‘Dred Scott’ Ruling Says Slaves Are Property, Not Citizens

1857

The U.S. Supreme Court decides the landmark Dred Scott v. Sandford case. Born a slave, Scott had lived with his owner in the slave state of Missouri. After his first owner died, he moved with his new one to the free state of Illinois and later to the free territory of Wisconsin. Several years later, after his second owner died, he returned to Missouri. In 1847, he sued for his freedom, pointing to the years he lived in free territories. Ten years later, the U.S. Supreme Court holds that slaves are property and have no right to sue. The Court says that people of African ancestry can never become U.S. citizens. It also invalidates the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which restricted slavery in certain territories. The Court further explains that slave owners cannot be deprived of their property (slaves) because citizens cannot be deprived of “life, liberty or property without due process of law,” as established by the Fifth Amendment.