Abraham Lincoln Responds to the Dred Scott Decision (1857)
One of the most important Supreme Court decisions in the history of the United States, Dred Scott v. Sandford had tremendous political ramifications during the turbulent period just prior to the Civil War. Dred Scott (born Sam Blow) sued his master John Sanford (Sanford's name was misspelled “Sandford” by the court) for his freedom on the grounds that he had previously resided on free soil. Scott's former master, an army surgeon named John Emerson, had taken him to the state of Illinois, where slavery was outlawed by the state constitution of 1818, and later to Fort Snelling in the Wisconsin Territory (present-day Minnesota), where Congress had prohibited slavery under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. There was precedent for Scott's case; in Rachael v. Walker (1837), the slave of an army officer was freed upon returning to Missouri from Fort Snelling.
The case was argued twice before the Supreme Court in ...