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[150]

Let it be observed that there is no limitation, no qualification, no condition whatever attached to this clause of the Constitution. The words ‘no person held to service’ included every slave in the United States. In Article I, section 9, and in Article V, are exceptions suspending the operation of the general provision. But in this provision there are none, because it was intended there should be none. The provision was designed to include every slave, and to be in force under all circumstances.

Perhaps it may be urged, as an objection to this assertion, that the Confederate States were out of the Union and beyond the protection of the provisions of the Constitution. This objection cannot be admitted in extenuation of this crime of Congress and the Executive; there was, thus far, no act of Congress nor proclamation of the President in existence, showing that either of them regarded the Confederate States in any other position than as states within the Union, whose citizens were subject to all the penalties contained in the Constitution, and therefore entitled to the benefit of all its provisions for their protection. Unhesitatingly it may be said, and as will be still more apparent further on in these pages, that all the conduct of the Confederate States pertaining to the war consisted in just efforts to preserve to themselves and their posterity rights and protections guaranteed to them in the Constitution of the United States; that the actions of the federal government consisted in efforts to subvert those rights, destroy those protections, and subjugate us to compliance with its arbitrary will; that this conduct on their part involved the subversion of the Constitution and the destruction of the fundamental principles of liberty. Who is the criminal? Let posterity answer.

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