opinion of the Court
, as pronounced by Chief Justice Taney
in this celebrated case, is, in essence, but an amplification of certain resolves submitted by Mr. Calhoun
to the United States Senate, in February, 1847, in the following language:
Resolved, That the Territories of the United States belong to the several States composing this Union, and are held by them as their joint and common property.
Resolved, That Congress, as the joint agent and representative of the States of the Union, has no right to make any law, or do any act whatever, that shall directly, or by its effects, make any discrimination between the States of this Union, by which any one of them shall be deprived of its full and equal rights in the territory of the United States, acquired or to be acquired.
Resolved, That the enactment of any law which would directly, or by its effects, deprive the citizens of any of the States of this Union from emigrating, with their property, into any of the Territories of the United States, would make such a discrimination; and would, therefore, be a violation of the Constitution, and the rights of the States from which such citizens emigrated, and in derogation of that perfect equality which belongs to them as members of this Union, and would tend directly to subvert the Union itself.
The resolve submitted to the Democratic National Convention of 1848, by Mr. William L. Yancey
, and unceremoniously rejected by it, 216 to 36, as will have been seen1
--sets forth the same doctrine more concisely and abruptly.
, himself a life-long slaveholder and upholder of Slavery, thus forcibly refutes,2
from a conservative and legal standpoint, the Calhoun-Yancey
The prohibition of Slavery in a territory is assumed to work an inequality in the States, allowing one part to carry its property with it — the other, not. This is a mistake — a great error of fact — the source of great errors of deduction.
The citizens of all the States, free and slave, are precisely equal in their capacity to carry their property with them into territories.
Each may carry whatever is property by the laws of nature: neither can carry that which is only property by statute law; and the reason is, because he cannot carry with him the law which makes it property. Either may carry the thing which is the subject of this local property; but neither can carry the law which makes it so. The Virginian may carry his man-slave; but he cannot carry the Virginian law which makes him a slave.
The citizen of Massachusetts may carry the pile of money which, under a State law, constitutes a bank; but he cannot carry the law or charter which makes it a bank: and his treasure is only a pile of money; and, besides being impossible, it would be absurd, and confusion confounded, to be otherwise.
For, if the citizen of one State may carry his Slave State law with him into a territory, the citizens of every other Slave State might do the same; and then what Babylonish confusion, not merely of tongues, but of laws, would be found there!
Fifteen different codes, as the Slave States now number, and more to come.
For every Slave State has a servile code of its own, differing from others in some respects — and in some, radically: as much so as land, in the eye of the law, differs from cattle.
Thus, in some States, as in Virginia and others, slaves are only chattels: in others, as in Kentucky and Louisiana, they are real estate.
How would all these codes work together in a territory under the wing of the Constitution, protecting all equally; no law of Congress there, or of the territory, to reconcile and harmonize them by forming them into one; no law to put the protecting power of the Constitution into action; but of itself, by its own proper vigor, it is to give general and equal protection to all slaveholders in the enjoyment of their property — each, according to the law of the State from which he came!
For, there being no power in Congress, or the Territorial Legislature, to legislate upon Slavery, the whole subject is left to the Constitution and the State law!
that law which cannot cross the State line!
and that Constitution which gives protection to slave property but in one instance, and that only in States, not in Territories — the single instance of recovering runaways.
The Constitution protect slave property in a territory!
when, by that instrument, a runaway from the territory or into the territory cannot be reclaimed!
Beautiful constitutional protection that!
only one clause under it to protect slave property; and that limited, in express words, to fugitives between State and State!
and but one clause in it to protect the master against his slaves, and that limited to States!
and but one clause in it