Dred Scott Research Paper

2954 words - 12 pages

During the 1850’s, the expansion of slavery in America was a major issue as new territories were applying for statehood. The issue concerning the fate of these territories led to clashes between proslavery and antislavery forces. At this time, America was a nation on the verge of collapse and a man by the name of Dred Scott was there to fuel the necessary tensions that would eventually spark the American Civil War. Born in Virginia, Scott moved to Missouri where he was sold to an army doctor named John Emerson. As an army doctor, Emerson traveled to other nearby states and took Scott along where slavery was prohibited. After Emerson’s death, Scott filed suit for his freedom on April 6, 1946 under the contention that he became a free man when he took up residence in territories where slavery was illegal. Almost eleven years later, Scott’s case had reached the U.S. Supreme Court, and the final decision sent America into a series of convulsions.While at Fort Snelling in what is now Minnesota, Scott married a slave woman, Harriet, and they had a daughter, Eliza. In 1846, Scott and Harriet each filed separate suits for their freedom, but Harriet’s case was set aside pending the outcome of her husband’s legal proceeding. When Emerson died in late 1843, ownership of the Scotts went over to his widow. In Scott’s first suit, he declared that Mrs. Emerson had “beat, bruised, and ill-treated him”. He also declared that he was a free man ever since he took up residence at Fort Armstrong and Fort Snelling. Due to a legal loophole in the case, the judge ordered a second proceeding to be held in December 1847, but Mrs. Emerson appealed the judge’s order for the second trial to be administered by the Missouri State Supreme Court. In January 1850, Scott went back to the courtroom, and this time, the law rested on the “once free, always free” doctrine. The jury ruled Scott and his family legally free, but the defense appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court and was given a trial in1852. By this time, the issue of slavery was polarizing people all over America and two of the three justices on the bench were proslavery advocates. The court ruling dismissed the “once free” doctrine and said that “times are not now as they were.” As a result, Scott remained a slave.In light of the trial of 1852, it seemed for Scott that the next step would be to take the legal matter to a higher level; in this case it was decided to take the case out of the state judicial system and into the federal judicial system. His case was brought to the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Missouri on May 15, 1854. The suit claimed that Scott and his family were citizens of Missouri and unlawfully held as slaves. The defense, which was now headed by Mrs. Emerson’s brother, John F. A. Sanford, argued that Scott couldn’t be a citizen because he was a Negro. Judge Robert W. Wells, “apparently with regret,...

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