Dred Scott v. Sandford – 1857

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.

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.

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.


A dad, husband, and public education supporter. Serving on Christina School District’s Citizens’ Budget Oversight Committee since 2013. Co-chair of Christina’s 2016 Referendum Committee.

Often found lurking at Christina’s Board of Ed meetings, furiously Tweeting and wielding my +15 Memes of Comedic Relief melee weapon to try and explain what’s going on.

I have to make it fun, or you’ll just cry.

Trying to be knowledgable about all things public education in Delaware; finances, operations, laws and spread understandable information to everyone. If you see me, say hi.

4 comments on “Dred Scott v. Sandford – 1857

  1. Dred Scott is perhaps one of the few decisions from the court that is worse than Citizens United, couched in the usual legal hair splitting or not it rendered human beings as property and shamed the nation. Hey! Reminds me of Trump!

  2. cassandram

    Taney also presided over the trial of Thomas Garrett and John Hunn. Trial was at the Old New Castle Court House. These two were accused of violating the Fugitive Slave Act for helping a freedom-seeking family escape to PA. Taney found them guilty and fined them so much that they were left almost bankrupt. At auctions of their goods or homes, other abolitionists showed up to buy their property to return to them.

  3. Yet again, excellent blogging, Brian. Scott’s story always breaks my heart.

  4. Point of Order

    Don’t forget the “other” legacy of the Dred Scott decision; striking down the Missouri Compromise, one the results that started the slide to civil war.

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