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Course: Fourteenth Amendment Paper
School: University of Detroit
Year: 2001
Professor: Keenan
Course Outline provided by Legalnut.com
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supreme Court of the United States

DRED SCOTT, Plaintiff in error,

v.

JOHN F. A. SANDFORD.

December Term, 1856

60 U.S. 393; 19 How. 393; 15 L.Ed. 691

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Case Summary

 

Dred Scott v. John F. A. Sandford

60 U.S. 393 (1856); 19 How. 393, 15 L.Ed. 691

 

Procedure:

This case was brought up by writ of error, from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Missouri. It was an action of trespass vi et armis (i.e. with force and arms) instituted in the Circuit Court by Scott against Sandford. Prior to the institution of this suit, Scott brought an action for his freedom in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County where there was a verdict and judgment in his favor. On a writ of error to the Supreme Court of the State, judgment below was reversed, and the case remanded to the Circuit Court, where it was continued to await the decision of the case now in question. In 1854 the case went before a jury.

 

Facts: (As they appear in Dred Scott v. Sanford; 60 U.S. 393, 398-399 (1856).

In 1834, the Plaintiff, Dred Scott, was a Negro slave of Dr. Emerson, who was a surgeon in the army of the United States; and in that year he took the Plaintiff from the state of Missouri to the military post at Rock Island, in the State of Illinois, and held him there as a slave until the month of April or May, 1836. At this date, Dr. Emerson was removed with the Plaintiff, from the Rock Island post to the military post at Fort Snelling, situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River, in the Territory of Upper Louisiana, and situated north of the latitude thirty-six degrees thirty minutes, and north of the State of Missouri. He held the Plaintiff in slavery, at Fort Snelling, from the last-mentioned date until the year 1838.

In the year 1835, Harriet, mentioned in the declaration, was a Negro slave of Major Taliaferro, who belonged to the army of the United States; and in that year he took her to Fort Snelling, already mentioned, and kept her there as a slave until 1836, and then sold and delivered her to Dr. Emerson, who held her in slavery, at Fort Snelling, until the year 1838. In the year 1836 the Plaintiff and Harriet were married, at Fort Snelling, with the consent of their master. The two children, Eliza and Lizzie, are the fruit of this marriage. The first is about fourteen years of age, and was born on board the steamboat Gipsey, north of the State of Missouri, and upon the Mississippi at the military post called Jefferson Barracks. The second child, Lizzie is about seven years old, and born in the State of Missouri, at the military post called Jefferson Barracks.

In 1838, Dr. Emerson removed the Plaintiff, Harriet, and their daughter Eliza, from Fort Snelling to the State of Missouri, where they have ever since resided. And, before the commencement of this suit, they were sold by the Doctor to Sandford, the defendant, who has claimed and held them as slaves ever since.

The agreed case also states that the Plaintiff brought suit for his freedom, in the Circuit Court of the State of Missouri, on which a judgment was rendered in his favor; but, on a writ of error from the Supreme Court of the State, the judgment of the court below was reversed, and the cause remanded to the circuit for a new trial.

 

 

 

Issues:

  1. Had the Circuit Court of the United States jurisdiction to hear and determine the case between the parties? And

  2. If it had jurisdiction, is the judgment it has given erroneous or not?

 

Holding: April Term, 1854. Chief Justice TANEY delivered the opinion of the Court.

To answer the question of whether the class of persons described in the plea are people or citizens, which the Constitution protects; we think they are not, and that they are not included and were not intended to be included, under the word “citizens” in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges, which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. Id. at 405. On the contrary, they were at the time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them. Id. at 406.

The legislation and the histories of the time, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument. Id. at 407.

What the construction was at the time, we think can hardly admit of doubt. Id. at 426. We have the language of the Declaration of Independence and of the Articles of Confederation, in addition to the plain words of the Constitution itself; we have the legislation of the different states, before, about the time, and since, the Constitution was adopted; we have the legislation of Congress, from the time of its adoption to a recent period; and we have the constant and uniform action of the Executive Department, all concurring together, and leading to the same result. And if anything in relation to the construction of the Constitution can be regarded as settled, it is that which we now give to the word “citizen” and the word “people”. Id. at 426. And upon a full and careful consideration of the subject; the court is of the opinion that, upon the facts stated in the plea in abatement, Dred Scott was not a citizen of Missouri within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, and not entitled as such to sue in its courts; and consequently, that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction of the case, and the judgment on the plea in abatement is erroneous. Id. at 427.

The Court is of the opinion, that, upon the facts stated in the plea in abatement, Dred Scott was not a citizen of Missouri within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, and not entitled as such to sue in its court; and consequently, that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction of the case, and that the judgment of the plea in abatement is erroneous. Id. at 427.

The principle of law is too well settled to be disputed, that a court can give no judgment for either party, where it has no jurisdiction; and if, upon the showing of Scott himself, it appears that he was still a slave, the case ought to have been dismissed, and the judgment against him and in favor of the defendants for cost, is like that on the plea in abatement, erroneous, and the suit ought to have been dismissed by the Circuit Court for want of jurisdiction in that Court. Id. at 427.

HISTORY LEADING UP TO DRED SCOTT v. SANFORD

North vs. South

It is well noted that all of the colonies of the United States owned slaves. But what is not well known is that the early colonists, specifically those in Massachusetts, had attempted to make slaves of Indians, but found them to be unsuited to their purposes, because they were irreclaimably opposed to either work or submission. Dixon, A. (1899). The True History of the Missouri Compromise and its Repeal Cincinnati, (p. 3) The Robert Clark Company.

The Negroes stood captivity and slavery much better than the Indians. (Dixon p.4). Therefore, the Negroes were the first choice for use as slaves. However, the northern colonists discovered that the Negroes, from their lack of acclimation, proved to be very worthless laborers in the colder regions of the north, and the greater number of them gradually drifted to the southern colonies where the climate was better suited to them. (Dixon p.4). The southern colonist profited greatly from slave labor. Cotton and agricultural exports by the southern colonist had made the southerners far wealthier than the northerners. (Dixon p.7). The interests of the northern colonist were entirely divorced from slave labor; they were turning their attention to fisheries, commerce, and navigation. (Dixon p.7). Because the northern and southern colonist had such diverse interests and such totally different systems of labor and habits of life it is no wonder that it was difficult for the colonies to form a union; and they probably would never have done so, but for the strong outside pressure from Great Britain, which impelled them to unite for self-protection. (Dixon p7). With their very birth as Confederate states, there arose between them a mighty conflict of interest and opinion, which less than a century ago culminated into the greatest Civil War the world has ever known. (Dixon p8).

In 1776 the independence of the colonies was declared. The next step was to maintain it. Taxes were imposed on the states for this purpose. In 1783, finding that the value of the land fluctuated and was uncertain, Congress determined to base the taxes on the number of inhabitants as being the only available plan. (Dixon p8). Mr. James Madison’s proposed that a census be used to determine how Negro inhabitants would be counted for taxation purposes. The compromise suggested that every five Negroes should be counted as three white men. This proposition passed, and in 1787 Congress adopted this rule of taxation by the Constitutional convention. (Dixon p9). This three-fifths representation of the slaves of the south in Congress was the cause of much jealously and antagonism on the part of the north for many years. (Dixon p9).

The Missouri Compromise

Below is a summary taken from Worldbook Encyclopedia, which summarizes the relevant facts surrounding the Missouri Compromise:

The Missouri Compromise was a plan agreed upon by the United States Congress in 1820 to settle the debate over slavery in the Louisiana Purchase.

In 1818, the territory of Missouri, which was part of the Louisiana Purchase, applied for admission to the union. Slavery was legal in the Territory of Missouri. When the bill to admit Missouri to the Union was introduced, there were an equal number of free and slave states. The admission of Missouri threatened to destroy this balance.

 

During the next session of Congress, Maine applied for admission to the Union. Missouri and Maine could then be admitted to the union without upsetting the Senate’s balance between free and slave states, and the Missouri Compromise became possible. The compromise admitted Maine as a free state and authorized Missouri to form a state Constitution. A territory had to have an established Constitution before it could become a state. The compromise also banned slavery from the Louisiana Purchase north of the southern boundary of Missouri, the line of 36 degrees 30 minutes’ north latitude, except in the state of Missouri.

The people of Missouri believed they had the right to decide about slavery in their state. They wrote a Constitution that allowed slavery and that restricted blacks from entering the state.

Before Congress would admit Missouri, a second Missouri Compromise was necessary. Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House, helped work out the agreement. It required the Missouri legislature not to deny black citizens their Constitutional rights. With this understanding, Missouri was admitted to the Union in 1821.

In 1848, Congress passed the Oregon Territory bill, which prohibited slavery in the area. President James K. Polk signed the bill because the Oregon Territory lay north of the Missouri Compromise. Later proposals tried to extend the line by law across the continent to the Pacific Ocean. These efforts failed. The Missouri Compromise was repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.

 

THE DRED SCOTT OPINION:

It is uncertain what affect the Missouri Compromise and the events surrounding it had on the Dred Scott opinion. But, it is apparent by the shocking and “white supremacy” language used by Chief Justice Taney that deep-seated resentment toward the African American trickled-up into the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Taney delivered the opinion of the Court. The Court’s duty in the case was to decide whether the facts stated in the plea are or are not sufficient to show that the Plaintiff is entitled to sue as a citizen in a court of the United States. Dred Scott v. Sanford; 60 U.S. 393, 403 (1856). This was a serious question and one of first impression by the Court. The Court phrased the main issue for review as: 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 be entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guarantied by that instrument to the citizen? Id. at 403. One of the rights is the privilege of suing in a court of the United States in the cases specified in the Constitution. Id.

The Court recognized that the plea applies to persons only whose ancestors were Negroes of the African race, and imported into this country, and sold and held as slaves. Id. The only matter in issue before this court, therefore, is, whether the descendants of such slaves, when they shall be emancipated, or who are born of parents who had become free before their birth, are citizens of a State, in the sense in which the word citizen is used in the Constitution of the United States? Id. And this being the only matter in dispute on the pleadings, the court must be understood as speaking in this opinion on that class only. Id.

Negroes compared to the Indians:

Chief Justice Taney’s opinion starts by comparing the Negroes to the Indians, stating: The situation of this population [Negroes] was altogether unlike that of the Indian race. Id. While the Indians formed no part of the colonial communities, they were never amalgamated in government and were uncivilized. Id. Although the Indians were an uncivilized people, they were a free and independent people, associated with a nation of tribes, and govern by their own laws. Id. at 404. The Indian Governments were regarded as foreign Governments, as much so as if an ocean had separated the red man from the white; and their freedom has consequentially been acknowledged, from the time of the first emigration to the English colonies to the present day, by the different Governments, which succeeded each other. Id. Treaties have been negotiated with them, and their alliance sought for in war; and the people who compose these Indian communities have always been treated as foreigners not living under our government. Id. The Indians may, like the subjects of the foreign Government, be naturalized by the authority of Congress, and become citizens of a state; and if an individual should leave his nation or tribe, and take up his abode among the white population, he would be entitled to all the privileges which would belong to an emigrant from any other foreign people. Id.

The Constitution as it applies to “Citizens”:

Chief Justice Taney’s opinion next examined the language of the Constitution and to whom it applied. Justice Taney states that the words people and citizens are synonymous terms and mean the same thing. Id. They both describe the political body according to the republican institution form of sovereignty, and they hold the power to conduct the Government through their representatives. Id. They are what we familiarly call the sovereign people, and every citizen is one of this people, and constitutes members of this sovereignty. Id. The question before us is whether the class of persons described in the plea in abatement compose a portion of this people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty? Id. We think they are not, and that they are not included and were not intended to be included, under the word “citizens” in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges, which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at the time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them. Id. at 405.

The rights, which a state may grant, are limited. Id. The Constitution has conferred on Congress the right to establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and this right is exclusive. Id. Consequently, no state since the adoption of the Constitution can by naturalizing an alien invest in him the rights and privileges secured to a citizen of a State under the Federal Government. Id.

It is true that every person and every class and description of persons who were at the time of the adoption of the Constitution recognized as citizens in the several states became also citizens of the political body. Id. at 406. But none other; it was formed by them and for them and their posterity, but for no one else. Id. And the personal rights and privileges guaranteed to citizens of this new sovereignty were intended to embrace those only who were then members of the several state communities, or who should afterward by birthright become members according to the provisions of the Constitution and the principles upon which it was founded. Id.

According to the legislation and histories of the time and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument. Id. at 407.

For more than a century slaves have been regarded as being of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the Negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. Id. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it. Id.

The Declaration of Independence states: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among them is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Id. at 410. These words seem to embrace the whole human family. Id. But, it is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration. Id. The men who framed this declaration were great men and incapable of asserting principles inconsistent with those upon which they were acting. Id. They perfectly understood the meaning of the language being used and how others would understand it. Id.

Chief Justice Taney’s opinion also stated that there were two Constitutional Clauses which point directly and specifically to the Negro race as a separate class of persons, and show clearly that they were not regarded as a portion of the people or citizens of the Government then formed. Id. at 411. The first was that citizens of the United States had the right to purchase and hold property. This right is directly sanctioned and authorized by the people who framed the Constitution. Id.

Secondly, they pledge themselves to maintain and uphold the right of the master in the manner specified, as long as the Government they then formed should endure. Theses two clauses were not intended to confer on them or their posterity the blessing of liberty, or any of the personal rights so carefully provided for the citizens. Id.

 

The Framer’s Intent in the Articles of Confederation:

A clause similar to the one in the Constitution, in relation to the rights and immunities of citizens of one state in the other, was contained in the Articles of Confederation. Id. at 418. But there is a difference of language, which is of a worthy note. The provision in the Articles of Confederation was, that the free inhabitants of each state, except paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice should be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several states. Id. Under the Confederation each state had the right to decide for itself, and its own tribunals, whom it would acknowledge as a free inhabitant of another state. Id. The term free inhabitant, in the generality of its terms, would certainly not include the African race that had been manumitted. Id. But no example, we think can be found of his admission to all the privileges of citizenship in any state of the union after these Articles were formed, and while they continued to be in force. Id. And, notwithstanding the generality of the words “free inhabitants” it is very clear that, according to their accepted meaning in that day, they did not include the African race. Id.

 

The Supreme Court argued that the word inhabitant in the Articles of Confederation, is not construed to include an emancipated slave, omitted and privileges are confined only to citizens of the state. Id. at 419. The just and fair inference is that the privilege was limited with precision in language and caution as to the persons to whom this high privilege was given. The word citizen was intended to exclude foreigners who had not become citizens of some state when the Constitution was adopted. Id.

 

 

Relevant Legislative Acts:

To all this mass of proof we have still to add that Congress has repeatedly legislated upon the same construction of the Constitution that we have given. Id. The first law is particularly worth notice, because many of the men who assisted in framing the Constitution, and took an active part in procuring its adoption, were then in the halls of legislation, and certainly understood what they meant when they used the words “People of the United States” and “Citizen” in that well-considered instrument. Id. The first of the acts is the Naturalization Law March 26, 1790, which confines the right of becoming a citizen to aliens being free white persons. Id. at 419.

Another of the early laws is the first Militia Law, which directed that every “free and able bodied white male citizen” should be enrolled in the militia. The word white is evidently used to exclude the African race, and the word citizen to exclude the un-naturalized foreigner. Id. at 420.

The conduct of the executive department of the Government has been in perfect harmony upon this subject with this course of legislation. The question brought officially before the late William Wirt, the Attorney General of the United States in 1821, and decided that the words “citizens of the United States” were used in the same sense as in the Constitution and that free persons of color were not citizens within the meaning of the Constitution and laws; and this opinion has been confirmed by that of the late Attorney General, Caleb Cushing, in a recent case, and acted upon by the Secretary of State, who refused to grant passports to them as citizens of the United States. Id. at 421.

 

 

General Holding of the Court:

What the construction was at the time, we think can hardly admit of doubt. Id. at 426. We have the language of the Declaration of Independence and of the Articles of Confederation, in addition to the plain words of the Constitution itself; we have the legislation of the different states, before, about the time, and since, the Constitution was adopted; we have the legislation of Congress, from the time of its adoption to a recent period; and we have the constant and uniform action of the Executive Department, all concurring together, and leading to the same result. And if anything in relation to the construction of the Constitution can be regarded as settled, it is that which we now give to the word “citizen” and the word “people”. Id. at 426. And upon a full and careful consideration of the subject the court is of the opinion that, upon the facts stated in the plea in abatement, Dred Scott was not a citizen of Missouri within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, and not entitled as such to sue in its courts; and consequently, that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction of the case, and the judgment on the plea in abatement is erroneous. Id. at 427

The principle of law is too well settled to be disputed, that a court can give no judgment for either party, where it has no jurisdiction; and if, upon the showing of Scott himself, it appears that he was still a slave, the case ought to have been dismissed, and the judgment against him and in favor of the defendants for cost, is like that on the plea in abatement, erroneous, and the suit ought to have been dismissed by the Circuit Court for want of jurisdiction in that Court. Id. at 427.

 

 

Plaintiff’s arguments:

After the Chief Justices general opinion the Plaintiff’s arguments are stated. The Plaintiff relied on the act of Congress that declares that slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, shall be forever prohibited in all that part of the territory ceded by France, under the name of Louisiana, which lie north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude, and not included within the limits of Missouri. Id. at 433. And difficulty which meets us at the threshold of this part of the inquiry is, whether Congress was authorized to pass this law under any of the powers granted to it by the Constitution; for if the authority is not given by that instrument, it is the duty of this court to declare it void and inoperative, and incapable of conferring freedom upon any one who is held as a slave under any one of the states. Id.

The counsel for the Plaintiff has laid much stress upon that article in the Constitution which confers on Congress the power “to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States”, but in the judgment of the court, that provision has no bearing on the present controversy, and the power there given, what ever it may be, is confined, and was intended to be confined, to the territory which at the time belonged to or was claimed by the United States, and was within their boundaries as settled by the treaty with Great Britain, and can have no influence upon a territory afterwards acquired from a foreign Government. Id. It was a special provision for a known and particular territory, and to meet a present emergency, and nothing more. Id.

 

 

Slaves as Property:

As we have already said in an earlier part of this opinion, upon a different point, the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution. Id. at 451. The right to traffic in it, like ordinary articles of merchandise and property, was guarantied to the citizens of the United States, in every State that might desire it. Id. And the government in express terms is pledged to protect it in all future time, if the slave escapes from his owner. Id. This is done in plain words—too plain to be misunderstood. And no word can be found in the Constitution, which gives Congress a greater power over slave property of any other description. The only power conferred is the power coupled with the duty of guarding and protecting the owner in his rights. Id.

It is the opinion of the court that the act of Congress which prohibits a citizen from holding property and owning property of this kind in the territory of the United States north of the line therein mentioned, is not warranted by the Constitution, and is therefore void, and that neither Dred Scott himself; nor any of his family, were made free by being carried into this territory; even if they had been carried there by the owner, with the intention of becoming a permanent resident. Id. at 452.

CONCURRING OPINION; J. WAYNE

I concur entirely in the opinion of the court, as written and read by the Chief Justice—without any qualifications of its reasoning or its conclusions. Id. at 455. I shall neither read nor file an opinion of my own in this case which I prepared when I supposed it might be necessary to do so. Id.

The case involves private rights of value, and Constitutional principles of the highest importance, about which there had become such difference of opinion, that the peace and harmony of the country required the settlement of them by judicial review. Id.

It would certainly be a subject of regret, that the conclusion of the court have not been assented to by all of its members, if I did not know from its history and my own experience how rarely it has happened that the judges have been unanimous upon Constitutional questions of the moment, and if our decision in this case had not been made by as large a majority of them as has been usually had on Constitutional questions of importance. Id.

CONCURRING OPINION; J. NELSON

Concurring Opinion Regarding Jurisdiction:

If the Congress possesses the power, under the Constitution, to abolish slavery in a territory, it must necessarily possess the like power to establish it. It cannot be a one-sided power, as may suit the convenience or particular views of the advocates. Id at 464. The law of the free states, according to the argument, would be displaced, and the act of Congress, in its effect, be substituted in their place. Id. at 465.

CONCURRING OPINION; J. GRIER

I concur in the opinion delivered by Mr. Justice Nelson and I also concur with the opinion of the court as delivered by the Chief Justice, that the act of Congress of 6th March, 1820, is unconstitutional and void; and that, assuming the facts as stated in the opinion of the United States. Id. at 469. But, the record shows a prima facie case for jurisdiction, requiring the court to decide all the questions properly arising in it; as the decision of the pleas in bar shows that the Plaintiff is a slave, and is therefore not entitled to sue in a court of the United States, the form of the judgment is of little importance; for, whether the judgment be affirmed or dismissed for want of jurisdiction, it is justified by the decision of the court, and is the same in effect between the parties to the suit. Id.

CONCURRING OPINION; J. DANIEL

A slave, the peculium or property of his master, and possessing within himself neither civil nor political rights or capacities, cannot be a CITIZEN. Id. at 476

The Plaintiff in error insists, in argument, that the emancipation of a slave, effected either by the direct act and assent of the master, or by causes operating in contravention of his will, produces a change in the status or capacities of the slave, such as will transform him from a mere subject of property, into a being possessing a social, civil, and political equality with a citizen. Id. In other words, will make him a citizen of the state within which he was, previously to his emancipation, a slave. Id.

 

It is difficult to conceive by what magic the mere surcease or renunciation of an interest in a subject of property, by an individual possessing that interest, can alter the essential character of that property with respect to persons or communities unconnected with such renunciation. Id. The Plaintiff’s argument is wholly extraneous, and unsustained by the direct authority or by analogies of history. Id.

The correct conclusion is that in the establishment of the several communities now the States of this Union, and in the formation of the Federal Government, the African was not deemed politically a person. He was regarded and owned in every state in the Union as property merely, and as such was not and could not be a party or an actor, much less a peer in any compact or form of government established by the States or the United States. Id.

CONCURRING OPINION; J. CAMPBELL

The capacity of the Plaintiff to sue is involved in the pleas in bar, and the verdict of the jury discloses an incapacity under the Constitution. Under the Constitution of the United States, his is an incapacity to sue in their courts, while, by the laws of Missouri, the operation of the verdict would be more extensive. I think it a safe conclusion to enforce the lessor disability imposed by the Constitution of the United States, and leave to the Plaintiff all his rights in Missouri. Id. at 518. I think the judgment should be affirmed; on the ground that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction, or that the case should be reversed and remanded, that the suit may be dismissed. Id.

CONCURRING OPINION; J. CATRON

I concur with Judge Baldwin, that Federal power is exercised over all the territory within the United States, pursuant to the Constitution; and, the conditions of the cession, whether it was a part of the original territory of the Sate of the Union, or of a foreign State, ceded by deed or treaty; the right of the United States in or over it depends on the contract of cession; which operates to incorporate as well the Territory as its inhabitants into the Union. Id. at 528.

My opinion is, that the third article of the treaty of 1803, ceding Louisiana to the United States, stands protected by the Constitution, and cannot be repealed by Congress. Id.

And, secondly, that the act of 1820, known as the Missouri Compromise, violates the most leading feature of the Constitution—a feature on which the Union depends, and which secures to the respective States and their citizens an entire EQUALITY of rights, privileges, and immunities. Id.

For the reasons stated, I concur with my brother Judges that the Plaintiff, Scott is a slave, and was so when this suit was brought. Id.

DISSENTING OPINION; J. McLEAN

There is no averment in this plea, which shows or conduces to show an inability in the Plaintiff to sue in the Circuit Court. It does not allege that the Plaintiff had his domicile in any other State, or that he is not a free man in Missouri. He is averred to have had a Negro ancestry, but this does not show that he is not a citizen of Missouri, within the meaning of the act of Congress authorizing him to sue in the Circuit Court. It has never been held necessary, to constitute a citizen within the act, that he should have the qualification of an elector. Females and minors may sue in the Federal courts, and so may any individuals who have a permanent domicile in the State under whose laws his rights are protected, and to which he owes allegiance. Id.

DISSENTING OPINION; J. GAMBLE

In every slaveholding State in the Union, the subject of emancipation is regulated by statute; and the forms are prescribed in which it shall be effected. Whenever the forms required are prescribed in which the master and the slave are resident and compiled with, the emancipation is complete, and the slave is free. If the right of the person thus emancipated is subsequently drawn in question in another State, it will be ascertained and determined by the law of the State in which the slave and his former master resided; and when it appears that such law has been complied with, the right to freedom will be fully sustained in the courts of all the slave hold states, although the act of emancipation may not be in the form required by law in which the court sits. Id.

DISSENTING OPINION; J. CURTIS

The conclusion that I have arrived at is: First. That the free native-born citizens of each state are citizens of the United States. Id. at 588. Second. That as free colored persons born within some of the States are a citizen of those states, such persons are also citizens of the United States. Id. Third. That every such citizen, residing in any State, has the right to sue and is liable to be sued in the Federal court, as a citizen of that State in which he resides. Id. Fourth. That as the plea to the jurisdiction in this case shows no facts, except that the Plaintiff was of African descent, and his ancestors were sold as slaves, and as these facts are not inconsistent with his citizenship of the United States, and his residence in the State of Missouri, the plea to the jurisdiction was bad, and judgment of the Circuit Court overruling it was correct. Id.

I dissent, therefore, from that part of the opinion of the majority of the court, in which it is held that a person of African descent cannot be a citizen of the United States; and I regret I must go further, and dissent both from what I deem their assumption of authority to examine the Constitutionality of their act of Congress commonly called the Missouri Compromise Act, and the grounds and conclusions announced in their opinion. Id. at 633.

In my opinion, the judgment of the Circuit Court should be reversed, and the cause remanded for a new trial.

My Opinion

The Dred Scott opinion is approximately 240 pages (187 printed pages if on Westlaw or Lexis-Nexis). Each of the Justices’ repeated the facts of the case and included an historical review of slavery in the United States. The Court tried to substantiate their conclusion by looking to the historical use of slaves, the Framer’s intent in drafting the Constitution, and from actions taken by the states. This paper does not try to critique or analyze the opinion of the Court. Rather the intent of the paper was to summarize an important case in American history and showcase the more explicit and shocking language from the Court’s opinion.

However, I must say that I find it sad (from a Christian perspective) and disturbing (from a modern era perspective) that people harvested other races for purposes of securing economic gain. It’s also unbelievable that people were not looked at as people but rather as property that could be titled and transferred as an item of commerce.

Attached is a photo of Dred Scott taken from the Internet. www.wfu.edu/acedemic-departments/history/whistory/timeline/namerica/1857dreddscott.htm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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