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Scott v. Sandford 1857
Transcript of Scott v. Sandford 1857
scott presented clear evidence that he had been hired out to several people by Sanford to work, proving that he was a slave under her possession Judge Hamilton ruled that Dred scott and his family were free because of their years of residence in free territories of Illinois and Wisconsin During the three years between the 1st and 2nd trial in the Missouri Circuit Court, Dred Scott’s wages had been held in escrow until they determined whether Scott was free or a slave Meanwhile, Eliza Sanford had remarried and moved out of Missouri She left her brother, John F. A. Sanford in charge of her legal affairs John Sanford did not want to lose this money, so he filed an appeal to the Circuit Court for another retrial. When John Sanford lost the appeal for a retrial, he appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court In November 1852, the Missouri Supreme court ruled Dred Scott a slave still. This ruling was based more upon politics than upon the law because this decision reversed 28 years of Missouri legal precedents Dred Scott’s lawyers decided to take the case to the federal courts John F. A. Sanford relocated to New York allowing Scott to sue Sanford in Federal Court because since they were now from different states (Scott from Missouri, Sanford from New York) the only way to settle this dispute was in Federal Court. In 1854, Scott sued Sanford in the United States Circuit Court before Judge Robert Wells Scott’s argument was that since he was a free man, that Sanford was wrongfully imprisoning him and had no right to hit him. Sanford responded to the lawsuit by saying that the court had no power over the case because the case was not between citizens of 2 different states so the court should not hear the case. Sanford admitted that he was a citizen of New York and Scott lived in Missouri. He argued though, that Dred Scott was not a citizen of Missouri because he is a negro of African descent and that no black person could be a citizen of Missouri. He also said, even if Scott was a free man, the federal court had no power or right to hear this case Judge Wells denied Sanford’s plea to throw out the case by ruling if a black man was a free man, he was then a citizen of the state of which he lived in The case was heard in the United States Circuit Court in June 1854 Sanford argued that while he had done all the things Scott accused him off (imprisonment, etc.) he was entitled to do these things because Scott was a slave Judge Wells said that the case was to be decided under Missouri law Since the Missouri Supreme Court had already determined that Scott was a slave, the jury determined that he was still a slave Scott appealed his case to the United States Supreme Court in December 1854 Montgomery Blair was Dred Scott’s attorney Senator Henry Geyer and Reverdy Johnson were John F. A. Sanford’s lawyers The balance of power in the Supreme Court was in favor of slavery • Chief Roger Taney of Maryland, a slave state, who was strongly pro-slavery • Justice James Wayne of Georgia, a slave state • Justice John Catron of Tennessee, a slave state • Justice Peter Daniel of Virginia, a slave state • Justice John Campbell of Alabama, a slave state • Justice John McLean of Ohio, a free state • Justice Robert Grier of Pennsylvania, a free state (but appointed by a southern president and sympathetic to slavery) • Justice Samuel Nelson of New York, a free state (but appointed by a southern president and sympathetic to slavery) • Justice Benjamin Curtis of Massachusetts, a free state Arguments made by Montgomery Blair (Dred Scott’s attorney) • Scott had been a slave in the slave state of Missouri • Scott had then traveled to the free state of Illinois which made him a free man • He was entitled to stay a free man after returning to Missouri because of the once free, always free principle • Scott had the right to sue for his freedom in Federal Court because he was a citizen of the United States Arguments made by John Sanford’s attorney • Scott’s relocation did not make him free • Scott had never been free, so returning to Missouri did not change his freedom status • Slaves were private property protected under the United States Constitution and could not be taken away from their owners without due process (5th Amendment) The Constitutional issues in this case were: • Could a black man be a citizen of the United States? • Was the Missouri Compromise constitutional? • Did Congress have the power to abolish slavery in the Federal territories? • Do states have the ability to determine that a person is a
slave even if they previously lived in a free state or territory? • Were slaves property protected by the 5th Amendment of
the Constitution? After hearing the arguments, the Supreme Court met at times in February, March, and April 1856 to discuss the case. No decision was reached. The decision was reached in May 1856 to rehear the arguments in the next session of the court which took place in December 1856 The Supreme Court could have decided the case on narrowly by determining that the issue of who was a slave was a matter of state law and so the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision was final. Instead, the Supreme Court wanted to finally decide the question of slavery and remove it from Congress. They wanted to remove this issue from debate in the Congress so that the country could move forward without having to deal with this difficult issue In a 7-to-2 decision on March 6th, 1857, the Supreme Court ruled that Scott was still a slave. Why? • Blacks were not citizens of the United States; Scott had no ability to sure in federal court; so Scott’s case was dismissed and the Missouri Supreme Court ruling was still in effect • The supreme court could have stopped at this point, but they chose to make additional rulings.. • Scott was still a slave because he had never been free even when he lived in free states and territories because he was property of his owner and could not be taken away by Congress without due process under the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution • Congress had no ability to abolish slavery in the territories and so the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional • If a slave voluntarily returned to a slave state after living in a free state, whether he was free or a slave, depended on the laws of that state. Missouri was not required to recognize the freedom of a slave based upon his previously living in a free state. The decisions made by the Supreme Court angered many anti-slavery people and made the free states think that the slave states were in charge because since the Constitution said that property could not be taken away without due process, than that means if a slave owner with a slave came to a free state, than they would be able to keep their slave. So free states started becoming slave states The free states felt like the Constitution favored the slavery practice The Supreme Court Decision, Scott v. Sandford, is widely viewed by historians as the worst ever Supreme Court decision and an example of extreme overreach. The Supreme Court deliberately took over political situation from Congress in an attempt to “solve” a political problem. This is not the purpose of the court system. After the north won the Civil War, three constitutional amendments were passed: • The 13th Amendment abolished slavery • The 14th Amendment, among other points, overruled the Dred Scott decision by defining United States citizenship in a way that clearly included black people • The 15th Amendment prohibits states from denying people the
right to vote based upon race or upon their previously being slaves Dred Scott died in 1858, a free man. The sons of his original owner, Peter Blow, had purchased his freedom in 1857. But he did not live to see the end of slavery. Scott’s appeal reached the Supreme Court too late for its 1854 term, so the case was delayed for a year and arguments were presented to the court in February 1856