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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: April 2013

6 - Speech on the Dred Scott Decision


In 1857 the US Supreme Court, in the case of Scott v. Sandford, declared that no person of African ancestry is or can ever be a citizen of the United States. The case was brought by Dred Scott, a slave from Missouri who had spent time with his master in the free state of Illinois and the free territory of Minnesota. Scott argued that, since under the terms of the Missouri Compromise both were free regions, he was thus no longer a slave but a free man. The Court ruled that Scott lacked “standing” – i.e., the ability to bring this case – although, contradictorily, the Court accepted it anyway and rendered a decision. The Court also implicitly upheld the constitutionality of the Kansas–Nebraska Act by declaring that the Missouri Compromise had been unconstitutional, thus effectively opening all the western territories to slavery. Incensed, Lincoln once again mounted the rostrum to denounce the injustice of this decision.

fellow citizens: – I am here to-night, partly by the invitation of some of you, and partly by my own inclination. Two weeks ago Judge Douglas spoke here on the several subjects of Kansas, the Dred Scott decision, and Utah. I listened to the speech at the time, and have read the report of it since. It was intended to controvert opinions which I think just, and to assail (politically, not personally) those men who, in common with me, entertain those opinions. For this reason I wished then, and still wish, to make some answer to it, which I now take the opportunity of doing.

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  • Online ISBN: 9781139034784
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