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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Dred Scott v. Sandford Case Brief

Dredd Scott v Sandford Case Brief
In the year 1846, an African American slave named Dred Scott sued for his and his wife’s freedom in one of the city courts in St. Louis. Dred Scott and his wife had been previously taken by his owners to live in the free States of Illinois and Winconsin, but they subsequently moved back to Missouri, a slave state.
Chief Justice Roger Taney, a firm supporter in the concept of black slavery penned the decision against Dred Scott, citing various reasons to propagate slavery.

Procedural History
The case was filed at the city court of St. Louis but was subsequently brought up to the Supreme Court of the United States for decision.

The issue was whether or not Dred Scott and his wife could obtain their freedom based on the existing laws.

In the time of Dred Scott, laws were blatantly against slaves. There were no laws which granted them freedom, rights, and any sort of equality with the white Americans.

Upon the conclusion of the Dred Scott case, Chief Justice Roger Taney declared to everyone that all blacks never could and never would be citizens of the United States. This was regardless of whether they were free or not. Taney attacked the very validity of the suit brought by Dred Scott, claiming that as a black slave – free or not – Scott had no right to sue seeing as he was not a citizen of the United States. Taney penned a lengthy decision which detailed all the various reasons why and how blacks were and could never be citizens of the United States. He even cited the creation of the Constitution of the United States. He said that the grant of citizenship to everyone did not ever include the blacks as they were not members of the exclusive peoples who formed part of the new political body and country. He further claimed that it was never in the contemplation of the authors of the Constitution to include the class of people who were merely imported to become slaves. Their descendants were likewise not extended the privileges of citizenship.

He further went on to state that African Americans were beings that have always been regarded as an inferior race in terms of social and political standpoints. No “negro” should ever be afforded respect as they had never had any rights in the first place.

More insultingly, Taney concluded that the suit filed by Dred Scott was not to even be considered as a suit of citizens from different states as Scott himself was not even deemed fit to be a citizen. He dismissed the case by reason of the lack of jurisdiction of the Court.

In addition to this decision on the case of Dred Scott, Taney also declared that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. It was stated that Missouri could not be declared as “free territory” because the said action was not within the powers of the Congress. According to the Court decision, the power of the Congress to create and obtain territories was only limited to the territories in the Northwest. Furthermore, it was claimed that the deprivation of the ownership of slaves of white folk was a violation of the Fifth Amendment and therefore, allowing slaves to obtain freedom in “free” states was illegal as well.


The case of Dred Scott is known today as one of the most racist and unjust decision ever to have been made by the United States Supreme Court. Indeed, it is only considered today as dictum and absolutely not binding upon the courts and existing legal system.

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