The study of American history yields a story of the exponential expansion of freedom, both here and abroad. No country has come to the aid of other, oppressed countries to a greater frequency and success in two short centuries than the United States. No country allows the greatest degree of economic and social freedom than does the United States and no country has ever been richer.
There are however, a number of events in American history which challenge the above mentioned assertion in the minds of some Americans. This is understandable as the story of America cannot be told without including some, very unfortunate, tragic and regrettable events which helped to impede the progress that this country is trying to make in the field of race relations. Dred Scott vs. Stanford (1857) Plessey vs. Ferguson (1896) is two such examples.
These Supreme Court decisions are unique in three ways: Both serve as screaming impediments towards the assertion that America has always been a land of the free and is truly a meritocracy, the decision effected millions of people in an adverse way and both decisions would be overturned, although not until a number of decades of oppression had been recorded within the hearts and minds of a large percentage of the American public. The United States was in turmoil and conflict when the case of Dred Scott vs.
Sanford came before the Supreme Court in 1857. The North and South had increased the tensions between the two sides. Despite or because of the lack of attention and desire to avert a conflict, President James Buchanan did almost nothing to help alleviate the rising conflict between the two sides instead preferring to let the issue play itself out. It seems unlikely that the American Civil War could have been stopped by anything that President Buchanan could have done.
However, after the Dred Scott decision, it now seemed impossible for a Civil War to be averted as it incited ire in millions of Northerners and even incited Abraham Lincoln who believed that he was forever retired from politics, to enter the political stage once again. That decision would be seen as perhaps the single worst Supreme Court decision in American history. This allows the case to stand alone as the most regrettable of the 19th century and perhaps of the entire American history. Dred Scott was an enslaved man who was purchased in 1833 by Dr.
Emerson from another United States surgeon; Peter Blow. Scott moved with the doctor wherever he was his property. The problem occurs when the doctor brings his slave to a free state who, under their state constitution, does not recognize the property rights that one person has over the other. Since the doctor brought Dred Scott to Illinois and Missouri; both free states and under their state constitutions, did not recognize the rights of the owner, Dred Scott could have attempted to leave the personal jurisdiction of the doctor.
Such assertions were granted to former slave by the Missouri Compromise and the Northwest Ordinance. “Doctor Emerson died in 1843 and Dred Scott and his family were hired out to other white families in need of labor. ” In 1846, Scott sued for his freedom as his request to be set free was not granted. Scott’s main argument throughout the legal battle that would last for the next eleven years was that while the doctor traveled to Free states across the country, coupled with the fact that these states did not recognize the rights of a master over a slave, he should be freed.