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Dred Scott (New York Times)


“Dred Scott,” New York Times, September 21, 1858, p. 4.

Dred Scott.

It is not well to let the great pass away without note and worthy
honor. DRED SCOTT is dead. Yesterday, from St. Louis, that illustrious
personage carried his case to the Supreme Court above, not doubting, we
may believe, that the adverse decision he encountered here will there
meet with reversal, and that he will be at once admitted to a better
freedom and more equal citizenship. It is only now and then we are
called to regret the loss of the truly eminent. Once or twice, perhaps,
in a generation. DRED is of these. His name will live when those of
CLAY, and CALHOUN, and BENTON will be feebly remembered or wholly
forgotten. Posterity will make inquiry about the subject of that great
leading case, decisive of human right, upon which the fate of the Union
was in his day presumed to depend, and will gather up what particulars
lie scattered up and down contemporary chronicles regarding him. So, by
all means, let the noted negro have his obituary and monument with the

DRED SCOTT died at a very advanced age. Longer ago than anybody can
remember, he was born, down in Virginia, on the property of the BLOW
family, which, from the name, we may judge to be extensively connected
with the first families. Captain PETER BLOW, while yet our hero was of
tender years, moved away from the home of his race to Missouri,
carrying DRED with him; and there, as was to be anticipated even for
the BLOWS, succumbed to the common fate. After other changes, and after
accepting the claims of several reputable gentlemen in succession to
the ownership of his soul, the Negro, in 1834, came into the hands of
Dr. EMERSON, a surgeon in the Army, who carried him along to Rock
Island, in Illinois, and subsequently to Fort Snelling, in the
Northwest Territory of that day. At the latter point, in 1836, he
married HARRIET, another chattel of the migratory surgeon, by whom he
had the two children who figured in the suit, ELIZA and LIZZIE, and who
still live. Dr. EMERSON, in 1838, gave over his roaming, settling down
quietly in Missouri, where some dozen years ago he died, leaving the
slaves in trust to Mr. JOHN F. A. SANDFORD, the executor of his will,
and the defendant in the famous suit. It is ten years ago since DRED
brought suit for his freedom, and that of his wife and family, in the
Circuit Court of St. Louis, asserting it on the ground of their owner
having voluntarily taken them, in the first instance, to soil declared
free by the ordinance of 1787; in the second place, to soil acquired by
treaty with Louisiana, north of 36° 30’, and therefore free by the
terms of the Missouri Compromise. His claim was held valid by the local
Court; but, upon appeal, it was denied by the Supreme Court of the
State, which sent the case back to the lower tribunal. It passed thence
into the Circuit and Supreme Courts of the United States, where, at the
December Term of 1856, it was finally decided against DRED and his
pretensions. The majority of the Court were of opinion that
“A negro held in Slavery in one State, under the laws thereof, and
taken by his master, for a temporary residence, into a State where
Slavery is prohibited by law, and thence into a Territory acquired by
treaty, where Slavery is prohibited by act of Congress, and afterwards
returning with his master into the same Slave State, and resuming his
residence there, is not such a citizen of that State as may sue there
in the Circuit Court of the United States, if by the law of that State
a negro under such circumstances is a Slave.”

Of course this decision, with the general results of which we have now
nothing to do, extinguished the hopes of the hapless DRED. The freedom
he sighed for was not, however, so remote as he supposed. Shortly after
the judgment his owner determined, indeed had long previously
determined, but then proceeded, to consummate the emancipation of the
veteran negro and his family. The owner was the Hon. CALVIN C. CHAFFEE,
of Massachusetts. But, as under the laws of Missouri the act of
emancipation can only be performed by a citizen of that State, the four
items of personal property were made over to Mr. TAYLOR BLOW, a son of
Capt. PETER above referred to, who, on the 26th of May, 1857, gave
liberty to the happy captives. The transaction was probably as
gratifying as it was becoming to Mr. BLOW, who a half century before
had been a play-mate of the colored hero. We have been informed that
charitable hands have smoothed the later path of DRED and his HARRIET,
so that a freedom so tardily come by, has not been attended by its
usual awkwardness, abuse and suffering.

Of a truth, few men who have achieved greatness have won it so
effectually as this black champion. There is little it may be of merit
in his personal service. Others doubtless, for uses of their own, have
prompted and paid for the fight. But he belongs to a class whose names
are accidentally but ineffacebly associated with critical or memorable
facts in history; and who are therefore surer of immortality than the
authors themselves of the events. The “Clay Compromise,” the “Wilmot
Proviso,” the “Dred Scott Decision,” the “English Bill,” of
contemporary annals, are to be classed with the “Lex Julia,” the
“Methuen Treaty,” the “Code Napoleon,” of the past; facts and results,
to which chance rather than merit has attached names, which they shall
perpetuate indefinitely. It shall always be remembered that in the
person of the old negro who died yesterday the highest tribunal of
America decided that an African was not a man, and could not therefore
be a citizen of the United States.


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