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Did the Dred Scott decision help start the Civil War?

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Julia W

on 15 January 2015

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Transcript of Did the Dred Scott decision help start the Civil War?

Scott saved his money for years, and eventually he earned enough money to buy his, Harriett's, and their baby Eliza's freedom. When he makes his offer, Irene says no. However, the girls started going to church, where Harriett hears about the Missouri Compromise, and suing your master for your freedom. This is important because the Missouri Compromise says that any slave born or carried into a state or territory north or west of Missouri is free.
The Decision angered Northerners...
Dred and Harriett met with Pastor Anderson from the church, who knew a lawyer named Francis B. Murdoch. After listening to the Scotts' story, Murdoch told them they were free. On April 6, 1846, they sued Irene Emerson for false imprisonment.

The Lower Courts
The first trial was supposed to be in November 1846, in St. Louis but Irene got it canceled on technicalities. Lawyer Samuel Bay helped them with the second, but they lost. The third was supposed to be on December 2. Irene tried to cancel the trial, instead it was pushed back til January. The fourth was on January 12, 1848, where they turned into free people. Irene appealed, the fifth was at the Supreme Court in Jefferson City on January 12, 1850. On February 13, 1850, Jefferson City again, was the sixth trial, where they won once again. Irene gave the case to her brother, John Sanford in New York, making it a federal case. If someone sues someone else from another state, the case is a federal case.
Bad Choices
After all that, they went to the Supreme Court
in a very familiar place... WASHINGTON, DC!
Scott's Life Before the Court
Dred Scott was born a slave to Peter Blow in Southampton, Virginia around 1800. In 1831, he was sold to John Emerson, a doctor. Emerson becomes enlisted in the army as a doctor, and he travels with Scott to different states and territories. In Fort Snelling, Wisconsin, (which is a free state,) Scott meets and marries Harriett Robinson in 1837. Emerson buys her from her previous owner, so they can be together. After getting discharged from the army, Emerson moves to Davenport, Iowa, until he dies in 1843. Meanwhile, his wife Irene, and the Scotts stay in St. Louis, Missouri. When Emerson died, the Scotts became Irene's property.

The decision angered Northerners because Scott was unfairly denied his and his family's freedom. The Dred Scott decision also served as an eye-opener to Northerners who believed that slavery was tolerable as long as it stayed in the South. If the decision took away any power Congress once had to regulate slavery in new territories, these once-skeptics reasoned, slavery could quickly expand into much of the western United States. And once slavery expanded into the territories, it could spread quickly into the once-free states. For many Northerners who had remained silent on the issue, this very real possibility was too scary to ignore. Suddenly many Northerners who had not previously been against the South and against slavery began to realize that if they did not stop slavery now, they might never again have the chance. This growing fear in the North helped further contribute to the Civil War.
Fuel for the Fire
Judge Taney Says...
"On these grounds, I hold the compromise act to have been void, and consequently that the plaintiff, Scott, can claim no benefit under it.

For the reasons above stated, I concur with my brother judges that the plaintiff Scott is a slave, and was so when this suit was brought. On these grounds, I hold the compromise act to have been void, and consequently that the plaintiff, Scott, can claim no benefit under it."
The Dred Scott decision helped start the Civil War because it added to the tension that was already building between abolitionists and the preservationists
The case was ruled against Scott, 7-2.
Judge Taney was a Supreme Court Justice who wrote the decision for the Scott v. Sanford case.
A portrait of Dred Scott
"Scott v. Sandford [sic] Ruling." Scott v. Sandford [sic]. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/60/393#writing-USSC_CR_0060_0393_ZO>. Burchard, Peter. "In His Prison House." Lincoln and Slavery. New York: Atheneum for Young Readers, 1999. pp. 54-58. Print.
Moses, Shelia P., and Bonnie Christensen. I, Dred Scott: A Fictional Slave Narrative Based on the Life and Legal Precedent of Dred Scott. New York: Margaret K. McElderry, 2005. Print.
Burchard, Peter. "In His Prison House." Lincoln and Slavery. New York: Atheneum for Young Readers, 1999. pp. 54-58. Print.
Cozzens, Lisa. "The Road to Civil War." American History. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
Government Official, Lawyer, Supreme Court Justice. Digital image. Biography. A&E Television Networks, LLC., n.d. Web.
Portrait of Dred Scott. Digital image. Pbs,org. PBS, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2015.
Did the Dred Scott decision help start the Civil War?


The Decision Delighted Southerners...
The decision delighted Southerners because it showed that slavery was spreading more and more. This was good because it meant that they could keep their slaves and their economy. Their economy was run by slaves who worked on the cotton so the plantation owners could sell it to the North so they can use it in the factories.
The Decision worried Lincoln...
Abraham Lincoln was afraid of the spread of slavery because he thought it would be the downfall of the democracy. Lincoln said once, "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." He also thought that the nation couldn't stay half slave and half free. In Abraham Lincoln's words, "a house divided against itself cannot stand... This government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free."
During this time, the North and the South were becoming increasingly divided over the question of slavery.
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