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Dred Scott v Stanford [1856] 60 US 393

By Oxbridge Law TeamUpdated 21/04/2024 20:07

Judgement for the case Dred Scott v Stanford


  • Abetment in slavery represents a reprehensible violation of fundamental human rights, perpetuating an unjust system that undermines the dignity and autonomy of individuals.

    • Whether through direct participation, support, or facilitation, those involved in abetting slavery bear a moral and legal responsibility for perpetuating human suffering and exploitation.

  • The rights of slaves are inherent and inalienable, transcending any legal or societal construct that seeks to deny or suppress them.

    • Central to these rights is recognizing individuals' humanity, agency, and freedom from exploitation or coercion.

    • Upholding and safeguarding these rights is a moral imperative and a legal obligation essential for fostering a just and equitable society.


  • Dred Scott, a slave born in Virginia, was purchased by John Emerson in Missouri in 1820.

    • Emerson took Scott to Illinois and Wisconsin, both of which prohibited slavery.

    • Scott and his wife remained in Wisconsin while Emerson returned to Missouri, violating laws against slavery in the free territories by leasing their services.

    • When Emerson moved to Louisiana, Scott and his wife followed.

    • Their daughter was born on the Mississippi River, technically in free territory, granting her freedom.

    • Emerson later returned to Wisconsin, but his wife took Scott and his wife back to Missouri.

    • Emerson died in Iowa, and his widow inherited Scott, continuing to lease his services.

  • Scott attempted to buy his family's freedom from Emerson's widow, but she refused, prompting legal action.

    • Scott argued that their residence in free territories legally emancipated them.

    • Although Missouri courts had previously ruled in favor of similar cases, Scott's initial case was dismissed on procedural grounds.

  • Eventually, a jury ruled in Scott's favor, but Emerson's widow appealed.

    • By then, she resided in Massachusetts and transferred Scott to her brother, John F.A. Sandford.

    • The Missouri Supreme Court reversed previous decisions, ruling that Scott was not required to be emancipated because he had not sued for his freedom while residing in a free state.

  • After Sandford moved to New York, Scott resumed legal action in federal court under diversity jurisdiction.


  • The Supreme Court determined that former slaves were not entitled to standing in federal courts due to their lack of United States citizenship, even after their emancipation.

  • While reflecting prevailing societal attitudes and legal interpretations of the time, the court's decision was fundamentally flawed in denying fundamental human rights and equality under the law.

    • By denying former slaves access to federal courts based on their citizenship status, the ruling perpetuated systemic injustices and failed to uphold the principles of justice and equality enshrined in the Constitution.

  • Subsequent amendments to the Constitution, particularly the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery and the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing equal protection under the law, rectified the injustices perpetuated by the court's ruling.

    • These amendments affirmed the citizenship and rights of all individuals, regardless of race or previous servitude, marking an important moment in the ongoing struggle for civil rights and equality in the United States.


  • This case outlines a profound historical injustice and the subsequent legal and moral reckoning it necessitated.

    • The first segment eloquently denounces the abhorrent practice of abetting slavery, emphasizing the moral and legal culpability of those involved in perpetuating such systemic exploitation.

    • It underscores the inherent and inalienable rights of slaves, arguing for their recognition and protection as essential components of a just society.

  • The narrative of Dred Scott's plight vividly illustrates the complexities and injustices inherent in the legal system of the time.

    • Scott's journey from Missouri to free territories, his legal battles for emancipation, and the subsequent denial of his rights by the courts encapsulate the struggles faced by many enslaved individuals seeking freedom and justice.

    • The case rightly criticizes the Supreme Court's decision denying former slaves standing in federal courts based on their citizenship status.

    • It exposes the fundamental flaws in the legal reasoning of the time, which allowed systemic injustices to persist unchecked.

  • The subsequent discussion of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments highlights the transformative impact of constitutional reforms in rectifying historical wrongs and advancing the cause of civil rights and equality.

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