Dred Scott Decision

March 6, 1857, the Dred Scott decision was handed down by the United States Supreme Court.

Dred Scott was an enslaved African American man whose owners had taken him from Missouri to the territories of Illinois and Wisconsin. Missouri was a slave state, meaning slavery was legal throughout the state. However, slavery was not legal in either Illinois or Wisconsin territory. Thus, Scott sued his owners once they took him back to Missouri.

The Missouri State Court ruled that Dred Scott was still enslaved; because of this, he sued in the United States Federal Court, which also ruled against him. His case would then move on to the United States Supreme Court.

In March of 1857, the United States Supreme Court issued a seven-to-two decision that ruled against Dred Scott and his long-awaited freedom. In this case, Roger Taney also held that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was unconstitutional. He also ruled that enslaved people were to be seen as property under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Fifth Amendment says that the federal government cannot confiscate property, and since Taney declared slaves to be property, Dred Scott had no case because he did not even have the right to sue his master.[1]

Want to learn more about the Dred Scott decision? A fuller picture will be painted on March 8, 2023. Check back in to learn more!

Dred Scott

[1] “The Road to Disunion : Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854: Volume I,” 323.

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