Dred Scott v. Sandford

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Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), was a US Supreme Court landmark decision.[1] In March 1857, the court ruled that blacks, whether slaves, or free, were not citizens of the United States.[2] They could not, therefore, sue in federal court.[2]

Dred Scott had sued in federal court and claimed that he was free because he had lived in free territory.[a] He lost his case in a ruling that has been condemned by many as the Supreme Court's worst decision.[5]

The Dred Scott case, which denied Scott his freedom by ruling that blacks were not US citizens, was the end of years of legal cases from 1846 to 1857 in lower federal district court and Missouri courts, which had granted Dred Scott freedom for about two years.

The decision caused Abraham Lincoln to become elected and then the American Civil War.

Background[change | change source]

Dr. John Emerson was a surgeon serving in the US Army.[6] In 1833, he purchased Dred Scott, a slave in Missouri.[7] The same year, he moved to Illinois and took Scott with him.[7] Emerson was sent to a fort in the Wisconsin Territory.[b][9] Scott, his slave, went with him.

While living in Wisconsin Territory (now Minnesota), Scott met and married Harriet Robinson.[9] She was owned by a justice of the peace. After marrying Scott, Emerson became her owner as well.[9] Emerson returned to Missouri and took his slaves with him.[10]

In 1843, Emerson died in Missouri. Scott and his family were left to Emerson's wife, Eliza Sandford.[9]

Decision[change | change source]

Judgment in the U.S. Supreme Court Case Dred Scott v. John F. A. Sandford

In 1846, Scott sued for his freedom in court.[10] Helped by abolitionist lawyers, he claimed that he was free because he had lived in free states for a long time.[10] The defense claimed that Dr. Emerson was forced to move to the Wisconsin Territory because he served with the US Army and that he should be able to keep his property. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney,[c] decided that Scott was not free and so he did not have a right to sue.[12] Furthermore, he stated that the US Congress could not make laws against slavery in United States territories.[d][12] The majority opinion was agreed to by seven of the nine Justices.[12]

The dissenting Justices pointed out when the US Constitution was ratified, blacks were already considered citizens in several states.

The ruling was a major setback to the anti-slavery movement.[12] The Republican Party condemned the ruling. In effect, it allowed slavery in all US territories, even in the North.[12]

Aftermath[change | change source]

The decision became a central issue in slavery debates and helped cause Abraham Lincoln to be elected as US President and then the American Civil War.

In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment banned slavery in the United States. In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment overturned the Dred Scott decision[9] and gave nearly all persons born in the country US citizenship regardless of their color.[14]

Soon after the 1857 decision, Eliza Sandford sold Scott and his family to Taylor Blow.[14] Blow, ne of Scott's previous owners, then granted Scott and his family their freedom.[14] Scott died a free man on September 17, 1858. He did not live long enough to see blacks become US citizens.[14]

Dred Scott is one of only four decisions by the Supreme Court that were overturned by an amendment to the United States Constitution.[15] The other three are:

Arguably, one more case could be added:[15]

Related pages[change | change source]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Based on the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Illinois was a free state, and slavery was not allowed.[3] The Missouri Compromise also stated that slavery was not allowed in all states that were part of the Louisiana Purchase north of the southern border of Missouri.[4]
  2. Emerson was the post surgeon at Fort Snelling in what is now Minnesota.[8]
  3. Taney was a strong supporter of slavery.[9] Seven of the nine justices were appointed by US Presidents from the South who were pro-slavery.[9] In 1863, seven of the nine justices owned slaves.[11]
  4. The decision made the Missouri Compromise of 1820 unconstitutional.[13] However, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 had been repealed by the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which gave territories the right to vote on the issue of slavery.[13]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Focus on Dred Scott v. Sandford". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "32a. The Dred Scott Decision". Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  3. "The Missouri Compromise". Social Studies for Kids. Archived from the original on 22 March 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  4. "23c. The Missouri Compromise". Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  5. Slavery in the United States: A Social, Political, and Historical Encyclopedia. Volume 1, ed. Junius P. Rodriguez (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2007), p. 265
  6. "Landmark Cases, Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)". Educational Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "DRED SCOTT v. SANDFORD". The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  8. "Dred Scott's Quarters". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 "Dred Scott's fight for freedom, 1846 - 1857". WGBH/PBS Online. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "The Dred Scott Decision". The History Place. 1996. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  11. "How many US Supreme Court justices owned slaves?". Answers.com. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 "The Dred Scott Decision". Teach US History. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Missouri Compromise". The Library of Congress. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 "The Dred Scott Case - Summary". Missouri Historical Society. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Lawrence K. Furbish (25 September 1996). "OLR Research Report". The Connecticut General Assembly. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 "Women's Fight for the Vote: The Nineteenth Amendment". Exploring Constitutional Conflicts. Retrieved 1 March 2016.

Other websites[change | change source]