Dred Scott Case

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Dred Scott Case,

argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1856–57. It involved the then bitterly contested issue of the status of slavery in the federal territories. In 1834, Dred Scott, a black slave, personal servant to Dr. John Emerson, a U.S. army surgeon, was taken by his master from Missouri, a slave state, to Illinois, a free state, and thence to Fort Snelling (now in Minnesota) in Wisconsin Territory, where slavery was prohibited by the Missouri CompromiseMissouri Compromise,
1820–21, measures passed by the U.S. Congress to end the first of a series of crises concerning the extension of slavery.

By 1818, Missouri Territory had gained sufficient population to warrant its admission into the Union as a state.
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. There he married before returning with Dr. Emerson to Missouri in 1838. After Emerson's death, Scott sued (1846) Emerson's widow for freedom for himself and his family (he had two children) on the ground that residence in a free state and then in a free territory had ended his bondage. He won his suit before a lower court in St. Louis, but the Missouri supreme court reversed the decision (thus reversing its own precedents). Scott's lawyers then maneuvered the case into the federal courts. Since J. F. A. Sanford, Mrs. Emerson's brother, was the legal administrator of her property and a resident of New York, the federal court accepted jurisdiction for the case on the basis of diversity of state citizenship. After a federal district court decided against Scott, the case came on appeal to the Supreme Court. In Feb., 1857, the court decided in conference to avoid completely the question of the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise and to rule against Scott on the ground that under Missouri law as now interpreted by the supreme court of that state he remained a slave despite his previous residence in free territory. However, when it became known that two antislavery justices, John McLean and Benjamin R. Curtis, planned to write dissenting opinions vigorously upholding the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise (which had, in fact, been voided by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854), the court's Southern members, constituting the majority, decided to consider the whole question of federal power over slavery in the territories. They decided in the case of Scott v. Sandford (the name was misspelled in the formal reports) that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in the territories, and Chief Justice Roger B. TaneyTaney, Roger Brooke
, 1777–1864, American jurist, 5th chief justice of the United States (1836–64), b. Calvert co., Md., grad. Dickinson College, 1795. Early Life

Taney was born of a wealthy slave-owning family of tobacco farmers.
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 delivered the court's opinion that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. Three of the justices also held that a black "whose ancestors were … sold as slaves" was not entitled to the rights of a federal citizen and therefore had no standing in court. The court's verdict further inflamed the sectional controversy between North and South and was roundly denounced by the growing antislavery group in the North.


See V. C. Hopkins, Dred Scott's Case (1951, repr. 1967); S. I. Kutler, ed., The Dred Scott Decision (1967); F. B. Latham, The Dred Scott Decision (1968).

References in periodicals archive ?
It was while he was shooting the 2014 comedy A Million Ways To Die In The West and reading about the American Civil War that he came across the Dred Scott case, about a slave who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom.
The infamous Dred Scott case concluded that African-American slaves didn't have standing to sue in federal courts.
Voir aussi Paul Finkelman, <<The Dred Scott Case, Slavery and the Politics of Law >> (1996-1997) 20 Hamline L Rev 1 a la p 5 [Finkelman, <<The Dred Scott Case >>].
Interestingly, Chief Justice Roger Taney--who later ruled in the Dred Scott case that a black man, even a free black man, can never have access to federal courts--signed on to Story's opinion in the Amistad case granting the Africans their day in court, a court that included full jury trial.
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In the 1857 Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court held that all bans on slavery in the territories were unconstitutional; yet Northern whites, free blacks, and escaped slaves fiercely resisted the 1850 fugitive slave law.
The pro-slavery efforts in Kansas, combined with the Supreme Court's 1857 ruling in the Dred Scott case, which said that blacks--slave or free--could never be U.
That was the notorious Dred Scott case, in which the court ruled that a slave was just a piece of property and had no constitutional rights whatever and that the 1820 law forbidding slavery north of the Mason-Dixon line was unconstitutional.
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Oddly, Edlin cites the Dred Scott case as an example of judicial inaction
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