Scott vs Sandford (The Dred Scott Case)

  • General History
  • 4 mins

By Crusader1307

''Scott vs Sandford'' or better known as ''The Dred Scott Case'', was a landmark 19th Century Supreme Court of The United States Legal brief, which heavily influenced US perceptions of Slavery as a ''moral evil''. The Case would serve as one of many ''sparks'' which would ignite the soon to ensue American Civil War of 1861. The elements of The Case begin as follows:

 

Dred Scott was born a Slave sometime around 1799 in Virginia. In time, His Owner decided to sell Scott to a US Army Officer (Surgeon). Scott escaped after the sale - but was recaptured. The Officer, John Emerson – nonetheless treated Scott well and in time Scott became used to Emerson. The two traveled throughout The Western Frontier and Territories, with most of Emerson's Posting being in non-Slave Territories. Scott was even allowed to marry, and had daughters. The entire Family worked for Emerson.

 

In time too, Emerson married and consequently ''hired out'' The Scott's to other Officers while Emerson was deployed. Again, much of The Scott's residence was within non-Slavery sponsored Territories and States. Emerson would leave The Army in 1842 and would die a year later. The Scott's and all of The Doctor's Property fell to His Widow. And while She was not seen as a ''cruel'' woman – She – like many others of The Era, had their own strong opinions on Slavery. The Widow would continue to hire out The Scott's as a means of income.

 

However, Dred feared that before long, His former Master's Widow would split up and sell His Family. Scott offered Her $300 (USD – worth $8,000 USD in today's currency) – to purchase His and His Family freedom. She refused. However, Scott found a better service for His money.....He determined to sue for He and His Family's Freedom based on a very unusual premise. The fact that He was even able to find Counsel to represent Him was a small miracle. The Case was based on the fact that as The Scott's spent almost all of their captivity with Emerson living within Non-Slave Regions (even having their children born in the same), they ought to be seen as ''Free'', by virtue of US Citizenship. Dred and His wife were born in The US.

 

Several Courts declined or ruled against The Scott Case. In an even more streak of luck, The Case would be so covered by National Newspapers, it was quickly seized upon by The Abolitionist Cause of The North. It had just become Political. As such, The Case was appealed to the highest Court in The Country.....The US Supreme Court. This was the pinnacle of almost 10 years of legal ''back and forth''. The Case was argued in 1853. The Presiding Chief Justice was none other than Roger Taney, an outspoken Southern advocate and supporter in Slavery.

 

The Case would be tested for 4 years with Taney heavily influencing the other 8 Justices. In short, His opinion swayed the Justices, 7 for and 2 against. Scott was, as Taney argued, NOT a US Citizen, due to the belief that Slaves were simply ''Property''. As such, Property cannot be seen or be declared Citizens (as would their issue, or Children).

 

In the end, Scott and His Family were retained by Emerson's Widow – who remarried another Doctor (Calvin Chaffee), but One who was at heart – an outspoken Abolitionist. The Public opinion in The South was vindication, in The North it was seen as hypocrisy. To correct this travesty, Chaffee was able to orchestrate The Scott Family freedom, which also became National News. It would be a short victory to the long legal road. Scott and His Family would move to St. Louis, were He and His Wife worked for a Hotel. Scott would be dead within 18-months of His freedom....from tuberculosis. His Wife would continue and a Laundress until Her death in 1876.

 

The Case would launch severe criticism of The US Government and it's stance of Slavery being legal in half of The Country and the other not. It also tested the real legal right of those who had immigrated to The United States and how they determined their and their children's status as Citizens. The Case would also stir Abolitionists in some quarters to violence as the only means to change The Government's stance. Abolitionists such as the infamous John Brown, who in 1859 would see Scott's Case as His cause when He unsuccessfully led a Servile Insurrection against The Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia in 1859.