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Decision Of The Supreme Court

Decision Of The Supreme Court image
Parent Issue
Day
30
Month
March
Year
1842
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

It appears that the account we gave last week of one of the points decided by the Court was erroneous in one respect. The Court was represented in the Philanthr.opist and other papers as deeiding that nu State magistrale hus any righl to act under the lnw of 1793, in restoring fugitive slaves to their mnsters, Joshua Leavitt, who Í9 usually ver correct, has wrillen the following notes of the decisión which we commend to our readers till the decisión itself shall be published. Judge Story, in pronouncilig the opinión ef the court, briefly rt-citod the poinjs preeen'ed in the record, and ihen the clause in the constitution respecting fugilives from labor. "No persnn held to service or labor in one State, under the laws therenf, escapïng into another, shall, in i'onsequence of nny law or reguiaüon therein, be discharged from sueh service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party tó whom such service or labor is due." He saie!, we know, hislorically, thot the object of this clause was to secure the ownership of slaves a9 propurty, in nny State to which they might escape. Such a provisión was essential to the Pecuriiy of ibis epecies óf property, and to the permanency of thedomestic iostitutions of some of tho States. It was designed to guard that property against the doctrinos and princij)les of the non-slaveholding States. By the general law of nations, no nation is botind to recognize in its own dominions the law of 6lavery of another nation. Slavery being purely a municipal regulation, any recognitiou of it by a foreign government is a matter of cotnily, and not of international right. This w-'as settled in Somerset's case, decided before our revolutioq. if this clauee had not been in the Constitution, every State wou!d have had the power to declare ibe slaves of other Siates free on coming within its territory. Such a state f things was caiculated to eneender con'inuedstrife, and could not have been acceded to by the 6laveholders without cndangering iheir property. Tho clause is then to be interpretad, in consisteney with the words used, 60 os to efl'ectuate and not so ae lo defeat the object. No court oí j'istice would be justified in eonstruing a clause in a Constitution so as to defeat ifs ends. The first part of the clause contemplaos an unqualified right of ihe owner to have the po6session of bis fugitive .lave; a right which no Síate Inw is aliowed to abridge, regúlale, qualjy or resirain. - Without going iotn uny niecty or crilicism, any State law, inlerferlofi (o delsy, or postpone, or hinder the owner from enjoyiní Ine servicee of his dave, operates pro tanto as a discharge from service, I and 8 void. It establiehee the right of the owner without nny qua'ificaíion or restriflion. all over the Ufiir.n, the same riht whirh be had in the Siale where (he lave is held, and subject to all the incidenta of that right. One of these inc:denlf, universa lly enjjyed in (he s!av?holding Statep,is the right of rëcaption: This remedy is secured to the owner, provided he exercises it not in a rioíous marnier, nor attended with a breach of the peace. So far, the provisión of the Constitution executee itself, by aulhorizing the owner to rctake his slave throughout the Union, and thus far no aid of legislaron iá reqiiiied.But had me Consíitution s'opped here, it would have failed of its object, or ! would have given the owner of fugitive slavesan insufficient and delusive remedy. ín cases where he could not himself lay hands on his elnve, or convey bim to his own State, he might be hindered by local legislation or oiher opposition and thereCnre the Constiiution, in the other part of the clause, providee that the slaves 'sball be deUvered up on claim1' of his owner. It is difficult to read these wonlp, and not feel that ihey coutemplate a remedy by judicial proces?. The term claim implies as much. It 9 a demand oí' a right wrongfully withheld. The enforcenien' ofitíia right evidently requires the aid of legislation, prescribing the method by which the claim is to be enforced by tite delivering up of ihe slave hitnself to his owner ur claimer. Such legislation naturally belongs to ihe National Legisiatore. The right is createjcl by tho Federal Constitution; Congress alone is empowered k tnake Iaw8 for carrying the Constiiution into effect; no Irgislation by the State? could posst:88 (he requisiie uniformity or stability; the clauee itself is expressly intended to be a prolection against Staie legislation; Congress haa actually legislated on the subject by the Act ot'12ih I'eb. 1793; their legislation covers the wliole su j eet; the court have no doubt ofils coiiï-tnulionality ; it I as been expreesly recogpi&ed by the Supreme Courts of Massachusetts and New York and Pennsylva nia; inour opinión the legislatiou uf-Congress is exclusive, and does not admit oí any legislation by a State, eithcr lo supply the Heficiencies or to limit the operation of the Act of Congress. Such is the substance of the very elabórate opinión pronounced on bchalf of ihe Cojjrt by Judge Story. He therefore declared ihe Siatuto of Penneylvania o be unconstitutional, because it was an attempt to legislate on the subject of runaway slavea, which he declured to be ex clusively wilhin the power of Conress He said ihat State magistrates and oflicerimightact under the law of co?gress,unless pruhibited by u luw üf the State. Ilu also recognized the policu power of a State, to prolect itself agaiust ruiiaway slavcs, as ugainst vagrants and paupers, to preserve the peace of the Slaie, bul nut to interfere u aay mauner or degree with the rigUt of the fclave owner. Such s the decisión of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice aud Judg Daniel dissented front so inuch of (lie decisión as deniud all righl of the States t legislate on the subject, because itannullcd'the laws of Virginia and Maryluud, bj which. fugitivos, passing througb ihese States dn their wuy to Canadn, ure liable to be Beizeel mul unpriponed muil tho own er can tuke theni. Judge Al'Letin diesen led on Oiher ground, Jutjgé' flHldwin dia senied from go much of the opinión oh re cognizod tho aëcessjiy oí any legislalion by Congres?. For myseJf, I liave no fears thcit any do cision oí the Supremo Coim, or any uiher aclofany man or body of meo, can now arrest iho progresa oí' free principies, or turn back the torrent ofexecralion and destruaion which is now Betting in upmi the eyslein of slavery. It is a great gain lo uur entevprise to have these questions of law eetlled. It' this decisión has annulled uur jury law, ii has equally prostrated ihe black laws of Ohio and Illinois. No man can iiow (ake u fugilive, bul the owner or bis autkorizcd agent. No Slule magistrale, oflicer, or citizen in the free States can be cotnpclled to aid the recapUon of a iugiiive. No man isobliüed to know thal the tiaveller whoinhe helps on his way to Canada is a slave. No inaster can take bis slaveand earry hitn off peaceably, uulets he is a good deal strongcr ihan tho slavc. If il has rendeved nugatory all Ie islation by tbfc States lor the immunily of their soil againet liie ravages of ibe slavehutiier, it has luid the iuundation of au apjeal lo congress to afiord the requisite safeguards of the public peace aud the rights of free citizens of color, which Con gresB will'not be able luug 10 resist. It ia the duty ofCongrt-östo próvido the mode of trial, to enact tbe penalty fur unauihurized 6cizure8 aod abductiuu?, to prescribe a limiiatiun of one year (the timu required iu most of the íree StóieB for a nativo American to acquire the right of suil'rage) bevond which no person ún be claimed as a fugilive, and to take measures for such an alteration of ihe couslituiion as bhall relieve the free States froni allowing tlieir íerritory to be a huotihg grountl for the remorselei-s man h) eua. Tu ihis end, we uius ptuiiim Congress, and the State Lrgisiatures inusl u=e thtir iiiflucüce-AU IT CAX CE DcME.From the N. Y. Tribune. lVoai a.Bi SJavcry. The Supreme Court oí the Unittd States iris juat prunouuced the lúust importa ui ticciMun wluch haa pioec ded íruin it& bench fiir iii.;iiy years - perhaps ever. This irerueudoas decisión bruigs the ques;ion cfFrt e:Jom or Slavery home tu all our düors. There ia nol a mau iti the Free tales who is not afiecied by il - whufctí personal liberiy is not invaded and eudangered by him. The Cunesiitulion kuows Jio diöiinction of whiie, bluck and iutermediaie colored persons: it says nulhióg expresely of sla ves ; it speuks ouly of "person held to labur or service in re Staltí eecaping iuto another." Now f a ntigrotnay be apprehended iu this city and camed by mere i'orce to Virginia, lo sume one who claims bun as un escuped slave or eervant, then any of us - toen Guv. Stivvard, Justjce Thompson, or Juanee Siory, rnay be so takep." Where is the aafeguard against abuse ? VVhere i ihe proiectiun to Fieemen i The State lasv of 1S40, extending ihe right of trial by jury to perrons cluimed as "fugiüves from labor or service,1' affuided i.uch protection. By that law a 6laveholder was requirod 10 prove Nis pruperiy in a oiatj or w ona o claimed by hun, as much as in a hoise ur m'inkey. Even before the passage of that ltiv,a blaveholder was always required lo verify iiis legal rigbl before a Justice of ihe Feace, who upj-roved it or 6et the arrestcd person at iiberiy. Bul ibis proviso, if we fully apprehend the decisión, is now declared a nullity, as well as tho trial by Jury; and ihe slaehoider ia authorized to tako his slave any whcre and without any iugii ..uccosor securi whatever. - We need not add that llue authonty to takehisölave is practical authority to take whoinever he inay think or claim to be such.T fie Decisión of the Ssspreme Coan-t - The RCKÏiiCty. The Correspondent of the N. Y. American wr.teáfrom Washington: "Bul there is a remedy - a uëacea'ble, loyal,cuusiituiionul remedy. And that is, an omcndmenl of ihe Conslilutiun, to conform il in uil partsexactly toihe letter and spirit of the Declaration of Jndependence, which is the true charter for which we fought in the battles of the Revoluiion; and it is that which we won. It secms asiflhere we re aa order of immuiable Pioviderice, thal the jreat question of radical coiistituticnal reform and reorganizalion,or dissolution and revolution, should now conje before the peonle, without delay, and be acted on them. Just as the ominous and tremendous ugirtation on this subject has begun to die away on the floor of the huil of the repiesentativee, suddenly frum the Supreine Court room bursts out this dreaoful decisión, like a mine spiun" undyr the foundations of the capito!."Eleven yeara ngo, in thunder-tones of eloquence, to which (he whole Norlh responded unanimously and instanteously, we vvere lold in ihis capítol, by hitn who was then the greatest man in the Union, that we must never permit ourselves to "calcúlate the valué oí the Union." Now hehold the chango Jn the times and in us! At this moment, as this woful exaction oflho custly priee of the Union Í9 furced on the l'reetnen of the Nurth, how uníversally does the dread question rise to our lips, "What is all ibis worth?" The question is now solemnly put to us; and we are cailed ún to weigh the valué of the Uu ion agamst tlie lossofthe ''inalienable rights" ul'all free-born men, tor "all men are bom freo and equal;"aud, to ihat question, how loudly swolis the answer in lbose very vt'urds, by tliat high aulhority, so condenmed, proscribed and ouilawed - "Liberty first,and Union aftertvards " - for liberty was firsl and unión carne aficrwards. - Libeiiy vvns the first great canse; l.'nion wiis bul un incidental cíFect. We will be united, if we can; but we will bo free, at all events, white lifeand strength are left. Nu considerations of pecuuiary interest cari be nllowed to enter this calculación. And now, if they teil us thatour desired relief by conslitutional amendment of the Constitudon, is impossible, we write our answer on the walls of the capiiol, for the trcmbling Belshazzurs lo read: "Mene: Tekel: Upharein :"- "The days of the Uniun are numbered and ñni&hed:. U i weigiied in the balancee, und found wanting: It is divided." The theme is vast and awfu!; and lulmost 6hudder at the responsibilities it opous to us. But we shall nol ehrink frotn them."

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Subjects
Signal of Liberty
Old News