The Reaction to the Dred Scott Decision

Alix Oswald

Abstract


The 1850s were a period marred by an intensifying sectional crisis between the North and South. One of the maincauses of this sectional tension was slavery, as northerners and southerners had diametrically opposed views on the subject. In 1856, the United States Supreme Court heard the case of Scott v. Sandford, which was a lawsuit in which a Missouri slave, Dred Scott, sued his master, John Sanford, for his freedom.For many Americans, the outcome of this case was incredibly important because theybelieved that itwould settle the slavery question once and for all, making slavery either legal or illegal throughout the entire nation. In March of 1857, the Supreme Court rendered its so-called “Dred Scott” decision, which sent shockwaves through the nation as it declared Scott still a slave and made even more controversial rulings on the Missouri Compromise, the citizenship of blacks, and the legislative rights of Congress in the territories. This paper focuses on the nation’s reaction to the Dred Scott decision, and through the use of newspapers and political speeches, it examines whether the reactions varied by geographical region, as well as by political party affiliation. It also examines whether the Dred Scott decision had any effect or influence on American politics, the intensifying sectional crisis, or the outbreak of the Civil War.

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