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date: 17 February 2020

Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857).locked

  • Paul Finkelman


In 1850 a Missouri trial court declared Dred Scott to be free because his late owner, Dr. Emerson, had taken him to the free state of Illinois and later to Fort Snelling in the Wisconsin Territory (present-day Minnesota), where Congress had prohibited slavery under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. This decision was consistent with a long line of Missouri cases dating from 1824 that held that residence in a free jurisdiction led to the emancipation of a slave.

The Missouri Supreme Court reversed this result in Scott v. Emerson (1852), rejecting its precedents because of the “dark and fell spirit” of abolitionism, which the court claimed had taken over the North. In 1854 Scott began a new suit in federal court against his new owner, John F. A. Sanford his name is misspelled as Sandford in the official report of the case Scott sued on the ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Oxford Companion to American Law.

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