|Federal Laws Regarding Slavery
|There are two paths for Federal laws regarding slavery: 1. fugitive slaves 2. free African Americans.
These issues intertwine themselves in the early years of the Republic. Slavery is viewed as a local
(state) issue so that the U. S. Constitution only mentions slavery indirectly. The Constitution had no
power to regulate or control slavery as a state institution.
The Declaration of Independence
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by
their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Articles of the Confederation
The Articles of the Confederation were adopted in 1781. The document said nothing about slavery.
The power to regulate slavery was with the new states.
The closest mention to slavery in the Articles is Article 4, Section 1: "The better to secure and
perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this Union,
the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds and fugitives from justice excepted,
shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the
people of each State shall have free ingress and redress to and from any other State, and shall
enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties impositions and
restrictions, as the inhabitants thereof respectively."
Note that there were free blacks at this time and that they had certain legal rights and privileges.
Madison at this time (Federalist 42) viewed this clause as a problem in naturalization of citizens
rather than free African Americans. There was a large group that were American veterans of the
The Northwest Territorial Government (July 13, 1787)
"There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the
punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted:
Provided always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully
claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to
the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid."
In December of 1805 a petition of the Legislative Council and House of Representatives of the
Indiana Territory asked for the suspension of Article VI. While the U.S. House of Representatives
approved this idea it died in the Senate.
Article I, Section 2,3
Representatives and direct-- Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be
included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by
adding the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years,
and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
The Act Providing for the Enumeration of the Inhabitants of the United States approved March 1,
1790 provided that: "The marshals of the several districts of the United States shall be, and they are
hereby authroized and required to cause the number of the inhabitants within their respective
districts to be taken; omitting in such enumeration Indians not taxed, and distinguishing free persons,
including those bound to service for a term of years, from all others; distinguishing also the sexes
and colours of free persons, and the free males of sixteen years and upwards from those under that
age; for effecting which purpose the marshals shall have power to appoint as many assistants within
their respective districts as to them shall appear necessary."
Under this provision free blacks became "other free persons." However, free persons had a variety
of different meanings. It did not mean "free to vote." Voting was a matter for the states. In the case
of free African Americans it meant in almost all cases a different set of law applied.
Article I, Section 9
The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper
to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and
eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each
Article IV, Section 2, 3
No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another,
shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or
Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labor may be
This particular clause was felt necessary for the adoption of the Constitution. The Articles of the
Confederation had provided no means to retreve fugitive slaves.
Constitution as a Pro-Slavery Document
Slavery existed in all of the 13 states when the Revolution War was fought. Pennsylvania ended
slavery on March 1, 1780 with a graduated plan (there were still slaves in Pennsylvania in 1830
although none were under 50 years old.). Massachusetts ended slavery when a judicial decision in
1783 interpreted the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 as having abolished slavery with the
phrase, "all men are born free and equal." Other Northern states followed with most a graduated
abolition program. It was possible to have slaves in the north in some states well into the 19th
The Constituion of the United States did not create or establish slavery as a new institution it was an
institution already legally existing and the States continued it at their pleasure.
This, through unanimous consent of the convention, enabled the addition of the second section of
the 4th article of the Constitution: "No person held to service or labor in one state under the laws
thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged
from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or
labor may be due." This enabled the master to pursue and arrest his fugitive slave in another state,
using as much force as necessary, and he may bind and secure him so as to prevent a second
This compromise would effect not only escaped slaves but would result in free African-Americans
being sent South into slavery.
Chief Justice Taney in his Dred Scott decision gave a limited view of the power of Congress to
regulate slavery: "Now, as we have already said in an earlier part of this opinion, upon a different
point, the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution. The
right to traffic in it, like an ordinary article of merchandise and property, was guarantied to the
citizens of the United States, in every State that might desire it, for twenty years. And the
Government in express terms is pledged to protect it in all future time, if the slave escapes from his
owner. This is done in plain words too plain to be misunderstood. And no word can be found in the
Constitution which gives Congress a greater power over slave property, or which entitles property
of that kind to less protection that property of any other description. The only power conferred is
the power coupled with the duty of guarding and protecting the owner in his rights."
The Constitution did not implicitly confer the right to own slaves. It secured the right to reclaim
fugitive slaves against state legislation.15 Later court cases would insist that if this article was not in
the Constitution, all slavery laws would be purely local, municipal laws. Then, if a slave had
escaped to a free state, he would have been in fact free also.
The Constitution in turn through the representative clause recognized that slaves were not only
property but persons. Madison in Publius The Federalist LIV stated it as: "But we must deny the
fact that slaves are considered merely as property, and in no respect whatever as persons. The true
state of the case is, that they partake of both these qualities; being considered by our laws, in some
respects, as persons, and in other respects, as property. In being compelled to labor not for
himself, but for a master; in being vendible by one master to another master; and in being subject at
all times to be restrained in his liberty, and chastised in his body, by the capricious will of another,
the slave may appear to be degraded from the human rank, and classed with those irrational
animals, which fall under the legal denomination of property. In being protected on the other hand in
his life and in his limbs, against the violence of all others; the slave is no less evidently regarded by
the law as a member of the society; not as a part of the irrational creation; as a moral person, not as
a mere article of property. The Federal Constitution therefore, decides with great propriety on the
case of our slaves, when it views them in the mixed character of persons and of property. This is in
fact their true character. It is the character bestowed on them by the laws under which they live...."
James Madison in his "Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention on the Slave Trade Clause"
pointed out that under the Articles of Confederation "if any slave elopes to any of those states
where slaves are free, he becomes emancipated by their laws. For the laws of the states are
uncharitable to one another in this respect. But in this constitution, 'no person held to service, or
labor, in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or
regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of
the party to whom such service or labor may be due.' This clause was expressly inserted to enable
owners of slaves to reclaim them. This is a better security than any that now exists. No power is
given to the general government to interpose with respect to the property in slaves now held by the
Even in 1831 in a letter to Mathew Carey against the South Carolinians who were calling for the
dissolution of the National government Madison wrote: "The entanglements and conflicts of
commercial regulations, especially as affecting the inland and other non-importing States, and a
protection of fugitive slaves, substituted for the present obligatory surrender of them, would of
themselves quickly kindle the passions which are the forerunners of war."
In 1819 in a letter to Robert J. Evans on emancipating slavery Madison said: "That of the Master
will require a provision in the plan for compensating a loss of what he held as property guarantied
by the laws, and recognized by the Constitution."
The Constitution speaks of slaves as persons. Madison "thought it wrong to admit in the
Constitution, the idea that there could be property in men." When slaves are referred to in the
Constitution as the basis of representation, as migrating, or being imported, or as fugitives from
labor, they are spoken of as persons. The Constitution nowhere speaks of slaves as property.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793
The Congress passed on February 12, 1793 16 a fugitive slave act to carry out this provision of the
Constitution. The act provided a means by which owners could secure their slave property by
appearing in the federal or state courts and demanding the return of a runaway. The bill also
prescribed punishment for anyone who hindered this act.
The 1793 Act made the return of a slave an executive matter and not a judicial one. The plaintiff
must prove ownership of the slave, and that he escaped from his service. The magistrates simply
granted or refused the certificate that the owner had the right to the labour of the person. The rules
of evidence where the same rules that governed any other property. In practical terms this meant
that the escaped slave had no right to a jury trial. The U.S. Marshals (and state authorities until
Prigg) merely acted as collectors for the slave states.
Other states set up barriers by passing laws that prohibited their state courts from hearing any
runaway cases. They decided that all these cases must be heard by Federal Courts. Some states
had outright resistance to any enforcement of the law.
Before the actual arrest, obstruction, hindrance, or interruption was no offence. Defendants who
assisted runaway slaves not only had no resort to a defense through ignorance of the law but their
honest belief that the person was not a fugitive from service or labour was not an acceptable
defense (Hill v. Low, 4 Washing. C.C.R. 327 and Jones v. Van Zandt.) In fact, notice that the
persons concealed were runaway slaves didn't need to be in writing nor did it need to be verbal; the
act of 1793 itself was notice that the persons were fugitives (Jones v. Vanzant, 2 MCLean's C. C.
Prigg v Pennsylvania (March 1, 1842) upholds the right of Congress to pass laws supporting the
fugitive slave provisions of the United States Constitution. Prigg v. Pennsylvania was an attempt
by Pennsylvania to challenge this act. The partial success of this case disable the 1793 Fugitive
Slave Act and paved the way for the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.17
In the Constitutional Convention 10 states had already outlawed slavery. Only Georgia, North and
South Carolina still allowed the trade. They threatened to walk out of the Convention if the slave
trade was outlawed with the adoption of the Constitution. The Congress would not be allowed to
ban the slave trade outright until 1808.
In 1794 Congress passed the first law against the slave trade (1 U.S. Stat. 349-352). This act
concerned building boats for use in slave trade. Enforcement of this law appears as elusive as the
fugitive slave trade laws and further refinements of the act were found necessary.
In 1807 Congress passed a law (2 U. S. Stat. 426) against importing slaves into the United States.
Under Section 9 article 1 Congress was prohibited from stopping foreign slave trade until the year
1808 as an exercise of its commerce power. In Thomas Jefferson's Annual Message to Congress in
December 6, 1806, he called for the total abolition of foreign slave trade. A bill was introduced into
law the next day and was passed and signed by March 2, 1807 to take effect on January 1, 1808.
By 1818 Congress had placed further barriers by prohibiting foreign slave trade (3 U.S. Stat. 450).
Again in 1820 further regulation of this trade was made. Congress was entitled to this because it
had the constitutional power to regulate foreign commerce. (Note 36.)
In 1842 the United States signed the Webster Ashburton Treaty with Great Britain which called
upon the United States to help stop African slave trade. (Webster Ashburn Treaty) (See biography
of Charles Carpenter)
Are Free People of Color Citizens of the United States?
The U. S. Constitution did not define exactly what U. S. citizenship actually was - leaving it to the
Congress and U. S. Courts to define. The Constitution declared that "No person except a natural
boarn citizen and or a citizen of the United States at the adoption of the Constitution are eligible to
the office of President of the United States." without out defining what a natural born citizen was.
Article i, s. 8 gives Congress the authority "to establish a uniform rule of naturalization."
In some states free African Americans after the Revolutionary war were given the right to vote.
However, this an other legal protections disappeared over time. Gradually these were withdrawn
and free African Americans decended into a second class citizenship.
(Excerpts from Opinion of William Wirt, Attorney General of the United States November 7, 1821)
Looking to the constitution as the standard of meaning, it seems very manifest that no person is
included in the description of citizen of the United States who has not the full rights of a citizen in the
State of his residence. Among other proofs of this, it will be sufficient to advert to the constitutional
provision, that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of
citizens in the Several States." Now, if a person born and residing in Virginia, but possessing none
of the high characteristic privileges of a citizen of the State, is nevertheless a citizen of Viriginia in the
sense of the constitution, then, on his removal into another State, he acquires all the immunities and
privileges of a citizen of that other State, although he possessed none of them in the State of his
nativity; a consequence which certainly could not have been in the contemplation of the convention.
Again: the only qualification required by the constitution to render a person eligible as President,
senator, or representative of the United States, is, that he shall be a "citizen of the United States" of
a given age and residence. Free negroes and mulattoes can satisfy the requisitions of age and
residence as well as the white man; and if nativity, residence, and allegiance combined, (without the
rights and privileges of a white man,) are sufficient to make him a "citizen of the United States" in the
sense of the constitition, then free negroes and mulattoes are eligible to those high offices, and may
command the purse and sword of the nation.
For these and other reasons, which might easily be multiplied, I am of the opinion that the
constitution, by the description of "citizens of the United States," intended those only who enjoyed
the full and equal privileges of white citizens in the State of their residence. If this be correct, and if I
am right also in the other position---that we must affix the same sense to this description when
found in an act of Congress, as it manifestly has in the constitution--then free people of color in
Virginia are not citizens of the United States in the sense of our shipping laws, or any other laws,
passed under the authority of the federal constitution; for such people have very few of the
privileges of the citizens of Virginia.
1. They can vote at no election, although they may be freeholders.
2. They are incapable of any office of trust or profit, civil or military.
3. They are not competent witnesses against a white man in any case, civil or criminal.
4. They are not enrolled in the militia, are incapable of bearing arms, and are forbidden even to
have in their possession military weapson, under the penalties of forfeiture and whipping.
5. They are subject to sever corporal punishment for raising their hand against a white man, except
in defence against a wanton assault.
6. They are incapable of contracting marriage with a white woman, and the attempt is severly
The allegiance which the free man of color owes to the State of Viriginia, is no evidence of
citizenship; for he owes it not in consequence of any oath of allegiance. He is not required or
permitted to take such oath; the allegiance which he owes is that which a sojourning stranger
owes--the mere consequence and return for the protection which he receives from the laws.
Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 (No Jury Needed)
"this filthy enactment"...."This is a law which every one of you will break on the earliest occasion; a
law which no man can obey or abet without loss of his self-respect and forfeiture of the name of
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was an attempt to overcome the barriers being set up by free states
against the Fugitive Act of 1793. This law placed greater power on federal officers to enforce slave
laws of the slave states. Marshals, deputy marshals were required to execute the warrants from all
Federal Judges in regard to this act and they became liable for the return of the runaway after being
placed in their custody. Commissioners could also appoint individuals to execute warrants or form
posses.19 The act also provided stiff fines and punishments to anyone aiding or abetting the escape
of slaves. The U.S. Marshall also had the responsibility to return the runaways to the state from
which they escaped. They could be returned either to an agent or the owner.
President Millard Fillmore initially requested the opinion of the Attorney General J.J. Crittenden on
the constitutionality of the bill, specifically the sixth section which he worried might be a suspension
of the writ of habeas corpus. He reduced the law to a one paragraph explanation:
"Congress has constituted a tribunal with exclusive jurisdiction to determine summarily, and without
appeal, who are fugitives from service or labor under the 2d section of the 4th article of the
constitution, and to whom such service or labor is due. The judgment of every tribunal of exclusive
jurisdiction where no appeal lies, is, of necessity, conclusive upon every other tribunal. And,
therefore, the judgment of the tribunal created by this act is conclusive upon all tribunals. Wherever
this judgment is made to appear it is conclusive of the right of the owner to retain in his custody the
fugitive from his service, and to remove him back to the place or State from which he escaped."20
Prince George's County news reports thought that a new day had dawned with the Fugitive Slave
Act. The Upper Marlboro's The Planters' Advocate of January 28, 1852 wrote an editorial about
the new law:
"Fugitive Slaves - Those of our friends who have lost slaves from time to time, and failed to recover
them by the offer of large rewards, might review their offers. We think at this time with great hope
of advantage. The necessity of complying with the fugitive slave law of 1850 has become so
manifest, that even in Pennsylvania and Ohio the authorities appear less hostile to the slave owner;
and the connection with these crimes, besides bringing a still greater number within the observations
of the police, it is thought this unproved state of public opinion and the facts we have noticed might
be used advantageously by those seeking their property in vain. Liberal rewards, offered for slaves
who have been gone for years even, might prove effectual in reclaiming the fugitives for their
owners. Our friends who have lost such property would do well to give this matter their attention."
The first victim of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law was James Hamlet, a mulatto man about 30 years
of age, living in New York City. Mary Brown of Baltimore claimed him as her slave. He was
surrendered by United States Commissioner Gardiner to her agent Thomas J. Clare on September
28, 1850. He was taken to Baltimore but was released back to New York when $800 was paid to
Miss Brown. Gardiner received $10 for turning him over instead of the $5 for releasing him.
Henry Garnett from Philadelphia was arrested as the slave of Thomas P. Jones, of Cecil County
Maryland and taken before Judge Grier of the US Supreme Court. The Judge said the claimant had
not taken the course proscribed by the law and ordered the prisoner discharged.
Stephen Bennett in Columbia PA was arrested as a slave of Edward B. Gallup of Baltimore. He
was taken before Commissioner Ingraham and before Judge Kane. His friends purchased his
Mrs. Tamor or Euphemia Williams, February 1851. Mother of six children, alleged slave of William
T. J. Purnell of Worcester County Maryland was absent for 22 years with all children born in
Pennsylvania. Taken before Judge Kane of the US Circuit Court under a writ of habeas corpus
after a hearing she was discharged as not being the woman alleged.
Helen and son and unborn child in Philadelphia brought before Judge Kane as the property of John
Perdu of Baltimore and sent back to slavery.
Henry was arrested as the slave of Dr. Duvall of Prince George's County, Md in Columbia PA and
taken before U.S. Commissioner M'Allister and consigned to slavery.
Rachel Parker was living at the house of Joseph Miller in West Notingham, Pa when on December
30, 1850 she was kidnapped by 3 men: Thomas McCrery, John Merritt, and George Alexander.
Rachel had been born of free parents. Rachel was defended by Lloyd Norris and after a wait of 14
months she was freed. One of the only cases where someone was freed in a slave state. The same
jury also gave a free verdict for her sister Elizabeth who had been sent to New Orleans. Rachel
died in February 1918.
James Tasker, New York City was arrested and brought before U. S. Commissioner George W.
Morton and was sent to Maryland as the slave of Jonathan Pinckney.
Horace Preston was arrested in Williamsburg, New York was arrested and brought before U. S.
Commissioner Morton and sent to Baltimore as a slave of William Reese. He was later purchased
for $1,200 and released.
William Smith of Columbia Pa was arrested by Deputy Marshal Snyder of Harrisburg and Police
Officer Ridgeley of Baltimore under a warrant from U S Commissioner M'Allister. Smith tried to
escape and Ridgeley shot him dead.
Thomas Brown of Philadelphia was arrested by George F. Alberti and taken to Andrew Pearce of
Cecil County, Md.
Henry Massey was arrested in Philadelphia and brought before E. D. Ingraham and sent to Franklin
Bright of Queen Anne's County Md.
Slaves, Freedmen, and the Law
The U. S. Supreme Court in Groves v. Slaughter [40 U.S.] declared that slavery was a local
matter and that it could not exist without the authority of the law. It required municipal regulation.
John McLean, one of the judges deciding the case, affirmed that (slavery) could not be extended
beyond the jurisdiction of the states sanctioning it.
While the Maryland Courts turned a deaf ear to slavery cases, the Federal Courts had no such
problem. The seemingly insurmountable problems of slaves petitioning the Federal Courts gives one
pause to the ability and resourcefulness of the participants. In some cases the support of whites in
the communities were necessary as witnesses and, of course, there was the use of white attorneys.
In addition, manumitted slaves were allowed to file affidavits to support others in their petitions for
freedom. Slaves were not able to go out in search of their witness for petition of freedom cases only
that the court would permit the petitioner to attend court from time to time.
The reactions of the slaveholders varied Some depended on the power of the law to enforce their
property rights. Some tried to remove their slaves from the jurisdiction of courts that may decide
against them. Most cases involved middlemen where ownership itself was an open question.
The same rule applied to escaped slaves. If they could run to another area, in the case of Simon et
al. v. Paine from Maryland to D. C., then they could use the Federal Court in that area. However,
their case must be based on the laws that applied to that particular area.
However, from a Prince George's County case the Federal Courts decided that a slave could not
petition for freedom in anticipation of not being released at some time in the future. This was the
case of Lee et al. v. Preuss, Circuit Court, District of Columbia. May Term, 1827. A slave
woman named Joan Lee and her children John, Lizette and Janette were slaves of Anthony
Addison and were sold to Walter Addison as slaves from a term of twelve years and the children
would be slaves until the age of 30 for John or 25 for Lizette and Janette. Lizette also had a
daughter Nancy. They were in turn sold to Peter Savary.
Peter Savary died and instead of being returned to Anthony Addison they were kept in the estate
administered by Preuss. They sought their freedom on the grounds that they were afraid that Preuss
would sell them out of Maryland to avoid the dates of emancipation. The court ruled that they could
not grant freedom on the expectation of a future release date being violated.
In Crease v. Parker slaves had no right to contract. Obligations signed by a slave were not legally
binding. Only freedom gave a person legal status before the courts to enter into contracts. While in
Crease v. Parker this resulted in a victory for the freedman, in Richard v. Van Meter this judicial
precedent kept a former slave of William W. Claggett a slave for life. William Claggett had
promised his slave. Richard, freedom for the payment of $100 and allowed Richard to hire himself
out to work for his freedom. Claggett sold Richard to another person (with only $30 due) and
although Richard protested to the U. S. Circuit Court, the court decided that there could be no
contract between a master and slave.
Freed slaves were not considered free by their lack of constraints and their ability to act like a free
man. The color of the man was prima facie evidence of his being a slave and the burden of proof
was on the person to produce papers showing he was not a slave. However, in a free state
everyone, black or white was thought free on the prima facie evidence of his being in a free state.
This removed liability for false arrest, assault, and battery if a white person apprehended a black
and accused him of being a runaway slave. However, to commit someone to jail a magistrate must
be satisfied that the person actually was a runaway.
There was also the legal struggle to keep children out of slavery. While the children of slaves
became slaves at birth there were gray legal areas. If slaves who were not slaves for life but for a
specified period of time had children, were those children slaves? Yes! But to further complicate
the matter, were the children of slaves in an estate settlement who were not slaves for life. slaves?
In Samuel v. Childs et al the issue was decided against the slaves and their children.
The essential part of this is understanding that slaves had rights. This is especially true in petitions
from freedom to the Federal Courts. A case in point is Garretson v. Lingan where Jack
Garretson was taken from Maryland to Virginia to Maryland and sued for his freedom because the
owner hadn't taken a Virgina oath. The court based its decision on "the state of slavery in which he
has been held, disabled him from asserting his rights.
The Federal Court in United States v. Henry Lloyd recognized that assault and battery was a
common law offense against the slave. This case also stated that the murder of a slave was a felony.
Also in another case against Richard Lloyd it was ruled a common law offence to beat a slave
cruelly and expose him to public view. Richard Lloyd also seems to have attempted to kill a
freedman and was indicted for that action.
Nor were the Federal Courts closed to the use of black witnesses. In the United States v. Fisher in
1805 it was ruled that a freed black woman could testify against a white man. This stood in stark
contrast to Maryland.
Dred Scott v. Sanford
In 1834 Dred Scott was a slave belonging to Dr. Emerson, a surgeon in the United States Army.
With the consent of Dr. Emerson, Dred Scott married a woman named Harriet and they had two
children. Dr. Emerson moved the family from Illinois to the State of Missouri where he sold them to
a Mr. Sandford who was the defendant of the law suit. The law suit was based on the belief that the
Scott family should be free because it had been located in a free state. A petition for freedom was
brought in the Circuit Court of Missouri which was granted. It was overturned by the Supreme
Court of Missouri and then proceeded to work its way through the U. S. Courts. The Supreme
Court's decision was rendered on March 6, 1857.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Maryland's own native son, Roger B. Taney gave the
decision for the majority. He considered it the most important decision of his career and hoped to
put an end to the divisive issue of slavery affecting the country. This case "solved" several issues: 1.
The word "citizen" in the Constitution does not embrace negroes. 2. Negroes cannot become
citizens even by virtue of being declared free. 3. The Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional as
the Congress did not have power to regulate the extension of slavery.
This decision destroyed the entire legal history of the United States Court system regarding to the
rights of African Americans. Slaves no longer had any rights to petition the court, nor were they
protected by the United States Constitution. Slave states need only recognize the local laws that
they created with regard to slavery and free persons of colour. Taney refused to recognize the free
population that existed before the Revolutionary War, the contributions of black Revolutionary war
solders, and the history of contract law on which the freedom petitions were based. Within the
context of this ruling the 14th Amendment to the Constitution became a necessity by granting
citizenship to people who were here before the Pilgrims.
The Emancipation Proclamation was first issued September 22, 1862 and the final order was
issued January 1, 1863. As the Union troops gradually took possession of the south they carried
with them the message of freedom for millions of slaves. On January 1, 1863 President Lincoln
issued the Emancipation Proclamation. On that day between 20,000 to 50,000 slaves were freed.
By the end of the War slaves were freed in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama,
Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The document was never challenged in
court and in reading the document it doesn't have the usual oratical style of Lincoln. It is a cold legal
document issued by the commander-in-chief of what would become a very successful wartime
measure. Slavery was finally abolished everywhere by the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment
on December 18, 1865.
The second part of the proclamation allows the creation of African-American regiments in the
armed forces (the Navy had already accepted black sailors earlier).
The Emancipation Proclamation did not cover slavery in Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia,
Kentucky and Missouri plus counties exempted in Louisiana
The language of the Thirteenth Amendment "reproduced the historic words of the ordinance of
1787 for the government of the Northwest Territory and gave them unrestrained application within
the United States and all places subject to their jurisdiction." (Bailey v. Alabama) Senator Jacob
Howard noted that the language was ''the good old Anglo- Saxon language employed by our fathers in the
ordinance of 1787, an expression which has been adjudicated upon repeatedly, which is perfectly well
understood both by the public and by judicial tribunals."
The word servitude is of larger meaning than slavery, as the latter is popularly understood in this
country, and the obvious purpose was to forbid all shades and conditions of African slavery. But the
Court later amplified this, by remakirking that "undoubtedly while Negro slavery alone was in the mind of
the Congress which proposed the Thirteenth Amendment, it forbids any other kind of slavery," and might
"safely be trusted" to make void slavery developed through Mexican peonage or the Chinese coolie labor
system. This aspect of the case was confirmed in Hodges v. United States.
Civil Rights Act of 1866
This definition overturned Dred Scott v Sanford by declaring: All persons born or naturalized in the
United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the
State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enfroce any law which shall abridge the privileges
or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty,
or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal
protection of the laws.
In Minor v. Happersett it was ruled by the Supreme Court that women born of citizen parents
within the urrisdiction of the United States had always been considered citizens of the United
States as much so before the adoption of the 14th Amendment (however, it did not convey
Father of the Constitution
by Gilbert Stuart
National Gallery of Art
|Signing the Constitution
U. S. Capitol
|Let the first of January, the day of
the abolition of the slave trade in our
country, be set apart in every year, as
a day of publick thanksgiving for that
mercy. Let the history of the
sufferings of our brethren, and of
their deliverance, descend by this
means to our children, to the
remotest generations; and when
they shall ask, in time to come,
saying, What mean the lessons, the
psalms, the prayers and the praises
in the worship of this day? Let us
answer them, by saying, the Lord, on
the day of which this is the
anniversary, abolished the trade
which dragged your fathers from
their native country, and sold them
as bondmen in the United States of
Absalom Jones, Minister, St.
Thomas African Episcopal Church of
Philadelphia and freed slave
|I congratulate you, fellow citizens,
on the approach of the period at
which you may "constitutionally"
withdraw the citizens of the United
States from all further participation
in those violations of human
rights which the morality, the
reputation, and the best of our
country have long been eager to
President Thomas Jefferson, in his
annual message to Congress, Dec.
Federal Government and Slavery
Lincoln and Cabinet
|Chief Justice Roger B. Taney
U. S. Attorney General
Born in Bladensburg, Maryland
|Justice Joseph Story
author of decision in Prigg v Pennsylvania
|Associate Supreme Court Justice
Hill v Low
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