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Dred Scott Decision

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Introduction

This case is one of the most controversial US Court cases known. This case was presided over by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney on March 6, 1857 and delivered a ruling that was to later become a landmark ruling. In his ruling Taney gave the court’s opinion, in which the different sides of the justices present had varying opinions.  He concluded that Africans would have been brought to the US as slaves, could not be protected by the US constitution and thus not US nationals. The court further argued that the congress had no mandate to do away with slavery in federal states and thus Scott not being a national was not entitled to the US constitutional rights and could not sue in court (Fahrenbacher, pg 237). The ruling also considered slaves as personal belongings and thus, could not be taken from the owner without following the due procedure. Scott had decided to sue Emerson on the basis that he was living in Free states and thus was entitled to his freedom and that of his wife as well as daughter. His case was dismissed but this did not deter the quest for constitutional recognition for blacks. This case was among the cases that laid a basis for activism against slavery with a view for freedom for the blacks in the US.

Economic Causes and Effects of the Dred Scott Decision

The Dred Scott vs Sandford case was a case revolving around slavery which was so rampant in the US at the time. Slaves were very important in the US at that time, economic wise. They were used by their masters for economic gains and this fact greatly influenced the ruling of this case. In his ruling Justice Tanney inferred that slaves were personal property of the owner and thus they could not be taken away from the owner without there being some sort of settlements. This meant that taking away slaves from their owners was unconstitutional since it was tantamount to confiscating of personal property by the authorities concerned. The effect of this ruling from an economic perspective was that, it meant that this would increase slavery in the US, since masters would regard slaves as their own property and thus entitled to full authority over them. This meant that even the ban on slavery in Free states was unconstitutional and thus citizens from these states could acquire slaves since they would be their property. This ruling was one of the contributors to the panic of 1857, which led to a serious economic downtown which hit its maximum shortly after this ruling was passed. This ruling meant that westerners would be subjected to slavery and this would have a big impact on western states assets securities (Fahrenbacher, pg619). This was a great implication and led to an increase in the panic since the financial and political future could not be guaranteed.

Social Causes and Effects of the Dred Scott Decision

The Dred Scott decision was a harsh ruling that was arrived at with a major social bias. Black slaves were discriminated against because of their race and their place in their society. The consideration made in the ruling that Scott was a slave and could not be entitled to constitutional rights (Stephen, pg343). This was because slaves and their descendants were not perceived as nationals of the US hence had no rights constitutionally. Slaves of African origin were considered to be inferior to the other US citizens and thus could not be allowed US rights and citizenships. The effect of this ruling socially was that slavery would penetrate into the Free states since socially the slaves were seen as humans of lower order and befitting slavery. This led to tensions between pro-slavery and anti-slavery territories. The south was pro-slavery and the north against it and this resulted in the American civil war (Stephen, pg521).

Political Causes and Effects of the Dred Scott Decision

The political factor behind the decision was the fact that constitutions of non slavery free states did not give rights to black slaves. This ruling being a ruling by the Supreme Court meant that it overruled even the constitution rights enjoyed by slaves in slavery Free states. This led to a need for a political action from the northerners since they feared that slavery could finally find its way into the non slavery Free states (Pollard, pg171). The political differences between the north and the south on the issue were so pronounced that the parties resulted to a civil war as the only solution. The case had serious implications on federalism and was the turning point of the US politics. This case in some way empowered the national government since states had to cede part of the powers that they wielded to the national government. The citizen’s right to property was strengthened as opposed to prior regulations by states, and thus no personal property could be taken away unless the right procedure was followed. This case has a significant effect in that it is referred to in various political cases in the US. It also led to the civil war and brought about civil rights activism in the US through civil movements.

Conclusion

The Dred Scott decision was a landmark ruling which highly undermined the rights of slaves in the US. The judgment was based on social aspects which were based on race rather than the principles of law. This ruling spurred action, which led to the recognition of rights of blacks in the US after the civil war. It also led to the change in the political perspective in the US and this case is referred to in various other cases in the US (Pollard, pg312). This case also brought about civil rights movements and civil rights activism. All in all the judgment has served well in ensuring blacks liberation in the US, though the decision itself was an act of injustice to slaves.

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