Scott v Sandford: Syllabus

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DRED SCOTT, Plaintiff in Error,

(See S. C. 19 How. 393-633.)

Plea in abatement, when may be reviewed -- the word "citizen" in the Constitution does not embrace one of the negro race -- negro cannot become a citizen -- slave not made free by residence in a free state or territory -- Declaration of Independence does not include slaves as part of the people -- the rights and privileges conferred by the Constitution upon citizens do not apply to the negro race -- Constitution should have the meaning intended when it was adopted -- court may examine other errors besides plea in abatement -- Constitution expressly affirms right of property in slaves -- Missouri compromise unconstitutional and void.

Where a plea in abatement, by defendant, to the jurisdiction of the court below is overruled on demurrer, and the defendant thereupon pleads in bar upon which issues were joined and the trial and verdict were in his favor, and the plaintiff thereupon brought the case into this court by writ of error, and the plea and demurrer below upon it are part of the record; held, that thls court has power to review the decision of the court below upon the plea in abatement.

It is therefore the duty of the court to decide whether the facts stated in the plea, are or are not sufficient to show that the plaintiff is not entitled to sue as a citizen in the court of the United States.

The provisions of the Constitution of the United States in relation to the personal rights and privileges to which the citizens of a state should be entitled do not embrace the negro African race, at that time in this country, or who might afterwards be imported, who had then been or should afterwards be made free in any state.

Such provisions of the Constitution do not put it in the power of a single state to make out one of the negro African race a citizen of the United States, and to endue him with the full rights of citizenship in every other state without their consent.

The Constitution of the United States does not act upon one of the negro race whenever he shall be made free under the laws of a state, and raise him to the rank of a citizen, and immediately clothe him with all the privileges of a citizen of any other state, and in its own courts.

The plaintiff in error was a negro slave, and brought into a free State (Illinois), and in the free territory of the United States for about four years, during which time he was married to another negro slave who also was in said free territory. One of their children (Eliza) was born on the River Mississoppi, and another of their children was born in the State of Missouri, to which state he had returned.

Held, that the plaintiff in error could not be and was not a citizen of the State of Missouri, within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, and consequently was not entitled to sue in its courts.

The legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show that neither the class of persons who had been imported as shaves nor their decendents, whether they had become free or not, where then acknowledged as part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that instrument.

The decendents of Africans who were imported into this country and sold as slaves, when they shall become emancipated, or who are born of parents who had become free before their birth, are not citizens of a state in the sense in which the word "citizen" is used in Constitution of the United States.

The enslaved African race was not intened to be included in, and formed no part of, the people who formed and adopted the Declaration of Independence.

When the framers of the Constitution were conferring special rights and privileges upon the citizens of a state in every other part of the Union, it is impossible to believe that these rights and privilges were intended to be extended to the negro race.

The words of the Constitution should be given the meaning they were intended to bear, when that instrument was framed and adopted.

Where this court has decided against the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court on a plea of abatement, it has still the right to examine any questoin presented by excelption or by the record, and may reverse the judgment for errors committed, and remand the case to the Cirucit Court for it to dismiss the case for want of jurisdiction.

The right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution.

The Act of Congress which prohibited a citizen from holding and owning property of this kind in the territory of the United States north of the line therein mentioned (thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude), is not warranted by the Constitution, and is therefore void.

Neither Dred Scott himself, nor any of his family were made free by being carried into such territory; even if they had been carried their by their owner with the intention of becoming permanent residents.

Scott was not made free by belng taken to Rock Island in the State of Illinois.

As Scott was a slave when taken into the State of Illinois by his owner, and was there held as such, and brought back into Missouri in that character,ehlhlY his status, as free or slave, depended on the laws of Missouri and not of Illinois. He and his family were not free, but were, by the laws of Missouri, the property of defendant.

Argued Feb. 11, 12, 13 and 14, 1856. May 12, 1856, ordered to be re-argued at the next term. Re-argued Dec. 15. 16, 17 and 18, 1856. Decided March 6, 1857.

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Posted 9 Sep 2000.

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