The Trial of Dred Scott (1856): Selected Links and Bibliography
by Kathleen Hall

Dred Scott

In 1846, Dred Scott and his wife Harriet filed suit for their freedom in the St. Louis Circuit Court. This suit began an eleven-year legal fight that ended in the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a landmark decision declaring that the Scotts remained slaves. This decision contributed to rising tensions between the free and slave states just before the American Civil War.

The Revised Dred Scott Case Digital Collection

This website hosts a digital collection of 111 documents from the Dred Scott case and provides information about Dred Scott’s life and family, and about the proceedings.  It is made available through the collaboration of the Missouri State Archives, Washington University and Washington University Libraries: (click on browse tab to get to original documents; click on chronology tab for a timeline)

Contemporary Publications from the American Memory Collection (Library of Congress)

The Case of Dred Scott in the United States Supreme Court: The Full Opinions of Chief Justice Taney and Justice Curtis and Abstracts of the Opinions of the Other Judges

This PDF document is available through Library of Congress, American Memory Collection.  It includes the text of the decision (two full opinions plus abstracts), reprinted by Horace Greeley & Co. in 1860, together with an Introduction by Dr. J.H. Van Evrie and an Appendix Containing an Essay on the Natural History of the Prognathous Race of Mankind, by Dr. S.A. Cartwright.


Historical and Legal Examination of That Part of the Decision of the Supreme Court of the U.S. in the Dred Scott Case, by Thomas H. Benton (N.Y.: D. Appleton & Co., 1857)


A Legal Review of the Case of Dred Scott, as Decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, by Horace Gray and John Lowell (Boston: Crosby, Nichols & Co., 1857).

 Contemporary Publications from the American Memory Collection (Library of Congress, cont’d)

An Examination of the Case of Dred Scott Against Sanford in the Supreme Court of the U.S., and a Full and Fair Exposition of the Decision of the Court and of the Opinions of the Majority of the Judges, by Samuel A. Foot (N.Y., 1859)


Letter, Roger Brooke Taney to Caleb Cushing thanking Cushing for his support of Taney's decision in the Dred Scott case (November 9, 1857).

Contemporary Publications from the New York Times Archives

A search for “dred scott” will yield numerous contemporary articles about the case, the subsequent emancipation of Dred Scott, reactions among state legislatures and more.

St. Louis courthouse that was site of Dred Scott trial

Contemporary Publications from the Making of America (Cornell University)

Opinion of Judge Daniel, in the Case of Dred Scott (New Englander and Yale Review, Vol. 15 Issue 59, August 1857).;cc=nwng;rgn=full%20text;idno=nwng0015-3;didno=nwng0015-3;view=image;seq=0357;node=nwng0015-3%3A1

The Dred Scott Case (North American Review, Vol. 85 Issue 177, October 1857).;cc=nora;rgn=full%20text;idno=nora0085-2;didno=nora0085-2;view=image;seq=0400;node=nora0085-2%3A5

Letters to the Editor:  Chief Justice Taney in Relation to the Dred Scott Case (The Century, Vol. 26 Issue 5, October 1883).

J.A. Walter, 957-58;cc=cent;rgn=full%20text;idno=cent0026-5;didno=cent0026-5;node=cent0026-5%3A32;view=image;seq=0967

Courtenay DeKalb, 958;cc=cent;rgn=full%20text;idno=cent0026-5;didno=cent0026-5;node=cent0026-5%3A34;view=image;seq=0968

Landmark Cases:  Dred Scott (from Street Law & the Supreme Court Historical Society)

Diagram of case movement through court system:

Contemporary newspaper editorials:

Text of Abraham Lincoln speech on Dred Scott decision (June 26, 1857):

Political cartoon, 1860.  Figures left to right clockwise: John C. Breckenridge dances with James Buchanan; Dred Scott seated plays violin;
dances with African American woman; John Bell dances with Native American; Stephen Douglas dances with a sovereign in rags

The Dred Scott Decision and its Bitter Legacy (from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History)

Online exhibit, includes images and documents as well as information about the trials, the parties and the judges.

Documents from the Dred Scott case

Books Recently Published

Austin, Allen.  Origins of the Dred Scott Case:  Jacksonian Jurisprudence and the Supreme Court, 1837-1857 (Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 2006).

Finkelman, Paul.  Dred Scott v Sandford: A Brief History with Documents (Boston: Bedford Books, 1997).

George, Robert P.  Great Cases in Constitutional Law (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 2000).

Graber, Mark A.  Dred Scott and the Problem of Constitutional Evil (N.Y.:  Cambridge University Press, 2006).

Kaufman, Kenneth.  Dred Scott’s Advocate: A Biography of Roswell M. Field (Columbia, MO.: University of Missouri Press, 1996).

Maltz, Earl M.  Dred Scott and the Politics of Slavery (Lawrence, KS.: University Press of Kansas, 2007).

Urofsky, Melvin.  The Public Debate Over Controversial Supreme Court Decisions (Washington, D.C.:  CQ Press, 2006).

VanderVelde, Lea.  Mrs. Dred Scott: A Life on Slavery’s Frontier (N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Famous Trials Website