GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court in which the Court held that the US Constitution was not meant to include American citizenship for black people, regardless of whether they were enslaved or free, and so the rights and privileges that the Constitution confers upon American citizens could not apply to them.The decision was made in the case of Dred Scott, an enslaved black man whose owners had taken him from Missouri, which was a slave-holding state, into Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory, which were free areas where slavery was illegal.When his owners later brought him back to Missouri, Scott sued in court for his freedom and claimed that because he had been taken into “free” U.S. territory, he had automatically been freed and was legally no longer a slave. Scott sued first in Missouri state court, which ruled that he was still a slave under its law. He then sued in US federal court, which ruled against him by deciding that it had to apply Missouri law to the case. He then appealed to the US Supreme Court.In March 1857, the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision against Dred Scott. In an opinion written by Chief Justice Roger Taney, the Court ruled that black people “are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.”Taney supported his ruling with an extended survey of American state and local laws from the time of the Constitution’s drafting in 1787 that purported to show that a “perpetual and impassable barrier was intended to be erected between the white race and the one which they had reduced to slavery.” Because the Court ruled that Scott was not an American citizen, he was also not a citizen of any state and, accordingly, could never establish the “diversity of citizenship” that Article III of the US Constitution requires for a US federal court to be able to exercise jurisdiction over a case. After ruling on those issues surrounding Scott, Taney continued further and struck down the entire Missouri Compromise as a limitation on slavery that exceeded the US Congress’s constitutional powers.Although Taney and several of the other justices hoped that the decision would permanently settle the slavery controversy, which was increasingly dividing the American public, the decision’s effect was the complete opposite.Taney’s majority opinion suited the slaveholding states, but was intensely decried in all the other states, and the decision was a contributing factor in the outbreak of the American Civil War four years later, in 1861. After the Union’s victory in 1865, the Court’s rulings in Dred Scott were voided by the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which abolished slavery except as punishment for a crime, and the Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed citizenship for “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”The Supreme Court’s decision has been widely denounced ever since. Bernard Schwartz said that it “stands first in any list of the worst Supreme Court decisions—Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes called it the Court’s greatest self-inflicted wound.”Junius P. Rodriguez said that it is “universally condemned as the U.S. Supreme Court’s worst decision”. Historian David Thomas Konig said that it was “unquestionably, our court’s worst decision ever.”Today in our History – April 6, 1846 – Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857), often referred to as the Dred Scott decision.The economist Charles Calomiris and the historian Larry Schweikart discovered that uncertainty about whether the entire West would suddenly become slave territory or engulfed in combat like “Bleeding Kansas” gripped the markets immediately. The east–west railroads collapsed immediately (although north–south lines were unaffected), causing, in turn, the near-collapse of several large banks and the runs that ensued. What followed the runs has been called the Panic of 1857.The effects of the Panic of 1857, unlike the Panic of 1837, were almost exclusively confined to the North, a fact that Calomiris and Schweikart attribute to the South’s system of branch banking, as opposed to the North’s system of unit banking. In the South’s branch banking system information moved reliably among the branch banks and transmission of the panic was minor. Northern unit banks, in contrast, were competitors and seldom shared such vital informationThe decision was hailed in southern slaveholding society as a proper interpretation of the US Constitution. According to Jefferson Davis, then a US Senator from Mississippi who later became the President of the Confederate States, the Dred Scott case was merely a question of “whether Cuffee should be kept in his normal condition or not.” (“Cuffee” was a common slave name and was also used to refer to a black person, since slavery was a racial caste. Before Dred Scott, Democratic Party politicians had sought repeal of the Missouri Compromise and were finally successful in 1854 with the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act. It allowed each newly-admitted state south of the 40th parallel to vote as to whether to be a slave state or free state. With Dred Scott, Taney’s Supreme Court permitted the unhindered expansion of slavery into all the territories.Thus, Dred Scott decision represented a culmination of what many at that time considered a push to expand slavery. Southerners, who had grown uncomfortable with the Kansas-Nebraska Act, argued that they had a constitutional right to bring slaves into the territories, regardless of any decision by a territorial legislature on the subject. The Dred Scott decision seemed to endorse that view. The expansion of slavery into the territories and resulting admission of new states would mean a loss of northern political power, as many of the new states would be admitted as slave states. Counting three fifths of the slave population for apportionment would add to the slaveholding states’ political representation in Congress.Although Taney believed that the decision represented a compromise that would be a final settlement of the slavery question by transforming a contested political issue into a matter of settled law, the decision produced the opposite result. It strengthened Northern opposition to slavery, divided the Democratic Party on sectional lines, encouraged secessionist elements among Southern supporters of slavery to make bolder demands, and strengthened the Republican Party.In 1859, when defending John Anthony Copeland and Shields Green from the charge of treason, following their participation in John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, their attorney, George Sennott, cited the Dred Scott decision in arguing successfully that since they were not citizens according to that Supreme Court ruling, they could not commit treason. They were acquitted of treason, but found guilty and executed on other charges.Justice John Marshall Harlan was the lone dissenting vote in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which declared racial segregation constitutional and created the concept of “separate but equal”. In his dissent, Harlan wrote that the majority’s opinion would “prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott case.”Charles Evans Hughes, writing in 1927 on the Supreme Court’s history, described Dred Scott v. Sandford as a “self-inflicted wound” from which the court would not recover for many years.In a memo to Justice Robert H. Jackson in 1952, for whom he was clerking, on the subject of Brown v. Board of Education, the future Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote that “Scott v. Sandford was the result of Taney’s effort to protect slaveholders from legislative interference.”Justice Antonin Scalia made the comparison between Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and Dred Scott in an effort to see Roe v. Wade overturned:Dred Scott … rested upon the concept of “substantive due process” that the Court praises and employs today. Indeed, Dred Scott was very possibly the first application of substantive due process in the Supreme Court, the original precedent for… Roe v. Wade.Scalia noted that the Dred Scott decision had been written and championed by Taney and left the justice’s reputation irrevocably tarnished. Taney, who was attempting to end the disruptive question of the future of slavery, wrote a decision that worsened sectional tensions and was considered to contribute to the American Civil War.Chief Justice John Roberts compared Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) to Dred Scott, as another example of trying to settle a contentious issue through a ruling that went beyond the scope of the Constitution1977: The Scotts’ great-grandson, John A. Madison, Jr., an attorney, gave the invocation at the ceremony at the Old Courthouse (St. Louis) in St. Louis, a National Historic Landmark, for the dedication of a National Historic Marker commemorating the Scotts’ case tried there.· 2000: Harriet and Dred Scott’s petition papers in their freedom suit were displayed at the main branch of the St. Louis Public Library, following discovery of more than 300 freedom suits in the archives of the U.S. circuit court.· 2006: A new historic plaque was erected at the Old Courthouse to honor the active roles of both Dred and Harriet Scott in their freedom suit and the case’s significance in U.S. history.·2012: A monument depicting Dred and Harriet Scott was erected at the Old Courthouse’s east entrance facing the St. Louis’ Gateway Arch.Research more about this great American disaster and share it with your babies and make it a champion day!