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The Mississippi Case: For The Signal Of Liberty

The Mississippi Case: For The Signal Of Liberty image
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A statement of the legitimóte results that must necessarily grovv out of the decisión of the Suprerne court of the United States in the great Mississippi case, decided last winter. The Emancipator informs us that the court decided that "the character of property is given them (siaves) by the local law. This law is respected, and all rights under it are protected by the federnl authorities, but tho consiitution acts upon siaves as persons and not as property.'' 'The power over slavery belongs to the States respectively. Il is local in its char acter, and in ils efïects.'" Then f the law is local in its effccts, t can produce no effect out of its particular locality, to wit, the State in which it exisfs; and if ihe constitution acts upon siaves as persons and not as property, then no law of congress can act upon them out of n slave State in any other way than il can act upon olher persons who are not claimedas property; for the constitution provides that itself and the laws of the United States made in pursuance thercof, and the treaties made by the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land, and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby. Then it follows from this decisión, and the provisión út the constitution above referred to, that in any part of the United States where congress has exclusive jurisdiction,lhere canbe no law operating upon persons as property. If t be said that the oíd local laws of Virginia and Maryland still opérate in the District ofUolumbia, then Virginia and Maryland still exercise jurisdiction there; and the jurisdiction of congress ia not exclusive. ■ But if it be said that congress have adoptI cd the slave laws of Virginia and Maryj land, as making part of iheir jurisdictiunnl eoJe, then I unsvver that tliey could not according to the above decisión, have made any law to opérate on persons or slaves as properly, and consequently could not have adopted as their own any other laws vvhich did Ihus opérate; and therefore the slave laws of Virginia and Maryland must have died the moment the States ceded away their jurisdiction. The consequence is, that every slave in the District, by this decisión is now free; there is no law there that can affect him as property. For the constitution is the suprerne law of the land, and congress cannot. if they will, grant authority to the people of the District to makc such laws. Laws made under such a grant would be set asido by the court, if they would carry out the decisión already made. Congress has no power but thatgrantcd by ihe consütution, and ifthe constitution does not act upon persons as property, it is evident that a body deriving all its powers from that instrument, cannot make a law that will.i he court has decnJcd that "(he power over slavery belongs to the States respectively. That t is local in its character and in its effects." "That the local law will be respected by the federal authoritíes." "That the constituíion ncts upon slaves as persons not as property." Then if the power over slavery belongs (o the States respectively, it belongs no where else, and if it is local in its efíccts, its effects extend no where else. "This law," the court say, (the loca! law,) is respected by the federal authoritie?, but they say it s local in its effects, and consequently is respected only in its local effects. So that by this decisión, we have gdt slavery hemmed in within the limits of ils own territory, and the court has told the slaveholder that the constitution does not know bis instituiion as propcrly. lf, as the court say, the "power over slavery belongs exclusively to the Siates1 and that the power is "local in its effects,1 every slave in Florida is now free, and this is not all ; every one that can hereafter run away and get there wili beout ofthe lawful reach of bis master. For he is now according to the decisión beyond the pow er of slavery; he is beyond the effects o the slave laws, and every man who is ou of the reach oí' slave luws isa freeman by the coinmon law and the laws of nature. - lf he is not in this caso absolutely free, then he is not beyond the effects of the laws ofthe slave State frotn which he fled, and if he is not beyond the effects of the ölave laws then the slave laws are not local in their effects, and the decisión s erroneous. But he is free, and why? Because he -has bccome the inhabilant of a country where all the inhabitants are constitulionally free, and left all the fetters of slavery where he crossed the State une. Therefore Congress or the Legislature of Florida, have no more righi to pass a law for returning fugilive slaves, thaii they had for enslaving any olher class of citi- zens. The constitution provides only for the return of fugitives from the States and spealts of thetn as persons.It may be said that Congress, under that provisión of theconstituüon which authorizes them to cxercise exclusive jurisdiclion in all cases whatsoever, may establish slavery in the District of Columbio, but it is to be remembered that Congre.s does not derive litis power from the people of the District, as the Legislatures of ihe States do theirs from the people of the States; they have no powers except those derived from the constitution, and the coiwt say, "the constitution acts upon slaves as persons and not as property," and if the constitution does not act upon slaves as property, it cannot bestow upon Congress power lo make laws that will. It cannot bestow power to raake laws repugnant to itself.It also follows that this decisión puts an end to slavery on the high seas. Men are always free from slavery except under the jurisdiction of slave laws, and when they get on the high seas they are on the common ground and common highway of all nations, and are consequently beyond the effects of the local lavv of slavery, and have as good a right to theijf freedora and as much right to defend it as if they had tiever been enslaved. July 30, 1841. Q. R. S.