Page:United States Statutes at Large Volume 1.djvu/426
from whence he fled.
mony or affidavit taken before and certified by a magistrate of any such state or territory, that the person so seized or arrested, doth, under the laws of the state or territory from which he or she fled, owe service or labour to the person claiming him or her, it shall be the duty of such
service or labour may be due. It is exceedingly difficult, if not impracticable, to read this language, and not to feel that it contemplated some further remedial redress than that which might be administered at the hand of the owner himself. “A claim” is to be made. Ibid.
“A claim” in a just juridical sense, is a demand of some matter as of right, made by one person upon another to do or to forbear to do some act or thing as a matter of duty. It cannot well be doubted, that the constitution requires the delivery of the fugitive “on the claim” of the master: and the natural inference certainly is, that the national government is clothed with the appropriate authority and functions to enforce it. The fundamental principle applicable to all cases of this sort would seem to be, that where the end is required, the means are given; and where the duty is enjoined, the ability to perform it is contemplated to exist on the part of the functionaries to whom it is intrusted. Ibid.
The clause relating to fugitive slaves is found in the national constitution, and not in that of any state. It might well be deemed an unconstitutional exercise of the power of interpretation, to insist that the states are bound to provide means to carry into effect the duties of the national government; nowhere delegated or intrusted to them by the constitution. On the contrary, the natural, if not the necessary conclusion is, that the national government, in the absence of all positive provisions to the contrary, is bound, through its own proper departments, legislative, executive, or judiciary, as the case may require, to carry into effect all the rights and duties imposed upon it by the constitution. Ibid.
A claim to a fugitive slave is a controversy in a case “arising under the constitution of the United States,” under the express delegation of judicial power given by that instrument. Congress, then, may call that power into activity, for the very purpose of giving effect to the right; and if so, then it may prescribe the mode and extent to which it shall be applied; and how, and under what circumstances, the proceedings shall afford a complete protection and guarantee of the right. Ibid.
The provisions of the sections of the act of Congress of 12th February, 1793, on the subject of fugitive slaves, as well as relative to fugitives from justice, cover both the subjects; not because they exhaust the remedies, which may be applied by Congress to enforce the rights, if the provisions shall be found, in practice, not to attain the objects of the constitution: but because they point out all the modes of attaining those objects which Congress have as yet deemed expedient and proper. If this is so, it would seem, upon just principles of construction, that the legislation of Congress, if constitutional, must supersede all state legislation upon the same subject; and by necessary implication prohibit it. For if Congress have a constitutional power to regulate a particular subject, and they do actually regulate it in a given manner, and in a certain form, it cannot be that the state legislatures have a right to interfere. Where Congress have an exclusive power over a subject, it is not competent for state legislation to interfere. Ibid.
The clause in the constitution of the United States, relating to fugitives from labour, manifestly contemplates the existence of a positive, unqualified right on the part of the owner of the slave, which no state law or regulation can in any way qualify, regulate, control, or restrain. Any state law or regulation, which interrupts, limits, delays, or postpones the rights of the owner to the immediate command of his services or labour, operates, pro tanto, a discharge of the slave therefrom. The question can never be, how much he is discharged from; but whether he is discharged from any, by the natural or necessary operation of the state laws or state regulations. The question is not one of quantity or degree, but of withholding or controlling the incidents of a positive right. Ibid.
The constitutionality of the act of Congress relating to fugitives from labour, has been affirmed by the adjudications of the state tribunals, and by those of the courts of the United States. If the question of the constitutionality of the law were one of doubtful construction, such long acquiescence in it, such contemporaneous expositions of it; and such extensive and uniform recognitions would, in the judgment of the court, entitle the question to be considered at rest. Congress, the executive, and the judiciary, have, upon various occasions, acted upon this as a sound and reasonable doctrine. Cited, Stuart v. Laird, 1 Cranch, 299. Martin v. Hunter, 1 Wheat. 304. Cohens v. The Commonwealth of Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264. Ibid.
The provisions of the act of 12th February, 1793, relative to fugitive slaves is clearly constitutional in all its leading provisions; and, indeed, with the exception of that part which confers authority on state magistrates, is free from reasonable doubt or difficulty. As to the authority so conferred on state magistrates, while a difference of opinion exists, and may exist on this point, in different states, whether state magistrates are bound to act under it, none is entertained by the court, that state magistrates may, if they choose, exercise the authority, unless prohibited by state legislation. Ibid.
The power of legislation in relation to fugitives from labour, is exclusive in the national legislature. Ibid.
The right to seize and retake fugitive slaves, and the duty to deliver them up, in whatever state of the Union they may be found, is, under the constitution, recognized as an absolute positive right and duty, pervading the whole Union with an equal and supreme force; uncontrolled and uncontrollable by state sovereignty or state legislation. The right and duty are co-extensive and uniform in remedy and operation throughout the whole Union. The owner has the same security and the same remedial justice, and the same exemption from state regulations and control, through however many states he may pass with the fugitive slave in his possession, in transitu, to his domicile. Ibid.
The act of the legislature of Pennsylvania upon which the indictment against Edward Prigg, for carrying away a fugitive slave, is founded, is unconstitutional and void. It purports to punish as a public offence against the state, the very act of seizing and removing a slave by his master, which the constitution of the United States was designed to justify and uphold. Ibid.
There is no general principle in the law of nations, which requires a surrender of a fugitive slave. The surrender must be required by compact. Jones v. Vanzant, 2 McLean’s C. C. R. 596.