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David Hines [userpic]

150th anniversary of Dred Scott

March 6th, 2007 (01:50 pm)
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Today is the 150th anniversary of the US Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, which concluded that one Dred Scott, a slave who had lived in free states with his owner, did not become free by virtue of having entered places where slavery was illegal. Also noteworthy was the court's rationale for holding that even free blacks could not be citizens of the United States.

For if they were so received, and entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens, it would exempt them from the operation of the special laws and from the police regulations which they considered to be necessary for their own safety. It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went. And all of this would be done in the face of the subject race of the same color, both free and slaves, and inevitably producing discontent and insubordination among them, and endangering the peace and safety of the State.

It is impossible, it would seem, to believe that the great men of the slaveholding States, who took so large a share in framing the Constitution of the United States, and exercised so much influence in procuring its adoption, could have been so forgetful or regardless of their own safety and the safety of those who trusted and confided in them.


Scott died of tuberculosis in 1858, and didn't live to see the abolition of slavery. Except, that is, for himself and his family. While Scott lost his case, the sons of his first owner bought the Scott family's freedom. The 150th anniversary of Dred Scott's emancipation comes a little over two months from now, on May 26th.