court holdings



Part 1: In a narrative format, brief the Dred Scott case: detail the facts, issues and court holdings.

Dred Scot v. Sandford is an important landmark ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court that drew a lot of criticism by denying African-Americans a rightful place in the American society (Regan, 2013). The Court, with a majority ruling of 7-2, ruled that African Americans could not be regarded as American citizens. In this regard, they were not expected to bring any charges in the federal court. Further, the Court observed that the federal government did not have any powers to regulate slavery in territories acquired after the creation of the United States (Zalman, 2011). Dred was an African American, who sued his maters for freedom after being taken to Free State and territories. His request was turned down by the majority decision of the Court. In essence, the Court ruled that an Act of Congress was unconstitutional, for a second time in the country’s history (Regan, 2013). Although Chief Justice Roger B. Taney expected his decision would be an effective way of dealing with the question of slavery in the US, his decisions spurred public debate. Indeed, the decision is considered a catalyst to the American Civil War.

Part 2: What effect did the passage of 14th Amendment have on the precedential value of the decision in the Dred Scott case?

The Fourteenth Amendments was a turning point in the history of the African Americans. The Amendment, which was passed by the US in 1866, had a big ramification of the earlier ruling by The Supreme Court of the Dred Scott v. Sanford case. First, the Amendment overturned the Supreme Court’s ruling that denied African Americans their right to citizenship. Secondly, the Amendment attempted to protect the rights of African Americans by imposing a penalty on any state that denied black people their right to vote. In addition, it provided for protection and due process of law for all people, in spite of their color or creed (Regan, 2013).

Part 3: Compare and contrast the three rights conferred on national citizens by the 14th Amendment.

The Fourteenth Amendment provides three rights on American citizens. These are;

  • Equal protection
  • Due process
  • Privileges and immunities

The three clauses have several similarities as well as significant differences in their applications. The three Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment primarily attempted to establish equal rights for former slaves (Zalman, 2011). It is through them that African Americans acquired voting and equal rights from discrimination. However, there are notable differences in the way the Clauses are applied. The Due Process Clause attempts to protect citizens from losing their properties without following the right procedures. The hated Dred Scott case included the first discussion of the substantive due process, which became the cornerstone of fighting racism in America. The Privileges and Immunities Clause prevents states from taking away individual rights that comes by virtue of one being a citizen. However, the Clause was severely undermined by the Slaughterhouse Cases that placed everything else, apart from civil rights, under the control of the states. The Equal Protection Clause mandates every sates in the US to avail equal protection to all citizen living within their states (Zalman, 2011). The Equal Protection Clause is incorporated in the American anti-discrimination law, as opposed to the Privileges and Immunities Clause. For instance, in Plessey v. Ferguson case, the Supreme Court argued that social rights were not included in the Fourteenth Amendment.

Part 4:
If you were a Supreme Court Justice during the 1800’s, would you interpret that Congress intended to incorporate the Bill of Rights into privileges of national citizenship? Give the rationale for your decision.

It is mythical to believe that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporated the Bill of Rights into the privileges of national citizenship (Zalman, 2011). This position is incorrect as it is only possible to say that the Fourteenth Amendment extended the Bill of Rights to the state and local level if one distorts the plain focus of the Amendment as put forward by the framers (Regan, 2013). This distorted argument further violates the fundamental tenet of the US Constitution and the philosophies behind the document. The Supreme Court has played a significant part in this distortion through the implementation of various doctrines such as the doctrine of incorporation. The Bill of Rights did not apply to states when the Fourteenth Amendment was passed and ratified.



Regan, J. R. (2013). The American Constitution and Religion. New York: The Catholic University of America Press

Scott v. Sanford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857)

Zalman, M. 2011. Criminal Procedure: Constitution and Society (6th. Ed.). New York: Pearson Education.


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