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Question: What was the decision of the Supreme Court and what did that decision mean for the country?

Answer: On March 6, 1857, the nine justices went into the courtroom in the basement of the U.S. Capitol, lead by Chief Justice Taney. Taney was almost 80 years old, always week, and even weaker because of the effort when he wrote the two-hour-long opinion. He spoke in a low voice that Republicans said was a “shameful decision.” He first addressed the question of Negro citizenship, not only that of slaves but also that of free blacks:

“Can a Negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guaranteed by that instrument to the citizen?”

One of the privileges reserved for citizens by the Constitution, argued Taney, and was the “privilege of suing in a court of the United States in the cases specified by the Constitution.” Taney’s opinion stated that Negroes, even free Negroes, were not citizens of the United States. This meant that Dred Scott, as a Negro, did not even have the privilege of being able to sue in a federal court.

The Supreme Court voted 7 to 2 that Scott Dred must remain a slave. Taney ruled that the case be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and sent back to the lower court with instructions for that court to dismiss the case for the same reason. This verdict upheld the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Sanford.

People from the North were angered by the verdict. They believed that Taney had unfairly conduct the court. This verdict shattered their confidence in the Supreme Court.

The people from the South liked the verdict because they hoped it would end the controversy over slavery.


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