Dred Scott v. Sandford (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that Congress cannot limit slavery in the territories, nullifying the Missouri Compromise.
Summary of Event
Few decisions of the United States Supreme Court have had the political repercussions of Dred Scott v. Sandford (documents of the time misspelled the defendant’s name). The decision supplied the infant Republican Party with new issues against the Democrats, already divided by the civil war in Kansas referred to by modern historians as Bleeding Kansas. The decision also was an embarrassment to the Republicans, for in denying the authority of Congress to legislate on slavery in the territories, the ruling destroyed the major platform of the Republican Party. The Court’s opinion also damaged, if not destroyed, the practicability of Stephen A. Douglas’ doctrine of popular sovereignty; if Congress had no authority to regulate slavery in the territories, neither could territorial legislatures do so, because they were inferior bodies created by Congress. The Court had entered completely into the political issues tearing at the Union, and the reputation of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney was shattered in the North.
Two pertinent questions were raised by the Dred Scott case. First, could an African American, whose ancestors were imported into the United States and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community created by the U.S....
(The entire section is 1692 words.)
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Dred Scott v. Sandford (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
In Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393, 15 L. Ed. 691 (1857), the U.S. Supreme Court faced the divisive issue of SLAVERY. Chief Justice ROGER B. TANEY, a former slaveholder, authored the Court's opinion, holding that the U.S. Constitution permitted the unrestricted ownership of black slaves by white U.S. citizens. In a stunning 7 decision, the Court declared that slaves and emancipated blacks could not be full U.S. citizens. Any attempt by Congress to limit the spread of slavery in U.S. territories was held to be a direct violation of slave owners' due process rights.
Chief Justice Taney's opinion fueled the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement and helped push the United States toward civil war. Although Taney was an accomplished jurist who served as chief justice for 29 years, his record was permanently tarnished by what many considered to be his flawed reasoning in the Dred Scott case.
African slavery was introduced in the American colonies in 1619. As...
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Dred Scott v. Sandford (American History Through Literature)
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) was the Supreme Court's most important decision in the years leading up to the Civil War. Jurisprudentially the decision had relatively little long-term impact. However its short-term political impact was enormous. It generated hundreds of newspaper editorials and countless speeches by politicians. In 1858 two senatorial candidates in Illinoishe incumbent Stephen A. Douglas and the challenger Abraham Lincolnigorously analyzed the case, as well as the issue of extending slavery into the territories, in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates. In 1860 Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune and the most important Republican journalist, published a pamphlet edition of the majority opinion of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney (1777864) and the dissent of Associate Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis. Predominantly antislavery, the Republicans distributed tens of thousands of copies of these two opinions as a campaign document. Republicans hated Taney's opinion and believed that distributing it would help bring out the vote in the election that year.
DRED SCOTT'S ROAD TO THE COURT
Dred Scott (1795858) was a Virginia-born slave. His master, Peter Blow, took him to Missouri in 1827 and, in 1833, sold him to Captain John Emerson, a U.S. Army surgeon. In December of that year Emerson took Dred Scott to his post at Fort Armstrong at
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 had banned slavery in the Northwest Territory, including Wisconsin and part of Minnesota. The Missouri Compromise, passed in 1820, had banned slavery in the territories north of Missouri, which included all parts of Minnesota not covered by the Northwest Ordinance. In addition the Wisconsin Enabling Act, which created the Wisconsin Territory, declared that the laws of the Michigan Territory would apply to the new territory, and the laws of the Michigan Territory also prohibited slavery. Thus under a variety of federal and territorial laws, slaves could not be legally held in bondage at Fort Snelling.
Despite these laws Scott was held as a slave in Fort Snelling from 1836 to 1838. While there he married Harriet Robinson in a ceremony performed by the local Indian agent, who also served as a justice of the peace. This marriage might be construed as indicating that Scott was free because slaves could not be legally married. Over the next few years the Scotts lived in Louisiana, Missouri, and once again in the Wisconsin Territory. In 1843 Emerson died and ownership of the Scotts passed to his widow, Irene Sanford Emerson. For the next three years the Scotts were rented out to various temporary masters.
SUING FOR FREEDOM
In 1846 Scott tried to purchase his freedom, but Irene Emerson refused. Scott then sued for his freedom and after various delays, a jury in 1850 declared him free, basing its judgment on a series of precedents dating from 1824, in which Missouri courts had held that if a master took a slave to a free state, that slave became free. However, in 1852 the Missouri Supreme Court reversed these precedents, asserting that the free states had "been possessed with a dark and fell spirit in relation to slavery" (Finkelman, Dred Scott, p. 22), and thus Missouri would no longer recognize the free state law that did not recognize slavery.
The case should have ended there, but at this point Irene Emerson remarried (ironically to an abolitionist physician and politician in Massachusetts) and transferred ownership of Scott to her brother, John F. A. Sanford, who lived in New York. (The Supreme Court clerk would misspell his name as "Sandford," and it appears that way in the case.) Scott, now claiming to be a citizen of Missouri, sued Sanford in federal court under what is known as "diversity jurisdiction." "Diversity" of citizenship means that the involved parties are residents of different states, and diversity jurisdiction provides that suits between them be heard in federal court.
In response to this suit, Sanford argued that Scott could not sue in diversity because "Dred Scott is not a citizen of the State of Missouri, as alleged in his declaration, because he is a negro of African descent; his ancestors were of pure African blood, and were brought into this country and sold as negro slaves" (Finkelman, Dred Scott, p. 25). U.S. District Judge Robert W. Wells rejected this argument, asserting that if Scott was free he had the right to sue in federal court. After hearing the case, however, Wells ruled against Scott, finding that the federal court in Missouri should follow the decisions of the Missouri Supreme Court on the status of blacks in Missouri. Scott remained a slave.
His lawyers then appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The Court twice heard arguments in the case before deciding on 6 March 1857 that Scott was still a slave. The date of the announcement was significant. It came two days after the inauguration of President James Buchanan. In his inaugural address on 4 March, Buchanan had taken note of the controversy over slavery in the territories and urged Americans to accept the forthcoming decision by the Supreme Court.
THE SUPREME COURT DECISION
The Supreme Court's response to Dred Scott's freedom claim was extraordinary. For the first time in the history of the Court all nine justices wrote opinions. In total the case consumes more than 250 pages of volume 60 of United States Reports. Chief Justice Taney's opinion of the Court was 54 pages long; Justice Curtis answered him with a 70-page dissent.
By a seven-to-two vote the Court rejected Scott's freedom claims. Chief Justice Taney reached four major conclusions: (1) that blacks, even if free, could never sue in federal court under diversity jurisdiction because blacks, even if citizens of the states in which they lived, were not citizens of the United States; (2) that Congress lacked the power to pass general laws for the regulation of the territories; (3) that Congress specifically could not ban slavery in the territories because this would constitute taking private property without just compensation; (4) that the Missouri Compromise, which had operated for more than thirty-five years, was unconstitutional.
Not every justice in the majority agreed with all these conclusions. Justice Samuel Nelson of New York, for example, wanted to deny Scott's claim on the very narrow ground that the federal courts were bound to follow state law on the status of people within any state, and thus whatever claim to freedom Scott might have had from living in Illinois or the Wisconsin Territory was lost when he returned to Missouri. Justice John Catron of Tennessee agreed that Congress could not ban slavery in the territories, but rejected the claim that Congress had no power to pass general legislation for the territories. But despite differences among the majority justices, all agreed that Scott was to remain a slave.
CHIEF JUSTICE TANEY'S OPINION
Taney's opinion shocked many northerners. While most northern whites at this time held various prejudices against blacks, many were stunned by the conclusion that blacks were without any rights under the Constitution. Taney's language was indeed harsh and jarring. Hoping to appeal to widely held hostility toward blacks, Taney argued that race was the key to American citizenship. While almost all white southerners accepted these ideas of race, many northernersnd probably a majority of the members of the new Republican Partyo longer blindly accepted race as a reason for denying people fundamental rights. Thus Taney's language stunned many northerners when he wrote,
The question is simply this: Can a negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guarantied by that instrument to the citizen? (Finkelman, Dred Scott, pp. 578)
Taney attemped to support these claims with an appeal to historyhat we might today call the "intentions of the framers."
To bolster his claims he provided a detailed analysis of colonial statutes that discriminated against blacks. He asserted that colonial laws such as the Massachusetts Act from 1705 proved "the degraded condition of this unhappy race" at the time of the Revolution (Finkelman, Dred Scott, p. 62). He further appealed to the memory of the founders by citing the Declaration of Independence, only to argue that it did not apply to blacks. Taney quoted the Declaration's assertion that "all men are created equal" but then asserted that "it is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration" (Finkelman, Dred Scott, p. 63). He proved this assertion, at least to his own satisfaction, by an odd appeal to patriotism and the historical memory of the founders. He argued that the equality language of the Declaration could not have applied to blacks because
the conduct of the distinguished men who framed the Declaration of Independence would have been utterly and flagrantly inconsistent with the principles they asserted; and instead of the sympathy of mankind, to which they so confidently appeared, they would have deserved and received universal rebuke and reprobation. (Finkelman, Dred Scott, p. 63)
He went on to claim that "the men who framed this declaration were great menigh in literary acquirementsigh in their sense of honor, and incapable of asserting principles inconsistent with those on which they were acting." Thus, because some of the foundersuch as Thomas Jeffersonwned slaves, it was not possible to imagine, according to Taney's view, that blacks could ever be considered members of the body politic that created the United States. This history lesson of course ignored the many black soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War. It also ignored what historians call the "first emancipation," which led to an end to slavery in the North during and after the Revolution.
Moving from the Declaration to the Constitution, Taney continued to use a narrowly constructed view of history and of the framers to support his conclusions about black citizenship. Thus he completely ignored the fact that free black men had voted in most of the northern states, as well as some southern states, at the time of the ratification of the Constitution in 1789. Nevertheless, tying his analysis to a flawed historical perspective, Taney declared that African Americans
are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and Government might choose to grant them. (Finkelman, Dred Scott, p. 58)
Taney tied his historical analysis to an explicit appeal to what legal scholars later identified as original intent, originalism, or the intentions of the framers. He argued that Americans had to follow the intent of those who wrote the Constitution and that
no one, we presume, supposes that any change in public opinion or feeling, in relation to this unfortunate race, in the civilized nations of Europe or in this country, should induce the court to give to the words of the Constitution a more liberal construction in their favor than they were intended to bear when the instrument was framed and adopted. (Finkelman, Dred Scott, p. 68)
This argument seemed to acknowledge that many northerners and Europeans no longer accepted the legitimacy of slavery. Some, such as abolitionists and members of the new Republican Party, might even favor equality. But Taney in effect denied the legitimacy of such views, at least when it came to constitutional law.
Even northern whites who did not believe in racial equality were uncomfortable with this conclusion. By this time blacks could vote on equal terms with whites in five New England states and had some voting rights in three other states. Everywhere in the North blacks were able to hold property, enter various professions, attend schools, sign contracts, and sue and be sued. In all but three states (Indiana, Illinois, and California) they could testify against whites in court. Surely they were not without rights even if their rights might be restricted. But Taney said otherwise. Under Dred Scott a free black citizen of, say, Massachusetts who was kidnapped and taken to a slave state would be unable to sue in federal court to regain freedom. Such a possibility outraged many northerners.
Even more shocking was Taney's conclusion that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. This was only the second time in its history that the Court had declared an act of Congress unconstitutional. The first, Marbury v. Madison (1803), had involved a single minor provision of an elaborate law. Dred Scott, however, engaged a major federal statute that had been key to regulating settlement of the territories for more than a generation. Moreover, as Justices John McLean and Benjamin Robbins Curtis stressed in their dissents, the principle of regulating the territoriesnd banning slavery in the territoriesredated the Constitution itself. In 1787 the Congress under the Articles of Confederation had banned slavery in the Northwest Territory. Shortly after ratification of the Constitution, Congress readopted the Northwest Ordinance, confirming its power to regulate the territories. In the Missouri Compromise, Congress in 1820 also regulated the territories and banned slavery in some of them. Since then, as the dissents noted, Congress had repeatedly regulated the territories, allowing slavery in some and not in others.
Surely these many congressional acts could not have been unconstitutional. Many former delegates to the Constitutional Convention had been in the Congress that readopted the Northwest Ordinance. George Washington, a signer of the Constitution, had also signed this bill into law. President James Monroe, who signed the Missouri Compromise bill, had been a delegate to Virginia's ratifying convention. Surely all these founders of the nation in Congress and the executive branch could not have so completely misunderstood the powers of the federal legislature. This in any event is what McLean, Curtis, and many northerners thought, but Taney and a majority of the Court judged otherwise.
IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION
The public response to Taney's opinion and to the two dissents was at one level predictable. Northern Democrats were relieved, believing the issue of slavery in the territories would no longer disrupt politics. Their political opponents in the North had built an entirely new political partyhe Republican Partyround opposition to slavery in the territories. They could no longer, so northern Democrats believed, fight to stop slavery in the territories without seeming to oppose the Constitution. This would vanquish the Republicans and leave the field open for sweeping Democratic victories in the next elections.
Southerners were for the most part gleeful. On 10 March 1857, the Richmond Enquirer happily noted that "the nation has achieved a triumph, sectionalism has been rebuked, and abolitionism has been staggered and stunned." The paper concluded, "And thus it is, that reason and right, justice and truth, always triumph over passion and prejudice, ignorance and envy" (Finkelman, Dred Scott, p. 130). The New Orleans Daily Picayune asserted on 21 March 1857 that the decision "clears away the mists through which many honest men have distorted views of the rights of the Southern people." The paper was pleased with a decision that "gives the sanction of established law, and the guarantees of the constitution, for all that the South has insisted upon in the recent struggles, and forces her adversaries to surrender their political organization against her rights, or assume openly the position of agitators against the constitution." As such it was "a heavy blow to Black Republicanism" (Finkelman, Dred Scott, p. 132).
Republicans rejected this analysis. They pointed out over and over again that Chief Justice Taney had said Dred Scott, as a black, had no right to sue in federal court. If that was so then there was no case before the Supreme Court, and Taney's conclusions about the validity of the Missouri Compromise were dicta that had no value or force. In its 7 March 1857 issue the New York Tribune concluded, "This decision . . . is entitled to just so much moral weight as would be the judgment of a majority of those congregated in any Washington bar-room. It is a dictum prescribed by the stump to the benchhe Bowie-knife sticking in the stump ready for instant use if needed." In his 1858 senatorial campaign Lincoln argued that the decision was part of a conspiracy by Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, Chief Justice Taney, and Senator Stephan A. Douglas to nationalize slavery.
Abraham Lincoln continued to make these arguments after 1858, and in 1860 northern voters overwhelmingly supported him, giving him an electoral vote majority, as well as a popular vote plurality, that put him in the White House. Six years later Republican majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate would pass the Fourteenth Amendment, and on 9 July 1868 the states would ratify it. The amendment made all people born in the United Statesithout regard to race or ancestryitizens of the nation. This formally reversed the decision that Roger Brooke Taney had written.
See also Abolitionist Writing; Blacks; Compromise of 1850 and Fugitive Slave Law; Proslavery Writing; Slave Narratives; Slavery
Finkelman, Paul. Dred Scott v. Sandford: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.
Ehrlich, Walter. They Have No Rights: Dred Scott's Struggle for Freedom. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1979.
Fehrenbacher, Don E. The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. Winner of the 1979 Pulitzer Prize in history.
Finkelman, Paul. An Imperfect Union: Slavery, Federalism, and Comity. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981.
Hyman, Harold M., and William M. Wiecek. Equal Justice under Law: Constitutional Development, 1835875. New York: Harper, 1982.
Dred Scott v. Sandford (Supreme Court Drama)
Plaintiff: Dred Scott
Defendant: John F.A. Sandford
Plaintiff's Claim: That Scott, a slave, became a free man when taken by his owner to a non-slave state as recognized by the Missouri Compromise.
Chief Lawyers for Plaintiff: Samuel M. Bay, Montgomery Blair, George T. Curtis, Alexander P. Field, Roswell M. Field, David N. Hall
Chief Lawyers for Defense: Hugh A Garland, H.S. Geyer, George W. Goode, Reverdy Johnson, Lyman D. Norris
Justices for the Court: John A. Campbell, John Catron, Peter V. Daniel, Robert C. Grier, Samuel Nelson, Chief Justice Robert B. Taney, James M. Wayne
Justices Dissenting: Benjamin Curtis, John McLean
Date of Decision: March 6, 1857
Decision: Ruled that Scott was still a slave and that slaves and their descendants were property and could never be U.S. citizens and can never become a citizen. The Court also found the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional.
Significance: Instead of settling the slavery issue, the decision fueled the controversy further. The ruling most likely hastened the start of the Civil War.
A slave is a person who works for another person against his or her will as a result of force. Dred Scott was a Missouri slave who attempted to gain his freedom through the courts. His case reached the U.S. Supreme Court and on March 6, 1857 the Court handed down a decision. The ruling in Dred Scott v. Standford has been described as the Court's greatest mistake, a tragic error, a political calamity. Not only did the opinion cast a dark shadow over the Court's trustworthiness and prestige, but it most likely hastened the beginning of the Civil War (1861865).
Born in Virginia in the late 1790s, Scott was owned by Peter Blow. A plantation owner, Blow took Scott to Alabama in 1819 then, after growing tired of farming, moved his family and slaves including Scott to the booming frontier town of St. Louis, Missouri in 1830. Scott was sold in 1833 to an army surgeon, Dr. John Emerson of St. Louis.
Scott's travels west mirrored U.S. westward expansion during the same time period. Americans had pushed west from the original thirteen states to beyond the Mississippi River. Slavery, which was permitted by the U.S. Constitution, became a serious political problem as westward expansion continued. Northern states who had chosen to be free states, not allowing slavery, wanted to keep the new western territories free. Southern states, slave states, wanted to bring slavery and the plantation lifestyle to the territories. Both sides feared that as new states were admitted to the Union, the other side would gain a controlling vote in the Senate.
In 1818 the Territory of Missouri applied for admission to the United States. Slavery was legal in the territory and most people expected Missouri to enter as a slave state. At this time there were eleven free states and eleven slave states. Therefore, twenty-two senators were from free states and twenty-two senators from slave states. Admitting Missouri would tip the balance. In 1820 an agreement called the Missouri Compromise was reached in Congress between its Northern and Southern members. Missouri was admitted as a slave state and Maine was admitted as a free state. The Compromise also banned slavery from north of Missouri's southern boundary, except in the state of Missouri.
The Compromise proved far from a final solution as slavery remained an explosive issue for the next four decades. Many questioned if Congress had the authority to prohibit slavery in any territory. The controversy would play a key role in the Dred Scott decision.
Scott's Travels North
Scott accompanied his new owner, Dr. Emerson, on his assignments. In 1834 Dr. Emerson took Scott out of Missouri to a military post in Illinois, a free state, where Scott served his owner until 1836. Emerson then took Scott with him to a new assignment at Fort Snelling in the Wisconsin Territory (in modern-day Southeast Minnesota). At that time, the territory of Wisconsin was free according to the Missouri Compromise. Dr. Emerson kept Scott as a slave at Fort Snelling until 1838 when they returned home to Missouri.
Within a few years of their return, Emerson died, leaving Scott to his widow. Mrs. Emerson moved to New York in the mid-1840s and left Scott in the care of Henry Blow, a member of the family that had originally owned him. Blow, opposed to the extension of slavery to the western territories, financially supported Scott to test in court whether living in the free state of Illinois and in the Wisconsin Territory had made him a free man. Scott brought suit in a Missouri court for his freedom, arguing that since he had been a resident of a free state and in a free territory, his status had changed. The Missouri court held in January of 1850 that Scott was a free man based on certain Missouri state court precedents (previous rulings) which said that, even though Missouri was a slave state, residence in a free state or territory resulted in a slave's emancipation (freedom). However, the Missouri Supreme Court in 1852 reversed that decision by stating that blacks were destined to be slaves.
In 1854 Mrs. Emerson arranged a sale of Scott to her brother John F.A. Sanford (the Supreme Court records misspelled Sanford's name as Sandford) who lived in the state of New York. The sale to Sanford enabled Scott to again file suit, this time in a federal circuit court. Suits may be brought in federal court if the two opposing parties are citizens of different states. Sanford was a citizen of New York and Scott needed to show he was a citizen of Missouri. The circuit court ruled that Scott, as a black slave, was not a citizen of Missouri, therefore he could not bring suit in federal court. Scott immediately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
With the issue of slavery persisting and Congress unable to find a political solution, the Court felt mounting pressure to seek a final solution to the slavery question. Therefore, the Court agreed to hear the case. First argued before the Court in February of 1856, the justices decided to postpone their decision until after the November presidential election because of the political sensitivity. After a second round of oral arguments in December of 1856, a majority of seven decidedly pro-slavery justices favored a narrow ruling saying it was up to Missouri to determine if Scott was slave or free and the Court could not interfere with that decision. However, the two dissenting justices, John McLean and Benjamin R. Curtis, both fiercely antislavery, made it clear their dissents would be much more far reaching. They were preparing to consider whether or not a slave could ever become a citizen, whether living on free soil made a slave a free man, and whether Congress had the authority to ban slavery in the territories. In response, each of the seven majority justices decided to write their own opinions. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney's opinion was widely viewed as the official position of the majority.
Never a Citizen
First, Taney declared that never could Scott or any slave or his descendent be a citizen under the Constitution. Taney wrote that,
. . . they are not included and were not intended to be included under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to the citizens of the United States.
Taney arrived at this conclusion by examining the historical view of slaves and the original intent of the Framers of the Constitution. With stinging words he wrote that slaves "had for more than a century before [the Constitution was ratified] been regarded as being of an inferior order . . . with no rights which the white man was bound to respect . . . " Further, Taney said that blacks were not included in the words of the Declaration of Independence, "all men are created equal." Not only were slaves not citizens but, Taney continued, that slaves were actually regarded in the Constitution as property.
Taney, having presented ample reasons why Scott could not be considered a citizen, could have stopped at this point and dismissed the case. For if Scott was not a citizen, he could not bring suit in federal court, just as the lower federal circuit court had ruled. However, in order to let the nation know where the Court stood, the Chief Justice felt it necessary to address the issues of the free man on "free soil" argument and of slavery in the territories. Taney dismissed the idea that a slave became free just because he entered a free state. Whatever claim to freedom Scott might have had in Illinois was lost when he left that state and Missouri was not obligated to enforce an Illinois law.
Taney next decided that the ban on slavery in territories by the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional, therefore Scott's living in the Wisconsin Territory did not make him a free man. Taney had reasoned that Scott was property and the Fifth Amendment said that no one could deprive a person of his property without "due process of law [fair legal proceedings]" and "just compensation [payment]." For Congress to deprive slave owners their property just because they came into a free territory would be denying slave owners due process of law in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Hence, the Court declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and said that Congress was bound to protect slavery in the territories. This was only the second time the Supreme Court had used the power of judicial review which allows the Court to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional. The first was Marbury v. Madison (1803).
Stage Set for Civil War
Intended to settle the legal question of slavery, the decision actually fueled the controversy over slavery and seriously damaged respect for the Court. Animosity heightened between the Northern and Southern states. The Democratic Party split into northern and southern wings over the slavery issue, allowing Republican Abraham Lincoln (1861865), strongly antislavery, to be elected President in 1860. Historians widely believe the Scott decision hastened the onset of the Civil War just four years later.
The outcome of the Civil War and the amendments Congress passed immediately following its conclusion overturned the Scott decision. Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment, ratified in 1865, abolishing slavery. The Fourteenth Amendment, passed in 1866 and ratified in 1868, declared all persons born or naturalized in the United States were citizens of the United States and the state in which they lived. It also prohibited the states from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or denying any person equal protection of the laws. These guarantees, indirectly the legacy of the slave Dred Scott provided the basis for the emphasis on civil rights later in the twentieth century.
Suggestions for further reading
Fehrenbacher, Don E. Slavery, Law and Politics: The Dred Scott Case in Historical Perspective. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
Finkelman, Paul. Dred Scott v. Sandford: A Brief History with Documents. Bedford Books, 1997.
Freedman, Suzanne. Roger Taney: The Dred Scott Legacy. Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1995.
January, Brendan. The Dred Scott Decision (Cornerstones of Freedom). Children's Press, 1998.