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The Dred Scott Decision

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 06:29 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 56.7 
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The Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court in March 1857 was one of the major steps


  on the road to secession. Dred Scott was a slave who was taken to Missouri from Virginia


  and sold. His new master then moved to Illinois (a free state) for a while but soon moved


  back to Missouri. Upon his master's death, Scott claimed that since he had resided in a free


  state, he was consequentially a free man. The case eventually made it to the Supreme


  Court.


 


  As stated by Supreme Court Justice C. J. Taney, "In considering this...controversy, two


  questions arise: 1st.[sic] Was [Scott], together with his family, free in Missouri by reason


  of his stay in the territory of the United States hereinbefore mentioned? And 2d[sic], If


  they were not, is Scott himself free by reason of his removal to Rock Island, in the state of


  Illinois...?" Both of these questions led to an even greater and more central question: "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 priveledges, and


  immunities, guarantied by that instrument to the citizen?" (i.e. does Scott, having been a


  slave, have the constitutional right to sue?)


 


  The Court's decision (7 against, 2 for) was declared on March 6, 1857. Due to the variance


  of opinions on why the Court decided as they did (all seven justices who decided against


  Scott wrote opinion papers for the case), the opinion of Justice Taney is generally cited for


  the majority. According to Taney, the Court decided that Scott (and hence all negro slaves


  or their descendants) was not a citizen of the United States or the state of Missouri, and


  thus not entitled to sue...

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