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Primary Documents in American History

Dred Scott v. Sandford

Dred Scott
Dred Scott.
1 print: engraving.
Wood engaving in
'Century Magazine', 1887.
Prints and Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:

The Supreme Court decision Dred Scott v. Sandford was issued on March 6, 1857. Delivered by Chief Justice Roger Taney, this opinion declared that slaves were not citizens of the United States and could not sue in Federal courts. In addition, this decision declared that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional and that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in the territories. The Dred Scott decision was overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Ditigal Collections

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

Abraham Lincoln wrote a speech examining the constitutional implications of the Dred Scott Case in December 1856.

The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress

On May 14, 1857, Frederick Douglass delivered a speech discussing the Dred Scott decision on the anniversary of the American Abolition Society.

Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860

Montgomery Blair, Dred Scott’s attorney, filed Supreme Court briefs No. 7 and No. 137 during the Scott v. Sanford case.

The Dred Scott opinion was reprinted by Horace Greeley & Co. in 1860, which included an abstract of the opinions of the other Supreme Court judges and a report from a Joint Committee of the Senate and Assembly of New York. Also, Howard's Reports published another copy of the Dred Scott decision.

Numerous law review articles were published in reaction to the Dred Scott decision in 1857, including Thomas H. Benton’s historical and legal examination, Horace Gray and John Lowell’s review from the Law Reporter, Samuel Foot's examination of the case, and a legal review attributed simply to “A Kentucky Lawyer.”

Words and Deeds in American History

Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote a letter to Caleb Cushing on November 9, 1857, thanking Cushing for his support of Taney's decision in the Dred Scott case.

From Slavery to Freedom: The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1824-1909

Includes a pamphlet entitled "The Slavery Question. Dred Scott Decision: To the Free Voters of Ohio."

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Chronicling America

This site allows you to search and view millions of historic American newspaper pages from 1836-1922. Search this collection to find newspaper articles that discuss the Dred Scott Case.

A selection of articles about the Dred Scott Case includes:

Today in History

May 21, 1796

Reverdy Johnson was born in Annapolis, Maryland on May, 21, 1796. Johnson, although personally opposed to slavery, was the attorney who represented the slave owner in the Dred Scott case.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

The Dred Scott Case, National Park Service

The Dred Scott Case, Washington University in St. Louis

Landmark Cases, Dred Scott v. Sandford, Street Law and the Supreme Court Historical Society

Landmark Decisions, Scott v. Sandford, Findlaw

Our Documents, Dred Scott v. Sanford, National Archives and Records Administration

Selected Bibliography

Ehrlich, Walter. They Have No Rights: Dred Scott's Struggle for Freedom. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1979. [Catalog Record]

Fehrenbacher, Don E. The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. [Catalog Record]

Finkelman, Paul. Dred Scott v. Sandford: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997. [Catalog Record]

Kaufman, Kenneth C. Dred Scott's Advocate: A Biography of Roswell M. Field. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996. [Catalog Record]

Konig, David Thomas, Paul Finkelman, and Christopher Alan Bracey, eds. The Dred Scott Case: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Race and Law. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010. [Catalog Record]

Maltz, Earl M. Dred Scott and the Politics of Slavery. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

January, Brendan. The Dred Scott Decision. New York: Children's Press, 1998. [Catalog Record]

Fleischner, Jennifer. The Dred Scott Case: Testing the Right to Live Free. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, 1997. [Catalog Record]

Freedman, Suzanne. Roger Taney: The Dred Scott Legacy. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 1995. [Catalog Record]

Herda, D. J. The Dred Scott Case: Slavery and Citizenship. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 2011. [Catalog Record]

Skog, Jason. The Dred Scott Decision. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2007. [Catalog Record]

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  January 20, 2015
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