May 27, 2016

Moment in History: Dred Scott freed by changes in human heart, not law (1857)

John RobsonResident Historian
 

On May 26, 1857, Dred Scott got his freedom. No, it’s not a typo. 

Yes, he was the losing plaintiff in the disastrously decided Dred Scott v Sandford in which the Supreme Court essentially ruled that there were no free states in the U.S., precipitating the Civil War and denying him his rights.

But even as courts and the rule of law failed, changes in the human heart saw one group of former owners fund his court challenge and another, after he lost his case, deed him to one of those former owners precisely so he could be freed.

Not enough people saw the light in those days, but some did, a humbling reminder that we can always do the right thing in our own time even if the world is wrong or indifferent.

Comments
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commented 2016-05-28 02:14:32 -0400
Ah, but, Bill, why not use the notwithstanding clause to put the supreme court in it’s place?
commented 2016-05-27 19:13:15 -0400
Thanks John, for reminding us the current spate of appalling erroneous decisions of judicial activists on high court benches has a long history of abusing the law.
commented 2016-05-27 18:41:35 -0400
Good one professor, somethings to think about !!