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Dred Scott vs John Sandford (the United States) Essay

The Scott vs. Sandford case was an extremely historical event in the United States because this was the first time a slave tried to sue his owner for his freedom. Like every other court case in the U.S. there was the Defendant, the Plaintiff, and the Judge. The issue was brought to court by the plaintiff, Dred Scott, a slave with a wife and two daughters, who argued that his service for his first owner, Dr. Emerson, in Illinois, a state from which slavery has been excluded by the Missouri Compromise, made him a free man with full rights as any other American citizen. But Dred didn’t stay in Illinois, he returned with his owner, Dr. Emerson, to Missouri where Plaintiff was sold to Sandford, the defendant in this case. Dred sued Sandford for his freedom, claiming to be a citizen of the United States. John Sandford, a slave owner in the 1800’s was also accused of beating his slave family for no reason and depriving Dred and his family of their liberty; Dred considering himself a citizen of the United States. The third important person in this case was the Chief Justice, which was judge Roger B. Taney.

Both sides had laws to back their sides. Missouri for example has laws banning slavery in their state, so Dred Scott is basing his case on that fact. He also sued the United States for his freedom, claiming to be a citizen of Missouri, based on having obtained freedom by living there, in a free state, for a long period of time. In court, Sandford which was represented by The United States, denied the violent actions and said that he did not beat his slaves he just handled them in a firm but gentle way. He also argued Dred is still a slave because he was born and bought in the south and was considered property. Since he was moved as property to the North his status of property couldn’t change. Another problem Dred had to face because he was considered property was the fact that he couldn’t bring issues to court.

Based on the way they were thinking back then, this whole case shouldn’t even exist in the first place. The important issue of the case was if it was possible for a slave to be considered a citizen because he lived in a free state. If he was still considered a slave, slavery could exist in the north, where they didn’t accept slavery, as long as the slave was born and bought in the south, where they were encouraging and still practicing slavery. In the Constitution it says that every citizen has the right to sue in court so another reason why this was such a big decision was that the Supreme Court had to decide if Congress had the power to decide if a black man was a citizen.

Did Congress have the power to prohibit slavery? No. Can a slave be considered a citizen and as such become entitled to all the rights, privileges and immunities granted to citizens under the United States Constitution? No, and Dred did not become free by going into a state, which prohibited slavery. Therefore the Supreme court decided that Sandford was not guilty and that Scott, as a slave, had no right to sue his owner since ‘it’ was his property. The court ended up having a vote 7-2 against Dred Scott implying that he was not a U.S. citizen. The decision the Supreme Court made was a violation of the Missouri Compromise, but their reasoning was that they said that it was unconstitutional. That caused anger in the North, which eventually led to the Civil War. This is the the reason why this case is also called the Case which started the Civil War.


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