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America and the Law of Nations 1776-1939$
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Mark Weston Janis

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199579341

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199579341.001.0001

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Taney and his Court: Slavery, International Law, and American Exceptionalism

Taney and his Court: Slavery, International Law, and American Exceptionalism

Chapter:
(p.92) 5 Taney and his Court: Slavery, International Law, and American Exceptionalism
Source:
America and the Law of Nations 1776-1939
Author(s):

Mark Weston Janis

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199579341.003.0005

By the middle of the 19th century, international law had become a distinctive discipline in America. It had a philosophy, a political and judicial purpose, a literature, and apparently, a bright future. As with any sort of law at any time, the law of nations did not always set out neat answers to important questions, but it often provided an accepted mode of discourse. Political, legal, and moral issues were discussed and sometimes settled in its terms. This chapter demonstrates the centrality of the law of nations to mid-19th century American discourse by considering international legal arguments to address the issue of slavery — that most troubling example of American exceptionalism.

Keywords:   International law, American exceptionalism, slavery, Dred Scott

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