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Unconstitutionality Of Slavery

Unconstitutionality Of Slavery image Unconstitutionality Of Slavery image
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Admittingfor the sake of argument - what i nottrue in fact - tliat Slavery has a Constiutional existence in the States, t is nevertheess unconstiulional in the District of Co'umjia - for the following reasons. All delpgated power, to which no other limt is cxpressed, is limited to the accomplislv ment of the specific objects for which the powr is granted. The objeutsfor the accomplishment of which he povvers of the general government were ranted, are declared, in the preatnble of the üonstitution, to be, " to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestio tranquility, provide for the cornmon defence, pronote the general welfare, and secure the blessngs of libertv to ourselves and our posterity.' This preamble is as much the preamble to that clause of the Constitution which grants Congres legislative power over the District of it is to the rest of the Constitution; and it as much defines and limits the legislative power of Congress over the District, rs it does anvoftheir legislative povvers. Story says, " The true office ofth preamble is to expound the nature, and extent, and application of the powers actually conferred by the Constitution." (1 Story's Comm. 445) This it does by declaiing the objects for the accomplishment of which the powers were granted. Congress, therefore.would have had no power to legalize Slavery in the District, even thouh no express prohibition had been laid upon them todo so, But express proliibitions are nevertheless laid upon them - as follows : All the general prohibitions laid upon the power of Congrees, appiy as much to their power within the District of Columbia, as to their power out of it. For example. The prohibition that " no tide of nobility shall be granted by the Unitect States." is as much a limiuuion upon the pow er of Congress wit'iin the District as out of ir. Of the same character are these several prohibitions, to wit, that " no bill of attainder or ex poet facto law, shall be passed ;" that " no per son shall be held to atiswer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unlcsi on a presontment or indictment of a grand jury," &c; "nor shall any person be subject to bo twice put in jeopardy of life or limb ; nor be compelled, in any criminal ca6e, to lie a wiiness against himself ; nor shal! private property be taken for public use without just eompensation ;" that "excessive bails shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments infiicted." All these pro i&ions are as niuch restnetions upon the power of Congress within the District as out of it. Probably no one will for a moment deny this poposition. Let us then look at somu other propositions, having special referonce to personal liberty. 11 The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspendeu, unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasión, the public safety, may require t.'' - Art. 1, Sic. 9. The writ of habeas corpus neccgsarily denles the right of property in man, else the writ could always be defeated by pleading property, and giving possession in proof. Congress having no constitutional power to suspend this writ atbitrarily within the Districr, this provisión is, necessarily a constiuuional de, nial that Slavery can be legnl in tlio District. yjavèry can pe iQ:i'!e len.l only hv ilif; us pension of the writ of tiabcas corpus, so far as the persons to be enslaved are concerned. Indeed 6lavc laws, whatever tbey may be injbrm aro in effect, little or nothing else ihan a suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, as to certain individuals. Slave laws do not of themselves reduce any one to Slavevery - they do not require any man to reduce another to Slavery. They eimply permit him to do it, by refusing to the enslaved person the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus - thusleaving him at the mercy of his oppressor, who, by individual forcé, compels him to serve him. If Congress can arbitrarily suspend the habeas corpus in the case of one individual in the District, they can arbitrarily suspend it in the case of all persons without distinction, and suffer the strong to reduce the vveak to servitude, without any discrimination of persons. Again. The Amendments to the Constitution provide " Congress shall make no laws abridgiug the freedom of speech, or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government forredress of grievances ;" that " the right of the people to take and bear arms shall not be infringed ;" that " the right of the people to be secure in their persons, liouses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.'" These prT)hibitions all apply to the power of Congress within the District of Columbia ; and they all imply personal liberty on the part of the people. Again. If Congress can legalize Slavery in the District of Columbia in defiance of' the foregoing principies, they can also legalize itin " all places purcliased by the consent of the legislature of the Statoin which the same shall ba, lor the ercction of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings," (insluding custom-houses, post offices, court honses, &c.) even though such 'places' be sitúate within the limits of a Free State ; for the Con - stitution expressly provides that Congress shall have power " to exercise like authority over all (such) places," as over the ten miles square. If therefore Congress can make a slave of any body in the District of Columbia, títere is no escape from the conclusión that they can make slaves of anybody and everybody who may venture within a fort. arsenal, dockyar), custom house, post office, or court-house, oH-neii by the United States and purchased with the consent of the Legislature of the State in which the same may be. lf the foregoing doctrines be true.there ia no legal Slavery in the District of Columbia. - Not only so, but all slaves, who have ever been brought from the States into the District have boen thwreby made legally free. Still further. All slaves escaping from the States into the District, thereby become legally free. The constitutional provisión for the delivery of fugitive3 " from service or labor;" - (admitting what is not really the fact, that it applies to blaves in any case,)applies only to those who escape from one State into another State ; not to lliosc who escape from a State into the District.