Looking Back on Dred Scott and Abraham Lincoln



Dred Scott was an African American slave who sued for his freedom in 1846. His master was an U.S. Army Officer who took Scott in between free and nonfree states. Of course this happened before the Civil War where the north wanted to abolish slavery while the south did not agree. At that time there were nearly “four million slaves in the United States,” so the outcome of the court case was huge and affected many of people. Dred Scott v. Sandford

Scott’s lawyers try to argue the fact that during the traveling Scott spent more time on free soil then the south. However, Dred Scott’s master took him back into Missouri which is a slave state, and soon after the master died. Scott sued for his freedom in court, claiming he should be free since he had lived on free soil for a long time.

The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roger B. Taney, was a former slave owner from Maryland. Being The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and owning slaves just made it that much harder for Dred Scott to get his freedom. He lost his case to a seven to two.The Supreme Court said “no slave or descendant of a slave could be a U.S. citizen, or ever had been a U.S. citizen. As a non-citizen, the court stated, Scott had no rights and could not sue in a Federal Court and must remain a slave.” “The ruling served to turn back the clock concerning the rights of African-Americans, ignoring the fact that black men in five of the original States had been full voting citizens dating back to the Declaration of Independence in 1776.” For a man not being to gain freedom for being a different race is unjust especially when his same race had rights to vote.

Two major things came from the Dred Scott v. Sandford court case. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 and Abraham Lincoln. “The Missouri Compromise prohibited slavery north of the parallel 36°30´ in the Louisiana Purchase. The Court declared it violated the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution which prohibits Congress from depriving persons of their property without due process of law.” The Supreme Court was not able to control slavery in the new territories. Later on the Missouri Compromise was declared unconstitutional.

Honest Abe as we all know was against slavery. The  Dred Scott v. Sandford separated the political and social world even more. “Abraham Lincoln reacted with disgust to the ruling and was spurred into political action, publicly speaking out against it.” Southerners wanted slavery to spread out through America and so without a doubt they agreed with the court case. With the separation becoming more clear a civil war was bound to break out. In conclusion, the Dred Scott v. Sanford decision lead to The Missouri Compromise 1820 being unconstitutional, Abraham Lincoln stepping up being a political leader and another Supreme Court Case ruling being unjust.

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3 Responses to Looking Back on Dred Scott and Abraham Lincoln

  1. Tracy Encizo says:

    Chief Justice Roger B. Taney leaves a somewhat confusing legacy. As horrendous as Taney’s unconstitutional ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford was, Taney sided with Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story in affirming a decision made by a lower court in the case of United States v. The Amistad (1841), an important case involving slavery that came before Dred Scott.

    In this case, Africans kidnapped from Sierra Leone and sold into slavery revolted while en route to Cuba on the Spanish slave ship Amistad, killed the captain and took over the ship. They directed the remaining crew to take them back to Africa but instead, the crew sailed to New York and the Africans were taken into custody.

    This drew international attention and a federal district court ruled that not only did the kidnapping violate international laws and treaties of which the US was a party but the Africans, as free men, were entitled to take whatever measures necessary to secure their freedom. Under pressure, President Van Buren ordered the case appealed to the US Supreme Court which affirmed the lower court ruling, authorizing the return of the Africans to Sierra Leone.

    Another interesting fact about Taney is that as a young lawyer, he emancipated the slaves he inherited from his plantation-owning father, and provided for the older ones with monthly pensions. He also defended a Methodist minister who had been indicted for inciting slave insurrections by denouncing slavery in a camp meeting. In his opening argument, Taney condemned slavery as “a blot on our national character.”

    In the Dred Scott case, Taney contended that because slaves were originally excluded from the Constitution, neither the Court nor Congress could now extend rights of citizenship to them. Would that make him a textualist near and dear to Scalia’s heart?

    On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as President of the United States by none other than Chief Justice Roger B. Taney.

    In another irony, Taney lost his Maryland estates to the Civil War, a war that was hastened into being by his ruling in the Dred Scott case.

  2. seancity971 says:

    Dred Scott was a man who simply could not win. This was a prime example of a fueling fire towards the civil war and total separation between our country. if it hadnt been for dred scotts repeated denial to gain full human rights, I fear that the North would have lost some drive to finally fight to put an end to slavery. Even Lincoln used this case and the strong negative implications of it in his emancipation proclamation speech. This case was a long, extremely tedious, and hard fought case that only went to prove the resilience of the African Americans.

  3. This is a very well written post. For someone who in this time period was considered to be property to take a case to the US Supreme Court, is astonishing to say the least. No matter what evidence Dred Scott brought to the court it would not make a difference at all. The minds of the justices on the court were already made up as soon as he walked into the room. This case was one of the many fuses that would be ignited to the explosion that is the American Civil War.

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