The Dred Scott Case Decided

    Source citation
    "The Dred Scott Case Decided," Charleston (SC) Mercury, March 11, 1857, p. 2.
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    Charleston (SC) Mercury
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    The Dred Scott Case Decided.
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    Sayo Ayodele
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    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
    The Dred Scott Case Decided.

    WASHINGTON, March 6, 1857. – The opinion of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case was delivered by Chief Justice TANEY. It was a full and elaborate statement of the views of the Court. They have decided the following points.

    First. Negroes, whether slave or free, that is, men of the African race, are not citizens of the United States, by the constitution.

    Second. The ordinance of 1787 had no independent constitutional force of legal effect subsequent to the adoption of the constitution; and could not operate of itself to confer freedom or citizenship within the Northwest territory on negros, not citizens by the constitution.

    Third. The provisions of the act of 1820, commonly called the Missouri Compromise, in so far as it undertook to exclude negro slavery from and communicate freedom and citizenship to negros in the Northern part of the Louisiana cession, was a legislative act exceeding the powers of Congress, and void, and of no legal effect to that end.  

    In deciding these main points the Supreme Court determined the following incidental points:

    First. The expression “territory and other property” of the Union, in the constitution, applies “in terms” only to such a territory as the Union possessed at the time of the adoption of the constitution.

    Second. The right of citizens in the United States emigrating into any Federal territory, and the power of the Federal Government there depend on the general provisions of the constitution, which defines in this, as in all other respects, the powers of Congress.

    Third. As Congress does not possess power itself to make enactments relative to the persons or property of the United States in a Federal territory, other than such as the constitution confers, so it cannot constitutionally delegate any such powers to a Territorial Government, organized by it under the constitution.

    Fourth. The legal condition of a slave in the State of Missouri is not affected by the temporary sojourn of such slave in any other State, but on his return his condition still depends on the laws of Missouri.

    As the plaintiff was not a citizen of Missouri, he therefore could not sue in the Courts of the United States. The suit must be dismissed for want of jurisdiction.

    The delivery of this opinion occupied about three hours, and was listened to with profound attention by a crowded Court-room.

    Judge Nelson stated the merits of the case. The question was whether or not the removal of Scott from Missouri with his master to Illinois, with a view to temporary residence there, worked his emancipation. He maintained that the question depended wholly on the law of Missouri, and for that reason the judgment of the Court below should be affirmed.

    Judge Catron believed the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to decide the merits of the case. He argued that Congress could not do directly what it could not do indirectly. If it could exclude one species of property it could exclude another. With regard to the territories ceded, Congress could govern them only with the restrictions to the States which ceded them; and the Missouri act of 1820 violated this leading feature of the constitution, and was therefore void. He concurred with his brother Judges, that Scott is a slave, and was so when this suit was brought.

    Several other Judges are to deliver their views to morrow.
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