Federal Courts in History

Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857)

Case background and primary source documents concerning the Supreme Court case of Dred Scott v. Sanford. This case deals with the issues of slavery, states’ rights, and the interpretation of our Founding documents. This lesson focuses on the question of how the two sides in the Dred Scott decision interpreted the same Founding documents and came to such different conclusions.

Founding Principles

Federalism image


The people delegate certain powers to the national government, while the states retain other powers; and the people, who authorize the states and national government, retain all freedoms not delegated to the governing bodies.

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