House Reports

Author: The Missouri Circuit Court

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Papers in the Dred Scott Case (1847–1848)



Your petitioner, Dred Scott, a man of color, respectfully represents that sometime in the year 1835 your petitioner was purchased as a slave by one john Emerson, since deceased, who afterwards, to-wit; about the year 1836 or 1837, conveyed your petitioner from the State of Missouri to Fort Snelling, a fort then occupied by the troops of the United States and under the jurisdiction of the United States, situated in the territory ceded by France to the United States under the name of Louisiana, lying north of 36 degrees and 30′ North latitude, now included in the State of Missouri, and resided and continued to reside at Fort Snelling upwards of one year, and held your petitioner in slavery at such Fort during all that time in violation of the Act of Congress of 1806 and 1820, entitled An Act to Authorize the People of Missouri Territory to form a Constitution and State Government, and for the admission of such State into the Union on an equal footing with the original states, and to Prohibit Slavery in Certain Territories.

Your petitioner avers that said Emerson has since departed this life, leaving his widow Irene Emerson and an infant child whose name is unknown to your petitioner; and that one Alexander Sandford administered upon the estate of said Emerson and that your petitioner is now unlawfully held in slavery by said Sandford and by said administrator, and said Irene Emerson claims your petitioner as part of the estate of said Emerson and by one Samuel Russell.

Your petitioner therefore prays your Honorable Court to grant him leave to sue as a poor person, in order to establish his right to freedom, and that the necessary orders may be made in the premises.

Dred Scott.

This day personally came before me, the undersigned, a Justice of the Peace, Dred Scott, the person whose name is affixed to the foregoing petition, and made oath that the facts set forth in the above petition are true to the best of his knowledge and belief, that he is entitled to his freedom.

Witness my hand this 1st day of July, 1847.

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 1st day of July, 1847.

Peter W. Johnstone

Justice of the Peace.

Upon reading the above petition this day, it being the opinion of the Judge of the Circuit Court, that the said petition contains sufficient matter to authorize the commencement of a suit for his freedom, it is hereby ordered that the said petitioner Dred Scott be allowed to sue on giving security satisfactory to the Clerk of the Circuit Court for all costs that may be adjudged against him, and that he have reasonable liberty to attend to his counsel and the court as the occasion may require, and that he be not subject to any severity on account of this application for his freedom.

July 2d, 1847.

A. Hamilton

Judge of Circuit Court 8th Jud. Cir.


Circuit Court of St. Louis County, November Term, 1847.

Dred Scott, a man of color, by his attorneys, plaintiff in this suit, complains of Alexander Sandford, administrator of the estate of John Emerson, deceased, Irene Emerson and Samuel Russell defendants, of a plea of trespass that the said defendants, heretofore, to-wit, on the 1st day of July in the year 1846, at to-wit, the County of St. Louis aforesaid with force and arms assaulted said plaintiff, and then and there bruised and ill-treated him, and then and there put him in prison and kept and detained him in prison, and without any reason whatsoever for the space of one year, and then and there violating and contrary to law and against the will of said plaintiff; and said plaintiff avers that before and at the time of the committing of the grievance aforesaid, he, the said plaintiff, was then and there and still is a free person, and that the said defendants held and still hold him in slavery, and other wrongs to said plaintiff then and there did against the laws of the State of Missouri to the damage of the said plaintiff in the sum of $300, and therefore he sues.


April 30, 1847, April Term. A. Hamilton, Judge.

This day come the parties by their attorney and comes also a jury . . . twelve good and lawful men, who being duly elected, tried and sworn the truth to speak upon the issue joined between the parties, upon their oaths, do find that the said defendant is not guilty in any manner and form as the plaintiff hath in his declaration complaint against her. Therefore it is considered that the said defendant go hence without day and recover of the said plaintiff her costs in this behalf expended. The plaintiff by his attorneys files a motion for a new trial herein. Set aside. . . .

It is ordered in this case that the plaintiff in these two suits make his election on or before the first day of the next term of this Court which of said suits he will continue to prosecute. . . .


Thursday December 2, 1847, November Term.


Thursday Feby 29, 1848, Nov. Term.

This day comes said plaintiff by his attorneys and says that he will not further prosecute this suit. It is therefore considered that said defendants go hence without day and recover of said plaintiff their costs in this behalf, and have thereof execution.


Friday March 17th, 1848.

It is ordered that the Sheriff of St. Louis County take the said plaintiff into his possession and hire him out from time to time to the best advantage, during the pendency of this suit. And that he take bond from the hirer payable to the State of Missouri in the sum of $600 with good security conditioned that the said hirer shall not remove said plaintiff out of the jurisdiction of this Court; that he will pay the hire to said Sheriff and return said plaintiff at the expiration of the term for which he is hired, or as soon as this action is ended.

From the MS. Court Records of St. Louis County.


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Chicago: The Missouri Circuit Court, "Papers in the Dred Scott Case (1847– 1848)," House Reports in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903), Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2022,

MLA: The Missouri Circuit Court. "Papers in the Dred Scott Case (1847– 1848)." House Reports, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 4, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1903, Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2022.

Harvard: The Missouri Circuit Court, 'Papers in the Dred Scott Case (1847– 1848)' in House Reports. cited in 1903, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2022, from