Dred Scott v. Sandford Case Brief

Facts of the case

Dred Scott was a slave in Missouri. From 1833 to 1843, he resided in Illinois (a free state) and in the Louisiana Territory, where slavery was forbidden by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. After returning to Missouri, Scott filed suit in Missouri court for his freedom, claiming that his residence in free territory made him a free man. After losing, Scott brought a new suit in federal court. Scott’s master maintained that no “negro” or descendant of slaves could be a citizen in the sense of Article III of the Constitution.

Why is the case important?

A slave sought his freedom under the Missouri Compromise.


Can a slave be considered a citizen and as such become entitled to all the rights, privileges and immunities granted to citizens under the United States Constitution?


No. Slaves were not intended to be included under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution. At the time the Constitution was written, slaves were considered an inferior and subordinate class. No state can introduce a new member into the political community created by the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence clearly never intended to include slaves.


  • Advocates: Montgomery Blair for Dred Scott George Ticknor Curtis for Dred Scott Henry S. Geyer for Sanford
  • Petitioner: Dred Scott
  • Respondent: John F. A. Sanford
  • DECIDED BY:Taney Court
  • Location: –
Citation: 60 US 393 (1857)
Argued: Feb 11 – 18, 1856
Decided: Mar 6, 1857
Dred Scott v. Sandford Case Brief