Background of Slave Freedom Suits in Missouri

"Once free, always free" was a doctrine upheld by Missouri courts in determining slave freedom suits. Dred Scott sued for his freedom because he had been a resident of Illinois and the Wisconsin territory.

The Petition to Sue for Freedom was the first step in the legal process governed by the Missouri statutes. The circuit court granted permission to sue when several conditions, including the posting of bonds, were met.

Dred Scott, like most slaves, was not allowed to learn to read or write and was thus unable to sign his name to the petition for freedom. He made his mark with an "X".

"Background of Missouri Slave Suits" was prepared by the Missouri State Archives.