Was the Supreme Courts ruling in the Scott v. Sanford case right?
Dred Scott filed for his freedom in 1846; a slave seeking freedom from his owner, an army physician in Missouri.Scott argued that because his owner had taken him to live for a time in a free state, he was free. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court, and they ruled against Dred Scott.
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From today's point of view, of course the Supreme Court was wrong. But given the time and place in which they lived, and given the logic of their decision, it is not so clear.
The main basis for the Dred Scott decision was that the Court had no jurisdiction to hear the case because Dred Scott was not a citizen. He was not a citizen because the people who wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution did not think blacks equal and therefore didn't mean them to be citizens.
This may be an abhorrent conclusion, but how can you say it's false? Many of the people who signed the Declaration and the Constitution owned slaves. Neither document condemns slavery. Given those facts, it's hard to imagine that the Framers thought they were making blacks citizens.
The Court also ruled the Constitution didn't give Congress the right to regulate slavery. Can't argue with that either, at least not looking at the plain text of the Constitution.
So the outcome of the case was repugnant to our beliefs, but it's hard to argue with the specific legal reasoning. For the status of blacks in society to be clarified, it was necessary to amend the Constitution, as was done after the Civil War.
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