Date of Graduation

Summer 2020


Master of Arts in History



Committee Chair

Jeremy C. Neely


From 1824 to 1837, the Supreme Court of Missouri developed a sophisticated caselaw establishing emancipation-by-residency—where a Missouri court could liberate an enslaved petitioner because of their residence in a free jurisdiction—as a basis of freedom suits. In 1852, however, the Court undermined the precedential value of those decisions and dismantled this basis when deciding Dred Scott’s case, Scott v. Emerson. Scholarship on Missouri’s freedom suits has highlighted how partisanship and the political atmosphere in Missouri as well as across the nation contributed to this outcome. This study adds to the historiography how the previous caselaw itself predisposed the result; the failure of the caselaw to recognize the personhood of the slave enabled the Scott Court to abrogate the caselaw using principles of comity. To reveal this jurisprudential connection and its significance, this study dissects the anatomy of the Missouri Court’s emancipation-by-residency caselaw, 1824 to 1837, aided in this labor by the Missouri statutes that provided a procedural framework for freedom suits, the practice of freedom suits in Missouri, and the federal Dred Scott regime concerning black citizenship, articulated when Dred Scott subsequently took his case to the federal courts.


freedom suits, Missouri, jurisprudence, personhood, slavery, legal history

Subject Categories

Jurisprudence | Legal | United States History


© Jacob Alfred Brandler

Open Access