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With Congress and the President unable to solve the slavery question, attention now turned to the Supreme Court in 1857.  A famous court case reached the Supreme Court that would further divide the north and south known as Dred Scott v. Sandford.
The case centered around a slave named Dred Scott.  Scott had been a slave for many years in the state of Missouri.  In 1834, Scott had moved north with his owner Dr. John Emerson who had joined the army.  For a time, Scott lived with his owner in Illinois and then moved again to the Wisconsin Territory.  Later Scott returned to Missouri and his owner Dr. Emerson died.

     After Emerson's death, Scott and his wife with the help of some abolitionist lawyers, filed a law suit to win their freedom in the Missouri courts.  They claimed that their residence was in Wisconsin Territory where slavery had always been illegal.  Scott's lawsuit raised another question in the debate over slavery.  The courts would have to decide if Congress or state legislatures had the power or the right to outlaw slavery is various places around the country? 

     Scott's case made it all the way through the court system to the Supreme Court.  Chief Justice Roger Taney and the Supreme Court ruled against Dred Scott.  The court ruled that since slaves were not U.S. citizens than Scott could not sue in federal court.  Therefore Scott was not given his freedom.  The Supreme Court went on to rule that the Missouri Compromise had been unconstitutional and that Congress or any other legislature had no right to determine where slavery can and cannot exist.  The court pointed to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution which states that the government cannot deprive you of your "life, liberty, or property without due process of the law".  Taney reasoned that since slaves where property, that Congress had no to dictate where they can and cannot be taken.

This decision had lasting consequences on the slavery question and the nation.  The decision destroyed all the pervious compromises over slavery and it forbade Congress from making any further laws or compromises.  The Dred Scott case made slavery legal not only in the south and the western territories, but northerners also feared that if their state legislatures could not make laws banning slavery then slavery might now even now be legal in the north.  The Dred Scott Decision had made slavery constitutional.  Now only another court decision or a constitutional amendment could abolish slavery.  Slavery was now protected by law and by the Constitution.