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Scott v. Sandford

Scott v. Sandford US Supreme Court Case

By Diwata Thomas

Racial Discrimination and Slavery


Scott v. Sandford is a landmark US Supreme Court case that was heard in 1857. Dred Scott was a African-American slave owned by a Caucasian-American Dr. John Emerson. Dr. John Emerson was stationed around the United States through the military including the Wisconsin territory which was a free state. In Wisconsin, Dred Scott married his wife Harriet Robinson who was also a slave. Eventually, Dr. John Emerson and his family moved to Florida where he died. Dred Scott and Harriet Robinson worked for John’s widow Irene Sanford. Three years later, Dred Scott petitioned a litigation case to the Missouri trial court, claiming he was in fact a freed man when he married his wife Harriet Robinson in the free state of Wisconsin territory. The Missouri Supreme Court denied his claims of freedom and stated that he was still a slave.

Chief Justice Roger Taney

Chief Justice Roger Taney was against allowing slaves to be raised in rank as a citizen with all the privileges of a citizen in the United States of America. Chief Justice Roger Taney stated in his opinion of Scott v. Sandford that since slaves were imported as goods to a state, it is not the states obligation to make a slave a free person. Since Dred Scott was still a slave in the state of Missouri while married to Harriet Robinson the plaintiff in error could not be a citizen. Therefore, the constitution states the African-American slave Dred Scott was not a citizen with rights to sue a litigation in the United States courts.

Justice John Catron

Justice John Catron was more progressive and stating that Congress has the right to govern the states and their territories through laws which may be enacted to prohibit slavery. He claimed that in the case of the Louisiana territory which was controversial through their massive imports of slaves in the Mexican Gulf Coast, Congress could abolish slavery in and subjects claimed from all parts of the United States of America.

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