Dred Scott

Chapter 15 Section 3

Dred Scott

After the case Dred Scott vs. Sanford, which was won by Eliza Irene Sanford, Dred Scott and his family returned back to the service of Mrs. Sanford because there was nothing that the court could do that wasn't unconstitutional.

The Dred Scott Decision

Dred Scott was an enslaved African American bought by Dr. John Emmerson in Missouri. In the 1830s the Emerson family and Dred Scott moved to Illinois, a free state, and then to Wisconsin, where slavery was banned because of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. In 1846, with the help of antislavery lawyers, Scott sued for his freedom from the Emmerson family after John Emerson died. He claimed he should be free because he had once lived on free soil.

The 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. An enslaved person was property, and the Fifth Amendment prohibits Congress from taking away property without “due process of law.” Judge Taney said that Scott’s residence on free soil did not make him free. Taney said that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in any territory. The Missouri Compromise banned slavery north of 36°30'N latitude. Voters in a territory could not prohibit slavery because that would amount to taking away a person’s property.

Reaction to the Decision

The Court had reaffirmed what many in the Southerners believed which made them extremely happy. Northern Democrats were pleased that the Republicans’ main issue which was restricting the spread of slavery which had been ruled unconstitutional, becuase nothing could legally prevent the spread of slavery. Antislavery groups and Republicans were outraged, calling the Dred Scott decision “a wicked and false judgment” and “the greatest crime” ever committed in the nation’s courts.