The Dred Scott Decision Essay

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The Dred Scott Decision Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 1207

  • Pages: 5

The Dred Scott Decision

Dred Scott was an African American man born into slavery around 1800. He wanted what all enslaved people wanted. He wanted his freedom. Dred Scott vs. Stanford was a landmark Supreme court case that was a major player in the secession of the southern states. The bravery, courage and determination of Dred Scott was one of the the first steps in a long road to freedom.

Around 1820, during the time of the Missouri compromise, Dred Scott’s owner Peter Blow took him to the newly formed slave state of Missouri. He was then sold to John Emerson, and was taken to Illinois. Which came into the Union in 1819 as a free state. Dred Scott was a slave in the free state for a short time, but then he was moved again to the Wisconsin Territory. According to the Missouri compromise, that territory also fell under the free land. In 1837 Emerson went back to Louisiana and left Dred Scott in the Wisconsin Territory. Emerson’s wife Eliza leased out Dred Scott in Wisconsin, then later brought him back to Louisiana and then eventually to Missouri. Soon after, Dred Scott sued for his freedom in the Missouri State court case of Scott vs. Emerson. The court ruled that he would still have to be a slave because he was in a slave state. Eventually, He took his case to the supreme court. At this time his new owner was John Sandford, Eliza’s brother. Thus, the Supreme Court case had began.

Roger Taney was the Chief Justice at the time. Scott was only able to take his case to the Supreme Court because in article 3 section 2 of the Constitution it says that if you are suing a citizen of another state, it can become a federal case. There were some issues with the case because there had never been one like it in the supreme court before. People wondered if congress had the power to regulate slavery in the new and unorganized territories. There were no previous rules about if a slave became free for being in a free state or not.

The president at the time was James Buchannan. He was elected in November of 1856 and took office in March of 1857. He was very concerned about this court case because he did not want it to cause more aggression between the north and the south. Justice Robert Cooper Grier and James Buchannan talked regularly about the case. Buchannan wanted to make sure that a northerner such as Grier sided with the majority of the court so it would not seem like another sectional decision. He didn’t want to deal with the slavery issue anymore because he knew it was ripping the nation apart. He wanted the supreme court to close the doors on this case, and he thought that would make it ok.

The Dred Scott case eventually led to the Panic of 1857, and even attributed to other well known fights such as Bleeding Kansas. By the end of Bleeding Kansas in 1856 there were 200 dead and 2 million dollars worth of property damage. All of this was taking place during this court case. Sectionalism was tearing the nation apart, and the Dred Scott case just made everything worse. It played a major role on how the United States would continue to view African Americas. According to his case, it would be as slaves and property only. Without the efforts of Dred Scott and all of the people who followed him freedom could have taken much longer. He was one of the first in the long years, and fights for freedom. He inspired people such as Rosa Parks, MLK and even Malcolm X. These people had a huge impact on the world, and gaining equality for all people. The decision was 7-2. They stated that Dred Scott was not a citizen, because the “Negros” have no rights to citizenship or the legitimacy to bring this to trial.

Taney goes on to say that Congress’s ability to regulate slaves in the territories with the Missouri Compromise and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 is unconstitutional. This was only the second time in history that a congressional act was overturned by the Supreme Court. They said that because Dred Scott did not have the rights to sue because he was not a citizen he was still a slave and they were not going to do anything to change it. They said that slaves were property and nothing could change that. After the decision, the north started to refuse to enforce the fugitive slave law. The free states started to go around the national government and pass their own freedom laws. The republicans at the time claimed that the decision was not binding, but at the same time the southerners tried to push the north to accept the decision or they would leave the union.

This case really upset many abolitionists, and helped lead to the civil war. It lead to many things, such as the John Brown Raids. It was very empowering for the southerners because it gave them hope that slavery could continue to be everywhere, and expand out west. No matter where a slave resided, they were not considered to have true freedom. This left little opportunity for slaves and northerners. Soon Lincoln took office, and he had a very strong opinion that slavery should be illegal. All of these things combined lead to the secession of the slave states.

After this Supreme Court case, in the year 1857 his former owner’s sons bought his freedom. The Blow brothers were childhood friends of Scott’s and they helped pay Scott’s legal fees through the years, and they even set him free after the Supreme court ruled that he was still a slave. Without the Blow Brothers, I doubt that this case would have made it as far as it did. It just goes to show that even in a time when slavery was alive and prospers, there were still some people who wanted it gone in the south too.

I don’t agree with how this court case went, and frankly I find it appalling. Slavery in general is a very hard thing to deal with, and it is a very dark time in American history. The Supreme Court started to break all of the rules regarding slavery, and congress’s laws, and it is just not fair. Not only the enslavement, but the unfairness of how some slaves were able to gain their freedom in lower courts in other states and under the same conditions .This case was the main driving force that led to many riots, and eventually it even led to the civil war and the election of president Lincoln. The Dred Scott Decision has been one of the most controversial decisions in the history of America, and it is still commonly reflected on as a vital piece of American History.

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The Dred Scott Decision Essay

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The Dred Scott Decision Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 1510

  • Pages: 6

The Dred Scott Decision

The Dred Scott Decision (also known as 60 US 393) was a case fundamental in the United States’ history. The case was judged by no less than the highest court of America, the United States Supreme Court in 1857. The Dred Scott Decision implies that people of African descent could never be citizens of America regardless if they are slaves or not. In addition, the decision also ruled that slaves could not file a case or sue in court for the main reason that slaves were just properties of their masters hence they cannot be carried off from their masters without legal appeal (Gunderson).

The aforesaid decision was made by the then Chief Justice Roger Taney. The judgment favored the “border ruffians” during the Bleeding Kansas heated discussion who were troubled a free Kansas would be a shelter for fugitive slaves from Missouri (Skoq). It infuriated abolitionists. The divergence of the slavery dispute is regarded one of various elements that caused the occurrence of the American Civil War (Skoq). Some provisions and entries of this judgment discussing the rights and citizenships of African-Americans were unequivocally reversed by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

Background of the Case Dred Scott was a slave and procured by Dr. John Emerson in 1833. Emerson was a medical doctor in the American Army. He purchased Scott from Peter Blow who had possessed Scott conceivably since birth. Emerson worked for more than three years at Fort Armstrong, Illinois. Illinois was then established as a free state, and Scott was qualified to be liberated as prescribed by its constitution (Ewing). When Emerson moved in 1836 to Wisconsin territory (a free territory as declared by the Wisconsin Enabling Act and the Missouri Compromise, he brought Scott with him.

Scott was able to marry Harriet Robinson which was not available for them in the South. When Emerson transferred to Missouri in October 1837, he left Scott and latter’s wife for couple of months – which entails hiring them out. Nevertheless, such hiring out implied slavery yet slavery was not lawful by the Wisconsin Enabling Act, Northwest Ordinance, and the Missouri Compromise. After Emerson relocated at Louisiana in November 1837, he married Irene Marie Sanford in February of the same year and ordered Scott and its wife to follow them (Ewing).

The Scotts followed them and served as slaves for the Emerson family. When Emerson returned from a fight in Florida (the Seminole War), he went to the free territory of Iowa leaving the Scotts at St. Louis. But in December 1843, Emerson died suddenly. In effect, the Scotts served as slaves to the widow of Emerson, Irene Sanford Emerson for three years. However, in February 1846, Dred Scott tied to obtain his freedom from Madame Emerson, yet the latter declined it (Gunderson).

As a result, Scott filed a suit against Irene Emerson for his freedom saying that he had been in both in a free state as well as in a free territory thus he had already turned out to be lawfully free and could not be taken anymore as a slave. Trials of the Case The first trial favored Scott by means of technicality – for the reason that the defendant could not prove that Scott was a slave. When the judge issued the nest trial in December 1847, Irene Emerson petitioned the second trial to be done at the highest court of Missouri. However, even the Supreme Court of Missouri ruled in favor of Scott.

In the subsequent trial in January 1850, the jury also ruled against Emerson and declared that the Scotts were lawfully free (Ewing). Yet Emerson pleaded for another appeal to the Supreme Court of Missouri. This time around, Emerson took his brother John Sandford to represent her on court proceedings. Surprisingly, the Supreme Court of Missouri overturned the previous decision arguing that Scott was still considered a slave. According to some critics, the decision of the Supreme Court of Missouri was inconsistent with its previous rulings (Gunderson).

The former rulings held that when slaves were brought to free states, these slaves were instantly considered free. Hamilton Rowan Gamble, the then Chief Justice of the Missouri’s Supreme Court provided his nonconforming view on the case. Decision of the Supreme Court The Scott Case was brought to the United States Supreme Court for appeal. Prior to the pronouncement of the decision, the then President-elect James Buchanan asked his friend in the Court if it would be possible to made the decision before his inauguration (Ewing).

The decision was bequeathed on March 6, 1857. Court’s Chief Justice Taney expressed the decision of the Court, with each of the justices either supporting or opposing the decision. The summary of the votes said that six justices went with the decision while one (in the name of Samuel Nelson) agreed with the decision but not with the analysis of it. Yet two justices dissented it namely Curtis and McLean (Ewing). In February 14, 1857 (previous to the final decision), the Court convened for re-argument of the case.

Such re-argument sided with Sanford but devoid of other more important issues concerning the Negro citizenship and the consideration of the Missouri Compromise as unconstitutional. To present the opinion of the majority of the Justices, Justice Nelson was chosen to work out the decision. However, when Nelson finally presented the opinion, which was supposed to be the opinion of the majority, he found out that though he agreed on the decision, he had different basis for his judgment concerning the case. With that, he was thrown out and replaced by the then Chief Justice Roger Taney.

As the writer of the majority’s opinion, Taney include all aspects of the case including the Negro citizenship and the Missouri Compromise constitutionality. In the write-up done by Taney, he emphasized the role of citizenship in dealing with the case as well as in the formulation of the decision. According to him, among the rights of the citizens as declared by the U. S. was the citizen’s concession to file a lawsuit before the courts of the United States (Skoq). In this regard, only citizens of the United States, by the definition prescribed by the Constitution, have the right to sue charges in U. S. courts.

By this means, Negroes, even those who are considered as free Negroes, were not entitled to have such privilege of filing a case in court. Obviously, Scott, as a Negro, had no right to demand for a law suit. Thus, technically, the case should rule in favor of Sandford. In addition, Taney had also argued that Congress could not take away the rights of its state’s citizens to “life, liberty, or property” without legal means as how it was stated in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Ewing). Hence, making the Missouri Compromise declared as unconstitutional.

Furthermore, since Scott was a Negro and, by invalidating the Missouri Compromise, was a slave, he cannot demand for his freedom unless given by his master. And since his master refused his ask for freedom, he must continue to be his master’s slave for the reason that as slave he was regarded as his master’s property. And as stated in the Fifth Amendment, it cannot be enforced that properties of the U. S. citizens shall be taken away from them without legal means (Gunderson). The Constitution allowed no account of disparity between slaves and other sorts of property.

Taney contended that the Missouri Compromise divested “slaveholding citizens of their property in the form of slaves (Ewing). ” This made the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and must be discarded. The last hope of Scott also vanished when Taney declared that even if Scott was able to reside in the free states of Illinois, the fact that he demanded or filed the suit in a state which did not recognize the rights of the slaves as citizens of the United States then the law of that state would be employed and not the laws of the previous free states that he had previously resided (Gunderson).

Taney argued that the case must be discharged for insufficiency of jurisdiction and returned the case to the lower court instructing it to dismiss the case by the same arguments used by the Supreme Court consequently maintaining the ruling of the Supreme Court of Missouri which sided with Sanford. Works Cited Ewing, Elbert Williams. The Legal and Historical Status of the Dred Scott Decision. Confederate Reprint Company, 1999. Gunderson, Cory Gideon. The Dred Scott Decision. BDO & Daughters. 2004. Skoq, Jason. Dred Scott Decision (We the People: Civil War Era). Compass Point Books, 2006.

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The Dred Scott Decision Essay

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The Dred Scott Decision Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 376

  • Pages: 2

The Dred Scott Decision

The Dred Scott decision of 1865 had many implications on the status of free blacks in the United States, along with the concept of popular sovereignty, and the future of slavery in America.

Dred Scott was a slave who moved in with his master to the free state of Illinois. He claimed that residence in a free state made him a free man, and he fought for his freedom all the way to the Supreme Court (1865). Chief Justice Taney ruled that since blacks could not be citizens, they had no right to sue in a federal court. The court also went further and said the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional.

This decision greatly affected the status of free blacks in the United States. They were not allowed any additional rights due to the fact that they were not citizens. Therefore, they could not advance in society socially, and otherwise. Because of this, they could not vote and freely voice their opinions as the Constitution did not apply to them.

The Dred Scott decision also had many implications on the concept of popular sovereignty. It was questioned that if Congress could not exclude slaves from a territory, how could a mere territorial legislature do so? Until statehood was granted, slavery seemed as unprofaned as freedom of religion or speech or any other civil liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. Where formerly freedmen (as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights) was a national institution and slavery a local one, now according to the Court, slavery was nationwide, as was excluded only where states specifically abolished it. This meant that popular sovereignty had virtually no jurisdiction in the aspect of slavery in a territory, because slavery was only abolished if a state specifically said so.

The future of slavery was also impacted upon by the Dred Scott decision. It convinced thousands that the South was engaged in an aggressive attempt to extend the peculiar institution so far that it could no longer be considered peculiar. Although slavery was eventually outlawed, at that time it seemed that there was to be no end.

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