The Dredd Scott Case Essay

2677 words - 11 pages

The Dredd Scott Case

The Dredd Scott case involved a landmark decision in the history of the Supreme Court, in the history of the United States the decision in this case was one of the most damaging statements in the history of the Supreme Court, involving the citizenship of a black person in the United States, and the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise in 1820. The history of a black man named Dredd Scott states that he was a slave originally owed by a family by the name of Blow, which ended up selling him in 1833 to an army surgeon by the name of Dr. John Emerson of St. Luis. Due to his involvement as an army surgeon, Emerson was transferred to numerous places such as Rock Island, Illinois, Fort Snelling in the Wisconsin Territory then back to St. Louis in the end of 1838. Scott had accompanied Emerson throughout this period. Emerson had taken Scott to places that forbidden slavery according to the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and Scott was even allowed to marry during this! time period on free territory, his companion being a woman who was also a slave owned by Emerson. As Emerson and Scott had returned to St. Louis, a territory where slavery was legal, Emerson died and Scott was left to his widow, who eventually gave Scott back to his original owners, the Blows. Henry Blow,
Scott’s original master, was opposed to the extension of slavery into the Western territories, and Blow lent Scott’s residence on free soil in Illinois and Wisconsin Territory had made him a free man. In 1846, Dredd Scott brought suit in the state court on the grounds that residence in a free territory released him from slavery. A lower state court had found to be in favor of Scott, but in 1852, the Supreme Court of Missouri ruled that upon his return to territory where slavery was legal, the status of
slavery was reattached to him and therefore he had no standing before the court. The case was brought before the federal circuit court, which took jurisdiction, but held against Scott. The case was taken on appeal to the Supreme Court, where it was argued at length in 1855 and 1856 and finally decided in 1857.

The decision handed down by a majority of the vote of the court was that there was no power in the in the existing form of government to make citizens slave or free, !
and at the time of the formation of the US Constitution they were not and could not be citizens of the United States in any of the states. Scott was ruled still to be a slave, and not a citizen of Missouri or any US state for that matter, from which it followed that he had no right to sue in the federal courts. Now it was not so much the court’s decision that was so damaging, but the series of opinions that Roger Taney, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and how we look at it. The court had announced its
decision on March 6, 1857. By a 7 - 2 vote, the court ruled against Scott. Of the seven opinions written by the members of the majority, Chief Justice Taney’s is considered to...

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