Dred Scott v. Sandford, United States Supreme Court, 1857
In a 7-2 decision authored by Chief Justice Roger Taney, the Court stated that “a negro, whose ancestors were imported into [the U.S.], and sold as slaves, whether enslaved or free, could not be an American citizen and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court, and that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the federal territories acquired after the creation of the United States. “
Mr. Scott, a slave, sued his owners for the freedom of his family on three separate occasions.
1846: Scott v. Emerson in Missouri, Scott lost on a technicality.
1850: Scott v. Emerson in MIssouri, the jury found in Scott’s favor rendering them free.
1852: Irene Emerson appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court because she could not accept the loss of 4 slaves, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the trial court’s decision, and the Scotts were again enslaved.
1854: Scott v. Sanford a jury in federal court found in favor of Sanford (now Scott’s owner) upholding the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision.
1857, Dred Scott appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court
“The US Supreme Court held, by a majority of seven to two dissents, that Scott was not a citizen and had no standing to sue. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney held that Scott’s case did not need to be heard under the US Constitution Article III, Section 2, Clause 1, that “the judicial Power shall extend … to Controversies … between Citizens of different States” because as a descendant of African slaves, Scott was not a citizen. Although not necessary to resolve the case, in obiter dictum, Taney went on to say that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was beyond the power of Congress, and unconstitutional. Finally, territories or states where slavery had been abolished were not entitled to free slaves, because this would be a deprivation of a slaveholder’s “property” rights.”
Following the ruling, the Chaffees (Scott’s then owners) deeded the Scott family to Taylor Blow, who manumitted them on May 26, 1857. Scott worked as a porter in a St. Louis hotel. His freedom was short-lived; he died from tuberculosis in September 1858. Scott was survived by his wife and his two daughters.
Early this morning, after 145 years, the Statue of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney was removed from the grounds of the Maryland State House at the approval of the State House Trust by a vote of 3-0-1 in favor of removal at their meeting Wednesday night.
Taney statue removed from Md. state house grounds overnight https://t.co/Ci0ugx9D0a
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) August 18, 2017
State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D) did not vote but issued a statement via email stating that
Taney used “inflammatory and derogatory language” in the Dred Scott case, but said Taney “served with distinction” when he was a Maryland state attorney general and U.S. attorney general and did remain loyal to the Union, The Baltimore Sun reports. Miller also said there is “balance” because on the opposite side of the state house grounds stands a statue of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice.
Senator Miller is unaware of what “balance” means, it seems.
If you are interested in Dred Scott’s history and legal battles, and you should be, Wikipedia has a very detailed and well cited entry on him, his family, and his legal battles and the unusual circumstances around them, as he tried to win freedom for his family.