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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



  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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