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Dred Scott v. Sandford

United States Supreme Court
60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857)

Dred Scott v. Sandford


Dred Scott (plaintiff) was an African American man born a slave in Virginia in the late 1700s. In 1830, he was taken by his owners to Missouri and purchased by Army Major John Emerson in 1832. Emerson took Scott with him on various assignments in Illinois and Wisconsin Territory, areas that outlawed slavery based on Congress’s enactment of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and the Missouri Compromise of 1820. While in Wisconsin, Emerson allowed Scott to marry and later left Scott and his wife in Wisconsin when he was reassigned to Louisiana. While in Louisiana, Emerson married Eliza Irene Sandford. He then sent for Scott and his wife, who traveled to Louisiana to serve Emerson and his wife. After Emerson’s death in 1843, his widow inherited his estate, including Scott. Scott attempted to purchase his freedom from Emerson’s widow, but she refused. In 1846, Scott sued Emerson’s widow for the freedom of himself and his family, but the Missouri Supreme Court upheld their slavery. Scott brought suit again in 1853 in federal district court against John Sandford (defendant), executor of Emerson’s estate. The federal court relied on Missouri law to find that Scott was still a slave, and the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. Scott petitioned for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Taney, C.J.)

Concurrence (Wayne, J.)

Concurrence (Campbell, J.)

Concurrence (Catron, J.)

Concurrence (Daniel, J.)

Concurrence (Nelson, J.)

Concurrence (Grier, J.)

Dissent (McLean, J.)

Dissent (Curtis, J.)

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