The Fugitive Slave Clause and the Rebellion of the Northern States

Hawkins

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Though as far as the OP, it's hard to argue the FSL did not have a firm legal basis, and was not a state right to ignore, as it also had been specifically included in the Constitution.
Perhaps I missed it, but can you show me where in Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 the Federal Government is empowered to force a private citizen to act as another man’s slave-catcher? Because among other things, that is what the FSL of 1850 did.
 
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Regardless, it is difficult to assign moral superiority to Southern protection of the Constitution when it was being done to keep millions in bondage.
Actually I think the study of history is the study of events and actions without trying to assign "moral superiority" or "moral inferiority" as that tends to not lend itself to either impartiality or objectivity.

And it's rather a poor thing to attach as a "standard" as it is no standard, as it changes over time, and even within different societies and religions in a given period. Morality is simply claiming one is right with no basis other then they say so or ones personal religious belief........... obviously if one studies history it's rather obvious many have disagreed for centuries or millennia over what we call "moral". Even today things we may consider immoral and illegal in the US, may be legal and considered moral in other countries and cultures, and vice versa.

I rather obviously have personal morals that most here in the western world today share.......however I have no illusion the majority in the past shared them, or they likely will in the future as it changes.
 
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Perhaps I missed it, but can you show me where in Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 the Federal Government is empowered to force a private citizen to act as another man’s slave-catcher? Because among other things, that is what the FSL of 1850 did.
Agree. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act addressed the shortcomings of Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 creating a federal authority for the apprehension and deliverance of escaped slaves, not by state officials but by federal officials. Nowhere in the 1850 FSA did it require enforcement by state officials but it did however require citizens to aid federal officials in possession of a warrant "whenever their services may be required, as aforesaid, for that purpose; and said warrants shall run, and be executed by said officers, any where in the State within which they are issued." Further, the Act authorized federal punishment for persons who obstructed provisions of the Act and violated the state rights of any state that extended citizenship to blacks and the rights of those freed blacks who may have been mistakenly or purposely apprehended; any free black that was caught would be presumed an escaped slave and under the terms of the Act, prohibited from defending himself since the Act denied habeas corpus and a right to a trial by jury. The judges that presided over FSA cases were Federally appointed commissioners that were not salaried as constitutionally required, but payed by the case, receiving a higher payment when ruling in favor of the slave owner then when ruling in favor of the slave, which was constitutionally prohibited.

edited - changed "created" to "creating"
 
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Perhaps I missed it, but can you show me where in Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 the Federal Government is empowered to force a private citizen to act as another man’s slave-catcher? Because among other things, that is what the FSL of 1850 did.
Perhaps you will show me where it allowed states to deny the return of property which had been occuring, and that made the 1850 addendum felt necessary to be passed by US congress? It didn't occur out of the blue.....but as a response to what some states or local communities had been doing.

Would think that "shall be delivered up on claim of the party" of the original Constitutional FSL should have rather easily been interpreted to not somehow mean to instead harbor or hinder the deliverance of the claim.........

I would agree if the original FSL had been more faithfully and effectively carried out, later addendum or federal expansion would have been quite unnecessary.
 

DanSBHawk

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Perhaps you will show me where it allowed states to deny the return of property which had been occuring, and that made the 1850 addendum felt necessary to be passed by US congress?
Where does it say that Free States have to agree that humans are property? I would think the notion of "states rights" would give the Free States the right to determine that humans are Free. Not property.
 

Hawkins

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Perhaps you will show me where it allowed states to deny the return of property which had been occuring, and that made the 1850 addendum felt necessary to be passed by US congress? It didn't occur out of the blue.....but as a response to what some states or local communities had been doing.
Thank you for your reply.

Except the 1850 law doesn't really mandate State action nor does it mandate the actions of State actors, but the actions of private citizens. The example you provided (harbor or hinder) would be a prohibition of action (you can't do X) and I didn't question if that clause could empower the prevention of an action. Much of the law describes the process by which an escaped slave is returned (if you do X, then you shall follow Y) and I didn't question if that clause could empower the process by which an action shall be completed. What I questioned was the part of the clause that compelled a non-state actor to assist in an action they weren't contemplating undertaking in the first place (you shall do X). That is a different ball of wax. Can you think of another clause that compelled individual private action instead of prohibiting an action or the manner in which said action had to be completed? I am having a hard time thinking of one off the top of my head.
 
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Where does it say that Free States have to agree that humans are property? I would think the notion of "states rights" would give the Free States the right to determine that humans are Free. Not property.
Actually as it was rather explicitly in the Constitution it wasn't a state right to ignore ........states rights applied to things not explicitly laid out in the Constitution.
 
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Thank you for your reply.

Except the 1850 law doesn't really mandate State action nor does it mandate the actions of State actors, but the actions of private citizens. The example you provided (harbor or hinder) would be a prohibition of action (you can't do X) and I didn't question if that clause could empower the prevention of an action. Much of the law describes the process by which an escaped slave is returned (if you do X, then you shall follow Y) and I didn't question if that clause could empower the process by which an action shall be completed. What I questioned was the part of the clause that compelled a non-state actor to assist in an action they weren't contemplating undertaking in the first place (you shall do X). That is a different ball of wax. Can you think of another clause that compelled individual private action instead of prohibiting an action or the manner in which said action had to be completed? I am having a hard time thinking of one off the top of my head.
Obviously congress thought it necessary, and congress is empowered to pass laws and legislation beneficial to the nation. If one thinks states were free to ignore parts they don't like, they would be making a rather strong argument to the legality of secession as well then.
 

DanSBHawk

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Actually as it was rather explicitly in the Constitution it wasn't a state right to ignore ........states rights applied to things not explicitly laid out in the Constitution.
Where in the Constitution does it say that human beings were "property?"

I read the Fugitive Slave laws. It mentions people who "owe service or labor." It doesn't mention that they are to be considered property.
 

GwilymT

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Actually as it was rather explicitly in the Constitution it wasn't a state right to ignore ........states rights applied to things not explicitly laid out in the Constitution.
No where in the constitution does it say that citizens have a right to own other humans as has been illustrated above. Thus, a state can make a law instituting slavery or outlawing it. This changed, of course, with the 13th Amendment.
 

Hawkins

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Obviously congress thought it necessary, and congress is empowered to pass laws and legislation beneficial to the nation. If one thinks states were free to ignore parts they don't like, they would be making a rather strong argument to the legality of secession as well then.
Congress also thought it was necessary to pass the Tenure of Office Act, but that doesn’t mean the Constitution allowed it. Sometimes, the wishes of Congress exceeds its authority.

You keep mentioning the States, but the law doesn’t directly address State actions nor the actions of State actors. It addresses the actions of federally empowered agents, persons who actively obstruct the duties of said agents, and third party private actors. While it seems within the limits of the clause to restrict the actions of others from inhibiting the administration of the clause (you can’t do X) or dictating the federal framework for administration of the clause (if you do X, then you must follow Y), it is entirely a different matter to command an unrelated person to aid and assist in the administration of the clause (you shall do X) when said persons are not directly or indirectly referenced in the clause.

Can you explain were you find the unrelated person in the clause?
 

Jantzen64

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Congress also thought it was necessary to pass the Tenure of Office Act, but that doesn’t mean the Constitution allowed it. Sometimes, the wishes of Congress exceeds its authority.

You keep mentioning the States, but the law doesn’t directly address State actions nor the actions of State actors. It addresses the actions of federally empowered agents, persons who actively obstruct the duties of said agents, and third party private actors. While it seems within the limits of the clause to restrict the actions of others from inhibiting the administration of the clause (you can’t do X) or dictating the federal framework for administration of the clause (if you do X, then you must follow Y), it is entirely a different matter to command an unrelated person to aid and assist in the administration of the clause (you shall do X) when said persons are not directly or indirectly referenced in the clause.

Can you explain were you find the unrelated person in the clause?
And here is the language form Section 5 of the Act, which I believe you are referring to:

;and all good citizens are hereby commanded to aid and assist in the prompt and efficient execution of this law, whenever their services may be required . . .
 
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Congress also thought it was necessary to pass the Tenure of Office Act, but that doesn’t mean the Constitution allowed it. Sometimes, the wishes of Congress exceeds its authority.

You keep mentioning the States, but the law doesn’t directly address State actions nor the actions of State actors. It addresses the actions of federally empowered agents, persons who actively obstruct the duties of said agents, and third party private actors. While it seems within the limits of the clause to restrict the actions of others from inhibiting the administration of the clause (you can’t do X) or dictating the federal framework for administration of the clause (if you do X, then you must follow Y), it is entirely a different matter to command an unrelated person to aid and assist in the administration of the clause (you shall do X) when said persons are not directly or indirectly referenced in the clause.

Can you explain were you find the unrelated person in the clause?
And did the supreme court in fact overturn the FSL of 1850? Believe the answer is no.......

And again "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 Labour may be due."

Rather clearly says there was no state right of a state to try to discharge said escapee from his service. Actually quite to the contrary they were to be delivered up on claim.
 

DanSBHawk

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And did the supreme court in fact overturn the FSL of 1850? Believe the answer is no.......

And again "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 Labour may be due."

Rather clearly says there was no state right of a state to try to discharge said escapee from his service. Actually quite to the contrary they were to be delivered up on claim.
So, nothing about "property."
 
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So, nothing about "property."
You don't understand one held in service for life is property, odd the founders didn't share your apparent confusion over the meaning.

But you would be correct it wouldn't matter if one was held in service for simply a period of years as indentured apprentice or their entire life as slaves, another state had no state right to pass law or regulation to release or discharge them from that service.
 

Hawkins

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Rather clearly says there was no state right of a state to try to discharge said escapee from his service. Actually quite to the contrary they were to be delivered up on claim.
But who can be made to deliver them up is the question? They don't need the right to discharge the escapee because the State retained the right via Prigg v. Pennsylvania (the case that weakened the FSL of 1793) to restricted the use of State resources and State actors in enforcing the FSL. While Court later found that state court lack the authority to declare a federal law unconstitutional in relation to the FSL, it failed to limit the authority of the State in really any other way including the ability to restrict the use of state resources to enforce federal law. If State retained authority to restrict the use of State resources to enforce federal law and it already had the authority to restrict the conduct of its citizens, then could restrict the ability of its citizens to enforce federal law or require its citizens to receive before enforcing federal law a dispensation from a state magistrate, which the magistrate can reject.

So, again, where in Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 is the Federal Government empowered to force a private citizen to act as another man’s slave-catcher? Because if the Feds don't have that sole authority in this particular regard, then the State can restrict the conduct of its citizens as that is part of their authority.
 
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But who can be made to deliver them up is the question? They don't need the right to discharge the escapee because the State retained the right via Prigg v. Pennsylvania (the case that weakened the FSL of 1793) to restricted the use of State resources and State actors in enforcing the FSL. While Court later found that state court lack the authority to declare a federal law unconstitutional in relation to the FSL, it failed to limit the authority of the State in really any other way including the ability to restrict the use of state resources to enforce federal law. If State retained authority to restrict the use of State resources to enforce federal law and it already had the authority to restrict the conduct of its citizens, then could restrict the ability of its citizens to enforce federal law or require its citizens to receive before enforcing federal law a dispensation from a state magistrate, which the magistrate can reject.

So, again, where in Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 is the Federal Government empowered to force a private citizen to act as another man’s slave-catcher? Because if the Feds don't have that sole authority in this particular regard, then the State can restrict the conduct of its citizens as that is part of their authority.
Again it wasn't, that isn't hard to understand. However it was in the 1850 additions that were indeed legally passed by the US Congress and not overturned by US Supreme Court.

I would suggest if your concerned about Prigg Vrs PA undermining the intent of the original FSL, it probally contributed to Congress legally rectifiyng it eight years later. And really in principle is not very different from law today, as surprisingly even today a private citizen hindering/obstructing officers in their duty, or harboring or aiding a fugitive in evading the officers can still be subject to punishment for doing so. Shocking...........
 

DanSBHawk

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You don't understand one held in service for life is property, odd the founders didn't share your apparent confusion over the meaning.

But you would be correct it wouldn't matter if one was held in service for simply a period of years as indentured apprentice or their entire life as slaves, another state had no state right to pass law or regulation to release or discharge them from that service.
In other words, there was nothing in the Constitution requiring a Free State to consider a human being as property.

There was nothing "explicit" in the Constitution claiming slaves to be property.
 
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In other words, there was nothing in the Constitution requiring a Free State to consider a human being as property.

There was nothing "explicit" in the Constitution claiming slaves to be property.
Your point is rather mute, as whether one wants to call them property or not is irrelevant to the law and constitution, because both considered them bound to service. So if you find indentured servant for life more PC or it fits your agenda more then slave or property, by all means use whatever pet term you prefer. If you wish to sugar coat slavery or that they were property it's noted, personally see little need, as it was what it was.

But what's relevant to the OP, is to the constitution they were bound to service, and according to the US Constitution another state could not relieve or free someone from that service, and were to turn them over to those or whose agents the service was due.

One doesn't to have to either approve or like a law to understand the laws actual meaning and intent. Least most people are capable of making such a distinction.
 
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Hawkins

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Again it wasn't, that isn't hard to understand. However it was in the 1850 additions that were indeed legally passed by the US Congress and not overturned by US Supreme Court.

I would suggest if your concerned about Prigg Vrs PA undermining the intent of the original FSL, it probally contributed to Congress legally rectifiyng it eight years later. And really in principle is not very different from law today, as surprisingly even today a private citizen hindering/obstructing officers in their duty, or harboring or aiding a fugitive in evading the officers can still be subject to punishment for doing so. Shocking...........
Considering that James Wilson of Pennsylvania at the Constitutional Convention originally opposed the inclusion of a fugitive slave clause because it would require state resources be used to enforce it, the question of whose responsibility it was to be the slave-catcher seemed to be an issue from the beginning. Now, whether that position could have been motivated by other concerns as well (and Wilson's case an argument can be made) is different than whether that was the motivation for someone's position. The anti-slavery movement was diverse in why it opposed slavery. It is clear that some opposed it on moral grounds, others economics reasons, some for legal reasons, and, yes, some by what can best be described as state's right.

It should not be a surprise to anyone that the opponents to the South's peculiar institution were motivated by various factors and one of those factors was being another man's slave-catcher. Nor should it surprise anyone the idea that state resources should not and can not be used to enforce federal law as it was a hotly debated topic during the era and beyond as "anti-commandeering" cases didn't stop with slavery.

While one can argue that Prigg undermined the intent of the 1793 law, it is also possible to argue that it upheld the intent of the Constitution as it wasn't the state's role to enforce federal law. Considering that the 1850 law focused on federal enforcement and avoided state enforcement, it isn't an unreasonable position to hold. It becomes less of an unreasonable position if one expanses their view beyond this era of our legal history.
 
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