150 Years Ago Today… The Dred Scott Decision

(Updated and Bumped)
“In memory of a simple man who wanted to be free.”

150 Years Ago Today…
A slave, Dred Scott, sued unsuccessfully for his freedom in the famous Dred Scott v. Sandford case decided by the United States Supreme Court on March 6, 1857.

In what is perhaps the most infamous case in its history, the court decided that all people of African ancestry — slaves as well as those who were free — could never become citizens of the United States and therefore could not sue in federal court. The court also ruled that the federal government did not have the power to prohibit slavery in its territories. –PBS
Dred Scott remained a slave.
The following pictures are from the gravesite of Dred Scott at Calgary Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, taken in late February 2007.-

One of the most important cases ever tried in the United States was heard in St. Louis’ Old Courthouse. Dred Scott and his wife Harriet filed suit against Irene Emerson for their freedom on April 6, 1846. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court which decided the case in 1857, hastening the start of the Civil War. Two thousand seven marks the 150th anniversary of the Supreme Court Decision. –Dred Scott Anniversary Organization

Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, is one of St. Louis largest cemeteries and holds great monuments to local families who helped shaped this city and this country.

“A Missouri jury once decided that Dred Scott, a African American slave, should be free. Seven years later the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Dred Scott had no rights a white man need respect“. –Calvary Cemetery

The cemetery that dates back to the mid-1800’s is spread out over 477 acres in north St. Louis county.

“In his 1857 inaugural speech, President Buchanan called the expansion of slavery a “judicial question, which legitimately belongs to the Supreme Court”. Buchanan expected the question would soon “be speedily and finally settled”, and he called on “all good citizens” to “cheerfully submit” to the Court’s decision “whatever this may be”. (In reality, Buchanan already knew the Court’s decision and had actively encouraged it.)”

“Two days later, on March 6th, 1857, the Supreme Court delivered a 7-2 decision in Scott v. Sandford – with all nine judges writing separate opinions!” Calvary Cemetery

Calvary is home to a number of historic and extravagant graves and mausoleums. In fact if you were strolling through this cemetery it would be easy to walk right past the Dred Scott gravesite and that of his wife Harriet Scott.

Writing for the Court majority, Chief Justice Taney declared –

1. Dred Scott had no right to sue, because blacks were not citizens of the United States (even in free states). They were not included in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Blacks had “no rights a white man need respect”.
2. The Missouri Compromise (1820) was unconstitutional because it prohibited slavery in the territories. An Act of Congress to deprive a citizen of property in slaves merely for entering a territory could “hardly be dignified” as “due process of law” within the 5th amendment.


Dred Scott does not have an extravagant mausoleum built in his honor. His stone is very ordinary. His stone reads… “Subject of the decision of the Supreme Court, of the United States in 1857 that denied citizenship to the negro, voided the Missouri Compromise Act, Became one of the events that resulted in the Civil War.”

“Abraham Lincoln resolutely opposed the decision. He “refused to obey it as a political rule” saying “in spite of the Dred Scott decision, I would vote that… slavery should be prohibited in a new Territory.””

His wife Harriet is buried next to him.

“After the court’s decision in 1857, Scott was returned as property to the widow Emerson. In 1857, she remarried. Because her second husband opposed slavery, Emerson returned Dred Scott and his family to his original owners, the Blow family, who granted him freedom less than nine months before he died from tuberculosis in September 1858.

Dred Scott died a free man.

Looking at the coins stacked on his simple gravestone, you see he is not forgotten.
Dred Scott-
“In memory of a simple man who wanted to be free.”

** There are several events being planned today in St. Louis, Missouri to commemorate the Dred Scott decision.

Hang Right Politics reviews one of the ceremonies commemorating this event.

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