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    The Dred Scott Decision

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    Dredd ScottAmerica in 1857 was a nation on the brink. Relationship between the North andSouth had been strained for decades and was only getting worse.

    All tension had to dowith the issues of slavery. In 1848 the U. S. had acquired new lands in the Mexicancession, and the debate was on. The question was whether or not the South should beallowed to spread slavery into the new states. This debate turned violent many times.

    TheSouth threatened to secede from the Union if a candidate from the Republican party, whowas antislavery, won. Amidst all of the tension would emerge a slave named Dredd Scott. Dredd Scott was a slave to Dr. John Emerson in St.

    Louis, Missouri a slave state. Scott spent most of his time in Illinois, a free state, because his owner Dr. Emerson was anArmy doctor and he stayed in Fort Armstrong in Illinois. Living in a free state hadconstituted freedom for previous slaves so Scott felt that he too deserved his freedom andhe brought his first case to court on April 6, 1846, at this time he had moved back toMissouri and was the property of Dr.

    Emerson’s wife. Scott filed a declaration on April 6,1846,which stated that Mrs. Emerson had “beat, bruised and ill treated him” beforeimprisoning him for twelve hours. He declared that he was to be free on the basis that hehad lived of Fort Armstrong and Fort Snelling which were both located in free states.

    Scott felt that he had a strong case as the Supreme Court of Missouri had freed slavesprevious to him who had also traveled with their masters to free states. Scott lost the firstcase and brought the case up again in 1850 to the Supreme Court of Missouri, the samecourt which had freed slaves previous on the same terms. The difference now was thattwo of the three justices serving on the court were pro-slavery whereas in cases prior toScott vs. Emerson the Justices had a more apathetic view of slavery and saw it as aneccesary evil.

    The court ruled against Scott in 1852 and once again his attempt atfreedom had failed. His next step was to take his case into the federal judicial system as hebrought it to the U. S. Circuit Court for the District of Missouri. The Scott case would be very different when entered into the federal courthowever. First Scott had a new owner who was John F.

    A. Sanford, the brother of Mrs. Emerson. Once again Scotts attempt failed based on Sanford’s argument that Scott hadregained his slave status when he returned to Missouri and therefor was a slave and had noright to seek freedom.

    This was not Scott’s final attempt at freedom however. He decidedto take his case to the highest court in the nation. Before proceeding to the Supreme Court with his case Dredd Scott found a lawyerto represent his cause. The lawyer that took his case was a man named, MontgomeryBlair, a fellow Missourian.

    Blair was a highly respected lawyer in Washington, and was ananti-slavery supporter. He also agreed to take Scott’s defense at no charge. The case had ahuge political impact at this time and was delayed one year in order to avoid debates aboutthe controversial topic in the election of 1856. Scott’s case had not attracted much attention until it reached the Supreme Court. The Scott case renewed debate over slavery issues and also the debate over whetherCongress had the power to regulate slavery.

    Both the republican and Democratic partiesagreed that the slavery issue should rest in the arms of the Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court met for the first time on the case on February 14, 1857,it favored the previous courts decision that ruled in favor of Mr. Sanford. Yet this caseopened other arguments such as Negro citizenship and the constitutionality of theMissouri Compromise. When these issues were heard in court the court elected ChiefJustice Roger B.

    Taney to represent the majority decision in the court. The court battlelasted nearly a month and on March 6, 1857, the court had reached a decision. The first decision addressed by Roger Taney was whether or not Scott even had aright to bring this case to court. Taney stated that, one of the privileges reserved forcitizens of the United States was the privilege of suing in a court of the United States. Taney stated that Negroes had no right to bring suit in a U.

    S. federal court as they werenot citizens and had no right as citizens. Therefor Scott did not have the privilege of evensuing in the court. The other issue addressed was the constitutionality of the MissouriCompromise. The compromise stated that no state above the 36th parallel would be aslave state and slaves residing in them would be free.

    Taney ruled that the MissouriCompromise was unconstitutional based on his view that slaves were not people butproperty and the Missouri Compromise deprived slaveholders from property which wasunconstitutional. Taney also ruled that Scott’s argument that he lived in a free state wasirrelevant because when he brought his case to court he made his residence in Missouriwhich was a slave state. The case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and sent back tothe lower court with instructions for the lower court to dismiss the case also. This upheldthe Missouri Supreme Courts decision ruling in favor of Sanford. The Dredd Scott case can be seen as a failure for Scott himself but it broughtabout many political debates about slavery.

    The Dredd Scott case in my opinion had thelarger impact on American politics and society than did any other slave related issue. Northerners became outraged at the decisions by the court as well as the Republicans. Southerners looked at the Republicans in disregard as they supported the antislavery issue. The Dredd Scott case inspired many abolitionist feelings amongst Americans. Northernersfeared that slavery would spread to their territory and the Southerners grew angry withanti-slavery followers in the North.

    Tension between the North and South grew day byday. Four years after the decision in the Scott vs. Sanford case was read by Taney, half ofthe Union seceded and the country began a civil war. Although Dredd Scott did not see the direct effect of his actions he alone changedour country by simply taking a stand.

    Being in the severe minority it is a huge victory forScott even though he did not win any of his cases or his freedom but he did win the heartsof abolitionists who later would support his cause and eventually fight for the freedom ofall blacks. Dredd Scott was a great man in American history who may not be seen as alarge player in the eventual victory by the North. If it wasn’t for Dredd Scott theNortherners may have never seen the potential for slavery to spread and when they leastexpected slavery would consume them also. Dredd Scott brought forth the awarenessabout slavery that leads to the society of today where people are treated as History Essays

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    The Dred Scott Decision. (2018, Dec 31). Retrieved from

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