Back to top

John Catron (American National Biography)

Scholarship

Richard L. Aynes, "Catron, John," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/11/11-00149.html.

During the pendency of the Dred Scott decision, Catron wrote to ask President James Buchanan to lobby fellow Pennsylvanian and Democrat Justice Robert Grier to vote with the Taney majority. Later he disclosed the nature of the decision to the President before it was announced. Catron even drafted a statement that President Buchanan could use in his inaugural address, asking the public to abide by whatever decision the Supreme Court rendered in Dred Scott. Buchanan therefore knew the outcome of the case when he asked the public to follow the Supreme Court's decision, no matter what the outcome.

Many historians mitigate Catron's actions in disclosing the decision in Dred Scott by documenting similar incidents of disclosure of confidential information by other justices and by noting Catron's close relationships with most of the vice presidents and presidents of his time. In 1835, when sitting on the Tennessee Supreme Court, he sent a copy of one of his opinions to Martin Van Buren. He was a frequent correspondent of Jackson, James K. Polk, and Buchanan. He gave President Franklin Pierce early warning of the outcome in the Wheeling Bridge Case in 1852. But even if the sharing of the results of the decision was justified, this would not excuse the solicitation of Buchanan's help to influence Grier's vote.

Tabs

How to Cite This Page: "John Catron (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/18570.