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The Scott decision increased tensions between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in both North and South, further pushing the country towards the brink of civil war.

Ultimately, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution settled the issue of Black citizenship via Section 1 of that Amendment: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside ..." Scott's freedom suit before the state courts was backed financially by Peter Blow's children, who had turned against slavery in the decade since they sold Dred Scott.

The doctrine was known as "Once free, always free".

Scott and his wife had resided for two years in free states and free territories, and his eldest daughter had been born on the Mississippi River, between a free state and a free territory. The verdict went against Scott, as testimony that established his ownership by Mrs. However, the judge called for a retrial, which was finally held in January 1850.

Some believe that Scott was sold in 1831, while others point to a number of slaves in Blow's estate who were sold to Emerson after Blow's death, including one with a name given as Sam, who may be the same person as Scott. Emerson moved frequently, taking Scott with him to each new army posting.

In 1836, Emerson and Scott went to Fort Armstrong, in the free state of Illinois.

Dred Scott was listed as the only plaintiff in the case, but his wife, Harriet, played a critical role, pushing him to pursue freedom on behalf of their family. This time, direct evidence was introduced that Emerson owned Scott, and the jury ruled in favor of Scott's freedom. In 1852, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down the lower court ruling, arguing that growing antislavery sentiment in the free states made it no longer necessary for Missouri to defer to the laws of free states.

Drake, one of Scott's lawyers who became a Republican Senator.

The marriage was formalized in a civil ceremony presided over by Taliaferro, who was a justice of the peace.

Since slave marriages had no legal sanction, supporters of Scott would later point to this ceremony as evidence that Scott was being treated as a free man.

Moreover, Scott's temporary residence outside Missouri did not bring about his emancipation under the Missouri Compromise, which the court ruled unconstitutional as it would "improperly deprive Scott's owner of his legal property". Taney had hoped to settle issues related to slavery and Congressional authority by this decision, it aroused public outrage, deepened sectional tensions between the northern and southern U. states, and hastened the eventual explosion of their differences into the American Civil War.

President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and the post-Civil War Reconstruction Amendments—the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments—nullified the decision. John Emerson, a surgeon serving in the United States Army. Emerson and relocated to Rock Island, Illinois, he attempted to run away.

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Members of the Blow family signed as security for Scott's legal fees and secured the services of local lawyers.