Dred Scott V. Sandford’s Impact on History

The issues of the extension of slavery into western territories greatly contributed to the Civil War. The opposition between free and slaves’ states was pretty intense and birthed the creation of new Compromises. In order to please both sides, popular sovereignty was granted to both parties. However, it only changed the already delicate situation between the North and South. Northerners were opposed slavery spreading, meanwhile southerners believed it to be a traditional way of life. An enslaved man named Dred Scott was born into slavery in Virgina. Many believe Scott has both negative and positive impacts in history. Some say he was a major influence on the Civil War, while other argue we was a turning point to the freedom of African Americans. The case decision of Dred Scott v. Sandford had many political and legal consequences and accomplishments.

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Scott was at the forefront of national politics. He intended for his voice to be heard and would stop at nothing till his freedom was granted. However, he had many opposers to his case especially since he didn’t know how to read or write. A reporter on his case stated that African Americans were “…beings of an inferior order . . . unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations.” (Vaughn 2013) This was very unfortunate political officials did not consider them citizens regardless if they were free or a slave. Slaves were considered property and there was not much that could be done to change the minds of the people.

Luckily, Scott worked to spark a change and because of his effort many northerners seeked to become abolitionist. He was no foreigner to living in a free state as his owner took him to Wisconsin to live yet serve as a slave. This influenced him to sue for freedom. Many considered if this was a legit case or not. Former protestors said, “Dred Scott was not a citizen of Missouri within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, and not entitled as such to sue in its courts.” (Vaughn 2013) Scott had minimal political support in his case.

Based off the color of their skin, slaves were stripped off their rights. Unfortunately, it was illegal for a slave to be freed in a free state without the master’s permission. If a slave is the property of a master, then they can be taken into any territory and held there in slavery. In the Supreme Court, it was deemed that Congress had no power to ban slavery from the territories. However, Scott refused to accept that and continued to challenge the legal aspects of slavery. Many believe that Dred Scott’s failed legal battle for freedom helped set the stage for the looming national struggle over slavery. (Phillips 2012)

Scott had no right to sue, but many were glad he did. This was a key contributor to the Civil War and may even be considered the first shot fired. However, Scott’s main motive for pursing this case was to uproot his family from slavery. He had a wife and two daughters, and each was born into slavery, but felt entitled to be a free citizen. Although it took a while to make the decision, he knew it would be what’s best for his family. “The Scotts chose those that preserved their family stability and survival, even if doing so put off the ultimate decision to establish their freedom legally.” ( VanderVelde 2011)

Filing for freedom was not a popular activity. If a slave wanted to pursue a filing suit for freedom; it was not something that a slave did lightly. The petitioners seeking their freedom would always spend months or years waiting in jail. Researches state that at the same time, the courts were unwilling to free African Americans on their own recognizance while they were suing for freedom. (VanderVelde 2011) If this case slaves would be returned to their masters, that was troublesome because they would not be happy about being sued by their slaves. In many cases, some were placed in jail to wait for the disposition. In this sense, suing for freedom sometimes made their living circumstances worse.

Overall, the Justices ruled against Scott and did not support his freedom. Later, he was freed but died from tuberculosis. Scott was freed by an abolitionist who was appalled that his new wife owned slaves. Scott spent the rest of his short life in St. Louis and is highly spoken about in history classes all over the United States. The courage Dred Scott had set the standard for the freedom of African Americans made the 14th Amendment possible.    

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Dred Scott v. Sandford's Impact on History. (2021, Mar 26). Retrieved October 1, 2022 , from

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