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US Civil War
History of the United States

Who won the Dred Scott v Sanford case?


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May 19, 2011 2:45PM

John Sanford won.

Dred Scott sued for his freedom. The US Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in defendant John Sanford's favor, returning Dred Scott and his family to slavery. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivered the Opinion of the Court that held slaves, former slaves and descendants of slaves could never be US citizens.

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Dred Scott, a slave, sued his owner for his freedom, based on the argument that while he and his wife were slaves, they had lived in states and territories where slavery was illegal according to the laws of those states and territories.

The US Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 that no person of African ancestry, whether or not they were slaves, could claim citizenship in the United States, and therefore could not bring suit in federal court. It further ruled that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in the federal territories, and that slaves, as private property, could not be removed from their owners without due process.

The ruling significantly exacerbated tensions between northern and southern states, a situation which ultimately led to the Civil War. It was not rendered invalid until passage of the 13th Constitutional Amendment, 11 years later.

Scott was returned, as property, to his owner. The case had attracted widespread attention, and under intense pressure from abolitionists, the owner returned Scott to his original owners, the Blow family, who emancipated him under the terms of the Missouri Compromise.

Case Citation:

Dred Scott v. Sanford, 60 US 393 (1857)

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