Dred Scott reargued

From The Harvard Gazette:Dred3450

You don’t have to be a lawyer or historian to have that name conjure up feelings of horror and injustice. Scott was the American-born slave who lent his name to Dred Scott v. Sandford, the legal case leading to an infamous 1857 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, generally regarded as a legal and moral low point for American jurisprudence. Among other things, the decision held that no black American, slave or free, was a U.S. citizen, or had rights protected by the Constitution. Its harsh language about “that unfortunate race,” and its uncompromising stand in favor of slavery, drew the final battle lines for the Civil War, which erupted only four years later.

The Dred Scott decision has had legal and cultural reverberations in the 15 decades since, continuing a debate about the nature of citizenship that echoes today. So much so that Harvard Law School (HLS) marked the decision’s 150th anniversary with a conference April 6 and 7. “We are at once so far from, and so close to, that moment” in 1857, said Civil War historian Drew G. Faust, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Lincoln Professor of History, and president-elect of Harvard University. In remarks opening the event, Faust called the Dred Scott decision “of central importance to the dissolution of the Union” as well as a vivid marker of “the burden of Southern history.”

Within dozens of pages of inflammatory language, the decision — penned by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney —held that neither Congress nor any territorial governments had the right to ban slavery in the territories. Moreover, Dred Scott — who had lived for long periods of time in the free state of Illinois and the free Wisconsin Territory — was still a slave, an object of property, and had no right to sue in a court of law.

More here.