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Law Essay Sample: Dred Scott V. Sanford

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Vanderbilt University
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Dred Scott was born a slave in 1795 and was owned by Peter Blow, in the year 1818 his master moved to Alabama with his six other slaves to work on his farm near Huntsville. Later in the year 1830 Blow gave up farming and settled in St. Louis, Missouri and sold Scott to an Army surgeon Dr. John Emerson. After the purchase, Emerson took Scott to Fort Armstrong in Illinois which was a free state which prohibited slave trade. A slave was more of an object rather than a human being. The masters took them from place to place as if they had no life of their own. Looking at a brief introduction to Scotts life, he had a master who had his life but had Scott and other slaves who served him.

Slavery treated the African Americans as less humans as seen. From the small look at Scotts life when the master said it was time to move they had to pack and leave as well, they had no opinion on the issue but to follow orders. The minute Blow retired from farming he definitely sold the six slaves to different masters which meant the separation of the six slaves. This was the treat of human life as a commodity. The slaves may have formed friendships over the years they had worked together, but this was not something worth considering for the masters. Blow had finished is need for the slaves so he had to dispose of them in his own profitable manner and this was via selling them out (Finkelman). The separation of these slaves mattered less to them although looking at it from the slaves point of view, them being humans had forged friendships which were being terminated with less regard by their masters.

It is completely wrong to sell or purchase a fellow human being despite there skin color or origin, but this seems to be a normality back during the ages. After Scott was purchased by Emerson, he had to switch his old life and serve the new master. Later in the year, 1836 Emerson moved with his slave Scott to Illinois which was a free state and did not allow slavery. And during this time it was possible for Scott to get married and he married Harriet Robinson (Finkelman). In the Free State marriage of slaves was allowed since slavery was not allowed but back in states where slavery was practiced civil ceremonies for marriages were not meaningful since slave marriages were not we not recognized by the law? Back to our main point again slaves were not considered humans. Marriage was a valuable and a meaningful ceremony but for the life of a slave, this was not recognized at all.

The White Americans completely treated the African Americans as animals close to wild animals being tamed to stay at home. Having the chance to be a free person Scott did a civil ceremony for the marriage of love. When there Master Emerson was ordered to Jefferson Barracks Military Post which was south of St. Louis Missouri, Scott and his wife were leased out Scott and his wife's services for some financial gain as he left for his new posting. This shows the small value slave had; they were leased out as farm tools or as a way a person would have leased something of less worth to them for a gain purpose although in this case, this was the leasing out of an actual human being. The life of a slave was more of a tool and less of a human. The life of a slave was generally hard, one no idea what tomorrow was to bring, today your happily getting married tomorrow you're sold out to a different master in a different state where no notice or consultation was involved.

Dred Scott v. Sandford was a landmark decision by the US Supreme court on the US labor Law and constitutional law, it stated that a Negro whose origin or ancestors were imported into America and later sold as slaves whether enslaved or free Negros they could not be an American citizen and had no standing to sue in the federal court. How could one not be an American citizen while all they do is labor for the country with the lowest wages? The economy of the country was basically supported by the slaves. They use to do all the labor work for example the farming among other while being mistreated by their masters and even not paid. One can only imagine the life they went through back then ( A. Kristen). This is the most inhuman act one could have gone through, realizing that the legal system that is meant to protect you disowns you and declares you less than a resident but a slave.

This meant that anything would have happened to a slave and no action would have been taken. The law was meant to protect all the people as well as at now for instance the free slaves, they were slaves who had attained there freedom hence had nothing limiting them from becoming legal citizens if United States ( A. Kristen). On the other hand a ruling like this gave the white Americans to exert more pressure on the slaves since the law was on their side and had made sure to play a major in portraying the slaves as lesser humans. Human rights was not at the table back then since there was nothing close to equality between the slaves and the masters.

As seen from different parts of Scotts story he was leased out severally to different owners and this became the main reason why Emerson refused to grant Scott is freedom. Emersons used to earn money from Scott hence letting him walk as a free man meant a decrease in their income. Looking at this incident slaves were more of business plans if compare to our current world, only that they were humans and were in a position to try and voice out there opinions although they were hardly heard (Foster). The passing over of slavery also is another thing worth mentioning. After the death of Emerson, Scott and his family were passed on to the wife who also received the estates which were under her husband. The comparison of slaves to physical possession is witnessed in the position.

In 1854 Scott sued his current owner who was John Sanford on a federal court for his freedom but in this incident, Scott alleged that Sanford had assaulted his family and also held them as captives for more than six hours. This was a clear indication of violence and brutality towards the slaves. A slaves life was based on the master's needs. In this case, Scott lost to Sanford despite all the available evidence pertaining the case (Foster). Any sort of justice for the slaves was close to zero. Scott was determined and did not give up on his family; he later appealed to the U.S Supreme Court where the case ended up being recorded as Dred Scott v. Sandford. This is a clear show the depths a slave would have gone to see the freedom of his family. Scott is a clear example of this.

The life of a slave was not easy, as seen from Scott who was born a slave, his life has been full of events after events. He has seen justice in front of his eyes and gone through the struggle to achieve it. In the process of doing this, he has gone from serving one master to the other and also been subjected to more than just disappointment but also psychological stress. For instance the holding hostage of the family by his master (Finkelman). This must have hard, serious psychological stress, the failing of the court to see to it that justice happens communicates a lot. A slaves voice meant nothing in front of the court as well as their masters. This explains the ruling of the Supreme Court that a Negro could not fit to be American citizen which as seen in the complete disrespect and inhuman act as compared to the amount of energy they give for the country at large. The life of a slave as seen from the paper analysis seems to be so hard, one with continuous challenges but then we have also managed to see the strong side of the slave.


Work Cited

Finkelman, Paul. "How American Law and the American Constitution Defined Slavery." NOVOE LITERATURNOE OBOZRENIE 142 (2016): 213-248.

, A. Kristen. "slaves who had lived in a free state or free territory had won their freedom. Emerson appealed the decision, with her brother John Sanford acting as her agent, and the Missouri." The Early Republic and Antebellum America: An Encyclopedia of Social, Political, Cultural, and Economic History (2015): 309.

Oakes, James. "Making Freedom National: Salmon P. Chase and the Abolition of Slavery." Geo. JL & Pub. Pol'y 13 (2015): 407.


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