Sectional Crisis: The Dred Scott Case

The Dred Scott case was yet another log that fueled the fire of the sectional crisis that led to the Civil War. Abolitionist factions coalesced around the case of Dred Scott, using his case to test the country’s laws regarding slavery. Scott, a slave, had been taken by his owner from Missouri, which was a slave state. He then traveled to Illinois, a free state, then on to the Minnesota Territory, also free based on the Missouri Compromise. After several years, he returned to Missouri and his owner subsequently died. Abolitionists took Scott’s case to court, stating that Scott was no longer a slave but free, since he had lived in free territory. The case went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court stated that, because Scott, as a slave, was not a U.S. citizen, his time in free states did not change his status. He also did not have the right to sue. In addition, the Court determined that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional, stating that Congress had overstepped its bounds by outlawing slavery in the territories.


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Last updated: 01/08/2018
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