The Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court in March 1857 was one of the major steps .
Dred Scott was a slave who was taken to Missouri from Virginia .
and sold. His new master then moved to Illinois (a free state) for a while but soon moved .
back to Missouri. Upon his master's death, Scott claimed that since he had resided in a free .
state, he was consequentially a free man. The case eventually made it to the Supreme .
As stated by Supreme Court Justice C. J. Taney, "In considering this.controversy, two .
questions arise: 1st.[sic] Was [Scott], together with his family, free in Missouri by reason .
of his stay in the territory of the United States hereinbefore mentioned? And 2d[sic], If .
they were not, is Scott himself free by reason of his removal to Rock Island, in the state of .
Illinois.?" Both of these questions led to an even greater and more central question: "Can .
a negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a .
member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution .
of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, and priveledges, and .
immunities, guarantied by that instrument to the citizen?" (i.e. does Scott, having been a .
slave, have the constitutional right to sue?) .
The Court's decision (7 against, 2 for) was declared on March 6, 1857. Due to the variance .
of opinions on why the Court decided as they did (all seven justices who decided against .
Scott wrote opinion papers for the case), the opinion of Justice Taney is generally cited for .
the majority. According to Taney, the Court decided that Scott (and hence all negro slaves .
or their descendants) was not a citizen of the United States or the state of Missouri, and .
thus not entitled to sue in the federal courts. Justice Taney then went beyond this point and .
ruled on the entire issue of slavery in federal territories, claiming that slaves were property .