THE INFLUENCE OF THE DRED SCOTT DECISION
Dual Credit US History 1301
The Dred Scott Decision was a court case delivered by Mr. Chief Justice Taney. Roger B. Taney was a law student in 1799 at Dickinson University. He served in the Maryland House of Delegates under the federalist party. Later, in 1831 he was appointed the attorney general position by Andrew Jackson. In 1836 Taney became the fifth Supreme Court Chief Justice. It was March 15, 1857 that Taney made the pro slavery decision in the Dred Scott v, Sanford case. His choice of wording angered the public and made a push in the anti-slavery movement. The decision proved that congress had power over the freedom of slavery.
The decision was written to inform the public of the outcome of the Dred Scott vs. Sanford case. Although his purpose was to write for the public, he wrote in favor of whites. “He ignored precedent, distorted history, imposed a rigid rather than a flexible construction on the Constitution, ignored specific grants of power in the Constitution, and tortured meanings out of other, more-obscure clauses.” The overall outcome of the case was against African American slaves. The case was questioning whether a slave who has moved to a free state should be considered free, or still be considered a slave. Dred Scott was a slave under an army doctor named John Emmerson. Throughout their years together, they lived in Illinois, and Wisconsin which were both free states. Later Scott and Emerson returned to Missouri where slavery was once again allowed. After a few years Scott sued for his freedom on the claim that he had once lived in free states, therefore he should be a free man. He faced a jury with six out of nine men being pro-slavery. The outcome of the case created controversy in two ways. First, it was decided that any African American was not considered a citizen of the United States. Only citizens of the U.S. were able to sue and go to court. This left Scott’s case to be thrown away. Secondly, Taney found that it was unconstitutional to prohibit slavery in any state. It was violating the fifth amendment. This created conflict with the many states who had already prohibited slavery and contradicted the Missouri Compromise. The compromise freed slaves in the northern part of the Louisiana purchase. It made the case look like a “self-inflicted wound.”
This public document stated Taney’s opinion on the case between Scott and Stanford. Taney writes to appeal to the pro slavery men of the world. He wants to restate the place of African Americans in the United States, which was to work all day and all night in terrible conditions. Taney believes that all the people reading know about the constitution, due to his constant reference to what is seen as constitutional. For example, “the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution.” Roger Taney was the Chief justice while this case was going on, making his opinion reliable. He was there during the case and had firsthand experience in the field of law and constitution. Throughout the document, Taney refers to the difference in rights between whites and African Americans. This proves that this was a time that depended on slavery. The whites held a sense on superiority over the slaves and it is shown through the not only the Scott case, but also in the constitution. The constitution does not warrant property, meaning even if the Scott’s moved to become permanent residents of a free state, it would have no effect. The whites controlled the slaves, where they lived, and how they lived.
This decision holds importance in social, political, and judicial aspects of government, and life. Socially, it created conflict between two opposing sides. The north viewed slavery as inhumane and had just prohibited it. The south on the other hand relied on slavery to produce crops, and textiles for trade. The difference in these viewpoints, and the outcome of the case created tension on how to go about implementing slavery. Meanwhile, politically the decision rendered the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional. Congress would now be put in charge of land, and the slaves in it. On the judicial side of things, their decision angered many people and that proceeded to limiting the judicial power in what people do. Overall Roger Taney’s article held reasonable viewpoints from a southerner who supported slaves. Other than that the decision created conflict and anger that will soon lead to abolitionist movements, and anti-slavery revolts.
Lyons, David. 1990. “Basic Rights and Constitutional Interpretation.” Social Theory & Practice 16 (3): 337–57, http://search.ebscohost.com.navarrocollege.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rlh&AN=9608263926&site=eds-live.
History.com Editors. 2009. “Dred Scott decision.” HISTORY, October 29, 2018. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/dred-scott-decisionUrofsky, Melvin. 1998. “Dred Scott Decision.” Encyclopedia Brittanica. October 29, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/event/Dred-Scott-decisionBiography.com Editors. 2014. “Roger B. Taney Biography.” Biography.com, October 29, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/event/Dred-Scott-decisionTaney Rogers. 1857. “Dred Scott Decision.” Digital History.com. October 29, 2018.
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