American statesmanship in the second third of the nineteenth century faced a number of challenges. It had to strike a balance between government regulation of commerce and economic freedom; to determine the role corporations would play in future economic development; to choose appropriate responses to the reform movements sweeping the country (nativism, anti-Masonism, fundamentalism, prohibitionism), and, the greatest challenge of all, to fashion a policy for the future of slavery in the republic. As a member of Andrew Jackson’s cabinet and as Chief Justice, Roger Taney accepted these challenges. His actions can only be understood in the context of his understanding of the theoretical foundation of our complex form of liberal government. Taney was one of our more reflective justices, constantly grappling with the relation between theory and practice. His first biographer, a contemporary, observed that “though technical, as every great lawyer must be, he was not narrow and confined to precedents, but was of large and original speculation, always searching for principles and applying them by his great practical sagacity.” 1