Dred Scott

dred1Dred Scott (c. 1799 – September 17, 1858) The Dred Scott decision (Dred Scot v. Sanford) was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 6, 1857.  It was decided 7-2 against Scott. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivered the decision, the majority opinion. The ruling was hailed by the Southern States and caused anger in the North. People of African descent didn’t have the right to challenge a law in the United States because they were not citizens. Whether free or slave.

Dred Scott was the slave of a U. S. Army surgeon, John Emerson of Missouri, a state that permitted slavery. In 1834, Scott traveled with Emerson to live in Illinois, where slavery was prohibited. They later lived in the Wisconsin territory.





In 1836 Emerson and Scott moved to Minnesota,  slavery was prohibited by the Missouri Compromise. Scott married Harriet Robinson, who was also a slave.  In 1846, after Emerson died, Scott sued Emerson’s widow to gain freedom for himself, his wife Harriet, and their two children.  In January of 1850, a jury of 12 White men on the St. Louis Circuit Court concluded that Scott’s two years of residence in a free state and a free territory made him free. However, in 1852 the Missouri Supreme Court reversed this decision, claiming that due to Northern hostility toward slavery, Missouri would no longer recognize federal or state laws that might have emancipated Scott.

dredscottIn 1854 Scott turned to the federal courts and renewed his quest for freedom in the U. S. Circuit Court in Missouri. Scott’s owner at this time was Emerson’s brother-in-law, John F. A. Sanford, who argued that Blacks could never be citizens of the United States and therefore could never sue in federal court. Federal Judge Robert Wells ruled that if Scott was free he was entitled to sue in federal court as a citizen. However, after a trial Wells decided Scott was still a slave.

For the first time in history, each of the nine justices on the court wrote an opinion in the same case, explaining their various positions on the court’s decision. Chief Justice Taney’s 54-page majority opinion of the court had wide-ranging effects. In it he argued that free Blacks—even those who could vote in the states where they lived—could never be U. S. citizens. At the time some or all adult Black males could vote in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New York, and Blacks had held public office in Ohio and Massachusetts. Nevertheless, Taney declared that even if a Black was a citizen of a state “It does not by any means follow… that he must be a citizen of the United States.” Taney based this unprecedented legal argument entirely on race.

Many historians count this case as one of many that drove the country toward Civil War. The case had far reaching affects.  It overturned the Missouri Compromise and was a catalyst for the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

scott-graveDred Scott died a free man. Hew was set free by Henry Blow.  Blow owned Scott and his family by marriage. When he returned to Missouri and being an opponent to slavery, set the four Scott family members free on May 26, 1857.

Buried in near St. Louis, Scott’s grave is frequently covered with Lincoln pennies, a tradition.







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