A major argument between the north and south was the Dred Scott decision. The Dred Scott decision was one of the most important court decisions in United States history. Dred Scott was a Missouri slave on a search for freedom. Dred Scott was not a normal slave, and he fought for a very long time to gain his freedom. This case was one of the biggest cases that led to the Civil War.
Dred Scott was born as a slave for Peter Blow in the early 1800s. Peter Blow moved from Missouri to St. Louis where he sold Scott to John Emerson in 1830. In 1836, Scott's new master, John Emerson, a U.S. Army surgeon, moved to Fort Snelling, an army post in what is now Minnesota. Back then this was in a territory that banned slavery under the Missouri Compromise. When Scott was at Fort Snelling, he married Harriet Robinson, who was also a slave. In 1837 Emerson left Fort Snelling for Jefferson Barracks without Dred and his wife Harriet. While Emerson was away, he married Irene Sanford during a brief stay in Louisiana.
Emerson told the Scotts that he was getting married. They were happy to come to Louisiana around 1838. Around 1840, the Scotts returned to St. Louis with the Emersons. A year or so after the Scotts and their masters returned to St. Louis, John Emerson died.
It is believed that Mrs. Emerson hired out Dred Scott, Harriet, and their two children to work for other families. There are three ideas that might have influenced Dred Scott to sue at this time. First, he did not like being hired out. This may be because the Scotts were happy with John Emerson but not his wife, Irene. Another idea was that Mrs. Emerson might have been planning to sell him, or Dred might have tried to buy his freedom and was refused. These things might have upset the Scotts because they were happy doing work for one master but not many.
Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, filed a lawsuit against Irene Emerson for their freedom on April 6, 1846. Missouri courts believed in the statement of "once free always free." The Scotts had lived in free territories for almost nine years. Dred's minister, John Anderson, and the Blow family helped by paying for his lawyers. Their support lasted through the eleven years in court.
The case first came to court in 1847. The Scotts lost their first trial because of rumors and gossip. This was because some people made lies up about the Scotts so they would lose the case. They were given the right to a second trial by the judge. In 1850, a second trial was held in the same courtroom. When the jury heard the evidence, they decided that Dred Scott and his family should be free. Mrs. Emerson didn’t want to lose the Scotts. This is why she appealed her case to the Missouri State Supreme Court. In 1852 they reversed the ruling and returned Dred Scott to slavery. The Missouri law would support the slave owners and not the slaves.
In 1854, the Scotts got new lawyers who hated slavery. By this time Scott was up against John F. Stanford, Mrs. Emerson's brother. This trial took place in the Federal Court. Sanford won the case. Now there was only one thing left for Dred Scott to do. He appealed his case to the United States Supreme Court.
The Supreme heard Court Scott’s case, also known as "Scott v. Sanford" in the spring of 1856. They did not decide the case that year. Montgomery Blair and George T. Zurtis were the Scotts’ lawyers for free. Henry Geyer and Reverdy Johnson were Sanford's lawyers. The court ruled in March 1857 in a 7 to 2 decision that Dred Scott was still a slave. This meant he could not sue for his freedom in the courts. At that time, some blacks could vote and some held public office. However, Taney decided that even if a black person was a citizen of a certain state "it does not by any means follow... that he must be a citizen of the United States." Taney argued that the constitution did not include blacks as citizens. He said that blacks had no rights or privileges. Taney declared that blacks were "so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." This shocked many people in the North.
Taney’s next reason was that The Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. Taney said that Congress did not have the power to pass laws to regulate anything, including slavery. He said taking a slave into another territory was protected by the Fifth Amendment, which protected the right to private property.
Southerners were glad with the way the court ruled, but Northerners were angry. This decision had a great effect on the North and South and increased their arguments on slavery. Scott’s case remained a key issue in American life until the start of the Civil War.
Shortly after the trial of Dred Scott, he was bought and freed by the sons of his first owner, Peter Blow, on May 26, 1857. He was a free man until he died on February 17, 1858. The Dred Scott decision and then the Civil War helped bring about the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. In 1865 the 13th Amendment legally ended slavery in the United States.
The Dred Scott Decision helped lead to the Civil War because it caused fighting between the North and South. The North was angry because people in the north had decided not to allow slavery in their states, and the Dred Scott decision allowed slaves to be brought into their states. Most southerners were happy with the decision because it allowed them to take slaves with them to free states and territories and reinforced the idea that slaves had no rights as U.S. citizens. Dred Scott's case caused more trouble between the North and South.
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