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States, and both judiciaries, State and federal, were to the same effect. The act was continually enforced, and the courts decided that this right of the owner to seize his slave was just as large in the free State to which he had fled as in the slave State from which he had run away— that he might seize, by night as well as by day, on Sunday as well as other days, and also in a house, provided no breach of the peace was committed. The penal section in the bill was clear and heavy, and went upon the ground of the absolute right of the master to seize his slave by his own authority wherever he saw him, and the crimiuality of any obstruction or resistance in the exercise of that right. It was in these words:
"That any person who shall knowingly and wilfully obstruct or hinder such claimant, his agent or attorney, in so seizing or arresting such fugitive from labor, or shall rescue such fugitive from such claimant, his agent or attorney, when so arrested pursuant to the authority herein given or declared; or shall harbor, or conceal such persons after notice that he or she was a fugitive from labor as aforesaid, shall, for either of the said offenses, forfeit and pay the sum of five hundred dollars, which penalty may be recovered by and for the benefit of such claimant, by action of debt in any court proper to try the same, saving, moreover, to the person claiming such labor or service his right of action for or on account of the said injuries, or either of them."
State officers, the magistrates and judges, though not bound to act under the law of Congress, yet did so; and State jails, though not obligatory under a federal law, were freely used for the recaptured fugitives. This continued till a late day in most of the free States—in all of them until after the Congress of the United States engaged in the slavery agitation—and in the great State of Pennsylvania until the 20th March, 1847; this is to say, until a month after Mr. Calhoun brought into the Senate the slavery resolutions, stigmatized by Mr. Benton as "firebrand" at the moment of their introduction, and which are since involving the Union in conflagration. Then Pennsylvania passed the law forbidding her judicial authorities to take cognizance of any fugitive slave case—granted a habeas corpus remedy to any fugitives arrested—denying the use of her jails to confine any one, and repealing the six months' slave sojourning law of 1780.
Some years before the passage of this harsh act, and before the slavery agitation had commenced in Congress, to wit, 1826 (which was nine years before the commencement of the agitation) Pennsylvania had passed a most liberal law of her own, done upon the request of Maryland, to aid the recovery of fugitive slaves. It was entitled "An Act to give effect to the Constitution of the United States in reclaiming fugitives from justice." Such has been the just and generous conduct of Pennsylvania toward the slave States until up to the passing the hars'h act of 1847. Her legal right to pass that act is admitted; her magistrates were not bound to act under the federal law—her jails were not liable to be used for federal purposes. The sojourning law of 1780 was her own, and she had a right to repeal it. But the whole act of 1847 was the exercise of a mere right, against the comity which is due to states united under a common head, against moral and social duty, against high national policy, against the spirit in which the Constitution was made, against her own previous conduct for sixty years, and injurious and irritating to the people of the slave States, and part of it unconstitutional. The denial of the intervention of her judicial officers, and the use of her prisons, though an inconvenience, was not insurmountable, and might be remedied by Congress; the repeal of the act of 1780 was the radical injury, and for which there was no remedy in federal legislation.
That act was passed before the adoption of the Constitution, and while the feelings of cordiality, good-will, and entire justice prevailed among the States, it was allowed to continue in force nearly sixty years after the Constitution was made, and was a proof of good feeling toward all during that time. By the terms of this act, a discrimination was established between sojourners and permanent residents, and the elements of time—the most obvious and easy of all arbiters—was taken for the rule of discrimination. Six months was the time allowed to discriminate a sojourn from a residence; and during that time the rights of the owner remained complete in his slave; after the lapse of that time, his ownership ceased. This six months was equally in favor of all persons. But there was further and indefinite provisions in favor of members of Congress, and of the federal government, all of whom coming from slave States, were allowed to retain their ownership as long as their federal duties required them to remain the States. Such an act was just and wise, and in accordance with the spirit of comity which should prevail among States formed into a Union, having a common general government, and reciprocating the rights of citizenship. It is to be deplored that any event ever arose to occasion a repeal of that act . It is to be wished a spirit would arise to re-enact it, and that other of the free States should follow the example. • For there were others, and several which had similar acts, and which repealed them in like manner as Pennsylvania, under the same unhappy influences, and with the same baleful consequences. New York for example—her law of discrimination between the sojourner and resident being the same in principle, and still more liberal in detail than that of Pennsylvania—allowing nine months instead of six to determine that character.
This act of New York, like that of Pennsylvania, continued undisturbed in the State until the slavery agitation took root in Congress, and was even so well established in the good opinion of the people of that State, as late as thirteen years after the commencement of that agitation, as to be boldly sustained by the candidates for the highest office. On this an eminent instance will be given in the canvass for the governorship of the State in the year 1838. In that year Mr. Marcy and Mr. Seward were the opposing candidates, and an anti-slavery meeting, held at Utica, passed a resolve to have them interrogated (among other things) on the point of repealing the slave sojournment act. Messrs. Gen-it Smith and William Jay were nominated a committee for that purpose, and fulfilled their mission so zealously as to rather overstate the terms of the act, using the word "importation" as applied to the coming of these slaves with their owners, thus: "Are you in favor of the repeal of the law which now anthorizes the importation of slaves into this State, and their detention as such for the time of nine months?" Objecting to the substitution of the term importation, and stating the act correctly, both the candidates answered fully in the negative, and with reasons for their opinion. The act was first in its own term, as follows:
"Any person not being an inhabitant of this State, who shall be traveling to or from, or passing through this State, may bring with him any person lawfully held by him in slavery, and may take such person with him from this State; but the person so held in slavery shall not reside or continue in the State longer than nine months, and if such residence be continued beyond that time, such person shall be free." Replying to the interrogatory, Mr. Marcy then proceeds to give his opinion and reasons in favor of sustaining the act, which he does uureservedly:
By comparing this law with your interrogatory, you will perceive at once that the latter implies much more than the former expresses. The discrepancy between them is so great, that I suspected, at first, that you had reference to some other enactment which had escaped general notice. As none, however, can be found but the foregoing, to which the question is in any respect applicable, there will be no mistake, I presume, in assuming it to be the one you had in view. Tbe deviation, in putting the question, from what would seem to be the plain and obvious course of directing the attention to the particular law under consideration, by referring to it in the very terms in which it is expressed or at least in language showing its objects and limitations, I do not impute to an intention to create an erroneous impression as to the law, or to ascribe to it a character of odiousness which it does not deserve; yet I think that it must be conceded that your question will induce those who are not particularly acquainted with the section of the statute to which it refers, to believe that there is a law of this State which allows a free importation of slaves into it, without restriction as to object, and without limitation as to the persons who may do so, yet this is very far from being true. This law does not permit any inhabitant of this State to bring into it any person held in slavery, under any pretense, or for any object whatsoever: nor does it allow any person of any other State or country to do so, except such person is actually passing to or from, or passing through this State. This law, in its operation and effect, only allows persons belonging to States or nations where domestic slavery exists, who happen to be traveling in this State, to be attended by their servants, whom they lawfully hold in slavery when at home, provided they do not remain within our territories longer than nine months. The difference between it and the one implied by your interrogatory is so manifest, that it is perhaps fair to presume, that if those by whose appointment you act in this matter had not misapprehended its character, they would not have instructed you to make it the subject of one of your questions. It is so restricted in its object, and that is so unexceptionable that it can scarcely be regarded as obnoxious to well-founded objections when viewed iu its