Dred Scott Decision 15-3

By Anna Eckholm

Dred Scott

Dred Scott was an enslaved African American bought by an army doctor in Missouri, a slave state. In the 1830s the doctor moved his household to Illinois, a free state, and then to the Wisconsin Territory, where slavery was banned by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Later they returned to Missouri, where the doctor died. In 1846, with the help of antislavery lawyers, Scott sued for his freedom.

Court's Decision

Chief Justice Roger B. Taney said that Dred Scott was still a slave. As a slave, Scott was not a citizen and had no right to bring a lawsuit. Taney could have stopped there, but he decided to address the broader issues.

Reaction to the Decision

Rather than settling the issue, the Supreme Court’s decision divided the country even more. Many Southerners ere elated. The Court had reaffirmed what many in the South had always maintained: Nothing could legally prevent the spread of slavery. Northern Democrats were pleased that the Republicans’ main issue-- restricting the spread of slavery--had been ruled unconstitutional. Republicans and other antislavery groups were outraged, calling the Dred Scott decision “a wicked and false judgment” and “the greatest crime” ever committed in the courts.