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A landmark decision in the history of the supreme court in dredd scott case

In essence, the decision argued that Scott was a slave and as such was not a citizen and… Background Dred Scott was a slave who was owned by John Emerson of Missouri. In 1834 Emerson undertook a series of moves as part of his service in the U.

He took Scott from Missouri a slave state to Illinois a free state and finally into the Wisconsin Territory a free territory. During this period, Scott met and married Harriet Robinson, who became part of the Emerson household.

The Dred Scott Decision

Emerson married in 1838, and in the early 1840s he and his wife returned with the Scotts to Missouri, where Emerson died in 1843. In 1846, with the help of antislavery lawyers, Harriet and Dred Scott filed individual lawsuits for their freedom in Missouri state court in St. Louis on the grounds that their residence in a free state and a free territory had freed them from the bonds of slavery. Although the case was long thought to have been unusual, historians later demonstrated that several hundred suits for freedom were filed by or on behalf of slaves in the decades before the Civil War.

Emerson took years to be resolved.

Dred Scott decision

Sanford, a resident of New York state his last name was later incorrectly spelled Sandford on court documents. The case eventually reached the U. Supreme Court, which announced its decision in March 1857, just two days after the inauguration of Pres.

He ignored precedent, distorted history, imposed a rigid rather than a flexible construction on the Constitutionignored specific grants of power in the Constitution, and tortured meanings out of other, more-obscure clauses. His logic on the citizenship issue was perhaps the most convoluted.

In Development

He admitted that African Americans could be citizens of a particular state and that they might even be able to vote, as they in fact did in some states. But he argued that state citizenship had nothing to do with national citizenship and that African Americans could not sue in federal court because they could not be citizens of the United States.

On this point, however, Taney stood on shaky constitutional ground: Newspaper notice for a pamphlet on the U. Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision. Library of Congress, ng. LC-USZ62-132561 Even with this weak argument, Taney could have been accused of nothing worse than faulty reasoning, if he had stopped there.

Primary Documents in American History

If Scott was not a U. But Taney was determined to impose a judicial solution on the slavery controversy. Although later courts would adopt the policy of deciding constitutional questions on the narrowest possible grounds, the pre-Civil War courts often decided all issues that could support their rulings.

Thus Taney continued, holding that Scott had never been free and that Congress had in fact exceeded its authority in the Missouri Compromise because it had no power to forbid or abolish slavery in the territories.

The Missouri Compromise, which had served as the accepted constitutional settlement for nearly four decades, thus fell.

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He thus voided the principles of free soil opposition to slavery in the territories and in newly admitted statesterritorial sovereigntyand indeed every aspect of antislavery constitutional thought. Whatever status Scott might have had while in a free state or territory, he argued, once he had returned to Missouri his status depended entirely on local law, notwithstanding the doctrine of once free, always free.

Alternatively, he could have held that Scott was not entitled to sue Sanford in federal court on the basis of diversity of jurisdiction, because Missouri did not allow even free African Americans to be citizens.

But Taney outraged much of the North by asserting that African Americans could never be citizens of the United States.