes me as multi-layered and highly original.

She rejects as nonsense Taney's claim that the founders all all thought that blacks had no rights the white man was bound to respect. As she points out, most of the founders (at least in theory) regarded blacks as human beings with rights. She also thinks that Taney, who was in his twenties when Washington died, knew this fact but wanted to find some pretext to pave the way for colonization.

Like many of the founders (and even Lincoln), he disliked slavery but thought but did not want a society wherer free blacks and free whites live together as equals.

According to Paterson, the crux of the Scott decision was Taney's finding that blacks were non-citizens. She notes that non-citizens, unlike citizens, could be deported e.g. colonized. I can send the article to you if you like.

Jonathan J. Bean - 5/30/2006

A tease of quote, David. How does it relate to Paterson's take on Dred Scott?