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Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857)

This decision declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional. The ruling held that people of African descent were not citizens under Article III of the Constitution, but rather, they were property. Furthermore, slaves were not made free because they traveled into a free state.

The Court stressed the importance of safeguarding what it called property rights: “the rights of property are united with the rights of person, and placed on the same ground by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property, without due process of law. And an act of Congress which deprives a citizen of the United States of his liberty or property, merely because he came himself or brought his property into a particular Territory of the United States…could hardly be dignified with the name of due process of law.”

The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments eventually overruled this decision, ending slavery, declaring former slaves citizens, and securing for them the right to vote.

The case touched on constitutional principles including equality.