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[296] the reclamation of fugitive slaves, and conceding that the decision might be entitled to weight as a rule for the judiciary, he affirmed that as a legislator performing an independent duty he adopted the rule of President Jackson's memorable veto, avowing his right and duty to interpret the Constitution as he understood it, and not as it was understood by others. He maintained that as Congress had no powers which the Constitution had not delegated, it had none to legislate on the subject of fugitive slaves,1 since the only provision referring to it conferred none, and affirmed only an obligation of the States, without adding a power such as was given in like cases where a grant of power was intended. But even conceding that Congress had the power, he maintained further that the Act of 1850 conflicted not only with fundamental principles of liberty and justice, as he had already stated briefly, but it was unconstitutional in denying the right of trial by jury in a suit at common law, which the Constitution expressly secured. He then ran a parallel between the Stamp Act and the Fugitive Slave Act, showing that our fathers in their treatment of the former were an example to guide in treating the latter. He said: ‘Within less than a year from its original passage, denounced and discredited, it was driven from the statute book. In the charnel-house of history, with unclean things of the past, it now rots. Thither the Slave Act must follow.’ He produced an original letter of Washington, never published before, and lent to him by Rev. Charles Lowell, showing how the Father of his Country refused to have one of his slaves recovered if it ‘would excite a mob or riot, or even uneasy sensations in the minds of well-disposed citizens;’ and then, in contrast with this injunction, he described how the execution of the Fugitive Slave Act, wherever attempted, involved mobs, cruelty in capture and detention, and assaults fatal to the pursuer or the pursued. He spoke of the dehumanizing effects of the law on the agents of the claimants, on commissioners and marshals engaged in its execution; referred in

1 The antislavery statesmen at this time, including Sumner himself, applied to the Constitution a rigid rule of construction which they did not adhere to in the period of the Civil War and that which followed it. Wade went so far as to avow in the Senate, Feb. 23, 1855, his adhesion to the Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and 1799; but Chase and Sumner never advanced to that position. The pro-slavery men. on the other hand, were strict constructionists whenever they repelled interference with slavery, but changed to a liberal rule when they sought legislation in its support.

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