Escape to the Silent Cities: My Famous File: Dred Scott & Harriet Scott
"Dred Scott tried to win his freedom at a time when white Americans were struggling to determine the political status of slavery, as well as their attitudes toward black people, slave or free.  The United States Supreme Court’s pro-slavery decision did not surprise the nation. In fact, it outraged much of the population when it was confirmed. When Emerson’s attorneys questioned the constitutionality of the 1820 Missouri Compromise, they placed Dred Scott’s case directly in the center of sectional political maelstrom. Extending slavery into the territories was a contentious issue with, as the national media reported, often-violent reactions. The hostility and bloodshed of the Missouri-Kansas border troubles only emphasized the sectional chasm between northern and southern states over the slavery issue.
The United States Supreme Court was under increasing pressure to offer a judicial resolution to the slavery issue. In denying Dred Scott his freedom, the Court made one of its most controversial decisions ever. Waves of indignation swept the North. Editorial comments from northern newspapers immediately denounced the decision as wicked, detestable, and cowardly. Individual clergymen sermonized on the evils of a decision that dismissed an entire race as inferior. The furor did not begin or end, though, with the decision’s racism. Northerners who were not abolitionists, or even necessarily anti-slavery, protested the pro-Southern bias of the decision. It allowed, virtually unchecked, the spread of slavery into territories and states, threatening the economic aspirations of free white laborers.
Taney intended the Court’s decision to end the slavery controversy for all time. Instead, the intense and immediate public reaction accelerated a chain of events that made fighting a civil war unavoidable.”