THE [WORST] DECISION
THe supreme courT meT on Monday, February 11, 1856, to hear opening arguments in the case of Scott v. Sandford. Although the public was still largely unaware of the case and there was no advance publicity in the press, a few newspapers were showing signs of interest. The Washington Evening Star and the National Era noted that the trial was about to begin. The Washington-based reporter for the New York Tribune, James E. Harvey, offered his ideas in print about a Court decision.
Before the Court session opened, Scott's attorney, Montgomery Blair, had filed a written brief. There is no evidence that Sanford's lawyers did the same. One of the reasons might be that Sanford was by now suffering from mental illness (he would be confined to an institution by the end of the year) and was actually the defendant in name only. The real defendant had become the slaveholders of the South.
Blair declared that the Missouri court's decision had been influenced by current political conditions. It was common law, Blair said, to consider a slave to be free once he or she had lived in a free state. Basically,