Dred Scott Decision
During the 1830s, Dred Scott had accompanied his owner from Missouri to Illinois, where the Northwest Ordinance of 1784 prohibited slavery by state law, and to Wisconsin, where it was barred by the Missouri Compromise. When he returned to Missouri, Scott sued for his freedom, claiming that because he had lived on free soil, he was free. The case was sent to the Supreme Court for a decision.Congress’ 3 questions: Could a black person be a citizen and therefore sue in federal court? Did residence in a free state make Scott free? Did Congress possess the power to prohibit slavery in a territory? The Decision: Chief Justice Roger Taney declared that only white persons could be citizens of the United States. He insisted that blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Scott, according to Taney, remained a slave—as soon as he returned to Missouri, Illinois state law no longer mattered. Taney also declared the recently repealed Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, as was any measure interfering with a southerner’s right to bring slaves into western territories. The decision declared unconstitutional the restriction of slavery’s expansion, undermining Douglas’s doctrine of popular sovereignty. A Georgia newspaper concluded that the Dred Scott decision “covers every question regarding slavery and settles it in favor of the South.” Meanwhile, Dred Scott’s owner emancipated him and his wife. Both died just prior to the Civil War, having enjoyed freedom only a few years.