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Dread Scott Essay, Research Paper

The Dred Scott case was the final blow to Abolitionists. It ended the notion of freedom for African Americans. What makes this case interesting is the role the justices play on the issue of slavery. In 1856, a slave, Dred Scott, sued his master, Doctor Emmerson. Scott claimed that Emmerson had taken him from Missouri into the Northwest.

The Supreme Court finally processed the case in 1857 and Chief Justice Taney delivered the decision on March 6th. It declared three things. First, according to the constitution, Negroes are not citizens of the United States. (Daily Courier) Secondly, the Ordinance of 1857 had no independent legal effect subsequently to the adoption of the constitution, and could not operate of itself to confer freedom or citizenship within the Northwest Territory on Negroes, not citizens by the constitution. Lastly, he also declared the Provision Act of 1820, commonly called the Missouri Compromise, so far as it is understood to exclude Negro slavery from and communicate freedom and citizenship to Negroes in the northern part of the country is unconstitutional. (Illinois State Register) Justice Catron stated that because the plaintiff was a Negro of African blood, he then had no rights as a citizen of Missouri to maintain a suit in the Circuit Court. (Tourolaw)

This case gave hard blows to Abolitionists. Seven out of two judges reinforced what the south had been endorsing for many years, that slavery is beyond the limits of the Constitution and that it [slavery] is guaranteed by the constitutional compact . Southern papers mocked the Union and its abolitionist and praised the Supreme Court s ruling. It is apparent in here from one article, It appears that we, Secessionists, have been all the while not disturbing the law, not intruding novelties upon the country, not seeking to break up established principles, but that we have been simply a step in advance of the highest tribunal in the country, in declaring what was the law of the land, and seeking honestly and faithfully to enforce it. (Mercury)

Another Southern article entitled Negroes are not Citizens showed its delight with the Supreme Court s ruling by regarding the decision with the highest satisfaction . The satisfaction was justified because, It meets with our hearty, cordial, unqualified approval . (Southern Enterprise) In a sense, this article is telling readers that blacks are whites inferiors, Negro nuisances occupying promiscuous seats in our rail cars and churches with those who are citizens the whole tribe must be taught to fall back to their legitimate position in human society — the position that Divine Providence intended they should occupy. Not being citizens, they can claim none of the rights or privileges belonging to a citizen neither vote, hold office, or occupy any other position in society than inferior or subordinate one for which they were fitted . (Southern Enterprises)

Abolitionists had different thoughts about the Supreme Court ruling. An article, Opinions of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott Case was bias since five of the judges are slaveholders, and two of the other four owe their appointments to their facile ingenuity in making State laws bend to Federal demands in behalf of the Southern Institution . Most of the members also belong to the Slavery Extension Party. (Evening Journal)

Another article, The Issue Forced Upon Us, refers to the Supreme Court as being in a partial conspiracy. Their ruling allowed The Legislation of the Republic to fall into the hands of three hundred and forty-seven thousand five hundred and twenty-five Slaveholders . The decision to them proved fatal for African American males because it now proved they are not citizens the Ordinance of 1787 void and that the Missouri Compromise was void. (Issue Forced Upon Us)

An untitled article voiced its dissatisfaction with the decision and once again raised the concern of bias. It suggested that the court s decision was so bias that, Any slave-driving editor or Virginia bar-room politician could have taken the Chief-Justice s place on the bench and nobody would have perceived the difference. (Untitled) It suggested that the only statement that is deadlocked in this case is the fact that a Negro cannot sue in the United States Courts and is based on the assumption that no Negro can be a citizen of the United States. (Untitled)

The Supreme Court and Slavery — The Duty Before Us, is and article that suggests the free states trust in government to be swoon. It suggests that those who appointed the bench were misled because the Justices share the thoughts of the Disunion and Filibustering School of Pro-Slavery men. (The Supreme Court and Slavery)

The Supreme Court s decision on the Dred Scott case appears to be a he said, she said type of battle with the north and south dueling over the decision s validity. The south supports the decision because it is in their favor and Secessionists because it protects what they uphold. This on the other hand does not enthrall abolitionists because it is a smack in the face. They are stripped of all that they had toiled for. Now, the government, which is suppose to be unbiased by favoritism or personal opinion is influenced by sympathy. The sympathy I refer to is its southern roots. They made this a case of race and power by re-establishing the fact that blacks were not citizens and therefore had no authority in white institutions. Shortly after the outcome of the Dred Scott case, Mr. Emmerson passed away and Mrs. Emmerson remarried an abolitionist. They freed Dred Scott, but how free was he? What does freedom really mean if you are stripped of becoming a citizen, cannot vote and are restricted under the authority of a white society?


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