Dred Scott Decision
In 1847, Dred Scottwent to trial to sue for is freedom. After ten years of his case being appealed, it was finally brought to the United States Supreme Court. Dred Scott was taken by his owner from the slave state, Missouri to the free state, Illinois and then to the free territory, Wisconsin. He lived there for an extended time. Then his owner took him back to Missouri, there his owner died.
He was suing in court, saying “he should be free since he had lived on free soil for a long time”. Early spring in 1857, Dred Scott lost, seven out of nine Justices proclaimed “No slave or descendant of a slave could be a U.S. citizen, or even had been a U.S. citizen. As a non-citizen, Scott had no rights and could not sue in a Federal Court and must remain a slave”.The courts decision changed the status of every African American in the U.S. All abolitionists were appalled at the ruling. The north grew in fury. Northerners protested that the decision violated the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. Southerners agreed with the decision because the court couldn’t decide if no slavery was allowed in the territories. The Dred Scott Decision opened the eyes of many to the political and “social” space between the north and south.

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The Missouri Compromise (1820)
Slavery had been a big issue long before Missouri wanted to join the Union in 1818 as a state. Since the Revolution, the US gained 9 new states making a total of 22. These had been maintained to be equal between free and slave states. There were 11 free and slave states. This gave each “group” equal representation in the Senate. The free states though gave had control of the House of Representatives 105 votes to 81.

In New York during February 1819, Representative James Tallmadge proposed an amendment to ban slavery in Missouri (even though there was over 2,000 slaves living there) again the country was faced with the issue of the spread of slavery.

The south was dependent on slavery. South demanded that the North recognize its right to have slaves.

Thanks to Henry Clay a compromise was reached March3, 1820. (After Maine petitioned for statehood.) Both states were then admitted. Maine as a free state, and Missouri as a slave state. This kept the two “groups” even. However in attempt to address the further issue of slavery, all the Louisiana Purchase territory north of the southern boundary of Missouri (not including Missouri) would be free. Anything below that would have slavery. That was theMissouri Compromise .


The Compromise of 1850

After the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the issue over slavery in the U.S. appeared to have been resolved. A little less than 30 years later however, the matter resurfaced as a result of many new changes in the United States. First of all, an immense amount of land had been won from the war with Mexico, and there was a great debate over whether or not slavery would be allowed in these new territories. Second, California had recently petitioned Congress to enter the Union as a free state, as its population had greatly increased due to the California Gold Rush. Many members of Congress were wary of accepting the territory into the Union however, as a new state would cause an uneven balance between slave states and free states, and this would almost certainly cause war. Another issue at hand was the fact that Washington D.C. allowed slavery and had become one of the nations biggest slave markets. This did not sit well with many people, and in 1850, Henry Clay recognized that a compromise would need to be made in order to fix all of these problems.

First proposed on January 29, 1850 by Henry Clay, the Compromise of 1850 stated a few things. It said that:
1. California would enter the Union as a free state.
2. The land won from Mexico would be divided into two territories, New Mexico and Utah, and that the people of these areas would decide on slavery according to popular sovereignty.
3. The slave trade would be abolished in the District of Columbia.
4. The Fugitive Slave Act would be put into action. This act stated that all citizens and federal officers would be required to assist in the capture of runaway slaves.

When President Taylor first reviewed the bill, he declined to pass it as a law because he felt that it tied up to many bills into one law. When he died in July of 1850 and was seceded by Millard Filmore, Filmore decided that the bill should be passed, and therefore The Compromise of 1850 became a law in September of 1850. Because of this bill, the controversy over slaves was believed to have been halted, however the solution was only temporary, and soon the nation would be divided once again over the issue of slavery.


This is a pictue of Henry Clay presenting the Compromise of 1850 to the Senate.

Kansas - Nebraska Act (1854)

In 1854, Senator Stephen Douglas introduced a bill into Congress in hopes of organizing the land north of latitude 36° 30’ into the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. Douglas was anxious to see the territories become developed as he wanted the federal government to help build a railroad from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean. The Kansas – Nebraska Act proposed that people in the territories should decide about slavery on the basis of popular sovereignty. This Act also served to repeal the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which had prohibited any slavery above the latitude 36° 30’.

Upon hearing about the Kansas – Nebraska Act, many Northerners became enraged. They considered the Missouri Compromise to be a long-standing binding agreement, and did not see any reason for treating it as anything else. Southerners on the other hand, liked the idea of the new Act, and they saw it as an opportunity for more territories with slavery to come into existence.

After some debate, President Franklin Pierce signed the bill, and the Kansas – Nebraska Act became a law in May of 1854. This Act would later lead to much controversy including the ever famous “Bleeding Kansas ”.

The Dred Scott Case (1856)

In 1856 an important case came up in the Supreme Court that would bring about even more controversy about slavery. This case was known as the Dred Scott Case. Dred Scott was a slave of a doctor, Dr. John Emerson, who lived in Missouri. He traveled with his master a lot and had been taken into a territory in which Congress had forbidden slavery. Upon his master’s death, Dred Scott believed that since he had been taken to free territories, he was therefore a free man.

Upon presenting his case to the Missouri court, it was ruled that Scott was in fact now a free man. This was not the outcome that many were expecting and hoping for, because Missouri was actually a pro-slavery state. Scott’s case was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1856, under the Chief Justice Roger Taney.

The Dred Scott case is one that is today known as the worst Supreme Court decision ever. Not only was it decided that Scott was still a slave, but the court also tried to decide what exactly slavery was. Because they ruled that slaves were legal property with no legal rights, they decided that the Dred Scott case should never even have been tried, because he had no legal rights. This decision was horrible however and should not have been made because the court went far beyond the bounds of the original case. Justice Taney tried to settle the slavery question once and for all, but he had no legal precedent for his action, so this was a horrible decision on his part.

Along with the decision that Scott was still a slave, there were other things that resulted from this case. First of all, it was declared that all blacks, both slave and free, would not and could not ever become legal citizens of the United States. Second of all, it was decided that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was unconstitutional. In the 5th Amendment, it states that the private property of all citizens is to be protected and cannot be taken away by the government. Because slaves were considered to be private property, it was considered unconstitutional for there to be areas in which run away slaves could become free. This went against protecting the private property of all citizens, and as a result, there was no longer a distinction between slave and free states.


This is a picture of Dred Scott.

**__The End of Reconstruction__**

The main nominee for the Republican Party was Abraham Lincoln. A strong, fearless and courageous leader who was sure to end slavery if voted President. He was born and raised in Illinois and had lost every election he had ever tried to win. This election would not be different. He had very strong opponents such as John C. Breckinridge, John Bell and Stephen A. Douglas.

Most of the Northern campaign was dominated by Lincoln and Douglas and in the South it was between Beckinridge and Bell. Douglas was the first Presidential candidate to give nationwide speeches. He even traveled to the south and was brave enough to cheer and lecture about Union beliefs. Because of the Dred Scott Case, the Union gained much poularity throughout the North.

But the election really got interesting when the Democrats started crusading about secession and Civil War. But the Republicans paid no attention to them and continued on. They could feel that victory was near because they owned most of the Electoral College's votes. In order to win, the candidate must have at least 152 electoral votes.

On November 6th, the election was held and it wasn't even close. Abraham Lincoln got 180 of the 303 electoral votes, the only candidate who got 152 or more. The closest was Beckinridge, who ended with 72. In third, John Bell took 39 votes. In fourth, Stephen A. Douglas took only 12 electoral votes. So Lincoln was voted President, thus starting the talk of secession and Civil War.


This is a campaign poster for Abraham Lincoln during the election of 1860.