Introduction - Dred Scott Case
There have been many important laws and court cases in black history and the United States Supreme Court's 1857 decision in the Dred Scott Case is one of the earliest.
The case involved the freedom of Dred Scott, a man born into slavery but who had lived in states where slavery was illegal for many years before returning to a slave
state. Beyond the important question of Dred Scott's freedom the United States Supreme Court's decision would affect the rights of black people throughout the
United States. The court's decision in essence took away the U.S. Congress's ability to limit slavery in the United States western territories and would be a
contributing factor to the outbreak of the American Civil War 4 years later.
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On this page you will find a list of interesting facts about the Dred Scott Case written for kids and adults. Information on this page includes where Dred Scott lived, how he could have easily become free, and what impact the case had on black history.
Dred Scott Case Background
- Dred Scott was born into slavery in 1795.
- He moved from his home state of Virginia, with his slave master Peter Blow eventually settling in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1830.
- After the death of his first slave master he was eventually purchased by an army surgeon named John Emerson.
- He moved with Emerson to Illinois in 1836 where he stayed for two and a half years. Illinois was a free state in which slavery was illegal.
- After living in Illinois Scott moved to Fort Snelling along with Emerson in a part of the Wisconsin Territory that would later become the state of Minnesota. Slavery had been deemed illegal in the Wisconsin Territory under the Missouri Compromise.
- In Wisconsin Scott married Harriet Robinson.
- While living in the Wisconsin Territory or Illinois Scott could have made a claim for his freedom; but never did. It is unclear if he was unaware he could be free or was just content at that time with his master and his situation.
- Emerson was eventually transferred to Fort Jesup in Louisiana, after a year he summoned Scott and his wife to join him. Although in the free territory of Wisconsin Scott traveled south to join his slave owner Emerson.
- Before entering into Louisiana Dred Scott and his wife could have sued for their freedom and most likely would have been granted freedom by the Louisiana courts. Louisiana's practice was to award slaves their freedom, if requested, if their owners brought them to a free state for a long period of time.
- In 1838 Mrs. Emerson returned to the slave state of Missouri with Dred Scott and his wife.
- After Mr. Emerson's death in 1843 Scott offered to pay Mrs. Emerson three hundred dollars for his freedom; she refused. It is only then that he took his case to the courts in attempt to sue for his freedom.
Interesting Dred Scott Case Facts
- The Dred Scott Case is officially named Dred Scott vs Sanford.
- The case involved Dred Scott suing for his freedom on the basis that having lived in free states for years he should be freed. He had resided in the free state of Illinois and Wisconsin for several years before moving back to Missouri; a slave state.
- Dred Scott first sued for his freedom in 1847 but lost on a technicality.
- For ten years the case went through numerous appeals and reversals of decisions in the Missouri Court system.
- Dred Scott received legal help from abolitionist lawyers who believed strongly that slavery should be ended. Scott received financial assistance for his legal cost from his original owner's (Peter Blow) sons who were childhood friends of Scott.
- In 1857 the case made its way to the United States Supreme Court.
- The justices on the Supreme Court including Chief Justice Roger B. Taney were definitely biased in this case. Most of the justices were pro-slavery appointed by pro-slavery presidents and from families that owned slaves.
- The Supreme Court's decision on March 6th of 1857 was that all people of African ancestry, slaves and freed slaves, could never be U.S. citizens and therefore had no right to sue in federal court. Dred Scott was to remain a slave.
- Constitutional experts are generally in agreement that the Supreme Court's decision in Scott vs Sandford is the worst decision in the high court's history.
- After the Supreme Court's decision, Scott's original slave master's descendant Taylor Blow purchased Scott and his wife and gave them their freedom.
- On September 17th of 1858 only nine months after losing the case for his freedom Dred Scott died.