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Casenotes:ConstitutionalLawSullivan

Casenotes:ConstitutionalLawSullivan
Chapter7ThePostCivilWarAmendmentsandthe"Incorporation"ofFundamentalRights

DredScottv.Sanford
Formerslave(P)v.Administrator(D)
60U.S.(19How.)393(1857).
NATUREOFCASE:Actionintrespass.
FACTSUMMARY:DredScott(P)claimedtohavebeenfreed
fromhisslavestatusbyhistravelstofreestateswithhis
master,butSanford(D)insistedScott(P)couldnotbringa
federalcourtactionpressingthepointbecauseformerslaves
andtheirdescendantsarenot"citizens."
RULEOFLAWSincetheyarenot"citizens"inthesense
inwhichthatwordisusedintheConstitution,blackswho
wereslavesinthiscountry,orwhoarethedescendantsof
suchslaves,cannotbringsuitinfederalcourt.
FACTS:DredScott(P),aslave,wastakenalongonhis
master'ssojournstothefreestateofIllinoisandthefree
partoftheMissouriTerritory(accordingtotheMissouri
Compromise).Itwasaftertheyreturnedtotheslavestateof
Missourithatthemasterdied,andSanford(D)becamethe
administratorofhisestate.Scott(P)attemptedtobringa
diversityactioninfederalcourtbasedonhisclaimthathis
"residence"intheaforementionedfreejurisdictionshad
liberatedhimfromhisstatusasaslave.Hewas,he
insisted,thusproperlyconsidereda"citizen"ofMissouri
andwasthereforeentitledtobringsuitinfederalcourt
againstSanford(D),whowasacitizenofanotherstate
(NewYork).Sanford(D)arguedthataformerslavecouldnotbe
consideredacitizenoftheUnitedStatesorofMissouri.The
lowercourtagreedwithhim.Scott(P)appealed.
ISSUE:Canaformerslavebea"citizen"soasto
qualifytobringanactioninfederalcourt?
HOLDINGANDDECISION:(Taney,C.J.)No.Blackswhowere
slavesinthiscountry,orwhoarethedescendantsofsuch
slavesare,not"citizens"inthesenseinwhichthatwordis
usedintheConstitutionandarethusnotentitledto
maintainanactioninfederalcourt.Areviewofhistory
revealsquitereadilythatneitherclassofpersonswhohad
beenimportedasslavesnortheirdescendants,whetherthey
hadbecomefreeornot,wereacknowledgedaspartofthe
"people"butwereratherconsideredasmereproperty.They
simplywerenotamongthosewhowere"citizens"ofthe
severalstateswhentheConstitutionwasadopted,andthatis
thetimeframethatmustbeutilizedindeterminingwhowas
includedasa"citizen"intheConstitution.Becauseheis
nota"citizen,"Scott(P)cannotmaintainthisaction.
DISSENT:(Curtis,J.)Todeterminewhetherindividuals
whowerefreewhentheConstitutionwasadoptedwere
citizens,eventhoughthoseindividualswerethedescendants
ofslaves,theonlynecessaryinquiryiswhetherthosefree
individualswerecitizensofanyoftheStatesunderthe
ConfederationatthetimeoftheConstitution'sadoption.It
isafactthatatthetimetheArticlesofConfederationwere
ratified,allfreenativeborninhabitantsoffiveStates
werecitizensofthoseStates,notwithstandingthattheywere
descendedfromAfricanslaves.Thereisnothinginthe
Constitutionthatdeprivedthosewhowerecitizensofthe
UnitedStatesatthetimeofitsadoptionoftheir
citizenship,especiallygiventhatthosecitizensestablished
theConstitution.TheConstitutionalsocontainsnothingthat
deprivesnativeborncitizensofanyStateoftheir

ConfederationatthetimeoftheConstitution'sadoption.It
isafactthatatthetimetheArticlesofConfederationwere
ratified,allfreenativeborninhabitantsoffiveStates
werecitizensofthoseStates,notwithstandingthattheywere
descendedfromAfricanslaves.Thereisnothinginthe
Constitutionthatdeprivedthosewhowerecitizensofthe
UnitedStatesatthetimeofitsadoptionoftheir
citizenship,especiallygiventhatthosecitizensestablished
theConstitution.TheConstitutionalsocontainsnothingthat
deprivesnativeborncitizensofanyStateoftheir
citizenship.Finally,thereisnothingintheConstitution
thatempowersCongresstodisenfranchiseanyStatecitizenof
thatcitizenship.Therefore,everyfreepersonbornonthe
soilofaState,whoisacitizenofthatStatebyforceof
itsConstitutionorlaws,isalsoacitizenofthe
UnitedStates.ThisisalsotrueofStatesthatcameintobeing
aftertheConstitutionwasadopted.WhentheConstitutionwas
framed,itwasexpectedthatsomeoftheStateswouldcede
theirclaimstowhatwerethentheirterritories,andthat
thoseterritories,andnewStatesformedtherefrom,wouldbe
subjecttotheConstitution.Slaveryitselfisregulatedby
municipallaw,andtheFramers,whorecognizedthis,andwho
knewthataslavewaspropertyonlyinthoseStateswhere
lawssoprovided,intendedthatCongressinitsdiscretion
woulddeterminewhatregulations,ifany,shouldbemade
concerningslavery.Thisintentcanbegleanedfromthefact
theConstitutionissilentastotheregulationofslavery,
andexpressesnointenttointerferewithortodisplace
theseprinciples.Finally,thereisnothinginthe
Constitutionthatsupportsthepropositionthatprohibiting
slaveownersfrombringingtheirslavesintoaTerritory
deprivestheownersoftheirpropertywithoutdueprocessof
law.
ANALYSIS
Thejusticesallknewthiswasahistoricallyimportantcase
eachonetookthetimetowriteanopinion.Besidesthe
primaryopinionbyChiefJusticeTaney,thereweresix
concurringandtwodissentingopinions.Nolongerdoctrinally
importantbecauseofsubsequentamendmentstothe
Constitutionresolvingoftheslaveryissues,thiscasestill
servesasaprimeexampleoftheviewthattheConstitution,
asChiefJusticeTaneyputit,foreverspeaks"notonlyin
thesamewords,butwiththesamemeaningandintentwith
whichitspokewhenitcamefromthehandsoftheFramers."
Itisaviewthathasbeenroundlycriticizedastoorigid
andformalisticanapproachtotaketowardadocumentthat
mustbeflexibleenoughtoprovideeffectiveandoperable
guidelinesandgoverningprinciplesforaneverevolving
society.
Quicknotes
ACTIONOFTRESPASSAnactiontorecoverdamages
resultingfromthewrongfulinterferencewithaparty's
person,propertyorrights.
DIVERSITYACTIONAnactioncommencedbyacitizenof
onestateagainstacitizenofanotherstateoragainstan
alien,involvinganamountincontroversysetbystatute,
overwhichthefederalcourthasjurisdiction.

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