Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: June 02, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412971928 | Print ISBN: 9781412950855 | Online ISBN: 9781412971928| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Dred Scott Case
Stephen E. Medvec
In the annals of the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, there is one case that is consistently ranked as the worst decision ever made by the Court. This is the Dred Scott case, officially known as Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857). The decision was widely discussed in the 1858 debates for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois between Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Democratic incumbent, and Abraham Lincoln, Republican congressman. The debates were complicated by the 1857 Supreme Court ruling that had every tavern in the country buzzing with the words “Dred Scott.” The Court ruled that Congress could not prohibit slavery in the territories (those areas west of the Mississippi River not yet states) and struck down the Missouri Compromise of 1820, even though the law had already been repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which Douglas had sponsored. As a result, the Court fueled the growing divisions ...