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Dred Scott Decision Essay, Research Paper

The Dred Scott decision of 1865 had many implications on the status of free blacks in the United States, along with the concept of popular sovereignty, and the future of slavery in America.

Dred Scott was a slave who moved in with his master to the free state of Illinois. He claimed that residence in a free state made him a free man, and he fought for his freedom all the way to the Supreme Court (1865). Chief Justice Taney ruled that since blacks could not be citizens, they had no right to sue in a federal court. The court also went further and said the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional.

This decision greatly affected the status of free blacks in the United States. They were not allowed any additional rights due to the fact that they were not citizens. Therefore, they could not advance in society socially, and otherwise. Because of this, they could not vote and freely voice their opinions as the Constitution did not apply to them.

The Dred Scott decision also had many implications on the concept of popular sovereignty. It was questioned that if Congress could not exclude slaves from a territory, how could a mere territorial legislature do so? Until statehood was granted, slavery seemed as unprofaned as freedom of religion or speech or any other civil liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. Where formerly freedmen (as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights) was a national institution and slavery a local one, now according to the Court, slavery was nationwide, as was excluded only where states specifically abolished it. This meant that popular sovereignty had virtually no jurisdiction in the aspect of slavery in a territory, because slavery was only abolished if a state specifically said so.

The future of slavery was also impacted upon by the Dred Scott decision. It convinced thousands that the South was engaged in an aggressive attempt to extend the peculiar institution so far that it could no longer be considered peculiar. Although slavery was eventually outlawed, at that time it seemed that there was to be no end.


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