“We think they [people of African ancestry] are . . . not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.”
This case explores the legal concept of due process.
In 1834, Dred Scott, an enslaved person, was purchased in Missouri and then brought to Illinois, a free (non-slave) state. He later moved with his enslaver to present-day Minnesota, where slavery had been recently prohibited, and then back to Missouri. When his enslaver died, Scott sued the widow to whom he was left, claiming he was no longer an enslaved person because he had become free after living in a free state. At a time when the country was in deep conflict over slavery, the Supreme Court decided that Dred Scott was not a “citizen of the state” so it had no jurisdiction in the matter, but the majority opinion also stated that Dred Scott was not a free man.