Why did Dred Scott sue the Emersons and John Sanford?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Dred Scott sued the Emerson family and John Sanford for his freedom. Dred Scott believed that since his master, John Emerson, had taken him to a free state, he should be a free man. Initially, Dred Scott won his case, but it was overturned. Thus, he had to take the case back to court. Eventually, John Emerson died. His new master was John Sanford, so he sued him for his freedom. Ultimately, the case ended up in the Supreme Court after Dred Scott lost the case. The Supreme Court also ruled against Dred Scott saying it didn’t matter where he was taken. Since he was considered property, his master could take him anywhere. Additionally, the Supreme Court said the case should never have been heard because Dred Scott didn’t have the right to sue. The Supreme Court went on to say that the Missouri Compromise was illegal because only states could outlaw slavery, not Congress.  This case was another example of the growing dispute between the North and the South in the 1850s over slavery.


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