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Dred Scott v. Sanford 1857 Missouri Compromise Decision; Citizenship for Blacks.

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Presentation on theme: "Dred Scott v. Sanford 1857 Missouri Compromise Decision; Citizenship for Blacks."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dred Scott v. Sanford 1857 Missouri Compromise Decision; Citizenship for Blacks

2 History of the Case Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, were slaves of Dr. John Emerson, an army physician who was stationed in various western posts. Dr. Emerson was billeted to Fort Snelling, in what is now Minnesota and also to the military post at Rock Island in the state of Illinois. Both of these military posts are north of the Missouri Compromise Line. Harriet Scott was formerly owned by a Major Taliaferro, who sold her in 1835 to Dr. Emerson. In 1836, Dred and Harriet were married with the consent of Dr. Emerson. The Scotts had two children, Eliza and Lizzie. Eliza was born on the steamboat Gipsey on the Mississippi River above the boundary of Missouri. Lizzie was born in the state of Missouri at the military post called Jefferson Barracks

3 History of the Case (cont.)


5 After Dr. Emerson left military service, he returned to Missouri. After Dr. Emerson’s death, Emerson’s widow subsequently hired out the Scotts for labor and at some point the Scotts acquired sufficient money to attempt to purchase their freedom. Mrs. Emerson refused, and the Scotts brought a suit to the circuit court of the state of Missouri for their freedom. The circuit court granted them permission to sue. In 1850, the jury found in favor of the Scotts. QUESTIONS How might this jury’s decision have impacted slaveholders? If you had been Dr. Emerson’s widow, would you have filed a request for an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court?

6 History of the Case (cont.) Counsel for Mrs. Emerson appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. In March 1852, that Court ruled 2 to 1 against Dred Scott and his family in the case of Scott, A Man of Color v. Emerson (15 Mo. 576), which argued that the hiring of a slave for two days in a free state would entitle the slave to sue for freedom. Former cases held that the act of setting foot upon free soil was sufficient for freedom, and intent had no impact upon the freedom issue. There were many precedents in Missouri law upholding the "once free, always free" judicial practice. There was the cornerstone case of Winny v. Whitesides (1824), which held that a person held in slavery in Illinois then brought to Missouri was entitled to freedom based on that residence. That decision was followed just a few years later by Merry v. Tiffin & Menard (1827) which held that residence in any territory where slavery was prohibited by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 worked a slave's freedom. The validity of the Northwest Ordinance slavery prohibition was upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court in their 1828 decision in LaGrange v. Chouteau and again in Theoteste alias Catiche v. Chouteau (1829). That residence in Illinois worked a slave's freedom was upheld in numerous Court decisions, including Julia v. McKinney (1833) Nat v. Ruddle (1834) and Wilson v. Melvin (1837). The fact that Dr. Emerson was resident at a military post did not prevent emancipation, according to the Court's 1837 determination in Rachel v. Walker. Between 1837 and 1846, there were no new decisions made by the Missouri Supreme Court to overturn the clearly-established doctrine of "once free, always free."

7 Decision of Missouri Supreme Court, 1852 In a decision that clearly recognized the political climate, Justice William Scott wrote that it was “a humiliating spectacle to see a court of a state confiscate the property of her own citizens by the command of a foreign law.” Justice Scott acknowledged the political climate and declared that it was time to end the “black vomit” that was becoming an epidemic in the Missouri territory. Justices Scott and Ryland determined that they would not suffer to have the old laws enforced, and that it was entirely unreasonable to liberate slaves under the argument that the mere touching of soil of a free state entitled them to their freedom.

8 The justices of the Missouri Supreme Court further argued that the consequences of slavery are… “…more hurtful to the masters than to the slaves. There is no comparison between the slave in the United States and the cruel, uncivilized Negro in Africa. When the condition of our slaves is contrasted with the state of their miserable race in Africa; when their civilization, intelligence, and instruction is considered, and the means now employed to restore them to the country from which they have been torn, bearing with them the blessings of civilized life, we are almost persuaded that their introduction amongst us was in the providence of God who makes the evil passions of men subservient to his own glory, a means of placing that unhappy race with the pale of civilized nations.” - Justice William Scott & Justice Ryland

9 Dissenting Opinion of Justice Campbell Justice Campbell departed from the opinion of the majority of the court with regard to the freedom of Dred Scott and family. He felt that a review of the case law of Missouri and of the neighboring slave states clearly held that a slave held in servitude was entitled to freedom when setting foot upon free territory. Justice Campbell however objected to the taking of property, for example, the slave, by action of Congress. He felt that people outside of the state of Missouri had no right to interfere with the institution of slavery or the domestic laws of the state. He agreed with the other two justices on the invalidity of the Missouri Compromise.

10 From State to Federal Court Scott and his lawyers then brought his case to a federal court, the United States Circuit Court in Missouri. The defendant in this case was Mrs. Emerson's brother, John Sanford, who had assumed responsibility for John Emerson's estate. As a New York resident and technically beyond the jurisdiction of the state court, Scott's lawyers can only file a suit against Sanford in the federal judicial system. In 1854, the Circuit Court upheld the decision of the Missouri Supreme Court. There was now only one other place to go. Scott appealed his case to the United States Supreme Court. The main issues for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide were whether it had jurisdiction to try the case and whether Scott was indeed a citizen.

11 Members of U.S. Supreme Court in 1856 The nine justices of the Supreme Court of 1856 certainly had biases regarding slavery. Seven had been appointed by pro-slavery presidents from the South, and of these, five were from slave-holding families. Still, if the case had gone directly from the state supreme court to the federal supreme court, the federal court probably would have upheld the state's ruling, citing a previously established decision that gave states the authority to determine the status of its inhabitants. The Taney Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney

12 Was John Sanford’s attorney correct when he argued that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 had violated the United States Constitution? “The individual is guaranteed certain rights when on trial and the right to life, liberty and property. No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment [formal charge] or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use [i.e. by eminent domain] without just compensation.” – - Amendment V. of U.S. Constitution Key Questions for the U.S. Supreme Court (cont.)

13 Key Questions for the U.S. Supreme Court The case had arrived at the U.S. Supreme Court on the premise that Scott and Sanford were citizens of different states or had “diversity of citizenship”. The court had to determine whether that rule applied in this case.

14 Chief Justice Taney’s Decision “Can a Negro whose ancestors were imported into this country and sold as slaves become a member of the political community which was formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States?”

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