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A History of the Dred Scott Case

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posted on 2023-08-03, 17:07 authored by Hugh C. Bickford

Until the last two decades most American histories had been written in New England and the writers, in considering the Dred Scott case, have merely emphasized the traditional bias their section. The account of Charles Warren in vol. 2 of "The Supreme Court in United States History", published in 1922, was one of the first impartial considerations of the available materials concerning the Dred Scott case. Since that time other contributions have been made which have finally brought to the student of legal history a reasonably correct picture of this famous case.To understand fully the Dred Scott case it is necessary to review briefly the development of the slavery question which furnishes its background. As will hereafter be pointed out the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia deliberately avoided the issue. It was the one great problem which that convention lacked the courage to face. Provision was made in the constitution that fugitive slaves should be returned and that Congress should not prohibit slave trade prior to 1808, but other than that no grant of power or provision of limitation expressly referred to the slave problem. The first Congress held under the constitution had hardly assembled, however, when the explosive question was presented to it. Curiously two problems which produced most stirring debates in the first Congress were the restriction of intoxicating liquors and slavery.



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