Dred Scott: Person or Property?

Dred Scott: Person or Property?

Dred Scott: Person or Property?

Dred Scott: Person or Property?

Excerpt

At first glance, it seemed a simple matter. In 1834 a slave called Dred Scott was taken from a slave state by his master to live for a time in a free state. After the master died, Scott sued for his freedom on the grounds that he had lived in a free state and that living there made him a free man. The lower court agreed, basing its decision on earlier cases in which slaves who had lived in a free state won their freedom under the legal principle of [once free, always free.] But the Missouri State Court overturned the ruling. Dred Scott's lawyers appealed the decision, and by 1857 the case had traveled its slow way through the legal system to the U.S. Supreme Court. The chief justice of the Court, in agreeing with Missouri's finding, wrote: [Negroes had no rights which any white man was bound to respect, and the Negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slaveiy for his benefit.]

Some critics have called this decision the worst ever handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States. It played a role in bringing on the Civil War because it unleashed deep emotions about race relations. Politically, it was a clear victory for the slaveholding South. It stands as a model of failed judicial statesmanship. It [provided a basis for far-reaching interpretations of substantive due . . .

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