It will be seen, by reference to the Constitution, that the first part of the clause here referred to forbids the discharge of the fugitive, and the second part commands his delivery to the claimant. It has just been stated in what manner Congress commanded the claim for delivery to be repudiated. The ‘discharge from such service and labor,’ in consequence of any state law or regulation, is forbidden. This is a part of the Constitution, and it is thereby made the duty of the executive, legislative, and judicial departments of the United States government to enforce the prohibition, to make sure that the fugitive is not discharged by any action of a state. Will the friends of constitutional liberty believe our assertion that these acts, the execution of which it was so expressly made the duty of the United States government to prevent, that government itself did do in most explicit and effective manner? The Constitution forbids the discharge; Congress and the Executive, each, not only commanded the discharge, but to make it sure and thorough, forbade the incipiency of an apprehension—not even permitting the shadow of an occasion for a discharge. Could human ingenuity devise a method for a more perfect subversion of a constitutional duty? The provisions of the act are in these words:
All slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against the Government of the United States, or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the army; and all slaves captured from such persons or deserted by them and coming under the control of the Government of the United States; and all slaves of such persons found or being within any place occupied by rebel forces and afterward occupied by the forces of the United States, shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be for ever free of their servitude, and not again held as slaves.Again, the next section of the same act says:
No slave escaping into any State, Territory, or the District of Columbia from any other State, shall be delivered up, or in any way impeded or hindered of his liberty, except for crime or some offense against the laws, unless the person claiming said fugitive shall first make oath that the person, to whom the labor or service of such fugitive is alleged to be due, is his lawful owner, and has not borne arms against the United States in the present rebellion, nor in any way given aid and comfort thereto.1In this connection it is worth while to read again the words 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.