March 6, 1857
The Dred Scott Decision
On March 6, 1857, the US Supreme Court handed down what turned out to be the Court's greatest mistake. In a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled: 1. persons of African descent cannot be, nor were they ever intended to be, citizens under the US Constitution, 2. Congress cannot ban slavery in the territories; the Missouri Compromise is unconstitution, 3. the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits the federal government from freeing slaves brought into federal terrtories.
Chief Justice Roger B. Taney thought the decision would settle the question of slavery once and for all. He was wrong. The Court's ruling only added fuel to the fire.