|Scott v. Sandford
U. S. Supreme Court
These are excerpts from the Judges in the Scott v. Sandford decision. A few years ago during the 150 anniversary of
the decision there were many web pages built with information about Dred Scott and the case. Taney did not have a
unanimous decision and in fact two justices dissented with several judges (including one that concurred with him)
disagreeing on various points. This decision was ultimately overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments. A special
pleasure must have been had by the author of the 13th amendment who used the wording of the Northwest Ordinance
for this issue. In the end the rule of law can be no better than the individuals who rule upon it. Be sure to look at Justice
In this decision Taney was concurred with by Justice Wayne and Campbell. Separate opinions were given by Justices
Nelson, Daniel, Grier and Catron. Justices Mclean and Curtis dissented. Six justices agreed that the Missouri
Compromise was unconstitutional. Four Justices disagreed with Taney over the citizenship issue but seven agreed that
Scott was not a freedmen.
Statements of Fact
In the year 1834, the plaintiff was a negro slave belonging to Dr. Emerson, who was a surgeon in the army of the United
States. In that year, 1834, said Dr. Emerson took the plaintiff from the State of Missouri to the military post at Rock
Island, in the State of Illinois, and held him there as a slave until the month of April or May, 1836. At the time last
mentioned, said Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff from said military post at Rock Island to the military post at Fort
Snelling, situate on the west bank of the Mississippi river, in the Territory known as Upper Louisiana, acquired by the
United States of France, and situate north of the latitude of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north, and north of the State
of Missouri. Said Dr. Emerson held the plaintiff in slavery at said Fort Snelling, from said last-mentioned date until the
In the year 1835, Harriet, who is named in the second count of the plaintiff's declaration, was the negro slave of Major
Taliaferro, who belonged to the army of the United States. In that year, 1835, said Major Taliaferro took said Harriet to
said Fort Snelling, a military post, situated as herein before stated, and kept her there as a slave until the year 1836,
and then sold and delivered her as a slave at said Fort Snelling unto the said Dr. Emerson herein before named. Said
Dr. Emerson held said Harriet in slavery at said Fort Snelling until the year 1838.
In the year 1836, the plaintiff and said Harriet at said Fort Snelling, with the consent of said Dr. Emerson, who then
claimed to be their master and owner, intermarried, and took each other for husband and wife. Eliza and Lizzie, named
in the third count of the plaintiff's declaration, are the fruit of that marriage. Eliza is about fourteen years old, and was
born on board the steamboat Gipsy, north of the north line of the State of Missouri, and upon the river Mississippi. Lizzie
is about seven years old, and was born in the State of Missouri, at the military post called Jefferson Barracks.
In the year 1838, said Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff and said Harriet and their said daughter Eliza from said Fort
Snelling to the State of Missouri, where they have ever since resided.
Before the commencement of this suit, said Dr. Emerson sold and conveyed the plaintiff, said Harriet, Eliza, and Lizzie,
to the defendant, as slaves, and the defendant has ever since claimed to hold them and each of them as slaves.
At the times mentioned in the plaintiff's declaration, the defendant, claiming to be owner as aforesaid, laid his hands
upon said plaintiff, Harriet, Eliza, and Lizzie, and imprisoned them, doing in this respect, however, no more than what he
might lawfully do if they were of right his slaves at such times.
Further proof may be given on the trial for either party.
It is agreed that Dred Scott brought suit for his freedom in the Circuit Court of St. Louis county; that there was a verdict
and judgment in his favor; that, on a writ of error to the Supreme Court, the judgment below was reversed, and the same
remanded to the Circuit Court, where it has been continued to await the decision of this case.
In May, 1854, the cause went before a jury, who found the following verdict, viz:
As to the first issue joined in this case, we of the jury find the defendant not guilty; and as to the issue secondly above
joined, we of the jury find that before and at the time when, &c., in the first count mentioned, the said Dred Scott was a
negro slave, the lawful property of the defendant; and as to the issue thirdly above joined, we, the jury, find that before
and at the time when, &c., in the second and third counts mentioned, the said Harriet, wife of said Dred Scott, and Eliza
and Lizzie, the daughters of the said Dred Scott, were negro slaves, the lawful property of the defendant.
Whereupon, the court gave judgment for the defendant.
After an ineffectual motion for a new trial, the plaintiff filed the following bill of exceptions.
On the trial of this cause by the jury, the plaintiff, to maintain the issues on his part, read to the jury the following agreed
statement of facts, (see agreement above.) No further testimony was given to the jury by either party. Thereupon the
plaintiff moved the court to give to the jury the following instruction, viz:
"That, upon the facts agreed to by the parties, they ought to find for the plaintiff. The court refused to give such
instruction to the jury, and the plaintiff, to such refusal, then and there duly excepted."
The court then gave the following instruction to the jury, on motion of the defendant:
The jury are instructed, that upon the facts in this case, the law is with the defendant.
The plaintiff excepted to this instruction.
Upon these exceptions, the case came up to this court.
A free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves, is not a "citizen"
within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States.
When the Constitution was adopted, they were not regarded in any of the States as members of the community which
constituted the State, and were not numbered among its "people or citizens." Consequently, the special rights and
immunities guarantied to citizens do not apply to them. And not being "citizens" within the meaning of the Constitution,
they are not entitled to sue in that character in a court of the United States, and the Circuit Court has not jurisdiction in
such a suit.
The only two clauses in the Constitution which point to this race treat them as persons whom it was morally lawfully to
deal in as articles of property and to hold as slaves.
Since the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, no State can by any subsequent law make a foreigner or any
other description of persons citizens of the United States, nor entitle them to the rights and privileges secured to citizens
by that instrument.
A State, by its laws passed since the adoption of the Constitution, may put a foreigner or any other description of
persons upon a footing with its own citizens as to all the rights and privileges enjoyed by them within its dominion and by
its laws. But that will not make him a citizen of the United States, nor entitle him to sue in its courts, nor to any of the
privileges and immunities of a citizen in another State.
The change in public opinion and feeling in relation to the African race which has taken place since the adoption of the
Constitution cannot change its construction and meaning, and it must be construed and administered now according to
its true meaning and intention when it was formed and adopted.
The plaintiff having admitted, by his demurrer to the plea in abatement, that his ancestors were imported from Africa and
sold as slaves, he is not a citizen of the State of Missouri according to the Constitution of the United States, and was not
entitled to sue in that character in the Circuit Court.
This being the case, the judgment of the court in favor of the plaintiff on the plea in abatement was erroneous.
The clause in the Constitution authorizing Congress to make all needful rules and regulations for the government of the
territory and other property of the United States applies only to territory within the chartered limits of some one of the
States when they were colonies of Great Britain, and which was surrendered by the British Government to the old
Confederation of the States in the treaty of peace. It does not apply to territory acquired by the present Federal
Government by treaty or conquest from a foreign nation.
The United States, under the present Constitution, cannot acquire territory to be held as a colony, to be governed at its
will and pleasure. But it may acquire territory which, at the time, has not a population that fits it to become a State, and
may govern it as a Territory until it has a population which, in the judgment of Congress, entitled it to be admitted as a
State of the Union.
During the time it remains a Territory, Congress may legislate over it within the scope of its constitutional powers in
relation to citizens of the United States, and may establish a Territorial Government, and the form of the local
Government must be regulated by the discretion of Congress, but with powers not exceeding those which Congress
itself, by the Constitution, is authorized to exercise over citizens of the United States in respect to the rights of persons
or rights of property.
The following are excerpts from the decisions:
Chief Justice Taney Writing the Decision of the Majority
The Dred Scott decision became a milestone on the way to the War of the Rebellion. Chief Justice Taney who spoke for
the majority thought that he was going to end the controversy with his decision.
Judge Taney felt that there were two questions presented:
1. Had the Circuit Court of the United States jurisdiction to hear and determine the case between these parties? And
2. If it had jurisdiction, is the judgment it has given erroneous or not?
His conclusions were 1. that African Americans were not "citizens" under the Constitution and that even Congress by
statute could not make them citizens. 2, Congress could not decide if territories were free or slave - therefore the
Missouri compromise was unconstitutional.
Taney's view of the Federal government: "This difference arises, as we have said, from the peculiar character of the
Government of the United States. For although it is sovereign and supreme in its appropriate sphere of action, yet it
does not possess all the powers which usually belong to the sovereignty of a nation. Certain specified powers,
enumerated in the Constitution, have been conferred upon it, and neither the legislative, executive, nor judicial
departments of the Government can lawfully exercise any authority beyond the limits marked out by the Constitution.
And in regulating the judicial department, the cases in which the courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction are
particularly and specifically enumerated and defined, and they are not authorized to take cognizance of any case which
does not come within the description therein specified. Hence, when a plaintiff sues in a court of the United States, it is
necessary that he should show, in his pleading, that the suit he brings is within the jurisdiction of the court, and that he
is entitled to sue there. And if he omits to do this, and should, by any oversight of the Circuit Court, obtain a judgment in
his favor, the judgment would be reversed in the appellate court for want of jurisdiction in the court below. The
jurisdiction would not be presumed, as in the case of a common law English or State court, unless the contrary
appeared. But the record, when it comes before the appellate court, must show affirmatively that the inferior court had
authority under the Constitution to hear and determine the case. And if the plaintiff claims a right to sue in a Circuit
Court of the United States under that provision of the Constitution which gives jurisdiction in controversies between
citizens of different States, he must distinctly aver in his pleading that they are citizens of different States, and he cannot
maintain his suit without showing that fact in the pleadings."
State Citizenship verses National Citizenship
Scott pleaded that he was a citizen of the State of Missouri. Sanford denied that Scott was a citizen of Missouri. Judge
Taney stated: "If the question raised by it is legally before us, and the court should be of opinion that the facts stated in
it disqualify the plaintiff from becoming a citizen, in the sense in which that word is used in the Constitution of the United
States, then the judgment of the Circuit Court is erroneous and must be reversed." His question became: "Can a negro
whose ancestors were imported into this country and sold as slaves become a member of the political community formed
and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, and
privileges, and immunities, guarantied by that instrument to the citizen, one of which rights is the privilege of suing in a
court of the United States in the cases specified in the Constitution?"
"The question is simply this: can a negro whose ancestors were imported into this country and sold as slaves become a
member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as
such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guarantied by that instrument to the citizen, one of
which rights is the privilege of suing in a court of the United States in the cases specified in the Constitution?
It will be observed that the plea applies to that class of persons only whose ancestors were negroes of the African race,
and imported into this country and sold and held as slaves. The only matter in issue before the court, therefore, is,
whether the descendants of such slaves, when they shall be emancipated, or who are born of parents who had become
free before their birth, are citizens of a State in the sense in which the word "citizen" is used in the Constitution of the
United States. And this being the only matter in dispute on the pleadings, the court must be understood as speaking in
this opinion of that class only, that is, of those persons who are the descendants of Africans who were imported into this
country and sold as slaves."
"No one of that race had ever migrated to the United States voluntarily; all of them had been brought here as articles of
merchandise. The number that had been emancipated at that time were but few in comparison with those held in
slavery, and they were identified in the public mind with the race to which they belonged, and regarded as a part of the
slave population rather than the free. It is obvious that they were not even in the minds of the framers of the Constitution
when they were conferring special rights and privileges upon the citizens of a State in every other part of the Union."
Judge Taney asserted that there were "classes" of individuals and that this was "only those ancestors were negroes of
the African race, and imported into this country and sold and held as slaves. The only matter at issue before the court,
therefore, is, whether the descendants of such slaves, when they shall be emancipated, or who are born of parents who
had become free before their birth, are citizens of a State in the sense in which the word "citizen" is used in the
Constitution of the United States."
He concluded that African Americans were a subordinate and inferior class of beings who had been subjugated by the
dominant race, and whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges
but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.
A free person may have different rights and privileges of a citizen of a State from being a citizen of the United States.
He went on further to state that the language used in the Declaration of Independence showed that neither the class of
persons who had been imported as slaves nor their descendants were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor
intended to be included in the general words in that document.
Taney uses as his basis the case of State v. Claiborne, 19 Tenn. which underlied the idea that African Americans were
not citizens of the United States or any state nor could they ever be.
After a discussion on the Articles of Confederation Taney starts on the laws of Congress. He highlights the naturalization
act of March 26, 1790 which gave citizenship "to aliens being free white persons. The second law he quotes is the Militia
law of 1792. It directs that every "free able-bodied white male citizen" shall be enrolled in the militia. The third law he
references is 2 Stat. 809 passed in 1813 that states"any person or persons except citizens of the United States, or
persons of color, natives of the United States."
Taney uses Legrand v. Darnall to show that this case cannot be used to show that a free person of color cannot sue as
a citizen in a court of the United States.
He uses the law establishing Missouri as a slave state (Compromise of 1820) as the basis of where Scott was a slave.
He challenged this law as unconstitutional. The Congress had no authority under the Constitution to decide that the
territory should be either slave or free.
"This brings us to examine by what provision of the Constitution the present Federal Government, under its delegated
and restricted powers, is authorized to acquire territory outside of the original limits of the United States, and what
powers it may exercise therein over the person or property of a citizen of the United States while it remains a Territory
and until it shall be admitted as one of the States of the Union.
There is certainly no power given by the Constitution to the Federal Government to establish or maintain colonies
bordering on the United States or at a distance to be ruled and governed at its own pleasure, nor to enlarge its territorial
limits in any way except by the admission of new States. That power is plainly given, and if a new State is admitted, it
needs no further legislation by Congress, because the Constitution itself defines the relative rights and powers and
duties of the State, and the citizens of the State, and the Federal Government. But no power is given to acquire a
Territory to be held and governed permanently in that character.
And indeed the power exercised by Congress to acquire territory and establish a Government there, according to its
own unlimited discretion, was viewed with great jealousy by the leading statesmen of the day. And in the Federalist No.
38, written by Mr. Madison, he speaks of the acquisition of the Northwestern Territory by the confederated States, by the
cession from Virginia, and the establishment of a Government there, as an exercise of power not warranted by the
Articles of Confederation, and dangerous to the liberties of the people. And he urges the adoption of the Constitution as
a security and safeguard against such an exercise of power.
We do not mean, however, to question the power of Congress in this respect. The power to expand the territory of the
United States by the admission of new States is plainly given, and, in the construction of this power by all the
departments of the Government, it has been held to authorize the acquisition of territory not fit for admission at the time,
but to be admitted as soon as its population and situation would entitle it to admission. It is acquired to become a State,
and not to be held as a colony and governed by Congress with absolute authority, and, as the propriety of admitting a
new State is committed to the sound discretion of Congress, the power to acquire territory for that purpose, to be held
by the United States until it is in a suitable condition to become a State upon an equal footing with the other States, must
rest upon the same discretion. It is a question for the political department of the Government, and not the judicial, and
whatever the political department of the Government shall recognise as within the limits of the United States, the judicial
department is also bound to recognise and to administer in it the laws of the United States so far as they apply, and to
maintain in the Territory the authority and rights of the Government and also the personal rights and rights of property
of individual citizens as secured by the Constitution. All we mean to say on this point is that, as there is no express
regulation in the Constitution defining the power which the General Government may exercise over the person or
property of a citizen in a Territory thus acquired, the court must necessarily look to the provisions and principles of the
Constitution and its distribution of powers for the rules and principles by which its decision must be governed.
Taking this rule to guide us, it may be safely assumed that citizens of the United States who migrate to a Territory
belonging to the people of the United States cannot be ruled as mere colonists, dependent upon the will of the General
Government and to be governed by any laws it may think proper to impose. The principle upon which our Governments
rest and upon which alone they continue to exist, is the union of States, sovereign and independent within their own
limits in their internal and domestic concerns, and bound together as one people by a General Government, possessing
certain enumerated and restricted powers delegated to it by the people of the several States, and exercising supreme
authority within the scope of the powers granted to it throughout the dominion of the United States. A power, therefore,
in the General Government to obtain and hold colonies and dependent territories over which they might legislate without
restriction would be inconsistent with its own existence in its present form. Whatever it acquires, it acquires for the
benefit of the people of the several States who created it. It is their trustee acting for them, and charged with the duty of
promoting the interests of the whole people of the Union in the exercise of the powers specifically granted.
At the time when the Territory in question was obtained by cession from France, it contained no population fit to be
associated together and admitted as a State, and it therefore was absolutely necessary to hold possession of it, as a
Territory belonging to the United States, until it was settled and inhabited by a civilized community capable of self-
government, and in a condition to be admitted on equal terms with the other States as a member of the Union. But, as
we have before said, it was acquired by the General Government as the representative and trustee of the people of the
United States, and it must therefore be held in that character for their common and equal benefit, for it was the people of
the several States, acting through their agent and representative, the Federal Government, who in fact acquired the
Territory in question, and the Government holds it for their common use until it shall be associated with the other States
as a member of the Union."
"These powers, and others in relation to rights of person which it is not necessary here to enumerate, are, in express
and positive terms, denied to the General Government, and the rights of private property have been guarded with equal
care. Thus, the rights of property are united with the rights of person, and placed on the same ground by the fifth
amendment to the Constitution, which provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property, without due
process of law. And an act of Congress which deprives a citizen of the United States of his liberty or property merely
because he came himself or brought his property into a particular Territory of the United States, and who had committed
no offence against the laws, could hardly be dignified with the name of due process of law."
Justice James M. Wayne (Concurring)
"But it has been assumed that this court has acted extra judicially in giving an opinion upon the eighth section of the act
of 1820 because, as it has decided that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction of the case, this court had no jurisdiction to
examine the case upon its merits.
But the error of such an assertion has arisen in part from a misapprehension of what has been heretofore decided by
the Supreme Court in cases of a like kind with that before us, in part from a misapplication to the Circuit Courts of the
United States of the rules of pleading concerning pleas to the jurisdiction which prevail in common law courts, and from
its having been forgotten that this case was not brought to this court by appeal or writ of error from a State court, but by
a writ of error to the Circuit Court of the United States.
The cases cited by the Chief Justice to show that this court has now only done what it has repeatedly done before in
other cases, without any question of its correctness, speak for themselves. The differences between the rules
concerning pleas to the jurisdiction in the courts of the United States and common law courts have been stated and
sustained by reasoning and adjudged cases, and it has been shown that writs of error to a State court and to the Circuit
Courts of the United States are to be determined by different laws and principles. In the first, it is our duty to ascertain if
this court has jurisdiction, under the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act, to review the case from the State court, and
if it shall be found that it has not, the case is at end so far as this court is concerned, for our power to review the case
upon its merits has been made, by the twenty-fifth section, to depend upon its having jurisdiction, when it has not, this
court cannot criticise, controvert, or give any opinion upon the merits of a case from a State court.
But in a case brought to this court, by appeal or by writ of error from a Circuit Court of the United States, we begin a
review of it not by inquiring if this court has jurisdiction, but if that court has it. If the case has been decided by that court
upon its merits, but the record shows it to be deficient in those averments which by the law of the United States must be
made by the plaintiff in the action to give the court jurisdiction of his case, we send it back to the court from which it was
brought with directions to be dismissed though it has been decided there upon its merits."
Justice Samuel Nelson (Separate)
Summary: Dred Scott was still a slave because he returned to Missouri and the laws of Missouri applied to his status. If
he had remained in Illinois the laws of Illinois would have applied to his status.
"The argument against these decisions is that the laws of Illinois forbidding slavery within her territory had the effect to
set the slave free while residing in that State, and to impress upon him the condition and status of a freeman, and that,
by force of these laws, this status and condition accompanied him on his return to the slave State, and, of consequence,
he could not be there held as a slave.
This question has been examined in the courts of several of the slave holding States, and different opinions expressed
and conclusions arrived at. We shall hereafter refer to some of them, and to the principles upon which they are founded.
Our opinion is that the question is one which belongs to each State to decide for itself, either by its Legislature or courts
of justice, and hence, in respect to the case before us, to the State of Missouri -- a question exclusively of Missouri law,
and which, when determined by that State, it is the duty of the Federal courts to follow it. In other words, except in cases
where the power is restrained by the Constitution of the United States, the law of the State is supreme over the subject
of slavery within its jurisdiction.
As a practical illustration of the principle, we may refer to the legislation of the free States in abolishing slavery and
prohibiting its introduction into their territories. Confessedly, except as restrained by the Federal Constitution, they
exercised, and rightfully, complete and absolute power over the subject. Upon what principle, then, can it be denied to
the State of Missouri? The power flows from the sovereign character of the States of the Union, sovereign not merely as
respects the Federal Government -- except as they have consented to its limitation -- but sovereign as respects each
other. Whether, therefore, the State of Missouri will recognise or give effect to the laws of Illinois within her territories on
the subject of slavery is a question for her to determine. Nor is there any constitutional power in this Government that
can rightfully control her.
Every State or nation possesses an exclusive sovereignty and jurisdiction within her own territory, and her laws affect
and bind all property and persons residing within it. It may regulate the manner and circumstances under which property
is held, and the condition, capacity, and state of all persons therein, and also the remedy and modes of administering
justice. And it is equally true that no State or nation can affect or bind property out of its territory, or persons not
residing within it. No State therefore can enact laws to operate beyond its own dominions, and if it attempts to do so, it
may be lawfully refused obedience. Such laws can have no inherent authority extraterritorially. This is the necessary
result of the independence of distinct and separate sovereignties.
Now it follows from these principles that whatever force or effect the laws of one State or nation may have in the
territories of another must depend solely upon the laws and municipal regulations of the latter, upon its own
jurisprudence and polity, and upon its own express or tacit consent.
Judge Story observes in his Conflict of Laws, p. 24,
that a State may prohibit the operation of all foreign laws, and the rights growing out of them, within its territories. . . .
And that, when its code speaks positively on the subject, it must be obeyed by all persons who are within reach of its
sovereignty; when its customary unwritten or common law speaks directly on the subject, it is equally to be obeyed.
Nations, from convenience and comity and from mutual interest and a sort of moral necessity to do justice, recognise
and administer the laws of other countries. But of the nature, extent, and utility of them respecting property or the state
and condition of persons within her territories, each nation judges for itself, and is never bound, even upon the ground
of comity, to recognise them if prejudicial to her own interests. The recognition is purely from comity, and not from any
absolute or paramount obligation.
Judge Story again observes, p. 398,
that the true foundation and extent of the obligation of the laws of one nation within another is the voluntary consent of
the latter, and is inadmissible when they are contrary to its known interests.
And he adds,
in the silence of any positive rule affirming or denying or restraining the operation of the foreign laws, courts of justice
presume the tacit adoption of them by their own Government unless they are repugnant to its policy or prejudicial to its
See also 2 Kent Com., p. 457, 13 Peters 519, 589.
These principles fully establish that it belongs to the sovereign State of Missouri to determine by her laws the question
of slavery within her jurisdiction, subject only to such limitations as may be found in the Federal Constitution, and further
that the laws of other States of the Confederacy, whether enacted by their Legislatures or expounded by their courts,
can have no operation within her territory or affect rights growing out of her own laws on the subject. This is the
necessary result of the independent and sovereign character of the State. The principle is not peculiar to the State of
Missouri, but is equally applicable to each State belonging to the Confederacy. The laws of each have no extraterritorial
operation within the jurisdiction of another except such as may be voluntarily conceded by her laws or courts of justice.
To the extent of such concession upon the rule of comity of nations, the foreign law may operate, as it then becomes a
part of the municipal law of the State. When determined that the foreign law shall have effect, the municipal law of the
State retires and gives place to the foreign law.
In view of these principles, let us examine a little more closely the doctrine of those who maintain that the law of Missouri
is not to govern the status and condition of the plaintiff. They insist that the removal and temporary residence with his
master in Illinois, where slavery is inhibited, had the effect to set him free, and that the same effect is to be given to the
law of Illinois, within the State of Missouri, after his return. Why was he set free in Illinois? Because the law of Missouri,
under which he was held as a slave, had no operation by its own force extraterritorially, and the State of Illinois refused
to recognise its effect within her limits, upon principles of comity, as a state of slavery was inconsistent with her laws and
contrary to her policy. But how is the case different on the return of the plaintiff to the State of Missouri? Is she bound to
recognise and enforce the law of Illinois? For unless she is the status and condition of the slave upon his return remains
the same as originally existed. Has the law of Illinois any greater force within the jurisdiction of Missouri than the laws of
the latter within that of the former? Certainly not. They stand upon an equal footing. Neither has any force
extraterritorially except what may be voluntarily conceded to them."
Justice Robert C. Greer (Concurring)
Summary: Justice Greer concurred with Nelson (not Taney) over the citizenship question. Greer agreed with Taney over
the unconstitutionally of the Missouri Compromise.
I concur in the opinion delivered by Mr. Justice Nelson on the questions discussed by him.
I also concur with the opinion of the court as delivered by the Chief Justice that the act of Congress of 6th March, 1820,
is unconstitutional and void and that, assuming the facts as stated in the opinion, the plaintiff cannot sue as a citizen of
Missouri in the courts of the United States. But that the record shows a prima facie case of jurisdiction, requiring the
court to decide all the questions properly arising in it, and as the decision of the pleas in bar shows that the plaintiff is a
slave, and therefore not entitled to sue in a court of the United States, the form of the judgment is of little importance,
for, whether the judgment be affirmed or dismissed for want of jurisdiction, it is justified by the decision of the court, and
is the same in effect between the parties to the suit.
Justice Peter Daniel (Concurring)
"Now the following are truths which a knowledge of the history of the world, and particularly of that of our own country,
compels us to know -- that the African negro race never have been acknowledged as belonging to the family of nations;
that, as amongst them, there never has been known or recognised by the inhabitants of other countries anything
partaking of the character of nationality, or civil or political polity; that this race has been by all the nations of Europe
regarded as subjects of capture or purchase, as subjects of commerce or traffic; and that the introduction of that race
into every section of this country was not as members of civil or political society, but as slaves, as property in the
strictest sense of the term."
"It may be assumed as a postulate that to a slave, as such, there appertains and can appertain no relation, civil or
political, with the State or the Government. He is himself strictly property, to be used in subserviency to the interests, the
convenience, or the will, of his owner, and to suppose, with respect to the former, the existence of any privilege or
discretion, or of any obligation to others incompatible with the magisterial rights just defined, would be by implication, if
not directly, to deny the relation of master and slave, since none can possess and enjoy as his own that which another
has a paramount right and power to withhold. Hence it follows necessarily that a slave, the peculium or property of a
master, and possessing within himself no civil nor political rights or capacities, cannot be a CITIZEN. For who, it may be
asked, is a citizen? What do the character and status of citizen import? Without fear of contradiction, it does not import
the condition of being private property, the subject of individual power and ownership. Upon a principle of etymology
alone, the term citizen, as derived from civitas, conveys the ideas of connection or identification with the State or
Government, and a participation of its functions. But beyond this, there is not, it is believed, to be found in the theories
of writers on Government or in any actual experiment heretofore tried, an exposition of the term citizen which has not
been understood as conferring the actual possession and enjoyment, or the perfect right of acquisition and enjoyment,
of an entire equality of privileges, civil and political."
"By the argument for the plaintiff in error, a power equally despotic is vested in every member of the association, and
the most obscure or unworthy individual it comprises may arbitrarily invade and derange its most deliberate and solemn
ordinances. At assumptions anomalous as these, so fraught with mischief and ruin, the mind at once is revolted, and
goes directly to the conclusions that to change or to abolish a fundamental principle of the society must be the act of the
society itself -- of the sovereignty, and that none other can admit to a participation of that high attribute. It may further
expose the character of the argument urged for the plaintiff to point out some of the revolting consequences which it
would authorize. If that argument possesses any integrity, it asserts the power in any citizen, or quasi citizen, or a
resident foreigner of anyone of the States, from a motive either of corruption or caprice, not only to infract the inherent
and necessary authority of such State, but also materially to interfere with the organization of the Federal Government
and with the authority of the separate and independent States. He may emancipate his negro slave, by which process
he first transforms that slave into a citizen of his own State; he may next, under color of article fourth, section second, of
the Constitution of the United States, obtrude him, and on terms of civil and political equality, upon any and every State
in this Union, in defiance of all regulations of necessity or policy, ordained by those States for their internal happiness or
safety. Nay, more: this manumitted slave may, by a proceeding springing from the will or act of his master alone, be
mixed up with the institutions of the Federal Government, to which he is not a party, and in opposition to the laws of that
Government which, in authorizing the extension by naturalization of the rights and immunities of citizens of the United
States to those not originally parties to the Federal compact, have restricted that boon to free white aliens alone. If the
rights and immunities connected with or practiced under the institutions of the United States can by any indirection be
claimed or deduced from sources or modes other than the Constitution and laws of the United States, it follows that the
power of naturalization vested in Congress is not exclusive -- that it has in effect no existence, but is repealed or
"That, in the establishment of the several communities now the States of this Union, and in the formation of the Federal
Government, the African was not deemed politically a person. He was regarded and owned in every State in the Union
as property merely, and as such was not and could not be a party or an actor, much less a peer in any compact or form
of government established by the States or the United States. That if, since the adoption of the State Governments, he
has been or could have been elevated to the possession of political rights or powers, this result could have been
effected by no authority less potent than that of the sovereignty -- the State -- exerted to that end, either in the form of
legislation or in some other mode of operation. It could certainly never have been accomplished by the will of an
individual operating independently of the sovereign power, and even contravening and controlling that power. That, so
far as rights and immunities appertaining to citizens have been defined and secured by the Constitution and laws of the
United States, the African race is not and never was recognised either by the language or purposes of the former, and it
has been expressly excluded by every act of Congress providing for the creation of citizens by naturalization, these
laws, as has already been remarked, being restricted to free white aliens exclusively.
But it is evident that, after the formation of the Federal Government by the adoption of the Constitution, the highest
exertion of State power would be incompetent to bestow a character or status created by the Constitution or conferred in
virtue of its authority only. Upon those, therefore, who were not originally parties to the Federal compact, or who are not
admitted and adopted as parties thereto, in the mode prescribed by its paramount authority, no State could have power
to bestow the character or the rights and privileges exclusively reserved by the States for the action of the Federal
Government by that compact.
The States, in the exercise of their political power, might, with reference to their peculiar Government and jurisdiction,
guaranty the rights of person and property, and the enjoyment of civil and political privileges, to those whom they should
be disposed to make the objects of their bounty, but they could not reclaim or exert the powers which they had vested
exclusively in the Government of the United States. They could not add to or change in any respect the class of persons
to whom alone the character of citizen of the United States appertained at the time of the adoption of the Federal
Constitution. They could not create citizens of the United States by any direct or indirect proceeding."
"Madison, in the year 1819, speaking with reference to the prohibitory power claimed by Congress, then threatening the
very existence of the Union, remarks of the language of the second clause of the third section of article fourth of the
that it cannot be well extended beyond a power over the territory as property, and the power to make provisions really
needful or necessary for the government of settlers, until ripe for admission into the Union.
Again, he says,
with respect to what has taken place in the Northwest territory, it may be observed that the ordinance giving it is
distinctive character on the subject of slave holding proceeded from the old Congress, acting with the best intentions,
but under a charter which contains no shadow of the authority exercised, and it remains to be decided how far the
States formed within that territory, and admitted into the Union, are on a different footing from its other members as to
their legislative sovereignty. As to the power of admitting new States into the Federal compact, the questions offering
themselves are whether Congress can attach conditions, or the new States concur in conditions, which after admission
would abridge or enlarge the constitutional rights of legislation common to other States; whether Congress can, by a
compact with a new State, take power either to or from itself, or place the new member above or below the equal rank
and rights possessed by the others; whether all such stipulations expressed or implied would not be nullities, and be so
pronounced when brought to a practical test. It falls within the scope of your inquiry to state the fact that there was a
proposition in the convention to discriminate between the old and the new States by an article in the Constitution. The
proposition, happily, was rejected. The effect of such a discrimination is sufficiently evident."
Justice John A. Campbell (Concurring)
"I concur in the judgment pronounced by the Chief Justice, but the importance of the cause, the expectation and interest
it has awakened, and the responsibility involved in its determination, induce me to file a separate opinion."
"The Constitution of Missouri recognises slavery as a legal condition, extends guaranties to the masters of slaves, and
invites immigrants to introduce them, as property, by a promise of protection. The laws of the State charge the master
with the custody of the slave, and provide for the maintenance and security of their relation.
The Federal Constitution and the acts of Congress provide for the return of escaping slaves within the limits of the
Union. No removal of the slave beyond the limits of the State, against the consent of the master, nor residence there in
another condition, would be regarded as an effective manumission by the courts of Missouri, upon his return to the
State. "Sicut liberis captis status restituitur sic servus domino." Nor can the master emancipate the slave within the State
except through the agency of a public authority. The inquiry arises whether the manumission of the slave is effected by
his removal, with the consent of the master, to a community where the law of slavery does not exist, in a case where
neither the master nor slave discloses a purpose to remain permanently, and where both parties have continued to
maintain their existing relations. What is the law of Missouri in such a case? Similar inquiries have arisen in a great
number of suits, and the discussions in the State courts have relieved the subject of much of its difficulty.
The result of these discussions is that, in general, the status or civil and political capacity of a person is determined in
the first instance by the law of the domicil where he is born; that the legal effect on persons arising from the operation of
the law of that domicil is not indelible, but that a new capacity or status may be acquired by a change of domicil. That
questions of status are closely connected with considerations arising out of the social and political organization of the
State where they originate, and each sovereign power must determine them within its own territories."
"It is a settled doctrine of this court that the Federal Government can exercise no power over the subject of slavery
within the States, nor control the intermigration of slaves, other than fugitives, among the States. Nor can that
Government affect the duration of slavery within the States, other than by a legislation over the foreign slave trade. The
power of Congress to adopt the section of the act above cited must therefore depend upon some condition of the
Territories which distinguishes them from States, and subjects them to a control more extended."
"This proceeds from a radical error which lies at the foundation of much of this discussion. It is that the Federal
Government may lawfully do whatever is not directly prohibited by the Constitution. This would have been a fundamental
error if no amendments to the Constitution had been made. But the final expression of the will of the people of the
States, in the 10th amendment, is that the powers of the Federal Government are limited to the grants of the
In Groves v. Slaughter, 15 Pet., the Chief Justice said:
The power over this subject is exclusively with the several States, and each of them has a right to decide for itself
whether it will or will not allow persons of this description to be brought within its limits.
Justice McLean said:
The Constitution of the United States operates alike in all the States, and one State has the same power over the
subject of slavery as every other State.
In Pollard's Lessee v. Hagan, 3 How. 212, the court said:
The United States have no constitutional capacity to exercise municipal jurisdiction, sovereignty, or eminent domain
within the limits of a State or elsewhere except in cases where it is delegated, and the court denies the faculty of the
Federal Government to add to its powers by treaty or compact.
Justice John Catron (Concurring with Nelson)
"The plaintiff claims to have acquired property in himself, and became free, by being kept in Illinois during two years.
The Constitution, laws, and policy, of Illinois are somewhat peculiar respecting slavery. Unless the master becomes an
inhabitant of that State, the slaves he takes there do not acquire their freedom, and if they return with their master to the
slave State of his domicil, they cannot assert their freedom after their return. For the reasons and authorities on this
point, I refer to the opinion of my brother Nelson, with which I not only concur, but think his opinion is the most conclusive
argument on the subject within my knowledge.
"My opinion is that Congress is vested with power to govern the Territories of the United States by force of the third
section of the fourth article of the Constitution. And I will state my reasons for this opinion.
Almost every provision in that instrument has a history that must be understood before the brief and sententious
language employed can be comprehended in the relations its authors intended. We must bring before us the state of
things presented to the Convention, and in regard to which it acted, when the compound provision was made, declaring:
1st. That "new States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union." 2d.
The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or
other property belonging to the United States. And nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any
claims of the United States, or any particular State."
"The settled doctrine in the State courts of Louisiana is that a French subject coming to the Orleans Territory, after the
treaty of 1803 was made and before Louisiana was admitted into the Union, and being an inhabitant at the time of the
admission, became a citizen of the United States by that act that he was one of the inhabitants contemplated by the third
article of the treaty, which referred to all the inhabitants embraced within the new State on its admission."
"That the United States Government stipulated in favor of the inhabitants to the extent here contended for has not been
seriously denied, as far as I know, but the argument is that Congress had authority to repeal the third article of the
treaty of 1803, insofar as it secured the right to hold slave property in a portion of the ceded territory, leaving the right
to exist in other parts. In other words, that Congress could repeal the third article entirely, at its pleasure. This I deny."
"If Congress could prohibit one species of property, lawful throughout Louisiana when it was acquired, and lawful in the
State from whence it was brought, so Congress might exclude any or all property."
My opinion is that the third article of the treaty of 1803, ceding Louisiana to the United States, stands protected by the
Constitution, and cannot be repealed by Congress.
And, secondly that the Act of 1820, known as the Missouri Compromise, violates the most leading feature of the
Constitution -- a feature on which the Union depends and which secures to the respective States and their citizens and
entire EQUALITY of rights, privileges, and immunities.
On these grounds, I hold the compromise act to have been void, and consequently that the plaintiff, Scott, can claim no
benefit under it.
Justice John McLean (Dissenting)
"There is no averment in this plea which shows or conduces to show an inability in the plaintiff to sue in the Circuit Court.
It does not allege that the plaintiff had his domicil in any other State, nor that he is not a free man in Missouri. He is
averred to have had a negro ancestry, but this does not show that he is not a citizen of Missouri within the meaning of
the act of Congress authorizing him to sue in the Circuit Court. It has never been held necessary, to constitute a citizen
within the act, that he should have the qualifications of an elector. Females and minors may sue in the Federal courts,
and so may any individual who has a permanent domicil in the State under whose laws his rights are protected, and to
which he owes allegiance.
Being born under our Constitution and laws, no naturalization is required, as one of foreign birth, to make him a citizen.
The most general and appropriate definition of the term citizen is "a freeman." Being a freeman, and having his domicil
in a State different from that of the defendant, he is a citizen within the act of Congress, and the courts of the Union are
open to him."
"The defendant's counsel complain that, if the court take jurisdiction on the ground that the plaintiff is free, the
assumption is against the right of the master. This argument is easily answered. In the first place, the plea does not
show him to be a slave; it does not follow that a man is not free whose ancestors were slaves. The reports of the
Supreme Court of Missouri show that this assumption has many exceptions, and there is no averment in the plea that
the plaintiff is not within them.
By all the rules of pleading, this is a fatal defect in the plea. If there be doubt, what rule of construction has been
established in the slave States? In Jacob v. Sharp, Meigs's Rep., Tennessee 114, the court held, when there was doubt
as to the construction of a will which emancipated a slave, "it must be construed to be subordinate to the higher and
more important right of freedom."
No injustice can result to the master from an exercise of jurisdiction in this cause. Such a decision does not in any
degree affect the merits of the case; it only enables the plaintiff to assert his claims to freedom before this tribunal. If the
jurisdiction be ruled against him on the ground that he is a slave, it is decisive of his fate.
It has been argued that, if a colored person be made a citizen of a State, he cannot sue in the Federal court. The
Constitution declares that Federal jurisdiction "may be exercised between citizens of different States," and the same is
provided in the act of 1789. The above argument is properly met by saying that the Constitution was intended to be a
practical instrument, and where its language is too plain to be misunderstood, the argument ends.
In Chirae v. Chirae, 2 Wheat. 261, 4 Curtis 99, this court says: "That the power of naturalization is exclusively in
Congress does not seem to be, and certainly ought not to be, controverted." No person can legally be made a citizen of
a State, and consequently a citizen of the United States, of foreign birth, unless he be naturalized under the acts of
Congress. Congress has power "to establish a uniform rule of naturalization."
"There are several important principles involved in this case which have been argued, and which may be considered
under the following heads:
1. The locality of slavery, as settled by this court and the courts of the States.
2. The relation which the Federal Government bears to slavery in the States.
3. The power of Congress to establish Territorial Governments and to prohibit the introduction of slavery therein.
4. The effect of taking slaves into a new State or Territory, and so holding them, where slavery is prohibited.
5. Whether the return of a slave under the control of his master, after being entitled to his freedom, reduces him to his
6. Are the decisions of the Supreme Court of Missouri on the questions before us binding on this court within the rule
"But if we are to turn our attention to the dark ages of the world, why confine our view to colored slavery? On the same
principles, white men were made slaves. All slavery has its origin in power, and is against right."
"In organizing the Government of a Territory, Congress is limited to means appropriate to the attainment of the
constitutional object. No powers can be exercised which are prohibited by the Constitution or which are contrary to its
spirit, so that, whether the object may be the protection of the persons and property of purchasers of the public lands,
or of communities who have been annexed to the Union by conquest or purchase, they are initiatory to the
establishment of State Governments, and no more power can be claimed or exercised than is necessary to the
attainment of the end. This is the limitation of all the Federal powers.
But Congress has no power to regulate the internal concerns of a State, as of a Territory; consequently, in providing for
the Government of a Territory, to some extent the combined powers of the Federal and State Governments are
If Congress should deem slaves or free colored persons injurious to the population of a free Territory, as conducing to
lessen the value of the public lands, or on any other ground connected with the public interest, they have the power to
prohibit them from becoming settlers in it. This can be sustained on the ground of a sound national policy, which is so
clearly shown in our history by practical results that it would seem no considerate individual can question it. And, as
regards any unfairness of such a policy to our Southern brethren, as urged in the argument, it is only necessary to say
that, with one-fourth of the Federal population of the Union, they have in the slave States a larger extent of fertile
territory than is included in the free States, and it is submitted, if masters of slaves be restricted from bringing them into
free territory, that the restriction on the free citizens of non-slaveholding States, by bringing slaves into free territory, is
four times greater than that complained of by the South. But not only so; some three or four hundred thousand holders
of slaves, by bringing them into free territory, impose a restriction on twenty millions of the free States. The repugnancy
to slavery would probably prevent fifty or a hundred freemen from settling in a slave Territory, where one slaveholder
would be prevented from settling in a free Territory."
"The first slave case decided by the Supreme Court of Missouri contained in the reports was Winny v. Whitesides, 1
Missouri Rep. 473, at October term, 1824. It appeared that, more than twenty-five years before, the defendant, with her
husband, had removed from Carolina to Illinois, and brought with them the plaintiff; that they continued to reside in
Illinois three or four years, retaining the plaintiff as a slave, after which, they removed to Missouri, taking her with them.
The court held that if a slave be detained in Illinois until he be entitled to freedom, the right of the owner does not revive
when he finds the negro in a slave State."
"Rachel v. Walker, 4 Missouri Rep. 350, June Term, 1836, is a case involving, in every particular, the principles of the
case before us. Rachel sued for her freedom, and it appeared that she had been bought as a slave in Missouri by
Stockton, an officer of the army, taken to Fort Snelling, where he was stationed, and she was retained there as a slave a
year, and then Stockton removed to Prairie du Chien, taking Rachel with him as a slave, where he continued to hold her
three years, and then he took her to the State of Missouri, and sold her as a slave.
Fort Snelling was admitted to be on the west side of the Mississippi river, and north of the State of Missouri, in the
territory of the United States. That Prairie du Chien was in the Michigan Territory, on the east side of the Mississippi
river. Walker, the defendant, held Rachel under Stockton.
The court said, in this case:
The officer lived in Missouri Territory, at the time he bought the slave; he sent to a slaveholding country and procured
her; this was his voluntary act, done without any other reason than that of his convenience, and he and those claiming
under him must be holden to abide the consequences of introducing slavery both in Missouri Territory and Michigan,
contrary to law; and on that ground Rachel was declared to be entitled to freedom.
In answer to the argument that, as an officer of the army, the master had a right to take his slave into free territory, the
court said no authority of law or the Government compelled him to keep the plaintiff there as a slave.
Shall it be said that, because an officer of the army owns slaves in Virginia, that when, as officer and soldier, he is
required to take the command of a fort in the non-slaveholding States or Territories, he thereby has a right to take with
him as many slaves as will suit his interests or convenience? It surely cannot be law. If this be true, the court say, then it
is also true that the convenience or supposed convenience of the officer repeals, as to him and others who have the
same character, the ordinance and the act of 1821 admitting Missouri into the Union, and also the prohibition of the
several laws and Constitutions of the non-slaveholding States."
"The courts of Louisiana having held for a series of years that, where a master took his slave to France, or any free
State, he was entitled to freedom, and that, on bringing him back, the status of slavery did not attach, the Legislature of
Louisiana declared by an act that the slave should not be made free under such circumstances. This regulated the
rights of the master from the time the act took effect. But the decision of the Missouri court, reversing a former decision,
affects all previous decisions, technically, made on the same principles, unless such decisions are protected by the
lapse of time or the statute of limitations. Dred Scott and his family, beyond all controversy, were free under the
decisions made for twenty-eight years, before the case of Scott v. Emerson. This was the undoubted law of Missouri for
fourteen years after Scott and his family were brought back to that State. And the grave question arises whether this law
may be so disregarded as to enslave free persons. I am strongly inclined to think that a rule of decision so well settled
as not to be questioned cannot be annulled by a single decision of the court. Such rights may be inoperative under the
decision in future, but I cannot well perceive how it can have the same effect in prior cases."
"The answer to this is, in the first place, that such a subject does not belong to the treaty-making power, and any such
arrangement would have been nugatory. And, in the second place, by no admissible construction can the guaranty be
carried further than the protection of property in slaves at that time in the ceded territory. And this has been complied
with. The organization of the slave States of Louisiana, Missouri, and Arkansas embraced every slave in Louisiana at
the time of the cession. This removes every ground of objection under the treaty. There is therefore no pretence
growing out of the treaty that any part of the territory of Louisiana, as ceded, beyond the organized States, is slave
"In 1851, the Court of Appeals of South Carolina recognised the principle that a slave, being taken to a free State,
became free. Commonwealth v. Pleasants, 10 Leigh Rep. 697. In Betty v. Horton, the Court of Appeals held that the
freedom of the slave was acquired by the action of the laws of Massachusetts by the said slave's being taken there. 5
Leigh Rep. 615.
The slave States have generally adopted the rule that, where the master, by a residence with his slave in a State or
Territory where slavery is prohibited, the slave was entitled to his freedom everywhere. This was the settled doctrine of
the Supreme Court of Missouri. It has been so held in Mississippi, in Virginia, in Louisiana, formerly in Kentucky,
Maryland, and in other States."
"In the case of Rankin v. Lydia, before cited, Judge Mills, speaking for the Court of Appeals of Kentucky, says:
If, by the positive provision in our code, we can and must hold our slaves in the one case, and statutory provisions
equally positive decide against that right in the other, and liberate the slave, he must, by an authority equally imperious,
be declared free. Every argument which supports the right of the master on one side, based upon the force of written
law, must be equally conclusive in favor of the slave, when he can point out in the statute the clause which secures his
And he further said:
Free people of color in all the States are, it is believed, quasi citizens, or, at least, denizens. Although none of the States
may allow them the privilege of office and suffrage, yet all other civil and conventional rights are secured to them, at
least such rights were evidently secured to them by the ordinance in question for the government of Indiana. If these
rights are vested in that or any other portion of the United States, can it be compatible with the spirit of our confederated
Government to deny their existence in any other part? Is there less comity existing between State and State, or State
and Territory, than exists between the despotic Governments of Europe?
These are the words of a learned and great judge, born and educated in a slave State."
Justice Benjamin R. Curtis (Dissenting)
"I dissent from the opinion pronounced by the Chief Justice, and from the judgment which the majority of the court think
it proper to render in this case."
"It is alleged by the defendant in error in this case that the plea to the jurisdiction was a sufficient plea; that it shows, on
inspection of its allegations, confessed by the demurrer, that the plaintiff was not a citizen of the State of Missouri; that,
upon this record, it must appear to this court that the case was not within the judicial power of the United States as
defined and granted by the Constitution, because it was not a suit by a citizen of one State against a citizen of another
"It is further objected that, as the judgment of the Circuit Court was in favor of the defendant and the writ of error in this
cause was sued out by the plaintiff, the defendant is not in a condition to assign any error in the record, and therefore
this court is precluded from considering the question whether the Circuit Court had jurisdiction."
"I consider, therefore, that, when there was a plea to the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court in a case brought here by a writ
of error, the first duty of this court is sua sponte, if not moved to it by either party, to examine the sufficiency of that plea,
and thus to take care that neither the Circuit Court nor this court shall use the judicial power of the United States in a
case to which the Constitution and laws of the United States have not extended that power."
"This being, then, a plea in abatement to the jurisdiction of the court, I must judge of its sufficiency by those rules of the
common law applicable to such pleas.
The plea was as follows:
And the said John F. A. Sandford, in his own proper person, comes and says that this court ought not to have or take
further cognizance of the action aforesaid, because he says that said cause of action, and each and every of them (if
any such have accrued to the said Dred Scott), accrued to the said Dred Scott out of the jurisdiction of this court, and
exclusively within the jurisdiction of the courts of the State of Missouri, for that, to-wit, the said plaintiff, Dred Scott, is not
a citizen of the State of Missouri, as alleged in his declaration, because he is a negro of African descent, his ancestors
were of pure African blood, and were brought into this country and sold as negro slaves, and this the said Sandford is
ready to verify. Wherefore, he prays judgment whether this court can or will take further cognizance of the action
The plaintiff demurred, and the judgment of the Circuit Court was that the plea was insufficient.
I cannot treat this plea as a general traverse of the citizenship alleged by the plaintiff. Indeed, if it were so treated, the
plea was clearly bad, for it concludes with a verification, and not to the country, as a general traverse should. And
though this defect in a plea in bar must be pointed out by a special demurrer, it is never necessary to demur specially to
a plea in abatement; all matters, though of form only, may be taken advantage of upon a general demurrer to such a
plea. Chitty on Pl. 465."
"To treat an averment that the plaintiff's ancestors were Africans, brought to this country and sold as slaves, as
amounting to an averment on the record that he was a slave because it may lay some foundation for presuming so is to
hold that the facts actually alleged may be treated as intended as evidence of another distinct facts not alleged. But it is
a cardinal rule of pleading, laid down in Dowman's Case, 9 Rep. 9b, and in even earlier authorities therein referred to,
"that evidence shall never be pleaded, for it only tends to prove matter of fact, and therefore the matter of fact shall be
pleaded." Or, as the rule is sometimes stated, pleadings must not be argumentative. Stephen on Pleading 384, and
authorities cited by him. In Com.Dig., Pleader E. 3, and Bac. Abridgement, Pleas I, 5, and Stephen on Pl., many
decisions under this rule are collected. In Trove, for an indenture whereby A granted a manor, it is no plea that A did not
grant the manor, for it does not answer the declaration except by argument. Yelv. 223."
"So that, under the allegations contained in this plea and admitted by the demurrer, the question is whether any person
of African descent, whose ancestors were sold as slaves in the United States, can be a citizen of the United States. If
any such person can be a citizen, this plaintiff has the right to the judgment of the court that he is so, for no cause is
shown by the plea why he is not so, except his descent and the slavery of his ancestors."
"Of this there can be no doubt. At the time of the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, all free native-born
inhabitants of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, though
descended from African slaves, were not only citizens of those States, but such of them as had the other necessary
qualifications possessed the franchise of electors, on equal terms with other citizens.
The Supreme Court of North Carolina, in the case of the State v. Manuel, 4 Dev. and Bat. 20, has declared the law of
that State on this subject in terms which I believe to be as sound law in the other States I have enumerated, as it was in
"According to the laws of this State," says Judge Gaston, in delivering the opinion of the court,
all human beings within it, who are not slaves, fall within one of two classes. Whatever distinctions may have existed in
the Roman laws between citizens and free inhabitants, they are unknown to our institutions. Before our Revolution, all
free persons born within the dominions of the King of Great Britain, whatever their color or complexion, were native-born
British subjects -- those born out of his allegiance were aliens. Slavery did not exist in England, but it did in the British
colonies. Slaves were not, in legal parlance persons, but property. The moment the incapacity, the disqualification of
slavery, was removed, they became persons, and were then either British subjects or not British subjects, according as
they were or were not born within the allegiance of the British King. Upon the Revolution, no other change took place in
the laws of North Carolina than was consequent on the transition from a colony dependent on a European King to a free
and sovereign State. Slaves remained slaves. British subjects in North Carolina became North Carolina freemen.
Foreigners, until made members of the State, remained aliens. Slaves, manumitted here, became freemen, and
therefore, if born within North Carolina, are citizens of North Carolina, and all free persons born within the State are born
citizens of the State. The Constitution extended the elective franchise to every freeman who had arrived at the age of
twenty-one and paid a public tax, and it is a matter of universal notoriety that, under it, free persons, without regard to
color, claimed and exercised the franchise until it was taken from free men of color a few years since by our amended
In the State v. Newcomb, 5 Iredell's R. 253, decided in 1844, the same court referred to this case of the State v. Manuel,
That case underwent a very laborious investigation, both by the bar and the bench. The case was brought here by
appeal, and was felt to be one of great importance in principle. It was considered with an anxiety and care worthy of the
principle involved, and which give it a controlling influence and authority on all questions of a similar character.
An argument from speculative premises, however well chosen, that the then state of opinion in the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts was not consistent with the natural rights of people of color who were born on that soil, and that they
were not, by the Constitution of 1780 of that State, admitted to the condition of citizens, would be received with surprise
by the people of that State who know their own political history. It is true, beyond all controversy that persons of color,
descended from African slaves, were by that Constitution made citizens of the State, and such of them as have had the
necessary qualifications have held and exercised the elective franchise, as citizens, from that time to the present. See
Com. v. Aves, 18 Pick. R. 210.
The Constitution of New Hampshire conferred the elective franchise upon "every inhabitant of the State having the
necessary qualifications," of which color or descent was not one.
The Constitution of New York gave the right to vote to "every male inhabitant, who shall have resided," &c., making no
discrimination between free colored persons and others. See Con. of N.Y., Art. 2, Rev stats. of N.Y., vol. 1, p. 126.
That of New Jersey, to "all inhabitants of this colony, of full age, who are worth £ 50 proclamation money, clear estate."
New York, by its Constitution of 1820, required colored persons to have some qualifications as prerequisites for voting,
which white persons need not possess. And New Jersey, by its present Constitution, restricts the right to vote to white
male citizens. But these changes can have no other effect upon the present inquiry except to show that, before they
were made, no such restrictions existed, and colored, in common with white, persons, were not only citizens of those
States, but entitled to the elective franchise on the same qualifications as white persons, as they now are in New
Hampshire and Massachusetts. I shall not enter into an examination of the existing opinions of that period respecting the
African race, nor into any discussion concerning the meaning of those who asserted, in the Declaration of
Independence, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights;
that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. My own opinion is that a calm comparison of these
assertions of universal abstract truths and of their own individual opinions and acts would not leave these men under
any reproach of inconsistency; that the great truths they asserted on that solemn occasion, they were ready and
anxious to make effectual, wherever a necessary regard to circumstances, which no statesman can disregard without
producing more evil than good, would allow; and that it would not be just to them nor true in itself to allege that they
intended to say that the Creator of all men had endowed the white race, exclusively, with the great natural rights which
the Declaration of Independence asserts. But this is not the place of vindicate their memory. As I conceive, we should
deal here not with such disputes, if there can be a dispute concerning this subject, but with those substantial facts
evinced by the written Constitutions of States and by the notorious practice under them. And they show, in a manner
which no argument can obscure, that, in some of the original thirteen States, free colored persons, before and at the
time of the formation of the Constitution, were citizens of those States."
"The fact that free persons of color were citizens of some of the several States, and the consequence that this fourth
article of the Confederation would have the effect to confer on such persons the privileges and immunities of general
citizenship, were not only known to those who framed and adopted those articles, but the evidence is decisive that the
fourth article was intended to have that effect, and that more restricted language, which would have excluded such
persons, was deliberately and purposely rejected.
On the 25th of June, 1778, the Articles of Confederation being under consideration by the Congress, the delegates from
South Carolina moved to amend this fourth article by inserting after the word "free," and before the word "inhabitants,"
the word "white," so that the privileges and immunities of general citizenship would be secured only to white persons.
Two States voted for the amendment, eight States against it, and the vote of one State was divided. The language of
the article stood unchanged, and both by its terms of inclusion, "free inhabitants," and the strong implication from its
terms of exclusion, "paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice," who alone were excepted, it is clear that under the
Confederation, and at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, free colored persons of African descent might be,
and, by reason of their citizenship in certain States, were, entitled to the privileges and immunities of general citizenship
of the United States."
"I can find nothing in the Constitution which, proprio vigore, deprives of their citizenship any class of persons who were
citizens of the United States at the time of its adoption, or who should be native-born citizens of any State after its
adoption, nor any power enabling Congress to disfranchise persons born on the soil of any State, and entitled to
citizenship of such State by its Constitution and laws. And my opinion is that, under the Constitution of the United States,
every free person born on the soil of a State, who is a citizen of that State by force of its Constitution or laws, is also a
citizen of the United States."
"To avoid misapprehension on this important and difficult subject, I will state distinctly the conclusions at which I have
arrived. They are:
First. The rules of international law respecting the emancipation of slaves, by the rightful operation of the laws of
another State or country upon the status of the slave, while resident in such foreign State or country, are part of the
common law of Missouri, and have not been abrogated by any statute law of that State.
Second. The laws of the United States, constitutionally enacted, which operated directly on and changed the status of a
slave coming into the Territory of Wisconsin with his master, who went thither to reside for an indefinite length of time, in
the performance of his duties as an officer of the United States, had a rightful operation on the status of the slave, and it
is in conformity with the rules of international law that this change of status should be recognised everywhere.
Third. The laws of the United States, in operation in the Territory of Wisconsin at the time of the plaintiff's residence
there, did act directly on the status of the plaintiff, and change his status to that of a free man.
Fourth. The plaintiff and his wife were capable of contracting, and, with the consent of Dr. Emerson, did contract a
marriage in that Territory, valid under its laws, and the validity of this marriage cannot be questioned in Missouri, save
by showing that it was in fraud of the laws of that State or of some right derived from them, which cannot be shown in
this case, because the master consented to it.
Fifth. That the consent of the master that his slave, residing in a country which does not tolerate slavery, may enter into
a lawful contract of marriage, attended with the civil rights and duties which being to that condition, is an effectual act of
emancipation. And the law does not enable Dr. Emerson, or anyone claiming under him, to assert a title to the married
persons as slaves, and thus destroy the obligation of the contract of marriage and bastardize their issue and reduce
them to slavery.
But it is insisted that the Supreme Court of Missouri has settled this case by its decision in Scott v. Emerson, 15 Missouri
Reports 576, and that this decision is in conformity with the weight of authority elsewhere, and with sound principles. If
the Supreme Court of Missouri had placed its decision on the ground that it appeared Dr. Emerson never became
domiciled in the Territory, and so its laws could not rightfully operate on him and his slave, and the facts that he went
there to reside indefinitely as an officer of the United States, and that the plaintiff was lawfully married there with Dr.
Emerson's consent, were left out of view, the decision would find support in other cases, and I might not be prepared to
deny its correctness. But the decision is not rested on this ground. The domicil of Dr. Emerson in that Territory is not
questioned in that decision, and it is placed on a broad denial of the operation, in Missouri, of the law of any foreign
State or country upon the status of a slave, going with his master from Missouri into such foreign State or country, even
though they went thither to become, and actually became, permanent inhabitants of such foreign State or country, the
laws whereof acted directly on the status of the slave, and changed his status to that of a freeman."
"Slavery, being contrary to natural right, is created only by municipal law. This is not only plain in itself, and agreed by all
writers on the subject, but is inferable from the Constitution and has been explicitly declared by this court. The
Constitution refers to slaves as "persons held to service in one State, under the laws thereof." Nothing can more clearly
describe a status created by municipal law. In Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 10 Pet. 611, this court said: "The state of slavery is
deemed to be a mere municipal regulation, founded on and limited to the range of territorial laws." In Rankin v. Lydia, 2
Marsh. 12, 470, the Supreme Court of Appeals of Kentucky said:
Slavery is sanctioned by the laws of this State, and the right to hold them under our municipal regulations is
unquestionable. But we view this as a right existing by positive law of a municipal character, without foundation in the law
of nature or the unwritten common law."
"The status of slavery is not necessarily always attended with the same powers on the part of the master. The master is
subject to the supreme power of the State, whose will controls his action towards his slave, and this control must be
defined and regulated by the municipal law. In one State, as at one period of the Roman law, it may put the life of the
slave into the hand of the master; others, as those of the United States, which tolerate slavery, may treat the slave as a
person when the master takes his life; while in others, the law may recognise a right of the slave to be protected from
cruel treatment. In other words, the status of slavery embraces every condition from that in which the slave is known to
the law simply as a chattel, with no civil rights, to that in which he is recognised as a person for all purposes, save the
compulsory power of directing and receiving the fruits of his labor. Which of these conditions shall attend the status of
slavery must depend on the municipal law which creates and upholds it.
And not only must the status of slavery be created and measured by municipal law, but the rights, powers, and
obligations which grow out of that status must be defined, protected, and enforced by such laws. The liability of the
master for the torts and crimes of his slave, and of third persons for assaulting or injuring or harboring or kidnapping
him, the forms and modes of emancipation and sale, their subjection to the debts of the master, succession by death of
the master, suits for freedom, the capacity of the slave to be party to a suit, or to be a witness, with such police
regulations as have existed in all civilized States where slavery has been tolerated, are among the subjects upon which
municipal legislation becomes necessary when slavery is introduced.
Is it conceivable that the Constitution has conferred the right on every citizen to become a resident on the territory of the
United States with his slaves, and there to hold them as such, but has neither made nor provided for any municipal
regulations which are essential to the existence of slavery?"
"Under the power to regulate commerce, Congress could prohibit the importation of slaves, and the exercise of the
power was restrained till 1808. A citizen of the United States owns slaves in Cuba, and brings them to the United States,
where they are set free by the legislation of Congress. Does this legislation deprive him of his property without due
process of law? If so, what becomes of the laws prohibiting the slave trade? If not, how can similar regulation respecting
a Territory violate the fifth amendment of the Constitution?"
"When a strict interpretation of the Constitution, according to the fixed rules which govern the interpretation of laws, is
abandoned, and the theoretical opinions of individuals are allowed to control its meaning, we no longer have a
Constitution; we are under the government of individual men, who for the time being have power to declare what the
Constitution is according to their own views of what it ought to mean."
Third Annual Message - President James Buchannan
I cordially congratulate you upon the final settlement by the Supreme Court of the United States of the question of
slavery in the Territories, which had presented an aspect so truly formidable at the commencement of my Administration.
The right has been established of every citizen to take his property of any kind, including slaves, into the common
Territories belonging equally to all the States of the Confederacy, and to have it protected there under the Federal
Constitution. Neither congress nor a Territorial legislature nor any human power has any authority to annul or impair this
vested right. The supreme judicial tribunal of the country, which is a coordinate branch of the Government, has
sanctioned and affirmed these principles of constitutional law, so manifestly just in themselves and so well calculated to
promote peace and harmony among the States. It is a striking proof of the sense of justice which is inherent in our
people that the property in slaves has never been disturbed, to my knowledge, in any of the Territories. Even thoughout
the late troubles in Kansas there has not been any attempt, as I am credibly informed, to interfere in a single instance
with the right of the master. Had any such attempt been made, the judiciary would doubtless have afforded an adequate
remedy. Should they fail to do this hereafter, it will then be time enough to strengthen their hands by further legislation.
Had it been decided that either Congress or the Territorial legislature possess the power to annul or impair the right to
property in slaves, the evil would be intolerable. In the latter event there would be a struggle for a majority of the
members of the legislature of each successive election, and the sacred rights of property held under the Federal
Constitution would depend for the time being on the result. The agitation would thus be rendered incessant whilst the
Territorial condition remained, and its baneful influence would keep alive a dangerious excitement among the people of
the several States.
Thus has the status of a territory during the intermediate period from its first settlement until it shall become a State
been irrevocably fixed by the final decision of the Supreme Court. Fortunate has this been for the prosperity of the
Territories, as well as the tranquility of the States. Now emigrants from the North and the South, the East and the West,
will meet in the Territories on a common platform, having brought with them that species of property best adapted, in
their own opinion, to promote their welfare. From natural causes the slavery question will in each case soon virtually
settle itself, and before the Territory is prepared for admission as a State into the Union this decidion one way or the
other, will have been a foregone conclusion. Meanwhile the settlement of the new Territory will proceed without serious
interruption, and its progress and prosperity will not be endangered or retarded by violent political struggles.
When in the progress of events the inhabitants of any Territory shall have reached the number required to form a State,
they will then proceed in a regular manner and in the exercise of the rights of popular sovereignty to form a constitution
preparatory to admission into the Union. After this has been done, to employ the language of the Kansas and Nebraska
act, they "shall be received into the Union with or without salvery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of their
admission." This sound principle has happily been recognized in some form or other by almost unanimous vote of both
Houses of the last Congress.
Abraham Lincoln and Dred Scott (June 26, 1857 - Springfield)
And now as to the Dred Scott decision. That decision declares two propositions-first, that a negro cannot sue in the U.S.
Courts; and secondly, that Congress cannot prohibit slavery in the Territories. It was made by a divided court-dividing
differently on the different points. Judge Douglas does not discuss the merits of the decision; and, in that respect, I shall
follow his example, believing I could no more improve on McLean and Curtis, than he could on Taney....
Why this same Supreme court once decided a national bank to be constitutional; but Gen. Jackson, as President of the
United States, disregarded the decision, and vetoed a bill for a re-charter, partly on constitutional ground, declaring that
each public functionary must support the Constitution, "as he understands it ." But hear the General’s own words. Here
they are, taken from his veto message:
"It is maintained by the advocates of the bank, that its constitutionality, in all its features, ought to be considered as
settled by precedent, and by the decision of the Supreme Court. To this conclusion I cannot assent. Mere precedent is a
dangerous source of authority, and should not be regarded as deciding questions of constitutional power, except where
the acquiescence of the people and the States can be considered as well settled. So far from this being the case on this
subject, an argument against the bank might be based on precedent. One Congress in 1791, decided in favor of a
bank; another in 1811, decided against it. One Congress in 1815 decided against a bank; another in 1816 decided in its
favor. Prior to the present Congress, therefore the precedents drawn from that source were equal. If we resort to the
States, the expressions of legislative, judicial and executive opinions against the bank have been probably to those in its
favor as four to one. There is nothing in precedent, therefore, which if its authority were admitted, ought to weigh in
favor of the act before me."
I drop the quotations merely to remark that all there ever was, in the way of precedent up to the Dred Scott decision, on
the points therein decided, had been against that decision. But hear Gen. Jackson further-
"If the opinion of the Supreme court covered the whole ground of this act, it ought not to control the co-ordinate
authorities of this Government. The Congress, the executive and the court, must each for itself be guided by its own
opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer, who takes an oath to support the Constitution, swears that he will
support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others." ........
I have said, in substance, that the Dred Scott decision was, in part, based on assumed historical facts which were not
really true; and I ought not to leave the subject without giving some reasons for saying this; I therefore give an instance
or two, which I think fully sustain me. Chief Justice Taney, in delivering the opinion of the majority of the Court, insists at
great length that negroes were no part of the people who made, or for whom was made, the Declaration of
Independence, or the Constitution of the United States.
On the contrary, Judge Curtis, in his dissenting opinion, shows that in five of the then thirteen states, to wit, New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina, free negroes were voters, and, in proportion to
their numbers, had the same part in making the Constitution that the white people had. He shows this with so much
particularity as to leave no doubt of its truth; and, as a sort of conclusion on that point, holds the following language:
"The Constitution was ordained and established by the people of the United States, through the action, in each State, of
those persons who were qualified by its laws to act thereon in behalf of themselves and all other citizens of the State. In
some of the States, as we have seen, colored persons were among those qualified by law to act on the subject. These
colored persons were not only included in the body of `the people of the United States,- by whom the Constitution was
ordained and established; but in at least five of the States they had the power to act, and, doubtless, did act, by their
suffrages, upon the question of its adoption."
Again, Chief Justice Taney says: "It is difficult, at this day to realize the state of public opinion in relation to that
unfortunate race, which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of
Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted." And again, after quoting from
the Declaration, he says: "The general words above quoted would seem to include the whole human family, and if they
were used in a similar instrument at this day, would be so understood."
In these the Chief Justice does not directly assert, but plainly assumes, as a fact, that the public estimate of the black
man is more favorable now than it was in the days of the Revolution. This assumption is a mistake. In some trifling
particulars, the condition of that race has been ameliorated; but, as a whole, in this country, the change between then
and now is decidedly the other way; and their ultimate destiny has never appeared so hopeless as in the last three or
four years. In two of the five States-New Jersey and North Carolina-that then gave the free negro the right of voting, the
right has since been taken away; and in a third-New York-it has been greatly abridged; while it has not been extended,
so far as I know, to a single additional State, though the number of the States has more than doubled. In those days, as
I understand, masters could, at their own pleasure, emancipate their slaves; but since then, such legal restraints have
been made upon emancipation, as to amount almost to prohibition. In those days, Legislatures held the unquestioned
power to abolish slavery in their respective States; but now it is becoming quite fashionable for State Constitutions to
withhold that power from the Legislatures. In those days, by common consent, the spread of the black man’s bondage to
new countries was prohibited; but now, Congress decides that it will not continue the prohibition, and the Supreme Court
decides that it could not if it would. In those days, our Declaration of Independence was held sacred by all, and thought
to include all; but now, to aid in making the bondage of the negro universal and eternal, it is assailed, and sneered at,
and construed, and hawked at, and torn, till, if its framers could rise from their graves, they could not at all recognize it.
All the powers of earth seem rapidly combining against him. Mammon is after him; ambition follows, and philosophy
follows, and the Theology of the day is fast joining the cry. They have him in his prison house; they have searched his
person, and left no prying instrument with him. One after another they have closed the heavy iron doors upon him, and
now they have him, as it were, bolted in with a lock of a hundred keys, which can never be unlocked without the
concurrence of every key; the keys in the hands of a hundred different men, and they scattered to a hundred different
and distant places; and they stand musing as to what invention, in all the dominions of mind and matter, can be
produced to make the impossibility of his escape more complete than it is.....
There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people, to the idea of an indiscriminate amalgamation of the
white and black races; and Judge Douglas evidently is basing his chief hope, upon the chances of being able to
appropriate the benefit of this disgust to himself. If he can, by much drumming and repeating, fasten the odium of that
idea upon his adversaries, he thinks he can struggle through the storm. He therefore clings to this hope, as a drowning
man to the last plank. He makes an occasion for lugging it in from the opposition to the Dred Scott decision. He finds the
Republicans insisting that the Declaration of Independence includes ALL men, black as well as white; and forth-with he
boldly denies that it includes negroes at all, and proceeds to argue gravely that all who contend it does, do so only
because they want to vote, and eat, and sleep, and marry with negroes! He will have it that they cannot be consistent
else. Now I protest against that counterfeit logic which concludes that, because I do not want a black woman for a slave I
must necessarily want her for a wife. I need not have her for either, I can just leave her alone. In some respects she
certainly is not my equal; but in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands without asking leave of
any one else, she is my equal, and the equal of all others.
Chief Justice Taney, in his opinion in the Dred Scott case, admits that the language of the Declaration is broad enough
to include the whole human family, but he and Judge Douglas argue that the authors of that instrument did not intend to
include negroes, by the fact that they did not at once, actually place them on an equality with the whites. Now this grave
argument comes to just nothing at all, by the other fact, that they did not at once, or ever afterwards, actually place all
white people on an equality with one or another. And this is the staple argument of both the Chief Justice and the
Senator, for doing this obvious violence to the plain unmistakable language of the Declaration. I think the authors of that
notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects. They did
not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity. They defined with
tolerable distinctness, in what respects they did consider all men created equal-equal in "certain inalienable rights,
among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This they said, and this meant. They did not mean to assert
the obvious untruth, that all were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet, that they were about to confer it
immediately upon them. In fact they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that
the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for
free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even
though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its
influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere. The assertion that "all
men are created equal" was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the
Declaration, nor for that, but for future use. Its authors meant it to be, thank God, it is now proving itself, a stumbling
block to those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism. They knew
the proneness of prosperity to breed tyrants, and they meant when such should re-appear in this fair land and
commence their vocation they should find left for them at least one hard nut to crack....
This very Dred Scott case affords a strong test as to which party most favors amalgamation, the Republicans or the
dear Union-saving Democracy. Dred Scott, his wife and two daughters were all involved in the suit. We desired the court
to have held that they were citizens so far at least as to entitle them to a hearing as to whether they were free or not;
and then, also, that they were in fact and in law really free. Could we have had our way, the chances of these black girls,
ever mixing their blood with that of white people, would have been diminished at least to the extent that it could not have
been without their consent. But Judge Douglas is delighted to have them decided to be slaves, and not human enough
to have a hearing, even if they were free, and thus left subject to the forced concubinage of their masters, and liable to
become the mothers of mulattoes in spite of themselves-the very state of case that produces nine tenths of all the
mulattoes-all the mixing of blood in the nation.
The Jacksonian Court
|Chief Justice Roger B. Taney
5th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court
(March 17, 1777 - October 12, 1864)
Appointed by Andrew Jackson
1845-1872, Associate Justice
(November 10, 1792 – December 13, 1873)
Appointed by John Tyler
|John A. Campbell
1853-1861, Associate Justice
Confederate Assistant Secretary of War
(June 24, 1811 – March 12, 1889)
Appointed by Franklin Pierce
|Robert C. Grier
1846-1870, Associate Justice
(March 5, 1794 – September 25, 1870)
Appointed by James K. Polk
|James M. Wayne
1835-1867, Associate Justice
(1790 – July 5, 1867)
Appointed by Andrew Jackson
|Benjamin R. Curtis
1851-1857, Associate Justice
(November 4, 1809 – September 15, 1874)
Appointed by Millard Fillmore
1837-186, Associate Justice
(January 7, 1786 – May 30, 1865)
Appointed by Andrew Jackson
1830-1861, Associate Justice
(March 11, 1785 – April 4, 1861)
Appointed by Andrew Jackson
|Bingham v. Cabot
|Jackson v. Ashton,
|Capron v. Van Noorden
|Montalet v. Murray
|United States v. Smith,
|State v. Claiborne.
|Legrand v. Darnall
|American and Ocean
Insurance Companies v.
|Taney, McLean, Curtis
|Strader et al. v. Graham,
|Turner v. Eurille
|Abercrombie v. Dupuis et al.
|Wood v. Wagnon
|The United States v. The
brig Union et al.,
|Sullivan v. The Fulton
|Mollan et al. v. Torrence,
|Brown v. Keene
|Jackson v. Ashton
|Capron v. Van Noorden,
|The State of Rhode Island v.
The State of Massachusetts,
|Givens v. Mann
|Pollard's Lessee v. Hagan
|Parmoli v. The First
Municipality of New Orleans,
|Johnson v. McIntosh
|Harcourt v. Gaillord
|Groves v. Slaughter
|Loughborough v. Blake
|Cross v. Harrison
|Chirae v. Chirae,
|Prigg v. The State of
|Groves v. Slaughter
|McCulloch v. The State of
|Winny v. Whiteside
|Mollan v. Torrance
|Pequignot v. The
Pennsylvania R.R. Co
|Cutler v. Rae,
|Sheppard v. Graves
|Wickliffe v. Owings
|Gassies v. Ballon
|McIlvain v. Coxe's Lessee
|Inglis v. Sailors' Snug Harbor
|Shanks v. Dupont
|United States v. Bevans
|Cerre v. Pitot
|Stuart v. Laird
|Martin v. Hunter
|Cohens v. Virginia
|Cooley v. Port Wardens
|Loughborough v. Blake
|United States v. Marigold
|Taylor et al. v. Morton
|Foster v. Nicolson
|Garcia v. Lee
|New Orleans v. De Armas et
|Chouteau v. Marguerita,
|Permoli v. New Orleans
|Peter Vivian Daniel
1841 – 1860 Associate Justice
(April 24, 1784 – May 31, 1860)
Appointed by Martin Van Buren
Strader et al. v. Graham
The Chief Justice, in delivering the opinion of the court,
every State has an undoubted right to determine the status or
domestic and social condition of the persons domiciled within its
territory, except insofar as the powers of the States in this
respect are restrained, or duties and obligations imposed upon
them, by the Constitution of the United States. There is nothing
in the Constitution of the United States, he observes that can in
any degree control the law of Kentucky upon this subject. And
the condition of the negroes, therefore, as to freedom or
slavery after their return depended altogether upon the laws of
that State, and could not be influenced by the laws of Ohio. It
was exclusively in the power of Kentucky to determine for
herself whether their employment in another State should or
should not make them free on their return.
Mr. Chief Justice Marshall in the American Insurance Company v.
Canter, 1 Peters 542,
the Constitution confers absolutely on the Government of the
Union the powers of making war and of making treaties;
consequently, that Government possesses the power of
acquiring territory either by conquest or treaty.
|Federal Court Cases Cited by Justice
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