Monday, February 26, 2007

Scott v. Emerson II: A Soldier and A Slave

The facts, as the Supreme Court of Missouri understood them, were simple.

Dr. John Emerson was a surgeon in the U.S. Army. From 1834 until April or May 1936, Emerson "was stationed at Rock Island, a military post in the State of Illinois." After that, Emerson was stationed until 1838 "at Fort Snelling, also a military post in the territory of the United States" "ceded to by France to the United States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of 36 degrees 30 minutes, north latitude, not included within the limits of the State of Missouri." Dred Scott was Emerson's slave, and Emerson "held him in servitude" in both locations.

Years later, Scott brought suit for his freedom in the St. Louis Circuit Court. Because Emerson had died, Scott named as defendant Irene Emerson, Dr. Emerson's wife and administratrix.

At trial, the Circuit Court instructed the jury, "in effect, that if such were the facts, they would find for Scott. He accordingly obtained a verdict. The defendant moved for a new trial on the ground of misdirection by the court, which being denied to her, she sued out this writ of error."

It is worth recalling that we have run into a virtually identical scenario before. In Rachael v. Walker (1836), the slaveowner was a soldier posted to Fort Snelling (near Minneapolis). Sixteen years earlier, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that Rachael's servitude there entitled her to be free.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails