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of 1787; and it was what was now proposed to be done by the Constitution of the United States. It was regarded at the time by the Southern States as absolutely necessary to secure to them their right of exclusive control over the question of emancipation,' and it was adopted in the Convention by unanimous consent, for the express purpose of protecting a right that would otherwise have been without a satisfactory security. A proper understanding of the grounds of this somewhat peculiar provision is quite important.
The publicists of Christendom are universally agreed, that independent nations are under no positive obligation to support the institutions, or to enforce the municipal laws, of each other. So far does this negative principle extend, that the general law of nations does not even require the extradition of fugitive criminals, who have escaped from one country into another. If compacts are made for this purpose, they rest entirely upon comity, and upon those considerations of public policy which make it expedient to expel from our own borders those who have violated the great laws on which the welfare of society depends; and such compacts are usually limited to those offences which imply great moral as well as civil guilt. The general rule is, that a nation is not obliged to surrender those who have taken
1 Mr. Madison stated in the Convention of Virginia in which the Constitution was ratified, that "this clause was expressly inserted, to
enable owners of slaves to reclaim them." (Elliot's Debates, III. 453.)
2 August 29. Elliot, V. 492.
sanctuary in its dominions. At the same time, every political state has an undoubted right to forbid the entry into its territories of any person whose presence may injure its welfare or thwart its policy. No foreigner, whether he comes as a fugitive escaping from the violated laws of another country, or comes for the innocent purposes of travel or residence, can demand a sanctuary as a matter of right., Whether he is to remain, or not to remain, depends entirely upon the discretion of the state to which he has resorted; a discretion that is regulated by a general principle, among Christian nations, while at the same time the general principle is subject to such exceptions as the national interest may require to be established.
Slavery, or involuntary servitude, being considered by public law as contrary to natural right, and being a relation that depends wholly on municipal law, falls entirely within the principle which relieves independent nations of the obligation to support or to enforce each other's laws. It has not, therefore, been customary for states which have no peculiar connection, to surrender fugitives from that relation, or to do anything to enforce its duties. But such fugitives stand upon a precise equality with all other strangers who seek to enter a society of which they are not members. If the welfare of the society demands their exclusion, or if it may be promoted by a stipulation that they shall be taken back to the place where their service is lawfully due, the right to exclude or to surrender them is perfect; for every political society has the moral power, and is under a
moral obligation, to provide for its own welfare. If such stipulations have not usually been made among independent nations, their absence may prove that the public interest has not required them, but it does not prove the want of a right to make them.
Each of the American States, when its people adopted the national Constitution, possessed the right that belongs to every political society, of determining what persons should be permitted to enter its territories. Each of them had a complete right to judge for itself how far it would go, in recognizing or aiding the laws or institutions of the other States. It is obvious, moreover, that States which are in general independent of each other, but which propose to enter into national relations with each other under a common government, for certain great political and social ends, may have reasons for giving a particular effect to each other's laws, or for sustaining each other's institutions, which do not operate with societies not standing in such a relation; and that these reasons may be of a character so grave and important, as to amount to a moral obligation. Thus independent and disconnected nations are ordinarily under no obligation to support or guarantee each other's forms of government. But the American States, in entering into the new Union under their national Constitution, found that a republican form of government in every State was a thing so essential to the welfare and safety of all of them, as to make it both a necessity and a duty for all to guarantee that form of government to each other.
In the same way, although nations in general do not recognize the relation of master and servant prevailing by the law of another country, so far as to stipulate for the surrender of persons escaping from that relation, the American States found themselves surrounded by circumstances so imperative, as to make it both a necessity and a duty to make with each other that stipulation. These circumstances I shall now briefly state.
I have already referred to all the known proceedings in the Convention on this subject, and have stated to what extent those proceedings justify the opinion that the Constitution could not have been formed without this provision. But there is higher evidence both of its necessity and its propriety than anything that may have been said by individuals or delegations. The States were about to establish a more perfect Union, under a peculiar form of national government, the effect of which would necessarily bring them into closer relations with each other, multiplying greatly the means and opportunities of intercourse, and enabling them to act on each other's internal condition with an influence that would be nearly irresistible, unless it should be arrested by constitutional barriers. Among the features of their internal condition, the relation of master and servant, or the local institution of servitude, was one that must either be placed under national cognizance.
1 I am not aware of any more positive evidence than that above given in the text, that this clause
of the Constitution was expressly made in the Convention a condition of assent by any of the States.
or be left exclusively to the local authority of each State. There was no middle or debatable ground, which it could with safety be suffered to occupy. The African race, although scattered throughout all of the States, was placed in very different circumstances in different parts of the country. There could have been no national legislation with respect to that race, concerning the time or mode of emanci pation, the tenure of the master's right, or the treatment of the slave, that would not have been forced to adapt itself to an almost endless variety of circumstances in different localities. At the same time, it was one of the fundamental principles on which the whole Constitution was proposed to be founded, that, where the national authority could not furnish a uniform rule, its legislative power was not to extend. Whatever required one rule in Massachusetts and another rule in Virginia, for the exigencies of society, was necessarily left to the separate authority of the respective States. It was upon matters on which the States could not legislate alike, but on which the national power could furnish a safe and advantageous uniform rule, that the want of a national Constitution was felt, and for these alone was its legislative power to be created.
We may suppose, then, that the framers of the Constitution had sought to bring the relation of master and servant, or the condition of the African race, within the States, under the cognizance of national legislation; and we may imagine, for the purposes of the argument, that consent had been given