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Roger b. Taney and William Rehnquist are two Supreme Court Justices separated by a time span of one hundred and fifty years. This distance between them means that while they may share the same views on some political issues, the majority of them will differ. Such differences have had and everlasting impact on the United States and made Taney and Rehnquist two highly recognized historical figures.


In his early years, Rehnquist fluctuated between moderate and conservative tendencies. Taney on the other hand, was just the opposite. He seemed intent on agitating the conservatives with his outlandish opinions. One such opinion was delivered in the Charles River Bridge case in which Taney declared that " A state charter of a private business conferred only privileges expressly granted and that any ambiguity must be decided in favor of the state." This outraged conservatives who opposed any modification of the view that state issued charters are inviolable. Taney's action would have been opposed by Rehnquist if he had been alive at that time because he shares the views of conservatives meaning that he favors little or no change in the way that things are done. Rehnquist's conservatism and Taney's Democratic ways have led to many of the historic decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.


Although Taney and Rehnquist wanted things to be done at different rates, they shared a common bond when it came to the limitations on federal interference in the affairs of state governments. Taney felt that a state should be entitled to make regulatory laws even if they appeared to override the provisions of the Constitution. When it came to federal interference with the states Rehnquist believed that the federal government should stay out of the way until needed. On the same note, Rehnquist held that executive agencies should be given considerable leeway in carrying out laws. These similar views provide insight into how the nation was shaped.


Roger B. Taney made significant contributions to American constitutional law, but the case most closely associated with him inflicted enormous injury to the court as an institution was the Dred Scott v. Sanford case of 1857. Taney held that "Slaves (and even the free descendants of slaves) were not citizens and could not sue in court, ant that Congress could not forbid slavery in the territories of the United States". While Taney is noted for his issues on slavery, Rehnquist is noted for those dealing with abortion and state's rights. Rehnquist delivered an opinion on one of the most controversial cases in the history of the United States. This case was none other than Roe v. Wade. In this case the Court ruled that a woman had the right to an abortion without interference from the government if done in the first trimester, contending that it was her right to privacy. Rehnquist delivered a dissenting opinion saying that although it was her right to privacy it was going against Texas statutes. Their views on the Dred Scott Case and Roe v. Wade have made Taney and Rehnquist two of the most notable figures in history.


William H. Rehnquist's service on the Supreme court has allowed him to witness and direct a dramatic transition in political ideology. From associate justice in 1972 to his present role as chief justice, Rehnquist has struggled against liberal colleagues Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun. Despite his struggles, as chief justice he often attracted the support of the liberal remnant of the Court. Rehnquist found inspiration in Charles Evans Hughes' practice of compromising to secure the broadest majority. In many ways, he desires to maintain high credibility. This desire contributed greatly to his success in mobilizing the Court's conservative shift. Rehnquist often battled against the expansion of federal powers just as Taney did while controlling the court in the 1800's. Although the Court under Rehnquist has accomplished many amazing things, one has to stop and realize that Taney's did the same but in a different way. While the Court was under Taney's rule, significant rulings were made that encouraged economic development, enforced the Fugitive Slave Law, and opened the territories to slavery. The low point in his judiciary's estate came during the Civil War when Taney's challenge of President Lincoln's power to suspend habeas corpus was ignored by the President and denounced by the Northern Press. For most this would have been the end of the legacy but Taney bounced back and resumed his normal tasks. This ability shows that he was resilient and sheds some light onto the justices of today.


It is believed that Taney had a greater impact on American history. This is in part because Taney lived in a time when the nation was beginning to grow and prosper. His decisions would either make or break the nation. Although Taney's decision in the Charles River Bridge case outraged many people it is clear that without that decision the justices of today would have nothing to look back at when faced with a similar case. In addition, Taney's rulings on issues such as interstate commerce and slave laws, were made for a reason because at that time it was believed that these things would benefit the nation as a whole not hinder it in any way. No one knew that the Fugitive Slave Laws would eventually lead to a war between the states. Without the decisions of Taney, justices like Rehnquist would be unable to function properly and serve the United States as they promised when they took office.


If one could go back in time and look at Taney and then come back and look at Rehnquist, they would discover that there isn't that much of a difference between the two. Their main differences are that Taney was a Democrat while Rehnquist is a Republican and that Taney was more of a Liberal while Rehnquist preferred the Conservatist. One thing that can be said is that they both agree as many people did and still do, that the federal government needs to back off and let the states do their thing. Without them, there would not be a United States. It would be just like it was when the Civil War was being fought.


In order for a nation to prosper there must be a sound judicial system. In order to have a sound judicial system there must be dedicated people such as Roger B. Taney and William Hubbs Rehnquist. These people helped shape the United States through their decisions and actions as Supreme Court justices. Without Rehnquist's conservatism and Taney's liberalism, there would be no dividing line between what seems to be right and what is actually right. Their similar views on federal power in the states and state's rights have onlyworked to compliment each other and to enhance the nation just as their dissimilar views on issues regarding race have done. Without the late Roger B. Taney and Chief Justice Rehnquist the United States would not be complete.


Works Cited

1. Encyclopedia Britannica
http://www.britannica.com

2. Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia
http://www.looksmart.infoplease.com

3. Columbia Encyclopedia
http://www.bartleby.com

4. Cornell University; Supreme Court Justices
http://www.supct.law.cornell.edu

5. Find Law for Legal Professionals
http://www.supreme.lp.findlaw.com/supreme_court/justices/pastjustices Endnotes

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia
1.http://www.looksmart.infoplease.com/ce6/people/A0861433.html
2.The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia
http://www.looksmart.infoplease.com/ce6/people/A0861433.html
3.Supreme Court Justices (Rehnquist)
http://suspct.law.cornell.edu
4.Supreme Court Justices (Taney)
http://suspct.law.cornell.edu

 

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