Dred Scott v. Sandford
Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), was a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court held that African Americans, whether enslaved or free, could not be American citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court, and that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the federal territories acquired after the creation of the United States. Dred Scott, an enslaved African American man who had been taken by his owners to free states and territories, attempted to sue for his freedom. In a 7–2 decision written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the Court denied Scott's request. For only the second time to that point in its history, the Supreme Court ruled an Act of Congress to be unconstitutional.Although Taney hoped that his ruling would finally settle the slavery question, the decision immediately spurred vehement dissent from anti-slavery elements in the North, especially Republicans. Many contemporary lawyers, and most modern legal scholars, consider the ruling regarding slavery in the territories to be dictum, not binding precedent. The decision proved to be an indirect catalyst for the American Civil War. It was functionally superseded by the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave African Americans full citizenship. The Supreme Court's decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford is unanimously denounced by scholars. Bernard Schwartz says it, ""stands first in any list of the worst Supreme Court decisions—Chief Justice C.E. Hughes called it the Court's greatest self-inflicted wound"". Junius P. Rodriguez says it is ""universally condemned as the U.S. Supreme Court's worst decision"". Konig et al. say it was ""unquestionably, our court's worst decision ever"".