Scott v. SandfordAnnotate this Case
60 U.S. 393 (1856)
U.S. Supreme Court
Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 19 How. 393 393 (1856)
Scott v. Sandford
60 U.S. (19 How.) 393
1. Upon a writ of error to a Circuit Court of the United States, the transcript of the record of all the proceedings in the case is brought before the court, and is open to inspection and revision.
2. When a plea to the jurisdiction, in abatement, is overruled by the court upon demurrer, and the defendant pleads in bar, and upon these pleas the final judgment of the court is in his favor -- if the plaintiff brings a writ of error, the judgment of the court upon the plea in abatement is before this court, although it was in favor of the plaintiff -- and if the court erred in overruling it, the judgment must be reversed, and a mandate issued to the Circuit Court to dismiss the case for want of jurisdiction.
3. In the Circuit Courts of the United States, the record must show that the case is one in which, by the Constitution and laws of the United States, the court had jurisdiction -- and if this does not appear, and the judgment must be reversed by this court -- and the parties cannot be consent waive the objection to the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court.
4. A free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves, is not a "citizen" within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States.
5. When the Constitution was adopted, they were not regarded in any of the States as members of the community which constituted the State, and were not numbered among its "people or citizens." Consequently, the special rights and immunities guarantied to citizens do not apply to them. And not being "citizens" within the meaning of the Constitution, they are not entitled to sue in that character in a court of the United States, and the Circuit Court has not jurisdiction in such a suit.
6. The only two clauses in the Constitution which point to this race treat them as persons whom it was morally lawfully to deal in as articles of property and to hold as slaves.
7. Since the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, no State can by any subsequent law make a foreigner or any other description of persons citizens of
the United States, nor entitle them to the rights and privileges secured to citizens by that instrument.
8. A State, by its laws passed since the adoption of the Constitution, may put a foreigner or any other description of persons upon a footing with its own citizens as to all the rights and privileges enjoyed by them within its dominion and by its laws. But that will not make him a citizen of the United States, nor entitle him to sue in its courts, nor to any of the privileges and immunities of a citizen in another State.
9. The change in public opinion and feeling in relation to the African race which has taken place since the adoption of the Constitution cannot change its construction and meaning, and it must be construed and administered now according to its true meaning and intention when it was formed and adopted.
10. The plaintiff having admitted, by his demurrer to the plea in abatement, that his ancestors were imported from Africa and sold as slaves, he is not a citizen of the State of Missouri according to the Constitution of the United States, and was not entitled to sue in that character in the Circuit Court.
11. This being the case, the judgment of the court below in favor of the plaintiff on the plea in abatement was erroneous.
1. But if the plea in abatement is not brought up by this writ of error, the objection to the citizenship of the plaintiff is still apparent on the record, as he himself, in making out his case, states that he is of African descent, was born a slave, and claims that he and his family became entitled to freedom by being taken by their owner to reside in a Territory where slavery is prohibited by act of Congress, and that, in addition to this claim, he himself became entitled to freedom by being taken to Rock Island, in the State of Illinois, and being free when he was brought back to Missouri, he was, by the laws of that State, a citizen.
2. If, therefore, the facts he states do not give him or his family a right to freedom, the plaintiff is still a slave, and not entitled to sue as a "citizen," and the judgment of the Circuit Court was erroneous on that ground also, without any reference to the plea in abatement.
3. The Circuit Court can give no judgment for plaintiff or defendant in a case where it has not jurisdiction, no matter whether there be a plea in abatement or not. And unless it appears upon the face of the record, when brought here by writ of error, that the Circuit Court had jurisdiction, the judgment must be reversed.
The case of Capron v. Van Noorden, 2 Cranch 126, examined, and the principles thereby decided reaffirmed.
4. When the record, as brought here by writ of error, does not show that the Circuit Court had jurisdiction, this court has jurisdiction to review and correct the error like any other error in the court below. It does not and cannot dismiss the case for want of jurisdiction here, for that would leave the erroneous judgment of the court below in full force, and the party injured without remedy. But it must reverse the judgment and, as in any other case of reversal, send a mandate to the Circuit Court to conform its judgment to the opinion of this court.
5. The difference of the jurisdiction in this court in the cases of writs of error to State courts and to Circuit Courts of the United States pointed out, and the mistakes made as to the jurisdiction of this court in the latter case by confounding it with its limited jurisdiction in the former.
6. If the court reverses a judgment upon the ground that it appears by a particular part of the record that the Circuit Court had not jurisdiction, it does not take away the jurisdiction of this court to examine into and correct, by a reversal of the judgment, any other errors, either as to the jurisdiction or any other matter, where it appears from other parts of the record that the Circuit Court had fallen into error. On the contrary, it is the daily and familiar practice of this court to reverse on several grounds where more than one error appears to have been committed. And the error of a Circuit Court in its jurisdiction
stands on the same ground, and is to be treated in the same manner as any other error upon whish its judgment is founded.
7. The decision, therefore, that the judgment of the Circuit Court upon the plea in abatement is erroneous is no reason why the alleged error apparent in the exception should not also be examined, and the judgment reversed on that ground also, if it discloses a want of jurisdiction in the Circuit Court.
8. It is often the duty of this court, after having decided that a particular decision of the Circuit Court was erroneous, to examine into other alleged errors and to correct them if they are found to exist. And this has been uniformly done by this court when the questions are in any degree connected with the controversy and the silence of the court might create doubts which would lead to further useless litigation.
1. The facts upon which the plaintiff relies did not give him his freedom and make him a citizen of Missouri.
2. The clause in the Constitution authorizing Congress to make all needful rules and regulations for the government of the territory and other property of the United States applies only to territory within the chartered limits of some one of the States when they were colonies of Great Britain, and which was surrendered by the British Government to the old Confederation of the States in the treaty of peace. It does not apply to territory acquired by the present Federal Government by treaty or conquest from a foreign nation.
3. The United States, under the present Constitution, cannot acquire territory to be held as a colony, to be governed at its will and pleasure. But it may acquire territory which, at the time, has not a population that fits it to become a State, and may govern it as a Territory until it has a population which, in the judgment of Congress, entitled it to be admitted as a State of the Union.
4. During the time it remains a Territory, Congress may legislate over it within the scope of its constitutional powers in relation to citizens of the United States, and may establish a Territorial Government, and the form of the local Government must be regulated by the discretion of Congress, but with powers not exceeding those which Congress itself, by the Constitution, is authorized to exercise over citizens of the United States in respect to the rights of persons or rights of property.
1. The territory thus acquired is acquired by the people of the United States for their common and equal benefit through their agent and trustee, the Federal Government. Congress can exercise no power over the rights of persons or property of a citizen in the Territory which is prohibited by the Constitution. The Government and the citizen, whenever the Territory is open to settlement, both enter it with their respective rights defined and limited by the Constitution.
2. Congress have no right to prohibit the citizens of any particular State or States from taking up their home there while it permits citizens of other States to do so. Nor has it a right to give privileges to one class of citizens which it refuses to another. The territory is acquired for their equal and common benefit, and if open to any, it must be open to all upon equal and the same terms.
3. Every citizen has a right to take with him into the Territory any article of property which the Constitution of the United States recognises as property.
4. The Constitution of the United States recognises slaves as property, and pledges the Federal Government to protect it. And Congress cannot exercise any more authority over property of that description than it may constitutionally exercise over property of any other kind.
5. The act of Congress, therefore, prohibiting a citizen of the United States from
taking with him his slaves when he removes to the Territory in question to reside is an exercise of authority over private property which is not warranted by the Constitution, and the removal of the plaintiff by his owner to that Territory gave him no title to freedom.
1. The plaintiff himself acquired no title to freedom by being taken by his owner to Rock Island, in Illinois, and brought back to Missouri. This court has heretofore decided that the status or condition of a person of African descent depended on the laws of the State in which he resided.
2. It has been settled by the decisions of the highest court in Missouri that, by the laws of that State, a slave does not become entitled to his freedom where the owner takes him to reside in a State where slavery is not permitted and afterwards brings him back to Missouri.
Conclusion. It follows that it is apparent upon the record that the court below erred in its judgment on the plea in abatement, and also erred in giving judgment for the defendant, when the exception shows that the plaintiff was not a citizen of the United States. And the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction, either in the cases stated in the plea in abatement or in the one stated in the exception, its judgment in favor of the defendant is erroneous, and must be reversed.
This case was brought up, by writ of error, from the Circuit Court of the United States for the district of Missouri.
It was an action of trespass vi et armis instituted in the Circuit Court by Scott against Sandford.
Prior to the institution of the present suit, an action was brought by Scott for his freedom in the Circuit Court of St. Louis county (State court), where there was a verdict and judgment in his favor. On a writ of error to the Supreme Court of the State, the judgment below was reversed and the case remanded to the Circuit Court, where it was continued to await the decision of the case now in question.
The declaration of Scott contained three counts: one, that Sandford had assaulted the plaintiff; one, that he had assaulted Harriet Scott, his wife; and one, that he had assaulted Eliza Scott and Lizzie Scott, his children.
Sandford appeared, and filed the following plea:
"DRED SCOTT )"
"v. ) Plea to the Jurisdiction of the Court."
"JOHN F. A. SANDFORD )"
"APRIL TERM, 1854."
"And the said John F. A. Sandford, in his own proper person, comes and says that this court ought not to have or take further cognizance of the action aforesaid, because he says that said cause of action and each and every of them (if any such have accrued to the said Dred Scott) accrued to the said Dred Scott out of the jurisdiction of this court, and exclusively within the jurisdiction of the courts of the State of Missouri, for that, to-wit: the said plaintiff, Dred Scott, is not a citizen of the State of Missouri, as alleged in his declaration, because
he is a negro of African descent; his ancestors were of pure African blood, and were brought into this country and sold as negro slaves, and this the said Sandford is ready to verify. Wherefore, he prays judgment whether this court can or will take further cognizance of the action aforesaid."
"JOHN F. A. SANDFORD"
To this plea there was a demurrer in the usual form, which was argued in April, 1854, when the court gave judgment that the demurrer should be sustained.
In May, 1854, the defendant, in pursuance of an agreement between counsel, and with the leave of the court, pleaded in bar of the action:
1. Not guilty.
2. That the plaintiff was a negro slave, the lawful property of the defendant, and, as such, the defendant gently laid his hands upon him, and thereby had only restrained him, as the defendant had a right to do.
3. That with respect to the wife and daughters of the plaintiff, in the second and third counts of the declaration mentioned, the defendant had, as to them, only acted in the same manner and in virtue of the same legal right.
In the first of these pleas, the plaintiff joined issue, and to the second and third filed replications alleging that the defendant, of his own wrong and without the cause in his second and third pleas alleged, committed the trespasses, &c.
The counsel then filed the following agreed statement of facts, viz:
In the year 1834, the plaintiff was a negro slave belonging to Dr. Emerson, who was a surgeon in the army of the United States. I n that year, 1834, said Dr. Emerson took the plaintiff from the State of Missouri to the military post at Rock Island, in the State of Illinois, and held him there as a slave until the month of April or May, 1836. At the time last mentioned, said Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff from said military post at Rock Island to the military post at Fort Snelling, situate on the west bank of the Mississippi river, in the Territory known as Upper Louisiana, acquired by the United States of France, and situate north of the latitude of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north, and north of the State of Missouri. Said Dr. Emerson held the plaintiff in slavery at said Fort Snelling, from said last-mentioned date until the year 1838.
In the year 1835, Harriet, who is named in the second count of the plaintiff's declaration, was the negro slave of Major Taliaferro, who belonged to the army of the United States.
In that year, 1835, said Major Taliaferro took said Harriet to said Fort Snelling, a military post, situated as hereinbefore stated, and kept her there as a slave until the year 1836, and then sold and delivered her as a slave at said Fort Snelling unto the said Dr. Emerson hereinbefore named. Said Dr. Emerson held said Harriet in slavery at said Fort Snelling until the year 1838.
In the year 1836, the plaintiff and said Harriet at said Fort Snelling, with the consent of said Dr. Emerson, who then claimed to be their master and owner, intermarried, and took each other for husband and wife. Eliza and Lizzie, named in the third count of the plaintiff's declaration, are the fruit of that marriage. Eliza is about fourteen years old, and was born on board the steamboat Gipsey, north of the north line of the State of Missouri, and upon the river Mississippi. Lizzie is about seven years old, and was born in the State of Missouri, at the military post called Jefferson Barracks.
In the year 1838, said Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff and said Harriet and their said daughter Eliza from said Fort Snelling to the State of Missouri, where they have ever since resided.
Before the commencement of this suit, said Dr. Emerson sold and conveyed the plaintiff, said Harriet, Eliza, and Lizzie, to the defendant, as slaves, and the defendant has ever since claimed to hold them and each of them as slaves.
At the times mentioned in the plaintiff's declaration, the defendant, claiming to be owner as aforesaid, laid his hands upon said plaintiff, Harriet, Eliza, and Lizzie, and imprisoned them, doing in this respect, however, no more than what he might lawfully do if they were of right his slaves at such times.
Further proof may be given on the trial for either party.
It is agreed that Dred Scott brought suit for his freedom in the Circuit Court of St. Louis county; that there was a verdict and judgment in his favor; that, on a writ of error to the Supreme Court, the judgment below was reversed, and the same remanded to the Circuit Court, where it has been continued to await the decision of this case.
In May, 1854, the cause went before a jury, who found the following verdict, viz:
"As to the first issue joined in this case, we of the jury find the defendant not guilty; and as to the issue secondly above joined, we of the jury find that before and at the time when, &c., in the first count mentioned, the said Dred Scott was a negro slave, the lawful property of the defendant; and as to the issue thirdly above joined, we, the jury, find that before and at the time when, &c., in the second and third counts mentioned, the said Harriet, wife of
said Dred Scott, and Eliza and Lizzie, the daughters of the said Dred Scott, were negro slaves, the lawful property of the defendant."
Whereupon, the court gave judgment for the defendant.
After an ineffectual motion for a new trial, the plaintiff filed the following bill of exceptions.
On the trial of this cause by the jury, the plaintiff, to maintain the issues on his part, read to the jury the following agreed statement of facts, (see agreement above.) No further testimony was given to the jury by either party. Thereupon the plaintiff moved the court to give to the jury the following instruction, viz:
"That, upon the facts agreed to by the parties, they ought to find for the plaintiff. The court refused to give such instruction to the jury, and the plaintiff, to such refusal, then and there duly excepted."
The court then gave the following instruction to the jury, on motion of the defendant:
"The jury are instructed, that upon the facts in this case, the law is with the defendant."
The plaintiff excepted to this instruction.
Upon these exceptions, the case came up to this court.
Mr. Chief Justice TANEY delivered the opinion of the court.
This case has been twice argued. After the argument at the last term, differences of opinion were found to exist among the members of the court, and as the questions in controversy are of the highest importance, and the court was at that time much pressed by the ordinary business of the term, it was deemed advisable to continue the case and direct a re-argument on some of the points in order that we might have an opportunity of giving to the whole subject a more deliberate
consideration. It has accordingly been again argued by counsel, and considered by the court; and I now proceed to deliver its opinion.
There are two leading questions presented by the record:
1. Had the Circuit Court of the United States jurisdiction to hear and determine the case between these parties? And
2. If it had jurisdiction, is the judgment it has given erroneous or not?
The plaintiff in error, who was also the plaintiff in the court below, was, with his wife and children, held as slaves by the defendant in the State of Missouri, and he brought this action in the Circuit Court of the United States for that district to assert the title of himself and his family to freedom.
The declaration is in the form usually adopted in that State to try questions of this description, and contains the averment necessary to give the court jurisdiction; that he and the defendant are citizens of different States; that is, that he is a citizen of Missouri, and the defendant a citizen of New York.
The defendant pleaded in abatement to the jurisdiction of the court, that the plaintiff was not a citizen of the State of Missouri, as alleged in his declaration, being a negro of African descent, whose ancestors were of pure African blood and who were brought into this country and sold as slaves.
To this plea the plaintiff demurred, and the defendant joined in demurrer. The court overruled the plea, and gave judgment that the defendant should answer over. And he thereupon put in sundry pleas in bar, upon which issues were joined, and at the trial the verdict and judgment were in his favor. Whereupon the plaintiff brought this writ of error.
Before we speak of the pleas in bar, it will be proper to dispose of the questions which have arisen on the plea in abatement.
That plea denies the right of the plaintiff to sue in a court of the United States, for the reasons therein stated.
If the question raised by it is legally before us, and the court should be of opinion that the facts stated in it disqualify the plaintiff from becoming a citizen, in the sense in which that word is used in the Constitution of the United States, then the judgment of the Circuit Court is erroneous, and must be reversed.
It is suggested, however, that this plea is not before us, and that, as the judgment in the court below on this plea was in favor of the plaintiff, he does not seek to reverse it, or bring it before the court for revision by his writ of error, and also that the defendant waived this defence by pleading over, and thereby admitted the jurisdiction of the court.
But, in making this objection, we think the peculiar and limited jurisdiction of courts of the United States has not been adverted to. This peculiar and limited jurisdiction has made it necessary, in these courts, to adopt different rules and principles of pleading, so far as jurisdiction is concerned, from those which regulate courts of common law in England and in the different States of the Union which have adopted the common law rules.
In these last-mentioned courts, where their character and rank are analogous to that of a Circuit Court of the United States -- in other words, where they are what the law terms courts of general jurisdiction -- they are presumed to have jurisdiction unless the contrary appears. No averment in the pleadings of the plaintiff is necessary, in order to give jurisdiction. If the defendant objects to it, he must plead it specially, and unless the fact on which he relies is found to be true by a jury, or admitted to be true by the plaintiff, the jurisdiction cannot be disputed in an appellate court.
Now it is not necessary to inquire whether, in courts of that description, a party who pleads over in bar when a plea to the jurisdiction has been ruled against him does or does not waive his plea, nor whether, upon a judgment in his favor on the pleas in bar and a writ of error brought by the plaintiff, the question upon the plea in abatement would be open for revision in the appellate court. Cases that may have been decided in such courts, or rules that may have been laid down by common law pleaders, can have no influence in the decision in this court. Because, under the Constitution and laws of the United States, the rules which govern the pleadings in its courts in questions of jurisdiction stand on different principles, and are regulated by different laws.
This difference arises, as we have said, from the peculiar character of the Government of the United States. For although it is sovereign and supreme in its appropriate sphere of action, yet it does not possess all the powers which usually belong to the sovereignty of a nation. Certain specified powers, enumerated in the Constitution, have been conferred upon it, and neither the legislative, executive, nor judicial departments of the Government can lawfully exercise any authority beyond the limits marked out by the Constitution. And in regulating the judicial department, the cases in which the courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction are particularly and specifically enumerated and defined, and they are not authorized to take cognizance of any case which does not come within the description therein specified. Hence, when a plaintiff sues in a court of the United States, it is necessary that he should
show, in his pleading, that the suit he brings is within the jurisdiction of the court, and that he is entitled to sue there. And if he omits to do this, and should, by any oversight of the Circuit Court, obtain a judgment in his favor, the judgment would be reversed in the appellate court for want of jurisdiction in the court below. The jurisdiction would not be presumed, as in the case of a common law English or State court, unless the contrary appeared. But the record, when it comes before the appellate court, must show affirmatively that the inferior court had authority under the Constitution to hear and determine the case. And if the plaintiff claims a right to sue in a Circuit Court of the United States under that provision of the Constitution which gives jurisdiction in controversies between citizens of different States, he must distinctly aver in his pleading that they are citizens of different States, and he cannot maintain his suit without showing that fact in the pleadings.
This point was decided in the case of Bingham v. Cabot, in 3 Dall. 382, and ever since adhered to by the court. And in Jackson v. Ashton, 8 Pet. 148, it was held that the objection to which it was open could not be waived by the opposite party, because consent of parties could not give jurisdiction.
It is needless to accumulate cases on this subject. Those already referred to, and the cases of Capron v. Van Noorden, in 2 Cr. 126, and Montalet v. Murray, 4 Cr. 46, are sufficient to show the rule of which we have spoken. The case of Capron v. Van Noorden strikingly illustrates the difference between a common law court and a court of the United States.
If, however, the fact of citizenship is averred in the declaration, and the defendant does not deny it and put it in issue by plea in abatement, he cannot offer evidence at the trial to disprove it, and consequently cannot avail himself of the objection in the appellate court unless the defect should be apparent in some other part of the record. For if there is no plea in abatement, and the want of jurisdiction does not appear in any other part of the transcript brought up by the writ of error, the undisputed averment of citizenship in the declaration must be taken in this court to be true. In this case, the citizenship is averred, but it is denied by the defendant in the manner required by the rules of pleading, and the fact upon which the denial is based is admitted by the demurrer. And, if the plea and demurrer, and judgment of the court below upon it, are before us upon this record, the question to be decided is whether the facts stated in the plea are sufficient to show that the plaintiff is not entitled to sue as a citizen in a court of the United States.
We think they are before us. The plea in abatement and the judgment of the court upon it are a part of the judicial proceedings in the Circuit Court and are there recorded as such, and a writ of error always brings up to the superior court the whole record of the proceedings in the court below. And in the case of the United States v. Smith, 11 Wheat. 171, this court said, that the case being brought up by writ of error, the whole record was under the consideration of this court. And this being the case in the present instance, the plea in abatement is necessarily under consideration, and it becomes, therefore, our duty to decide whether the facts stated in the plea are or are not sufficient to show that the plaintiff is not entitled to sue as a citizen in a court of the United States.
This is certainly a very serious question, and one that now for the first time has been brought for decision before this court. But it is brought here by those who have a right to bring it, and it is our duty to meet it and decide it.
The question is simply this: can a negro whose ancestors were imported into this country and sold as slaves become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guarantied by that instrument to the citizen, one of which rights is the privilege of suing in a court of the United States in the cases specified in the Constitution?
It will be observed that the plea applies to that class of persons only whose ancestors were negroes of the African race, and imported into this country and sold and held as slaves. The only matter in issue before the court, therefore, is, whether the descendants of such slaves, when they shall be emancipated, or who are born of parents who had become free before their birth, are citizens of a State in the sense in which the word "citizen" is used in the Constitution of the United States. And this being the only matter in dispute on the pleadings, the court must be understood as speaking in this opinion of that class only, that is, of those persons who are the descendants of Africans who were imported into this country and sold as slaves.
The situation of this population was altogether unlike that of the Indian race. The latter, it is true, formed no part of the colonial communities, and never amalgamated with them in social connections or in government. But although they were uncivilized, they were yet a free and independent people, associated together in nations or tribes and governed by their own laws. Many of these political communities were situated in territories to which the white race claimed the ultimate
right of dominion. But that claim was acknowledged to be subject to the right of the Indians to occupy it as long as they thought proper, and neither the English nor colonial Governments claimed or exercised any dominion over the tribe or nation by whom it was occupied, nor claimed the right to the possession of the territory, until the tribe or nation consented to cede it. These Indian Governments were regarded and treated as foreign Governments as much so as if an ocean had separated the red man from the white, and their freedom has constantly been acknowledged, from the time of the first emigration to the English colonies to the present day, by the different Governments which succeeded each other. Treaties have been negotiated with them, and their alliance sought for in war, and the people who compose these Indian political communities have always been treated as foreigners not living under our Government. It is true that the course of events has brought the Indian tribes within the limits of the United States under subjection to the white race, and it has been found necessary, for their sake as well as our own, to regard them as in a state of pupilage, and to legislate to a certain extent over them and the territory they occupy. But they may, without doubt, like the subjects of any other foreign Government, be naturalized by the authority of Congress, and become citizens of a State, and of the United States, and if an individual should leave his nation or tribe and take up his abode among the white population, he would be entitled to all the rights and privileges which would belong to an emigrant from any other foreign people.
We proceed to examine the case as presented by the pleadings.
The words "people of the United States" and "citizens" are synonymous terms, and mean the same thing. They both describe the political body who, according to our republican institutions, form the sovereignty and who hold the power and conduct the Government through their representatives. They are what we familiarly call the "sovereign people," and every citizen is one of this people, and a constituent member of this sovereignty. The question before us is whether the class of persons described in the plea in abatement compose a portion of this people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty? We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate
and inferior class of beings who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.
It is not the province of the court to decide upon the justice or injustice, the policy or impolicy, of these laws. The decision of that question belonged to the political or lawmaking power, to those who formed the sovereignty and framed the Constitution. The duty of the court is to interpret the instrument they have framed with the best lights we can obtain on the subject, and to administer it as we find it, according to its true intent and meaning when it was adopted.
In discussing this question, we must not confound the rights of citizenship which a State may confer within its own limits and the rights of citizenship as a member of the Union. It does not by any means follow, because he has all the rights and privileges of a citizen of a State, that he must be a citizen of the United States. He may have all of the rights and privileges of the citizen of a State and yet not be entitled to the rights and privileges of a citizen in any other State. For, previous to the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, every State had the undoubted right to confer on whomsoever it pleased the character of citizen, and to endow him with all its rights. But this character, of course, was confined to the boundaries of the State, and gave him no rights or privileges in other States beyond those secured to him by the laws of nations and the comity of States. Nor have the several States surrendered the power of conferring these rights and privileges by adopting the Constitution of the United States. Each State may still confer them upon an alien, or anyone it thinks proper, or upon any class or description of persons, yet he would not be a citizen in the sense in which that word is used in the Constitution of the United States, nor entitled to sue as such in one of its courts, nor to the privileges and immunities of a citizen in the other States. The rights which he would acquire would be restricted to the State which gave them. The Constitution has conferred on Congress the right to establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and this right is evidently exclusive, and has always been held by this court to be so. Consequently, no State, since the adoption of the Constitution, can, by naturalizing an alien, invest him with the rights and privileges secured to a citizen of a State under the Federal Government, although, so far as the State alone was concerned, he would undoubtedly be entitled to the rights of a citizen and clothed with all the
rights and immunities which the Constitution and laws of the State attached to that character.
It is very clear, therefore, that no State can, by any act or law of its own, passed since the adoption of the Constitution, introduce a new member into the political community created by the Constitution of the United States. It cannot make him a member of this community by making him a member of its own. And, for the same reason, it cannot introduce any person or description of persons who were not intended to be embraced in this new political family which the Constitution brought into existence, but were intended to be excluded from it.
The question then arises, whether the provisions of the Constitution, in relation to the personal rights and privileges to which the citizen of a State should be entitled, embraced the negro African race, at that time in this country or who might afterwards be imported, who had then or should afterwards be made free in any State, and to put it in the power of a single State to make him a citizen of the United States and endue him with the full rights of citizenship in every other State without their consent? Does the Constitution of the United States act upon him whenever he shall be made free under the laws of a State, and raised there to the rank of a citizen, and immediately clothe him with all the privileges of a citizen in every other State, and in its own courts?
The court think the affirmative of these propositions cannot be maintained. And if it cannot, the plaintiff in error could not be a citizen of the State of Missouri within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, and, consequently, was not entitled to sue in its courts.
It is true, every person, and every class and description of persons who were, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, recognised as citizens in the several States became also citizens of this new political body, but none other; it was formed by them, and for them and their posterity, but for no one else. And the personal rights and privileges guarantied to citizens of this new sovereignty were intended to embrace those only who were then members of the several State communities, or who should afterwards by birthright or otherwise become members according to the provisions of the Constitution and the principles on which it was founded. It was the union of those who were at that time members of distinct and separate political communities into one political family, whose power, for certain specified purposes, was to extend over the whole territory of the United States. And it gave to each citizen rights and privileges outside of his State
which he did not before possess, and placed him in every other State upon a perfect equality with its own citizens as to rights of person and rights of property; it made him a citizen of the United States.
It becomes necessary, therefore, to determine who were citizens of the several States when the Constitution was adopted. And in order to do this, we must recur to the Governments and institutions of the thirteen colonies when they separated from Great Britain and formed new sovereignties, and took their places in the family of independent nations. We must inquire who, at that time, were recognised as the people or citizens of a State whose rights and liberties had been outraged by the English Government, and who declared their independence and assumed the powers of Government to defend their rights by force of arms.
In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument.
It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in relation to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted. But the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken.
They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic whenever a profit could be made by it. This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race. It was regarded as an axiom in morals as well as in politics which no one thought of disputing or supposed to be open to dispute, and men in every grade and position in society daily and habitually acted upon it in their private pursuits, as well as in matters of public concern, without doubting for a moment the correctness of this opinion.
And in no nation was this opinion more firmly fixed or more
uniformly acted upon than by the English Government and English people. They not only seized them on the coast of Africa and sold them or held them in slavery for their own use, but they took them as ordinary articles of merchandise to every country where they could make a profit on them, and were far more extensively engaged in this commerce than any other nation in the world.
The opinion thus entertained and acted upon in England was naturally impressed upon the colonies they founded on this side of the Atlantic. And, accordingly, a negro of the African race was regarded by them as an article of property, and held, and bought and sold as such, in every one of the thirteen colonies which united in the Declaration of Independence and afterwards formed the Constitution of the United States. The slaves were more or less numerous in the different colonies as slave labor was found more or less profitable. But no one seems to have doubted the correctness of the prevailing opinion of the time.
The legislation of the different colonies furnishes positive and indisputable proof of this fact.
It would be tedious, in this opinion, to enumerate the various laws they passed upon this subject. It will be sufficient, as a sample of the legislation which then generally prevailed throughout the British colonies, to give the laws of two of them, one being still a large slaveholding State and the other the first State in which slavery ceased to exist.
The province of Maryland, in 1717, ch. 13, s. 5, passed a law declaring
"that if any free negro or mulatto intermarry with any white woman, or if any white man shall intermarry with any negro or mulatto woman, such negro or mulatto shall become a slave during life, excepting mulattoes born of white women, who, for such intermarriage, shall only become servants for seven years, to be disposed of as the justices of the county court where such marriage so happens shall think fit, to be applied by them towards the support of a public school within the said county. And any white man or white woman who shall intermarry as aforesaid with any negro or mulatto, such white man or white woman shall become servants during the term of seven years, and shall be disposed of by the justices as aforesaid, and be applied to the uses aforesaid."
The other colonial law to which we refer was passed by Massachusetts in 1705 (chap. 6). It is entitled "An act for the better preventing of a spurious and mixed issue," &c., and it provides, that
"if any negro or mulatto shall presume to smite or strike any person of the English or other Christian nation, such negro or mulatto shall be severely whipped, at
the discretion of the justices before whom the offender shall be convicted."
"that none of her Majesty's English or Scottish subjects, nor of any other Christian nation, within this province, shall contract matrimony with any negro or mulatto; nor shall any person, duly authorized to solemnize marriage, presume to join any such in marriage, on pain of forfeiting the sum of fifty pounds; one moiety thereof to her Majesty, for and towards the support of the Government within this province, and the other moiety to him or them that shall inform and sue for the same, in any of her Majesty's courts of record within the province, by bill, plaint, or information."
We give both of these laws in the words used by the respective legislative bodies because the language in which they are framed, as well as the provisions contained in them, show, too plainly to be misunderstood the degraded condition of this unhappy race. They were still in force when the Revolution began, and are a faithful index to the state of feeling towards the class of persons of whom they speak, and of the position they occupied throughout the thirteen colonies, in the eyes and thoughts of the men who framed the Declaration of Independence and established the State Constitutions and Governments. They show that a perpetual and impassable barrier was intended to be erected between the white race and the one which they had reduced to slavery, and governed as subjects with absolute and despotic power, and which they then looked upon as so far below them in the scale of created beings, that intermarriages between white persons and negroes or mulattoes were regarded as unnatural and immoral, and punished as crimes, not only in the parties, but in the person who joined them in marriage. And no distinction in this respect was made between the free negro or mulatto and the slave, but this stigma of the deepest degradation was fixed upon the whole race.
We refer to these historical facts for the purpose of showing the fixed opinions concerning that race upon which the statesmen of that day spoke and acted. It is necessary to do this in order to determine whether the general terms used in the Constitution of the United States as to the rights of man and the rights of the people was intended to include them, or to give to them or their posterity the benefit of any of its provisions.
The language of the Declaration of Independence is equally conclusive:
It begins by declaring that,
"[w]hen in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to
assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
It then proceeds to say:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among them is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
The general words above quoted would seem to embrace the whole human family, and if they were used in a similar instrument at this day would be so understood. But it is too clear for dispute that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration, for if the language, as understood in that day, would embrace them, the conduct of the distinguished men who framed the Declaration of Independence would have been utterly and flagrantly inconsistent with the principles they asserted, and instead of the sympathy of mankind to which they so confidently appealed, they would have deserved and received universal rebuke and reprobation.
Yet the men who framed this declaration were great men -- high in literary acquirements, high in their sense of honor, and incapable of asserting principles inconsistent with those on which they were acting. They perfectly understood the meaning of the language they used, and how it would be understood by others, and they knew that it would not in any part of the civilized world be supposed to embrace the negro race, which, by common consent, had been excluded from civilized Governments and the family of nations, and doomed to slavery. They spoke and acted according to the then established doctrines and principles, and in the ordinary language of the day, and no one misunderstood them. The unhappy black race were separated from the white by indelible marks, and laws long before established, and were never thought of or spoken of except as property, and when the claims of the owner or the profit of the trader were supposed to need protection.
This state of public opinion had undergone no change when the Constitution was adopted, as is equally evident from its provisions and language.
The brief preamble sets forth by whom it was formed, for what purposes, and for whose benefit and protection. It declares
that it is formed by the people of the United States -- that is to say, by those who were members of the different political communities in the several States -- and its great object is declared to be to secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity. It speaks in general terms of the people of the United States, and of citizens of the several States, when it is providing for the exercise of the powers granted or the privileges secured to the citizen. It does not define what description of persons are intended to be included under these terms, or who shall be regarded as a citizen and one of the people. It uses them as terms so well understood that no further description or definition was necessary.
But there are two clauses in the Constitution which point directly and specifically to the negro race as a separate class of persons, and show clearly that they were not regarded as a portion of the people or citizens of the Government then formed.
One of these clauses reserves to each of the thirteen States the right to import slaves until the year 1808 if it thinks proper. And the importation which it thus sanctions was unquestionably of persons of the race of which we are speaking, as the traffic in slaves in the United States had always been confined to them. And by the other provision the States pledge themselves to each other to maintain the right of property of the master by delivering up to him any slave who may have escaped from his service, and be found within their respective territories. By the first above-mentioned clause, therefore, the right to purchase and hold this property is directly sanctioned and authorized for twenty years by the people who framed the Constitution. And by the second, they pledge themselves to maintain and uphold the right of the master in the manner specified, as long as the Government they then formed should endure. And these two provisions show conclusively that neither the description of persons therein referred to nor their descendants were embraced in any of the other provisions of the Constitution, for certainly these two clauses were not intended to confer on them or their posterity the blessings of liberty, or any of the personal rights so carefully provided for the citizen.
No one of that race had ever migrated to the United States voluntarily; all of them had been brought here as articles of merchandise. The number that had been emancipated at that time were but few in comparison with those held in slavery, and they were identified in the public mind with the race to which they belonged, and regarded as a part of the slave population rather than the free. It is obvious that they were not
even in the minds of the framers of the Constitution when they were conferring special rights and privileges upon the citizens of a State in every other part of the Union.
Indeed, when we look to the condition of this race in the several States at the time, it is impossible to believe that these rights and privileges were intended to be extended to them.
It is very true that, in that portion of the Union where the labor of the negro race was found to be unsuited to the climate and unprofitable to the master, but few slaves were held at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution was adopted, it had entirely worn out in one of them, and measures had been taken for its gradual abolition in several others. But this change had not been produced by any change of opinion in relation to this race, but because it was discovered from experience that slave labor was unsuited to the climate and productions of these States, for some of the States where it had ceased or nearly ceased to exist were actively engaged in the slave trade, procuring cargoes on the coast of Africa and transporting them for sale to those parts of the Union where their labor was found to be profitable and suited to the climate and productions. And this traffic was openly carried on, and fortunes accumulated by it, without reproach from the people of the States where they resided. And it can hardly be supposed that, in the States where it was then countenanced in its worst form -- that is, in the seizure and transportation -- the people could have regarded those who were emancipated as entitled to equal rights with themselves.
And we may here again refer in support of this proposition to the plain and unequivocal language of the laws of the several States, some passed after the Declaration of Independence and before the Constitution was adopted and some since the Government went into operation.
We need not refer on this point particularly to the laws of the present slaveholding States. Their statute books are full of provisions in relation to this class in the same spirit with the Maryland law which we have before quoted. They have continued to treat them as an inferior class, and to subject them to strict police regulations, drawing a broad line of distinction between the citizen and the slave races, and legislating in relation to them upon the same principle which prevailed at the time of the Declaration of Independence. As relates to these States, it is too plain for argument that they have never been regarded as a part of the people or citizens of the State, nor supposed to possess any political rights which the dominant race might not withhold or grant at their pleasure.
And as long ago as 1822, the Court of Appeals of Kentucky decided that free negroes and mulattoes were not citizens within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, and the correctness of this decision is recognized, and the same doctrine affirmed, in 1 Meigs's Tenn.Reports, 331.
And if we turn to the legislation of the States where slavery had worn out, or measures taken for its speedy abolition, we shall find the same opinions and principles equally fixed and equally acted upon.
Thus, Massachusetts, in 1786, passed a law similar to the colonial one of which we have spoken. The law of 1786, like the law of 1705, forbids the marriage of any white person with any negro, Indian, or mulatto, and inflicts a penalty of fifty pounds upon anyone who shall join them in marriage, and declares all such marriage absolutely null and void, and degrades thus the unhappy issue of the marriage by fixing upon it the stain of bastardy. And this mark of degradation was renewed, and again impressed upon the race, in the careful and deliberate preparation of their revised code published in 1836. This code forbids any person from joining in marriage any white person with any Indian, negro, or mulatto, and subjects the party who shall offend in this respect to imprisonment not exceeding six months in the common jail or to hard labor, and to a fine of not less than fifty nor more than two hundred dollars, and, like the law of 1786, it declares the marriage to be absolutely null and void. It will be seen that the punishment is increased by the code upon the person who shall marry them, by adding imprisonment to a pecuniary penalty.
So, too, in Connecticut. We refer more particularly to the legislation of this State, because it was not only among the first to put an end to slavery within its own territory, but was the first to fix a mark of reprobation upon the African slave trade. The law last mentioned was passed in October, 1788, about nine months after the State had ratified and adopted the present Constitution of the United States, and, by that law, it prohibited its own citizens, under severe penalties, from engaging in the trade, and declared all policies of insurance on the vessel or cargo made in the State to be null and void. But up to the time of the adoption of the Constitution, there is nothing in the legislation of the State indicating any change of opinion as to the relative rights and position of the white and black races in this country, or indicating that it meant to place the latter, when free, upon a level with its citizens. And certainly nothing which would have led the slaveholding States to suppose that Connecticut designed to claim for them, under
the new Constitution, the equal rights and privileges and rank of citizens in every other State.
The first step taken by Connecticut upon this subject was as early as 1774, wen it passed an act forbidding the further importation of slaves into the State. But the section containing the prohibition is introduced by the following preamble:
"And whereas the increase of slaves in this State is injurious to the poor, and inconvenient."
This recital would appear to have been carefully introduced in order to prevent any misunderstanding of the motive which induced the Legislature to pass the law, and places it distinctly upon the interest and convenience of the white population -- excluding the inference that it might have been intended in any degree for the benefit of the other.
And in the act of 1784, by which the issue of slaves born after the time therein mentioned were to be free at a certain age, the section is again introduced by a preamble assigning a similar motive for the act. It is in these words:
"Whereas sound policy requires that the abolition of slavery should be effected as soon as may be consistent with the rights of individuals, and the public safety and welfare"
-- showing that the right of property in the master was to be protected, and that the measure was one of policy, and to prevent the injury and inconvenience to the whites of a slave population in the State.
And still further pursuing its legislation, we find that, in the same statute passed in 1774, which prohibited the further importation of slaves into the State, there is also a provision by which any negro, Indian, or mulatto servant who was found wandering out of the town or place to which he belonged without a written pass such as is therein described was made liable to be seized by anyone, and taken before the next authority to be examined and delivered up to his master -- who was required to pay the charge which had accrued thereby. And a subsequent section of the same law provides that if any free negro shall travel without such pass, and shall be stopped, seized, or taken up, he shall pay all charges arising thereby. And this law was in full operation when the Constitution of the United States was adopted, and was not repealed till 1797. So that, up to that time, free negroes and mulattoes were associated with servants and slaves in the police regulations established by the laws of the State.
And again, in 1833, Connecticut passed another law which made it penal to set up or establish any school in that State for the instruction of persons of the African race not inhabitants of the State, or to instruct or teach in any such school or
institution, or board or harbor for that purpose, any such person without the previous consent in writing of the civil authority of the town in which such school or institution might be.
And it appears by the case of Crandall v. The State, reported in 10 Conn. Rep. 340, that upon an information filed against Prudence Crandall for a violation of this law, one of the points raised in the defence was that the law was a violation of the Constitution of the United States, and that the persons instructed, although of the African race, were citizens of other States, and therefore entitled to the rights and privileges of citizens in the State of Connecticut. But Chief Justice Dagget, before whom the case was tried, held that persons of that description were not citizens of a State, within the meaning of the word citizen in the Constitution of the United States, and were not therefore entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens in other States.
The case was carried up to the Supreme Court of Errors of the State, and the question fully argued there. But the case went off upon another point, and no opinion was expressed on this question.
We have made this particular examination into the legislative and judicial action of Connecticut because, from the early hostility it displayed to the slave trade on the coast of Africa, we may expect to find the laws of that State as lenient and favorable to the subject race as those of any other State in the Union, and if we find that, at the time the Constitution was adopted, they were not even there raised to the rank of citizens, but were still held and treated as property, and the laws relating to them passed with reference altogether to the interest and convenience of the white race, we shall hardly find them elevated to a higher rank anywhere else.
A brief notice of the laws of two other States, and we shall pass on to other considerations.
By the laws of New Hampshire, collected and finally passed in 1815, no one was permitted to be enrolled in the militia of the State but free white citizens, and the same provision is found in a subsequent collection of the laws made in 1855. Nothing could more strongly mark the entire repudiation of the African race. The alien is excluded because, being born in a foreign country, he cannot be a member of the community until he is naturalized. But why are the African race, born in the State, not permitted to share in one of the highest duties of the citizen? The answer is obvious; he is not, by the institutions and laws of the State, numbered among its people. He forms no part of the sovereignty of the State, and is not therefore called on to uphold and defend it.
Again, in 1822, Rhode Island, in its revised code, passed a law forbidding persons who were authorized to join persons in marriage from joining in marriage any white person with any negro, Indian, or mulatto, under the penalty of two hundred dollars, and declaring all such marriages absolutely null and void, and the same law was again reenacted in its revised code of 1844. So that, down to the last-mentioned period, the strongest mark of inferiority and degradation was fastened upon the African race in that State.
It would be impossible to enumerate and compress in the space usually allotted to an opinion of a court the various laws, marking the condition of this race which were passed from time to time after the Revolution and before and since the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. In addition to those already referred to, it is sufficient to say that Chancellor Kent, whose accuracy and research no one will question, states in the sixth edition of his Commentaries (published in 1848, 2 vol., 258, note b) that in no part of the country except Maine did the African race, in point of fact, participate equally with the whites in the exercise of civil and political rights.
The legislation of the States therefore shows in a manner not to be mistaken the inferior and subject condition of that race at the time the Constitution was adopted and long afterwards, throughout the thirteen States by which that instrument was framed, and it is hardly consistent with the respect due to these States to suppose that they regarded at that time as fellow citizens and members of the sovereignty, a class of beings whom they had thus stigmatized, whom, as we are bound out of respect to the State sovereignties to assume they had deemed it just and necessary thus to stigmatize, and upon whom they had impressed such deep and enduring marks of inferiority and degradation, or, that, when they met in convention to form the Constitution, they looked upon them as a portion of their constituents or designed to include them in the provisions so carefully inserted for the security and protection of the liberties and rights of their citizens. It cannot be supposed that they intended to secure to them rights and privileges and rank, in the new political body throughout the Union which every one of them denied within the limits of its own dominion. More especially, it cannot be believed that the large slaveholding States regarded them as included in the word citizens, or would have consented to a Constitution which might compel them to receive them in that character from another State. For if they were so received, and entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens, it would exempt them from the operation of the special laws and from the police
regulations which they considered to be necessary for their own safety. It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognised as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went. And all of this would be done in the face of the subject race of the same color, both free and slaves, and inevitably producing discontent and insubordination among them, and endangering the peace and safety of the State.
It is impossible, it would seem, to believe that the great men of the slaveholding States, who took so large a share in framing the Constitution of the United States and exercised so much influence in procuring its adoption, could have been so forgetful or regardless of their own safety and the safety of those who trusted and confided in them.
Besides, this want of foresight and care would have been utterly inconsistent with the caution displayed in providing for the admission of new members into this political family. For, when they gave to the citizens of each State the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States, they at the same time took from the several States the power of naturalization, and confined that power exclusively to the Federal Government. No State was willing to permit another State to determine who should or should not be admitted as one of its citizens, and entitled to demand equal rights and privileges with their own people, within their own territories. The right of naturalization was therefore, with one accord, surrendered by the States, and confided to the Federal Government. And this power granted to Congress to establish an uniform rule of naturalization is, by the well understood meaning of the word, confined to persons born in a foreign country, under a foreign Government. It is not a power to raise to the rank of a citizen anyone born in the United States who, from birth or parentage, by the laws of the country, belongs to an inferior and subordinate class. And when we find the States guarding themselves from the indiscreet or improper admission by other States of emigrants from other countries by giving the power exclusively to Congress, we cannot fail to see that they could never have left with the States a much
more important power -- that is, the power of transforming into citizens a numerous class of persons who, in that character, would be much more dangerous to the peace and safety of a large portion of the Union than the few foreigners one of the States might improperly naturalize. The Constitution upon its adoption obviously took from the States all power by any subsequent legislation to introduce as a citizen into the political family of the United States anyone, no matter where he was born or what might be his character or condition, and it gave to Congress the power to confer this character upon those only who were born outside of the dominions of the United States. And no law of a State, therefore, passed since the Constitution was adopted, can give any right of citizenship outside of its own territory.
A clause similar to the one in the Constitution in relation to the rights and immunities of citizens of one State in the other States was contained in the Articles of Confederation. But there is a difference of language which is worthy of note. The provision in the Articles of Confederation was
"that the free inhabitants of each of the States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice, excepted, should be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States."
It will be observed that, under this Confederation, each State had the right to decide for itself, and in its own tribunals, whom it would acknowledge as a free inhabitant of another State. The term free inhabitant, in the generality of its terms, would certainly include one of the African race who had been manumitted. But no example, we think, can be found of his admission to all the privileges of citizenship in any State of the Union after these Articles were formed, and while they continued in force. And, notwithstanding the generality of the words "free inhabitants," it is very clear that, according to their accepted meaning in that day, they did not include the African race, whether free or not, for the fifth section of the ninth article provides that Congress should have the power
"to agree upon the number of land forces to be raised, and to make requisitions from each State for its quota in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in such State, which requisition should be binding."
Words could hardly have been used which more strongly mark the line of distinction between the citizen and the subject -- the free and the subjugated races. The latter were not even counted when the inhabitants of a State were to be embodied in proportion to its numbers for the general defence. And it cannot for a moment be supposed that a class of
persons thus separated and rejected from those who formed the sovereignty of the States, were yet intended to be included under the words "free inhabitants," in the preceding article, to whom privileges and immunities were so carefully secured in every State.
But although this clause of the Articles of Confederation is the same in principle with that inserted in the Constitution, yet the comprehensive word inhabitant, which might be construed to include an emancipated slave, is omitted, and the privilege is confined to citizens of the State. And this alteration in words would hardly have been made unless a different meaning was intended to be conveyed or a possible doubt removed. The just and fair inference is that as this privilege was about to be placed under the protection of the General Government, and the words expounded by its tribunals, and all power in relation to it taken from the State and its courts, it was deemed prudent to describe with precision and caution the persons to whom this high privilege was given -- and the word citizen was on that account substituted for the words free inhabitant. The word citizen excluded, and no doubt intended to exclude, foreigners who had not become citizens of some one of the States when the Constitution was adopted, and also every description of persons who were not fully recognised as citizens in the several States. This, upon any fair construction of the instruments to which we have referred, was evidently the object and purpose of this change of words.
To all this mass of proof we have still to add, that Congress has repeatedly legislated upon the same construction of the Constitution that we have given. Three laws, two of which were passed almost immediately after the Government went into operation, will be abundantly sufficient to show this. The two first are particularly worthy of notice, because many of the men who assisted in framing the Constitution, and took an active part in procuring its adoption, were then in the halls of legislation, and certainly understood what they meant when they used the words "people of the United States" and "citizen" in that well-considered instrument.
The first of these acts is the naturalization law, which was passed at the second session of the first Congress, March 26, 1790, and confines the right of becoming citizens "to aliens being free white persons."
Now the Constitution does not limit the power of Congress in this respect to white persons. And they may, if they think proper, authorize the naturalization of anyone, of any color, who was born under allegiance to another Government. But the language of the law above quoted shows that citizenship
at that time was perfectly understood to be confined to the white race; and that they alone constituted the sovereignty in the Government.
Congress might, as we before said, have authorized the naturalization of Indians because they were aliens and foreigners. But, in their then untutored and savage state, no one would have thought of admitting them as citizens in a civilized community. And, moreover, the atrocities they had but recently committed, when they were the allies of Great Britain in the Revolutionary war, were yet fresh in the recollection of the people of the United States, and they were even then guarding themselves against the threatened renewal of Indian hostilities. No one supposed then that any Indian would ask for, or was capable of enjoying, the privileges of an American citizen, and the word white was not used with any particular reference to them.
Neither was it used with any reference to the African race imported into or born in this country; because Congress had no power to naturalize them, and therefore there was no necessity for using particular words to exclude them.
It would seem to have been used merely because it followed out the line of division which the Constitution has drawn between the citizen race, who formed and held the Government, and the African race, which they held in subjection and slavery and governed at their own pleasure.
Another of the early laws of which we have spoken is the first militia law, which was passed in 1792 at the first session of the second Congress. The language of this law is equally plain and significant with the one just mentioned. It directs that every "free able-bodied white male citizen" shall be enrolled in the militia. The word white is evidently used to exclude the African race, and the word "citizen" to exclude unnaturalized foreigners, the latter forming no part of the sovereignty, owing it no allegiance, and therefore under no obligation to defend it. The African race, however, born in the country, did owe allegiance to the Government, whether they were slave or free, but it is repudiated, and rejected from the duties and obligations of citizenship in marked language.
The third act to which we have alluded is even still more decisive; it was passed as late as 1813, 2 Stat. 809, and it provides:
"That from and after the termination of the war in which the United States are now engaged with Great Britain, it shall not be lawful to employ, on board of any public or private vessels of the United States, any person or persons except citizens of the United States, or persons of color, natives of the United States. "
Here the line of distinction is drawn in express words. Persons of color, in the judgment of Congress, were not included in the word citizens, and they are described as another and different class of persons, and authorized to be employed, if born in the United States.
And even as late as 1820, chap. 104, sec. 8, in the charter to the city of Washington, the corporation is authorized "to restrain and prohibit the nightly and other disorderly meetings of slaves, free negroes, and mulattoes," thus associating them together in its legislation, and, after prescribing the punishment that may be inflicted on the slaves, proceeds in the following words:
"And to punish such free negroes and mulattoes by penalties not exceeding twenty dollars for any one offence; and in case of the inability of any such free negro or mulatto, to pay any such penalty and cost thereon, to cause him or her to be confined to labor for any time not exceeding six calendar months."
And in a subsequent part of the same section, the act authorizes the corporation "to prescribe the terms and conditions upon which free negroes and mulattoes may reside in the city."
This law, like the laws of the States, shows that this class of persons were governed by special legislation directed expressly to them, and always connected with provisions for the government of slaves, and not with those for the government of free white citizens. And after such an uniform course of legislation as we have stated, by the colonies, by the States, and by Congress, running through a period of more than a century, it would seem that to call persons thus marked and stigmatized "citizens" of the United States, "fellow citizens," a constituent part of the sovereignty, would be an abuse of terms, and not calculated to exalt the character of an American citizen in the eyes of other nations.
The conduct of the Executive Department of the Government has been in perfect harmony upon this subject with this course of legislation. The question was brought officially before the late William Wirt, when he was the Attorney General of the United States, in 1821, and he decided that the words "citizens of the United States" were used in the acts of Congress in the same sense as in the Constitution, and that free persons of color were not citizens within the meaning of the Constitution and laws; and this opinion has been confirmed by that of the late Attorney General, Caleb Cushing, in a recent case, and acted upon by the Secretary of State, who refused to grant passports to them as "citizens of the United States."
But it is said that a person may be a citizen, and entitled to
that character, although he does not possess all the rights which may belong to other citizens -- as, for example, the right to vote, or to hold particular offices -- and that yet, when he goes into another State, he is entitled to be recognised there as a citizen, although the State may measure his rights by the rights which it allows to persons of a like character or class resident in the State, and refuse to him the full rights of citizenship.
This argument overlooks the language of the provision in the Constitution of which we are speaking.
Undoubtedly a person may be a citizen, that is, a member of the community who form the sovereignty, although he exercises no share of the political power and is incapacitated from holding particular offices. Women and minors, who form a part of the political family, cannot vote, and when a property qualification is required to vote or hold a particular office, those who have not the necessary qualification cannot vote or hold the office, yet they are citizens.
So, too, a person may be entitled to vote by the law of the State, who is not a citizen even of the State itself. And in some of the States of the Union, foreigners not naturalized are allowed to vote. And the State may give the right to free negroes and mulattoes, but that does not make them citizens of the State, and still less of the United States. And the provision in the Constitution giving privileges and immunities in other States does not apply to them.
Neither does it apply to a person who, being the citizen of a State, migrates to another State. For then he becomes subject to the laws of the State in which he lives, and he is no longer a citizen of the State from which he removed. And the State in which he resides may then, unquestionably, determine his status or condition, and place him among the class of persons who are not recognised as citizens, but belong to an inferior and subject race, and may deny him the privileges and immunities enjoyed by its citizens.
But so far as mere rights of person are concerned, the provision in question is confined to citizens of a State who are temporarily in another State without taking up their residence there. It gives them no political rights in the State as to voting or holding office, or in any other respect. For a citizen of one State has no right to participate in the government of another. But if he ranks as a citizen in the State to which he belongs, within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, then, whenever he goes into another State, the Constitution clothes him, as to the rights of person, will all the privileges and immunities which belong to citizens of the
State. And if persons of the African race are citizens of a State, and of the United States, they would be entitled to all of these privileges and immunities in every State, and the State could not restrict them, for they would hold these privileges and immunities under the paramount authority of the Federal Government, and its courts would be bound to maintain and enforce them, the Constitution and laws of the State to the contrary notwithstanding. And if the States could limit or restrict them, or place the party in an inferior grade, this clause of the Constitution would be unmeaning, and could have no operation, and would give no rights to the citizen when in another State. He would have none but what the State itself chose to allow him. This is evidently not the construction or meaning of the clause in question. It guaranties rights to the citizen, and the State cannot withhold them. And these rights are of a character and would lead to consequences which make it absolutely certain that the African race were not included under the name of citizens of a State, and were not in the contemplation of the framers of the Constitution when these privileges and immunities were provided for the protection of the citizen in other States.
The case of Legrand v. Darnall, 2 Peters 664, has been referred to for the purpose of showing that this court has decided that the descendant of a slave may sue as a citizen in a court of the United States, but the case itself shows that the question did not arise and could not have arisen in the case.
It appears from the report that Darnall was born in Maryland, and was the son of a white man by one of his slaves, and his father executed certain instruments to manumit him, and devised to him some landed property in the State. This property Darnall afterwards sold to Legrand, the appellant, who gave his notes for the purchase money. But becoming afterwards apprehensive that the appellee had not been emancipated according to the laws of Maryland, he refused to pay the notes until he could be better satisfied as to Darnall's right to convey. Darnall, in the meantime, had taken up his residence in Pennsylvania, and brought suit on the notes, and recovered judgment in the Circuit Court for the district of Maryland.
The whole proceeding, as appears by the report, was an amicable one, Legrand being perfectly willing to pay the money, if he could obtain a title, and Darnall not wishing him to pay unless he could make him a good one. In point of fact, the whole proceeding was under the direction of the counsel who argued the case for the appellee, who was the mutual friend of the parties and confided in by both of them, and whose only
object was to have the rights of both parties established by judicial decision in the most speedy and least expensive manner.
Legrand, therefore, raised no objection to the jurisdiction of the court in the suit at law, because he was himself anxious to obtain the judgment of the court upon his title. Consequently, there was nothing in the record before the court to show that Darnall was of African descent, and the usual judgment and award of execution was entered. And Legrand thereupon filed his bill on the equity side of the Circuit Court, stating that Darnall was born a slave, and had not been legally emancipated, and could not therefore take the land devised to him, nor make Legrand a good title, and praying an injunction to restrain Darnall from proceeding to execution on the judgment, which was granted. Darnall answered, averring in his answer that he was a free man, and capable of conveying a good title. Testimony was taken on this point, and at the hearing, the Circuit Court was of opinion that Darnall was a free man and his title good, and dissolved the injunction and dismissed the bill; and that decree was affirmed here, upon the appeal of Legrand.
Now it is difficult to imagine how any question about the citizenship of Darnall, or his right to sue in that character, can be supposed to have arisen or been decided in that case. The fact that he was of African descent was first brought before the court upon the bill in equity. The suit at law had then passed into judgment and award of execution, and the Circuit Court, as a court of law, had no longer any authority over it. It was a valid and legal judgment, which the court that rendered it had not the power to reverse or set aside. And unless it had jurisdiction as a court of equity to restrain him from using its process as a court of law, Darnall, if he thought proper, would have been at liberty to proceed on his judgment, and compel the payment of the money, although the allegations in the bill were true and he was incapable of making a title. No other court could have enjoined him, for certainly no State equity court could interfere in that way with the judgment of a Circuit Court of the United States.
But the Circuit Court as a court of equity certainly had equity jurisdiction over its own judgment as a court of law, without regard to the character of the parties, and had not only the right, but it was its duty -- no matter who were the parties in the judgment -- to prevent them from proceeding to enforce it by execution if the court was satisfied that the money was not justly and equitably due. The ability of Darnall to convey did not depend upon his citizenship, but upon his title to freedom. And if he was free, he could hold and
convey property, by the laws of Maryland, although he was not a citizen. But if he was by law still a slave, he could not. It was therefore the duty of the court, sitting as a court of equity in the latter case, to prevent him from using its process as a court of common law to compel the payment of the purchase money when it was evident that the purchaser must lose the land. But if he was free, and could make a title, it was equally the duty of the court not to suffer Legrand to keep the land and refuse the payment of the money upon the ground that Darnall was incapable of suing or being sued as a citizen in a court of the United States. The character or citizenship of the parties had no connection with the question of jurisdiction, and the matter in dispute had no relation to the citizenship of Darnall. Nor is such a question alluded to in the opinion of the court.
Besides, we are by no means prepared to say that there are not many cases, civil as well as criminal, in which a Circuit Court of the United States may exercise jurisdiction although one of the African race is a party; that broad question is not before the court. The question with which we are now dealing is whether a person of the African race can be a citizen of the United States, and become thereby entitled to a special privilege by virtue of his title to that character, and which, under the Constitution, no one but a citizen can claim. It is manifest that the case of Legrand and Darnall has no bearing on that question, and can have no application to the case now before the court.
This case, however, strikingly illustrates the consequences that would follow the construction of the Constitution which would give the power contended for to a State. It would. in effect. give it also to an individual. For if the father of young Darnall had manumitted him in his lifetime, and sent him to reside in a State which recognised him as a citizen, he might have visited and sojourned in Maryland when he pleased, and as long as he pleased, as a citizen of the United States, and the State officers and tribunals would be compelled by the paramount authority of the Constitution to receive him and treat him as one of its citizens, exempt from the laws and police of the State in relation to a person of that description, and allow him to enjoy all the rights and privileges of citizenship without respect to the laws of Maryland, although such laws were deemed by it absolutely essential to its own safety.
The only two provisions which point to them and include them treat them as property and make it the duty of the Government to protect it; no other power, in relation to this race, is to be found in the Constitution; and as it is a Government
of special, delegated, powers, no authority beyond these two provisions can be constitutionally exercised. The Government of the United States had no right to interfere for any other purpose but that of protecting the rights of the owner, leaving it altogether with the several States to deal with this race, whether emancipated or not, as each State may think justice, humanity, and the interests and safety of society, require. The States evidently intended to reserve this power exclusively to themselves.
No one, we presume, supposes that any change in public opinion or feeling, in relation to this unfortunate race, in the civilized nations of Europe or in this country, should induce the court to give to the words of the Constitution a more liberal construction in their favor than they were intended to bear when the instrument was framed and adopted. Such an argument would be altogether inadmissible in any tribunal called on to interpret it. If any of its provisions are deemed unjust, there is a mode prescribed in the instrument itself by which it may be amended; but while it remains unaltered, it must be construed now as it was understood at the time of its adoption. It is not only the same in words, but the same in meaning, and delegates the same powers to the Government, and reserves and secures the same rights and privileges to the citizen; and as long as it continues to exist in its present form, it speaks not only in the same words, but with the same meaning and intent with which it spoke when it came from the hands of its framers and was voted on and adopted by the people of the United States. Any other rule of construction would abrogate the judicial character of this court, and make it the mere reflex of the popular opinion or passion of the day. This court was not created by the Constitution for such purposes. Higher and graver trusts have been confided to it, and it must not falter in the path of duty.
What the construction was at that time we think can hardly admit of doubt. We have the language of the Declaration of Independence and of the Articles of Confederation, in addition to the plain words of the Constitution itself; we have the legislation of the different States, before, about the time, and since the Constitution was adopted; we have the legislation of Congress, from the time of its adoption to a recent period; and we have the constant and uniform action of the Executive Department, all concurring together, and leading to the same result. And if anything in relation to the construction of the Constitution can be regarded as settled, it is that which we now give to the word "citizen" and the word "people."
And, upon a full and careful consideration of the subject,
the court is of opinion, that, upon the facts stated in the plea in abatement, Dred Scott was not a citizen of Missouri within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, and not entitled as such to sue in its courts, and consequently that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction of the case, and that the judgment on the plea in abatement is erroneous.
We are aware that doubts are entertained by some of the members of the court, whether the plea in abatement is legally before the court upon this writ of error; but if that plea is regarded as waived, or out of the case upon any other ground, yet the question as to the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court is presented on the face of the bill of exception itself, taken by the plaintiff at the trial, for he admits that he and his wife were born slaves, but endeavors to make out his title to freedom and citizenship by showing that they were taken by their owner to certain places, hereinafter mentioned, where slavery could not by law exist, and that they thereby became free, and, upon their return to Missouri, became citizens of that State.
Now if the removal of which he speaks did not give them their freedom, then, by his own admission, he is still a slave, and whatever opinions may be entertained in favor of the citizenship of a free person of the African race, no one supposes that a slave is a citizen of the State or of the United States. If, therefore, the acts done by his owner did not make them free persons, he is still a slave, and certainly incapable of suing in the character of a citizen.
The principle of law is too well settled to be disputed that a court can give no judgment for either party where it has no jurisdiction; and if, upon the showing of Scott himself, it appeared that he was still a slave, the case ought to have been dismissed, and the judgment against him and in favor of the defendant for costs is, like that on the plea in abatement, erroneous, and the suit ought to have been dismissed by the Circuit Court for want of jurisdiction in that court.
But, before we proceed to examine this part of the case, it may be proper to notice an objection taken to the judicial authority of this court to decide it, and it has been said that, as this court has decided against the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court on the plea in abatement, it has no right to examine any question presented by the exception, and that anything it may say upon that part of the case will be extrajudicial, and mere obiter dicta.
This is a manifest mistake; there can be no doubt as to the jurisdiction of this court to revise the judgment of a Circuit Court, and to reverse it for any error apparent on the record,
whether it be the error of giving judgment in a case over which it had no jurisdiction or any other material error, and this too whether there is a plea in abatement or not.
The objection appears to have arisen from confounding writs of error to a State court with writs of error to a Circuit Court of the United States. Undoubtedly, upon a writ of error to a State court, unless the record shows a case that gives jurisdiction, the case must be dismissed for want of jurisdiction in this court. And if it is dismissed on that ground, we have no right to examine and decide upon any question presented by the bill of exceptions, or any other part of the record. But writs of error to a State court and to a Circuit Court of the United States are regulated by different laws, and stand upon entirely different principles. And in a writ of error to a Circuit Court of the United States, the whole record is before this court for examination and decision, and if the sum in controversy is large enough to give jurisdiction, it is not only the right, but it is the judicial duty of the court to examine the whole case as presented by the record; and if it appears upon its face that any material error or errors have been committed by the court below, it is the duty of this court to reverse the judgment and remand the case. And certainly an error in passing a judgment upon the merits in favor of either party, in a case which it was not authorized to try, and over which it had no jurisdiction, is as grave an error as a court can commit.
The plea in abatement is not a plea to the jurisdiction of this court, but to the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court. And it appears by the record before us that the Circuit Court committed an error in deciding that it had jurisdiction upon the facts in the case admitted by the pleadings. I t is the duty of the appellate tribunal to correct this error, but that could not be done by dismissing the case for want of jurisdiction here -- for that would leave the erroneous judgment in full force, and the injured party without remedy. And the appellate court therefore exercises the power for which alone appellate courts are constituted, by reversing the judgment of the court below for this error. It exercises its proper and appropriate jurisdiction over the judgment and proceedings of the Circuit Court, as they appear upon the record brought up by the writ of error.
The correction of one error in the court below does not deprive the appellate court of the power of examining further into the record, and correcting any other material errors which may have been committed by the inferior court. There is certainly no rule of law nor any practice nor any decision of a
court which even questions this power in the appellate tribunal. On the contrary, it is the daily practice of this court, and of all appellate courts where they reverse the judgment of an inferior court for error, to correct by its opinions whatever errors may appear on the record material to the case, and they have always held it to be their duty to do so where the silence of the court might lead to misconstruction or future controversy and the point has been relied on by either side and argued before the court.
In the case before us, we have already decided that the Circuit Court erred in deciding that it had jurisdiction upon the facts admitted by the pleadings. And it appears that, in the further progress of the case, it acted upon the erroneous principle it had decided on the pleadings, and gave judgment for the defendant where, upon the facts admitted in the exception, it had no jurisdiction.
We are at a loss to understand upon what principle of law, applicable to appellate jurisdiction, it can be supposed that this court has not judicial authority to correct the last-mentioned error because they had before corrected the former, or by what process of reasoning it can be made out that the error of an inferior court in actually pronouncing judgment for one of the parties in a case in which it had no jurisdiction cannot be looked into or corrected by this court because we have decided a similar question presented in the pleadings. The last point is distinctly presented by the facts contained in the plaintiff's own bill of exceptions, which he himself brings here by this writ of error. It was the point which chiefly occupied the attention of the counsel on both sides in the argument -- and the judgment which this court must render upon both errors is precisely the same. It must, in each of them, exercise jurisdiction over the judgment, and reverse it for the errors committed by the court below; and issue a mandate to the Circuit Court to conform its judgment to the opinion pronounced by this court, by dismissing the case for want of jurisdiction in the Circuit Court. This is the constant and invariable practice of this court where it reverses a judgment for want of jurisdiction in the Circuit Court.
It can scarcely be necessary to pursue such a question further. The want of jurisdiction in the court below may appear on the record without any plea in abatement. This is familiarly the case where a court of chancery has exercised jurisdiction in a case where the plaintiff had a plain and adequate remedy at law, and it so appears by the transcript when brought here by appeal. So also where it appears that a court of admiralty has exercised jurisdiction in a case belonging exclusively
to a court of common law. In these cases, there is no plea in abatement. And for the same reason, and upon the same principles, where the defect of jurisdiction is patent on the record, this court is bound to reverse the judgment although the defendant has not pleaded in abatement to the jurisdiction of the inferior court.
The cases of Jackson v. Ashton and of Capron v. Van Noorden, to which we have referred in a previous part of this opinion, are directly in point. In the last-mentioned case, Capron brought an action against Van Noorden in a Circuit Court of the United States without showing, by the usual averments of citizenship, that the court had jurisdiction. There was no plea in abatement put in, and the parties went to trial upon the merits. The court gave judgment in favor of the defendant with costs. The plaintiff thereupon brought his writ of error, and this court reversed the judgment given in favor of the defendant and remanded the case with directions to dismiss it because it did not appear by the transcript that the Circuit Court had jurisdiction.
The case before us still more strongly imposes upon this court the duty of examining whether the court below has not committed an error in taking jurisdiction and giving a judgment for costs in favor of the defendant, for in Capron v. Van Noorden, the judgment was reversed, because it did not appear that the parties were citizens of different States. They might or might not be . But in this case it does appear that the plaintiff was born a slave, and if the facts upon which he relies have not made him free, then it appears affirmatively on the record that he is not a citizen, and consequently his suit against Sandford was not a suit between citizens of different States, and the court had no authority to pass any judgment between the parties. The suit ought, in this view of it, to have been dismissed by the Circuit Court, and its judgment in favor of Sandford is erroneous, and must be reversed.
It is true that the result either way, by dismissal or by a judgment for the defendant, makes very little, if any, difference in a pecuniary or personal point of view to either party. But the fact that the result would be very nearly the same to the parties in either form of judgment would not justify this court in sanctioning an error in the judgment which is patent on the record, and which, if sanctioned, might be drawn into precedent, and lead to serious mischief and injustice in some future suit.
We proceed, therefore, to inquire whether the facts relied on by the plaintiff entitled him to his freedom.
The case, as he himself states it, on the record brought here by his writ of error, is this:
The plaintiff was a negro slave, belonging to Dr. Emerson, who was a surgeon in the army of the United States. In the year 1834, he took the plaintiff from the State of Missouri to the military post at Rock Island, in the State of Illinois, and held him there as a slave until the month of April or May, 1836. At the time last mentioned, said Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff from said military post at Rock Island to the military post at Fort Snelling, situate on the west bank of the Mississippi river, in the Territory known as Upper Louisiana, acquired by the United States of France, and situate north of the latitude of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north, and north of the State of Missouri. Said Dr. Emerson held the plaintiff in slavery at said Fort Snelling from said last-mentioned date until the year 1838.
In the year 1835, Harriet, who is named in the second count of the plaintiff's declaration, was the negro slave of Major Taliaferro, who belonged to the army of the United States. In that year, 1835, said Major Taliaferro took said Harriet to said Fort Snelling, a military post, situated as hereinbefore stated, and kept her there as a slave until the year 1836, and then sold and delivered her as a slave, at said Fort Snelling, unto the said Dr. Emerson hereinbefore named. Said Dr. Emerson held said Harriet in slavery at said Fort Snelling until the year 1838.
In the year 1836, the plaintiff and Harriet intermarried, at Fort Snelling, with the consent of Dr. Emerson, who then claimed to be their master and owner. Eliza and Lizzie, named in the third count of the plaintiff's declaration, are the fruit of that marriage. Eliza is about fourteen years old, and was born on board the steamboat Gipsey, north of the north line of the State of Missouri, and upon the river Mississippi. Lizzie is about seven years old, and was born in the State of Missouri, at the military post called Jefferson Barracks.
In the year 1838, said Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff and said Harriet and their said daughter Eliza from said Fort Snelling to the State of Missouri, where they have ever since resided.
Before the commencement of this suit, said Dr. Emerson sold and conveyed the plaintiff, and Harriet, Eliza, and Lizzie, to the defendant, as slaves, and the defendant has ever since claimed to hold them, and each of them, as slaves.
In considering this part of the controversy, two questions arise: 1. Was he, together with his family, free in Missouri by reason of the stay in the territory of the United States hereinbefore
mentioned? And 2. If they were not, is Scott himself free by reason of his removal to Rock Island, in the State of Illinois, as stated in the above admissions?
We proceed to examine the first question.
The act of Congress upon which the plaintiff relies declares that slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, shall be forever prohibited in all that part of the territory ceded by France, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude, and not included within the limits of Missouri. And the difficulty which meets us at the threshold of this part of the inquiry is whether Congress was authorized to pass this law under any of the powers granted to it by the Constitution; for if the authority is not given by that instrument, it is the duty of this court to declare it void and inoperative, and incapable of conferring freedom upon anyone who is held as a slave under the have of anyone of the States.
The counsel for the plaintiff has laid much stress upon that article in the Constitution which confers on Congress the power "to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States," but, in the judgment of the court, that provision has no bearing on the present controversy, and the power there given, whatever it may be, is confined, and was intended to be confined, to the territory which at that time belonged to, or was claimed by, the United States, and was within their boundaries as settled by the treaty with Great Britain, and can have no influence upon a territory afterwards acquired from a foreign Government. It was a special provision for a known and particular territory, and to meet a present emergency, and nothing more.
A brief summary of the history of the times, as well as the careful and measured terms in which the article is framed will show the correctness of this proposition.
It will be remembered that, from the commencement of the Revolutionary war, serious difficulties existed between the States in relation to the disposition of large and unsettled territories which were included in the chartered limits of some of the States. And some of the other States, and more especially Maryland, which had no unsettled lands, insisted that as the unoccupied lands, if wrested from Great Britain, would owe their preservation to the common purse and the common sword, the money arising from them ought to be applied in just proportion among the several States to pay the expenses of the war, and ought not to be appropriated to the use of the State in whose chartered limits they might happen
to lie, to the exclusion of the other States, by whose combined efforts and common expense the territory was defended and preserved against the claim of the British Government.
These difficulties caused much uneasiness during the war, while the issue was in some degree doubtful, and the future boundaries of the United States yet to be defined by treaty, if we achieved our independence.
The majority of the Congress of the Confederation obviously concurred in opinion with the State of Maryland, and desired to obtain from the States which claimed it a cession of this territory, in order that Congress might raise money on this security to carry on the war. This appears by the resolution passed on the 6th of September, 1780, strongly urging the States to cede these lands to the United States, both for the sake of peace and union among themselves, and to maintain the public credit; and this was followed by the resolution of October 10th, 1780, by which Congress pledged itself that if the lands were ceded, as recommended by the resolution above mentioned, they should be disposed of for the common benefit of the United States, and be settled and formed into distinct republican States, which should become members of the Federal Union, and have the same rights of sovereignty and freedom and independence as other States.
But these difficulties became much more serious after peace took place, and the boundaries of the United States were established. Every State, at that time, felt severely the pressure of its war debt; but in Virginia and some other States, there were large territories of unsettled lands, the sale of which would enable them to discharge their obligations without much inconvenience, while other States which had no such resource saw before them many years of heavy and burdensome taxation, and the latter insisted, for the reasons before stated, that these unsettled lands should be treated as the common property of the States, and the proceeds applied to their common benefit.
The letters from the statesmen of that day will show how much this controversy occupied their thoughts, and the dangers that were apprehended from it. It was the disturbing element of the time, and fears were entertained that it might dissolve the Confederation by which the States were then united.
These fears and dangers were, however, at once removed, when the State of Virginia, in 1784, voluntarily ceded to the United States the immense tract of country lying northwest of the river Ohio, and which was within the acknowledged limits of the State. The only object of the State in making
this cession was to put an end to the threatening and exciting controversy, and to enable the Congress of that time to dispose of the lands and appropriate the proceeds as a common fund for the common benefit of the States. It was not ceded because it was inconvenient to the State to hold and govern it, nor from any expectation that it could be better or more conveniently governed by the United States.
The example of Virginia was soon afterwards followed by other States, and, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, all of the States, similarly situated had ceded their unappropriated lands, except North Carolina and Georgia. The main object for which these cessions were desired and made was on account of their money value, and to put an end to a dangerous controversy as to who was justly entitled to the proceeds when the lands should be sold. It is necessary to bring this part of the history of these cessions thus distinctly into view because it will enable us the better to comprehend the phraseology of the article in the Constitution so often referred to in the argument.
Undoubtedly the powers of sovereignty and the eminent domain were ceded with the land. This was essential in order to make it effectual and to accomplish its objects. But it must be remembered that, at that time, there was no Government of the United States in existence with enumerated and limited powers; what was then called the United States were thirteen separate, sovereign, independent States which had entered into a league or confederation for their mutual protection and advantage, and the Congress of the United States was composed of the representatives of these separate sovereignties, meeting together, as equals, to discuss and decide on certain measures which the States, by the Articles of Confederation, had agreed to submit to their decision. But this Confederation had none of the attributes of sovereignty in legislative, executive, or judicial power. It was little more than a congress of ambassadors, authorized to represent separate nations in matters in which they had a common concern.
It was this Congress that accepted the cession from Virginia. They had no power to accept it under the Articles of Confederation. But they had an undoubted right, as independent sovereignties, to accept any cession of territory for their common benefit, which all of them assented to; and it is equally clear that as their common property, and having no superior to control them, they had the right to exercise absolute dominion over it, subject only to the restrictions which Virginia had imposed in her act of cession. There was, as we have said, no Government of the United States then in existence
with special enumerated and limited powers. The territory belonged to sovereignties who, subject to the limitations above mentioned, had a right to establish any form of government they pleased by compact or treaty among themselves, and to regulate rights of person and rights of property in the territory as they might deem proper. It was by a Congress, representing the authority of these several and separate sovereignties and acting under their authority and command (but not from any authority derived from the Articles of Confederation), that the instrument usually called the Ordinance of 1787 was adopted, regulating in much detail the principles and the laws by which this territory should be governed; and, among other provisions, slavery is prohibited in it. We do not question the power of the States, by agreement among themselves, to pass this ordinance, nor its obligatory force in the territory while the confederation or league of the States in their separate sovereign character continued to exist.
This was the state of things when the Constitution of the United States was formed. The territory ceded by Virginia belonged to the several confederated States as common property, and they had united in establishing in it a system of government and jurisprudence in order to prepare it for admission as States according to the terms of the cession. They were about to dissolve this federative Union, and to surrender a portion of their independent sovereignty to a new Government, which, for certain purposes, would make the people of the several States one people, and which was to be supreme and controlling within its sphere of action throughout the United States; but this Government was to be carefully limited in its powers, and to exercise no authority beyond those expressly granted by the Constitution or necessarily to be implied from the language of the instrument and the objects it was intended to accomplish; and as this league of States would, upon the adoption of the new Government, cease to have any power over the territory, and the ordinance they had agreed upon be incapable of execution, and a mere nullity, it was obvious that some provision was necessary to give the new Government sufficient power to enable it to carry into effect the objects for which it was ceded, and the compacts and agreements which the States had made with each other in the exercise of their powers of sovereignty. It was necessary that the lands should be sold to pay the war debt; that a Government and system of jurisprudence should be maintained in it to protect the citizens of the United States who should migrate to the territory, in their rights of person and of property. It was also necessary that the new Government, about to be
adopted should be authorized to maintain the claim of the United States to the unappropriated lands in North Carolina and Georgia, which had not then been ceded but the cession of which was confidently anticipated upon some terms that would be arranged between the General Government and these two States. And, moreover, there were many articles of value besides this property in land, such as arms, military stores, munitions, and ships of war, which were the common property of the States, when acting in their independent characters as confederates, which neither the new Government nor anyone else would have a right to take possession of, or control, without authority from them; and it was to place these things under the guardianship and protection of the new Government, and to clothe it with the necessary powers, that the clause was inserted in the Constitution which give Congress the power "to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States." It was intended for a specific purpose, to provide for the things we have mentioned. It was to transfer to the new Government the property then held in common by the States, and to give to that Government power to apply it to the objects for which it had been destined by mutual agreement among the States before their league was dissolved. It applied only to the property which the States held in common at that time, and has no reference whatever to any territory or other property which the new sovereignty might afterwards itself acquire.
The language used in the clause, the arrangement and combination of the powers, and the somewhat unusual phraseology it uses when it speaks of the political power to be exercised in the government of the territory, all indicate the design and meaning of the clause to be such as we have mentioned. It does not speak of any territory, nor of Territories, but uses language which, according to its legitimate meaning, points to a particular thing. The power is given in relation only to the territory of the United States -- that is, to a territory then in existence, and then known or claimed as the territory of the United States. It begins its enumeration of powers by that of disposing, in other words, making sale of the lands, or raising money from them, which, as we have already said, was the main object of the cession, and which is accordingly the first thing provided for in the article. It then gives the power which was necessarily associated with the disposition and sale of the lands -- that is, the power of making needful rules and regulations respecting the territory. And whatever construction may now be given to these words, everyone, we think,
must admit that they are not the words usually employed by statesmen in giving supreme power of legislation. They are certainly very unlike the words used in the power granted to legislate over territory which the new Government might afterwards itself obtain by cession from a State, either for its seat of Government or for forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings.
And the same power of making needful rules respecting the territory is, in precisely the same language, applied to the other property belonging to the United States -- associating the power over the territory in this respect with the power over movable or personal property -- that is, the ships, arms, and munitions of war, which then belonged in common to the State sovereignties. And it will hardly be said that this power, in relation to the last-mentioned objects, was deemed necessary to be thus specially given to the new Government in order to authorize it to make needful rules and regulations respecting the ships it might itself build, or arms and munitions of war it might itself manufacture or provide for the public service.
No one, it is believed, would think a moment of deriving the power of Congress to make needful rules and regulations in relation to property of this kind from this clause of the Constitution. Nor can it, upon any fair construction, be applied to any property but that which the new Government was about the receive from the confederated States. And if this be true as to this property, it must be equally true and limited as to the territory, which is so carefully and precisely coupled with it -- and like it referred to as property in the power granted. The concluding words of the clause appear to render this construction irresistible, for, after the provisions we have mentioned, it proceeds to say, "that nothing in the Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular State."
Now, as we have before said, all of the States except North Carolina and Georgia had made the cession before the Constitution was adopted, according to the resolution of Congress of October 10, 1780. The claims of other States that the unappropriated lands in these two States should be applied to the common benefit in like manner was still insisted on, but refused by the States. And this member of the clause in question evidently applies to them, and can apply to nothing else. It was to exclude the conclusion that either party, by adopting the Constitution, would surrender what they deemed their rights. And when the latter provision relates so obviously to the unappropriated lands not yet ceded by the States, and the first clause makes provision for those then actually ceded, it is
impossible, by any just rule of construction, to make the first provision general, and extend to all territories, which the Federal Government might in any way afterwards acquire, when the latter is plainly and unequivocally confined to a particular territory; which was a part of the same controversy, and involved in the same dispute, and depended upon the same principles. The union of the two provisions in the same clause shows that they were kindred subjects, and that the whole clause is local, and relates only to lands within the limits of the United States which had been or then were claimed by a State, and that no other territory was in the mind of the framers of the Constitution or intended to be embraced in it. Upon any other construction, it would be impossible to account for the insertion of the last provision in the place where it is found, or to comprehend why or for what object it was associated with the previous provision.
This view of the subject is confirmed by the manner in which the present Government of the United States dealt with the subject as soon as it came into existence. It must be borne in mind that the same States that formed the Confederation also formed and adopted the new Government, to which so large a portion of their former sovereign powers were surrendered. It must also be borne in mind that all of these same States which had then ratified the new Constitution were represented in the Congress which passed the first law for the government of this territory, and many of the members of that legislative body had been deputies from the States under the Confederation -- had united in adopting the Ordinance of 1787 and assisted in forming the new Government under which they were then acting, and whose powers they were then exercising. And it is obvious from the law they passed to carry into effect the principles and provisions of the ordinance that they regarded it as the act of the States done in the exercise of their legitimate powers at the time. The new Government took the territory as it found it, and in the condition in which it was transferred, and did not attempt to undo anything that had been done. And among the earliest laws passed under the new Government is one reviving the Ordinance of 1787, which had become inoperative and a nullity upon the adoption of the Constitution. This law introduces no new form or principles for its government, but recites, in the preamble, that it is passed in order that this ordinance may continue to have full effect, and proceeds to make only those rules and regulations which were needful to adapt it to the new Government, into whose hands the power had fallen. It appears, therefore, that this Congress regarded the purposes
to which the land in this Territory was to be applied and the form of government and principles of jurisprudence which were to prevail there, while it remained in the Territorial state, as already determined on by the States when they had full power and right to make the decision, and that the new Government, having received it in this condition, ought to carry substantially into effect the plans and principles which had been previously adopted by the States, and which no doubt the States anticipated when they surrendered their power to the new Government. And if we regard this clause of the Constitution as pointing to this Territory, with a Territorial Government already established in it, which had been ceded to the States for the purposes hereinbefore mentioned -- every word in it is perfectly appropriate and easily understood, and the provisions it contains are in perfect harmony with the objects for which it was ceded, and with the condition of its government as a Territory at the time. We can, then, easily account for the manner in which the first Congress legislated on the subject -- and can also understand why this power over the territory was associated in the same clause with the other property of the United States, and subjected to the like power of making needful rules and regulations. But if the clause is construed in the expanded sense contended for, so as to embrace any territory acquired from a foreign nation by the present Government and to give it in such territory a despotic and unlimited power over persons and property such as the confederated States might exercise in their common property, it would be difficult to account for the phraseology used when compared with other grants of power -- and also for its association with the other provisions in the same clause.
The Constitution has always been remarkable for the felicity of its arrangement of different subjects and the perspicuity and appropriateness of the language it uses. But if this clause is construed to extend to territory acquired by the present Government from a foreign nation, outside of the limits of any charter from the British Government to a colony, it would be difficult to say why it was deemed necessary to give the Government the power to sell any vacant lands belonging to the sovereignty which might be found within it, and, if this was necessary, why the grant of this power should precede the power to legislate over it and establish a Government there, and still more difficult to say why it was deemed necessary so specially and particularly to grant the power to make needful rules and regulations in relation to any personal or movable property it might acquire there. For the words other property necessarily, by every known rule of interpretation, must mean
property of a different description from territory or land. And the difficulty would perhaps be insurmountable in endeavoring to account for the last member of the sentence, which provides that "nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States or any particular State," or to say how any particular State could have claims in or to a territory ceded by a foreign Government, or to account for associating this provision with the preceding provisions of the clause, with which it would appear to have no connection.
The words "needful rules and regulations" would seem also to have been cautiously used for some definite object. They are not the words usually employed by statesmen when they mean to give the powers of sovereignty, or to establish a Government, or to authorize its establishment. Thus, in the law to renew and keep alive the Ordinance of 1787 and to reestablish the Government, the title of the law is: "An act to provide for the government of the territory northwest of the river Ohio." And in the Constitution, when granting the power to legislate over the territory that may be selected for the seat of Government independently of a State, it does not say Congress shall have power "to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory," but it declares that
"Congress shall have power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular States and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the Government of the United States."
The words "rules and regulations" are usually employed in the Constitution in speaking of some particular specified power which it means to confer on the Government, and not, as we have seen, when granting general powers of legislation. As, for example, in the particular power to Congress "to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces, or the particular and specific power to regulate commerce;" "to establish an uniform rule of naturalization;" "to coin money and regulate the value thereof." And to construe the words of which we are speaking as a general and unlimited grant of sovereignty over territories which the Government might afterwards acquire is to use them in a sense and for a purpose for which they were not used in any other part of the instrument. But if confined to a particular Territory, in which a Government and laws had already been established but which would require some alterations to adapt it to the new Government, the words are peculiarly applicable and appropriate for that purpose.
The necessity of this special provision in relation to property and the rights or property held in common by the confederated States is illustrated by the first clause of the sixth article. This clause provides that
"all debts, contracts, and engagements entered into before the adoption of this Constitution shall be as valid against the United States under this Government as under the Confederation."
This provision, like the one under consideration, was indispensable if the new Constitution was adopted. The new Government was not a mere change in a dynasty, or in a form of government, leaving the nation or sovereignty the same, and clothed with all the rights, and bound by all the obligations of the preceding one. But, when the present United States came into existence under the new Government, it was a new political body, a new nation, then for the first time taking its place in the family of nations. It took nothing by succession from the Confederation. It had no right, as its successor, to any property or rights of property which it had acquired, and was not liable for any of its obligations. It was evidently viewed in this light by the framers of the Constitution. And as the several States would cease to exist in their former confederated character upon the adoption of the Constitution, and could not, in that character, again assemble together, special provisions were indispensable to transfer to the new Government the property and rights which at that time they held in common, and at the same time to authorize it to lay taxes and appropriate money to pay the common debt which they had contracted; and this power could only be given to it by special provisions in the Constitution. The clause in relation to the territory and other property of the United States provided for the first, and the clause last quoted provided for the other. They have no connection with the general powers and rights of sovereignty delegated to the new Government, and can neither enlarge nor diminish them. They were inserted to meet a present emergency, and not to regulate its powers as a Government.
Indeed, a similar provision was deemed necessary in relation to treaties made by the Confederation; and when, in the clause next succeeding the one of which we have last spoken, it is declared that treaties shall be the supreme law of the land, care is taken to include, by express words, the treaties made by the confederated States. The language is: "and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land."
Whether, therefore, we take the particular clause in question, by itself, or in connection with the other provisions of the Constitution, we think it clear that it applies only to the particular
territory of which we have spoken, and cannot, by any just rule of interpretation, be extended to territory which the new Government might afterwards obtain from a foreign nation. Consequently, the power which Congress may have lawfully exercised in this Territory, while it remained under a Territorial Government, and which may have been sanctioned by judicial decision, can furnish no justification and no argument to support a similar exercise of power over territory afterwards acquired by the Federal Government. We put aside, therefore, any argument, drawn from precedents, showing the extent of the power which the General Government exercised over slavery in this Territory, as altogether inapplicable to the case before us.
But the case of the American and Ocean Insurance Companies v. Canter, 1 Pet. 511, has been quoted as establishing a different construction of this clause of the Constitution. There is, however, not the slightest conflict between the opinion now given and the one referred to, and it is only by taking a single sentence out of the latter and separating it from the context that even an appearance of conflict can be shown. We need not comment on such a mode of expounding an opinion of the court. Indeed, it most commonly misrepresents instead of expounding it. And this is fully exemplified in the case referred to, where, if one sentence is taken by itself, the opinion would appear to be in direct conflict with that now given, but the words which immediately follow that sentence show that the court did not mean to decide the point, but merely affirmed the power of Congress to establish a Government in the Territory, leaving it an open question whether that power was derived from this clause in the Constitution, or was to be necessarily inferred from a power to acquire territory by cession from a foreign Government. The opinion on this part of the case is short, and we give the whole of it to show how well the selection of a single sentence is calculated to mislead.
The passage referred to is in page 26 U. S. 542, in which the court, in speaking of the power of Congress to establish a Territorial Government in Florida until it should become a State, uses the following language:
"In the meantime, Florida continues to be a Territory of the United States, governed by that clause of the Constitution which empowers Congress to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property of the United States. Perhaps the power of governing a Territory belonging to the United States which has not, by becoming a State, acquired the means of self-government may result necessarily from the facts that it is not within the jurisdiction of any particular
State, and is within the power and jurisdiction of the United States. The right to govern may be the inevitable consequence of the right to acquire territory. Whichever may be the source from which the power is derived, the possession of it is unquestionable."
It is thus clear from the whole opinion on this point that the court did not mean to decide whether the power was derived from the clause in the Constitution or was the necessary consequence of the right to acquire. They do decide that the power in Congress is unquestionable, and in this we entirely concur, and nothing will be found in this opinion to the contrary. The power stands firmly on the latter alternative put by the court -- that is, as "the inevitable consequence of the right to acquire territory."
And what still more clearly demonstrates that the court did not mean to decide the question, but leave it open for future consideration, is the fact that the case was decided in the Circuit Court by Mr. Justice Johnson, and his decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court. His opinion at the circuit is given in full in a note to the case, and in that opinion he states, in explicit terms, that the clause of the Constitution applies only to the territory then within the limits of the United States, and not to Florida, which had been acquired by cession from Spain. This part of his opinion will be found in the note in page 517 of the report [argument of counsel -- omitted]. But he does not dissent from the opinion of the Supreme Court, thereby showing that, in his judgment as well as that of the court, the case before them did not call for a decision on that particular point, and the court abstained from deciding it. And in a part of its opinion subsequent to the passage we have quoted, where the court speak of the legislative power of Congress in Florida, they still speak with the same reserve. And in page 26 U. S. 546, speaking of the power of Congress to authorize the Territorial Legislature to establish courts there, the court say:
"They are legislative courts, created in virtue of the general right of sovereignty which exists in the Government, or in virtue of that clause which enables Congress to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory belonging to the United States."
It has been said that the construction given to this clause is new, and now for the first time brought forward. The case of which we are speaking, and which has been so much discussed, shows that the fact is otherwise. It shows that precisely the same question came before Mr. Justice Johnson, at his circuit, thirty years ago -- was fully considered by him, and the same construction given to the clause in the Constitution which is now given by this court. And that upon an appeal
from his decision the same question was brought before this court, but was not decided because a decision upon it was not required by the case before the court.
There is another sentence in the opinion which has been commented on, which even in a still more striking manner shows how one may mislead or be misled by taking out a single sentence from the opinion of a court, and leaving out of view what precedes and follows. It is in page 26 U. S. 546, near the close of the opinion, in which the court say: "In legislating for them," (the territories of the United States) "Congress exercises the combined powers of the General and of a State Government." And it is said that, as a State may unquestionably prohibit slavery within its territory, this sentence decides in effect that Congress may do the same in a Territory of the United States, exercising there the powers of a State as well as the power of the General Government.
The examination of this passage in the case referred to would be more appropriate when we come to consider in another part of this opinion what power Congress can constitutionally exercise in a Territory, over the rights of person or rights of property of a citizen. But, as it is in the same case with the passage we have before commented on, we dispose of it now, as it will save the court from the necessity of referring again to the case. And it will be seen upon reading the page in which this sentence is found that it has no reference whatever to the power of Congress over rights of person or rights of property, but relates altogether to the power of establishing judicial tribunals to administer the laws constitutionally passed, and defining the jurisdiction they may exercise.
The law of Congress establishing a Territorial Government in Florida provided that the Legislature of the Territory should have legislative powers over "all rightful objects of legislation, but no law should be valid which was inconsistent with the laws and Constitution of the United States."
Under the power thus conferred, the Legislature of Florida passed an act erecting a tribunal at Key West to decide cases of salvage. And in the case of which we are speaking, the question arose whether the Territorial Legislature could be authorized by Congress to establish such a tribunal, with such powers, and one of the parties, among other objections, insisted that Congress could not under the Constitution authorize the Legislature of the Territory to establish such a tribunal with such powers, but that it must be established by Congress itself, and that a sale of cargo made under its order to pay salvors was void as made without legal authority, and passed no property to the purchaser.
It is in disposing of this objection that the sentence relied on occurs, and the court begin that part of the opinion by stating with great precision the point which they are about to decide.
"It has been contended that by the Constitution of the United States, the judicial power of the United States extends to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, and that the whole of the judicial power must be vested 'in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as Congress shall from time to time ordain and establish.' Hence it has been argued that Congress cannot vest admiralty jurisdiction in courts created by the Territorial Legislature."
And after thus clearly stating the point before them and which they were about to decide, they proceed to show that these Territorial tribunals were not constitutional courts, but merely legislative, and that Congress might therefore delegate the power to the Territorial Government to establish the court in question, and they conclude that part of the opinion in the following words:
"Although admiralty jurisdiction can be exercised in the States in those courts only which are established in pursuance of the third article of the Constitution, the same limitation does not extend to the Territories. In legislating for them, Congress exercises the combined powers of the General and State Governments."
Thus it will be seen by these quotations from the opinion that the court, after stating the question it was about to decide in a manner too plain to be misunderstood, proceeded to decide it, and announced, as the opinion of the tribunal, that in organizing the judicial department of the Government in a Territory of the United States, Congress does not act under, and is not restricted by, the third article in the Constitution, and is not bound, in a Territory, to ordain and establish courts in which the judges hold their offices during good behaviour, but may exercise the discretionary power which a State exercises in establishing its judicial department and regulating the jurisdiction of its courts, and may authorize the Territorial Government to establish, or may itself establish, courts in which the judges hold their offices for a term of years only, and may vest in them judicial power upon subjects confided to the judiciary of the United States. And in doing this, Congress undoubtedly exercises the combined power of the General and a State Government. It exercises the discretionary power of a State Government in authorizing the establishment of a court in which the judges hold their appointments for a term of years only, and not during good behaviour, and it exercises the power of the General Government in investing that
court with admiralty jurisdiction, over which the General Government had exclusive jurisdiction in the Territory.
No one, we presume, will question the correctness of that opinion; nor is there anything in conflict with it in the opinion now given. The point decided in the case cited has no relation to the question now before the court. That depended on the construction of the third article of the Constitution, in relation to the judiciary of the United States, and the power which Congress might exercise in a Territory in organizing the judicial department of the Government. The case before us depends upon other and different provisions of the Constitution altogether separate and apart from the one above mentioned. The question as to what courts Congress may ordain or establish in a Territory to administer laws which the Constitution authorizes it to pass, and what laws it is or is not authorized by the Constitution to pass, are widely different -- are regulated by different and separate articles of the Constitution, and stand upon different principles. And we are satisfied that no one who reads attentively the page in Peters' Reports to which we have referred can suppose that the attention of the court was drawn for a moment to the question now before this court, or that it meant in that case to say that Congress had a right to prohibit a citizen of the United States from taking any property which he lawfully held into a Territory of the United States.
This brings us to examine by what provision of the Constitution the present Federal Government, under its delegated and restricted powers, is authorized to acquire territory outside of the original limits of the United States, and what powers it may exercise therein over the person or property of a citizen of the United States while it remains a Territory and until it shall be admitted as one of the States of the Union.
There is certainly no power given by the Constitution to the Federal Government to establish or maintain colonies bordering on the United States or at a distance to be ruled and governed at its own pleasure, nor to enlarge its territorial limits in any way except by the admission of new States. That power is plainly given, and if a new State is admitted, it needs no further legislation by Congress, because the Constitution itself defines the relative rights and powers and duties of the State, and the citizens of the State, and the Federal Government. But no power is given to acquire a Territory to be held and governed permanently in that character.
And indeed the power exercised by Congress to acquire territory and establish a Government there, according to its own unlimited discretion, was viewed with great jealousy by the
leading statesmen of the day. And in the Federalist No. 38, written by Mr. Madison, he speaks of the acquisition of the Northwestern Territory by the confederated States, by the cession from Virginia, and the establishment of a Government there, as an exercise of power not warranted by the Articles of Confederation, and dangerous to the liberties of the people. And he urges the adoption of the Constitution as a security and safeguard against such an exercise of power.
We do not mean, however, to question the power of Congress in this respect. The power to expand the territory of the United States by the admission of new States is plainly given, and, in the construction of this power by all the departments of the Government, it has been held to authorize the acquisition of territory not fit for admission at the time, but to be admitted as soon as its population and situation would entitle it to admission. It is acquired to become a State, and not to be held as a colony and governed by Congress with absolute authority, and, as the propriety of admitting a new State is committed to the sound discretion of Congress, the power to acquire territory for that purpose, to be held by the United States until it is in a suitable condition to become a State upon an equal footing with the other States, must rest upon the same discretion. It is a question for the political department of the Government, and not the judicial, and whatever the political department of the Government shall recognise as within the limits of the United States, the judicial department is also bound to recognise and to administer in it the laws of the United States so far as they apply, and to maintain in the Territory the authority and rights of the Government and also the personal rights and rights of property of individual citizens as secured by the Constitution. All we mean to say on this point is that, as there is no express regulation in the Constitution defining the power which the General Government may exercise over the person or property of a citizen in a Territory thus acquired, the court must necessarily look to the provisions and principles of the Constitution and its distribution of powers for the rules and principles by which its decision must be governed.
Taking this rule to guide us, it may be safely assumed that citizens of the United States who migrate to a Territory belonging to the people of the United States cannot be ruled as mere colonists, dependent upon the will of the General Government and to be governed by any laws it may think proper to impose. The principle upon which our Governments rest and upon which alone they continue to exist, is the union of States, sovereign and independent within their own limits in
their internal and domestic concerns, and bound together as one people by a General Government, possessing certain enumerated and restricted powers delegated to it by the people of the several States, and exercising supreme authority within the scope of the powers granted to it throughout the dominion of the United States. A power, therefore, in the General Government to obtain and hold colonies and dependent territories over which they might legislate without restriction would be inconsistent with its own existence in its present form. Whatever it acquires, it acquires for the benefit of the people of the several States who created it. It is their trustee acting for them, and charged with the duty of promoting the interests of the whole people of the Union in the exercise of the powers specifically granted.
At the time when the Territory in question was obtained by cession from France, it contained no population fit to be associated together and admitted as a State, and it therefore was absolutely necessary to hold possession of it, as a Territory belonging to the United States, until it was settled and inhabited by a civilized community capable of self-government, and in a condition to be admitted on equal terms with the other States as a member of the Union. But, as we have before said, it was acquired by the General Government as the representative and trustee of the people of the United States, and it must therefore be held in that character for their common and equal benefit, for it was the people of the several States, acting through their agent and representative, the Federal Government, who in fact acquired the Territory in question, and the Government holds it for their common use until it shall be associated with the other States as a member of the Union.
But, until that time arrives, it is undoubtedly necessary that some Government should be established in order to organize society and to protect the inhabitants in their persons and property, and as the people of the United States could act in this matter only through the Government which represented them and the through which they spoke and acted when the Territory was obtained, it was not only within the scope of its powers, but it was its duty, to pass such laws and establish such a Government as would enable those by whose authority they acted to reap the advantages anticipated from its acquisition and to gather there a population which would enable it to assume the position to which it was destined among the States of the Union. The power to acquire necessarily carries with it the power to preserve and apply to the purposes for which it was acquired. The form of government to be established
necessarily rested in the discretion of Congress. It was their duty to establish the one that would be best suited for the protection and security of the citizens of the United States and other inhabitants who might be authorized to take up their abode there, and that must always depend upon the existing condition of the Territory as to the number and character of its inhabitants and their situation in the Territory. In some cases, a Government consisting of persons appointed by the Federal Government would best subserve the interests of the Territory when the inhabitants were few and scattered, and new to one another. In other instances, it would be more advisable to commit the powers of self-government to the people who had settled in the Territory, as being the most competent to determine what was best for their own interests. But some form of civil authority would be absolutely necessary to organize and preserve civilized society and prepare it to become a State, and what is the best form must always depend on the condition of the Territory at the time, and the choice of the mode must depend upon the exercise of a discretionary power by Congress, acting within the scope of its constitutional authority, and not infringing upon the rights of person or rights of property of the citizen who might go there to reside, or for any other lawful purpose. It was acquired by the exercise of this discretion, and it must be held and governed in like manner until it is fitted to be a State.
But the power of Congress over the person or property of a citizen can never be a mere discretionary power under our Constitution and form of Government. The powers of the Government and the rights and privileges of the citizen are regulated and plainly defined by the Constitution itself. And when the Territory becomes a part of the United States, the Federal Government enters into possession in the character impressed upon it by those who created it. It enters upon it with its powers over the citizen strictly defined, and limited by the Constitution, from which it derives its own existence and by virtue of which alone it continues to exist and act as a Government and sovereignty. It has no power of any kind beyond it, and it cannot, when it enters a Territory of the United States, put off its character and assume discretionary or despotic powers which the Constitution has denied to it. It cannot create for itself a new character separated from the citizens of the United States and the duties it owes them under the provisions of the Constitution. The Territory being a part of the United States, the Government and the citizen both enter it under the authority of the Constitution, with their respective rights defined and marked out, and the Federal Government
can exercise no power over his person or property beyond what that instrument confers, nor lawfully deny any right which it has reserved.
A reference to a few of the provisions of the Constitution will illustrate this proposition.
For example, no one, we presume, will contend that Congress can make any law in a Territory respecting the establishment of religion, or the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people of the Territory peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for the redress of grievances.
Nor can Congress deny to the people the right to keep and bear arms, nor the right to trial by jury, nor compel anyone to be a witness against himself in a criminal proceeding.
These powers, and others in relation to rights of person which it is not necessary here to enumerate, are, in express and positive terms, denied to the General Government, and the rights of private property have been guarded with equal care. Thus, the rights of property are united with the rights of person, and placed on the same ground by the fifth amendment to the Constitution, which provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property, without due process of law. And an act of Congress which deprives a citizen of the United States of his liberty or property merely because he came himself or brought his property into a particular Territory of the United States, and who had committed no offence against the laws, could hardly be dignified with the name of due process of law.
So, too, it will hardly be contended that Congress could by law quarter a soldier in a house in a Territory without the consent of the owner, in time of peace nor in time of war, but in a manner prescribed by law. Nor could they by law forfeit the property of a citizen in a Territory who was convicted of treason, for a longer period than the life of the person convicted, nor take private property for public use without just compensation.
The powers over person and property of which we speak are not only not granted to Congress, but are in express terms denied, and they are forbidden to exercise them. And this prohibition is not confined to the States, but the words are general, and extend to the whole territory over which the Constitution gives it power to legislate, including those portions of it remaining under Territorial Government, as well as that covered by States. It is a total absence of power everywhere within the dominion of the United States, and places the citizens of a Territory, so far as these rights are
concerned, on the same footing with citizens of the States, and guards them as firmly and plainly against any inroads which the General Government might attempt under the plea of implied or incidental powers. And if Congress itself cannot do this -- if it is beyond the powers conferred on the Federal Government -- it will be admitted, we presume, that it could not authorize a Territorial Government to exercise them. It could confer no power on any local Government established by its authority to violate the provisions of the Constitution.
It seems, however, to be supposed that there is a difference between property in a slave and other property and that different rules may be applied to it in expounding the Constitution of the United States. And the laws and usages of nations, and the writings of eminent jurists upon the relation of master and slave and their mutual rights and duties, and the powers which Governments may exercise over it have been dwelt upon in the argument.
But, in considering the question before us, it must be borne in mind that there is no law of nations standing between the people of the United States and their Government and interfering with their relation to each other. The powers of the Government and the rights of the citizen under it are positive and practical regulations plainly written down. The people of the United States have delegated to it certain enumerated powers and forbidden it to exercise others. It has no power over the person or property of a citizen but what the citizens of the United States have granted. And no laws or usages of other nations, or reasoning of statesmen or jurists upon the relations of master and slave, can enlarge the powers of the Government or take from the citizens the rights they have reserved. And if the Constitution recognises the right of property of the master in a slave, and makes no distinction between that description of property and other property owned by a citizen, no tribunal, acting under the authority of the United States, whether it be legislative, executive, or judicial, has a right to draw such a distinction or deny to it the benefit of the provisions and guarantees which have been provided for the protection of private property against the encroachments of the Government.
Now, as we have already said in an earlier part of this opinion upon a different point, the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution. The right to traffic in it, like an ordinary article of merchandise and property, was guarantied to the citizens of the United States in every State that might desire it for twenty years. And the Government in express terms is pledged to protect
it in all future time if the slave escapes from his owner. This is done in plain words -- too plain to be misunderstood. And no word can be found in the Constitution which gives Congress a greater power over slave property or which entitles property of that kind to less protection that property of any other description. The only power conferred is the power coupled with the duty of guarding and protecting the owner in his rights.
Upon these considerations, it is the opinion of the court that the act of Congress which prohibited a citizen from holding and owning property of this kind in the territory of the United States north of the line therein mentioned is not warranted by the Constitution, and is therefore void, and that neither Dred Scott himself nor any of his family were made free by being carried into this territory, even if they had been carried there by the owner with the intention of becoming a permanent resident.
We have so far examined the case, as it stands under the Constitution of the United States, and the powers thereby delegated to the Federal Government.
But there is another point in the case which depends on State power and State law. And it is contended, on the part of the plaintiff, that he is made free by being taken to Rock Island, in the State of Illinois, independently of his residence in the territory of the United States, and being so made free, he was not again reduced to a state of slavery by being brought back to Missouri.
Our notice of this part of the case will be very brief, for the principle on which it depends was decided in this court, upon much consideration, in the case of Strader et al. v. Graham, reported in 10th Howard 82. In that case, the slaves had been taken from Kentucky to Ohio, with the consent of the owner, and afterwards brought back to Kentucky. And this court held that their status or condition as free or slave depended upon the laws of Kentucky when they were brought back into that State, and not of Ohio, and that this court had no jurisdiction to revise the judgment of a State court upon its own laws. This was the point directly before the court, and the decision that this court had not jurisdiction turned upon it, as will be seen by the report of the case.
So in this case. As Scott was a slave when taken into the State of Illinois by his owner, and was there held as such, and brought back in that character, his status as free or slave depended on the laws of Missouri, and not of Illinois.
It has, however, been urged in the argument that, by the laws of Missouri, he was free on his return, and that this case
therefore cannot be governed by the case of Strader et al. v. Graham, where it appeared, by the laws of Kentucky, that the plaintiffs continued to be slaves on their return from Ohio. But whatever doubts or opinions may at one time have been entertained upon this subject, we are satisfied, upon a careful examination of all the cases decided in the State courts of Missouri referred to, that it is now firmly settled by the decisions of the highest court in the State that Scott and his family upon their return were not free, but were, by the laws of Missouri, the property of the defendant, and that the Circuit Court of the United States had no jurisdiction when, by the laws of the State, the plaintiff was a slave and not a citizen.
Moreover, the plaintiff, it appears, brought a similar action against the defendant in the State court of Missouri, claiming the freedom of himself and his family upon the same grounds and the same evidence upon which he relies in the case before the court. The case was carried before the Supreme Court of the State, was fully argued there, and that court decided that neither the plaintiff nor his family were entitled to freedom, and were still the slaves of the defendant, and reversed the judgment of the inferior State court, which had given a different decision. If the plaintiff supposed that this judgment of the Supreme Court of the State was erroneous, and that this court had jurisdiction to revise and reverse it, the only mode by which he could legally bring it before this court was by writ of error directed to the Supreme Court of the State, requiring it to transmit the record to this court. If this had been done, it is too plain for argument that the writ must have been dismissed for want of jurisdiction in this court. The case of Strader and others v. Graham is directly in point, and, indeed, independent of any decision, the language of the 25th section of the act of 1789 is too clear and precise to admit of controversy.
But the plaintiff did not pursue the mode prescribed by law for bringing the judgment of a State court before this court for revision, but suffered the case to be remanded to the inferior State court, where it is still continued, and is, by agreement of parties, to await the judgment of this court on the point. All of this appears on the record before us, and by the printed report of the case.
And while the case is yet open and pending in the inferior State court, the plaintiff goes into the Circuit Court of the United States, upon the same case and the same evidence and against the same party, and proceeds to judgment, and then brings here the same case from the Circuit Court, which the law would not have permitted him to bring directly from the
State court. And if this court takes jurisdiction in this form, the result, so far as the rights of the respective parties are concerned, is in every respect substantially the same as if it had, in open violation of law, entertained jurisdiction over the judgment of the State court upon a writ of error, and revised and reversed its judgment upon the ground that its opinion upon the question of law was erroneous. It would ill become this court to sanction such an attempt to evade the law, or to exercise an appellate power in this circuitous way which it is forbidden to exercise in the direct and regular and invariable forms of judicial proceedings.
Upon the whole, therefore, it is the judgment of this court that it appears by the record before us that the plaintiff in error is not a citizen of Missouri in the sense in which that word is used in the Constitution, and that the Circuit Court of the United States, for that reason, had no jurisdiction in the case, and could give no judgment in it. Its judgment for the defendant must, consequently, be reversed, and a mandate issued directing the suit to be dismissed for want of jurisdiction.
Mr. Justice WAYNE.
Concurring as I do entirely in the opinion of the court as it has been written and read by the Chief Justice -- without any qualification of its reasoning or its conclusions -- I shall neither read nor file an opinion of my own in this case, which I prepared when I supposed it might be necessary and proper for me to do so.
The opinion of the court meets fully and decides every point which was made in the argument of the case by the counsel on either side of it. Nothing belonging to the case has been left undecided, nor has any point been discussed and decided which was not called for by the record or which was not necessary for the judicial disposition of it in the way that it has been done, by more than a majority of the court.
In doing this, the court neither sought nor made the case. It was brought to us in the course of that administration of the laws which Congress has enacted, for the review of cases from the Circuit Courts by the Supreme Court.
In our action upon it, we have only discharged our duty as a distinct and efficient department of the Government, as the framers of the Constitution meant the judiciary to be and as the States of the Union and the people of those States intended it should be when they ratified the Constitution of the United States.
The case involves private rights of value, and constitutional principles of the highest importance about which there had
become such a difference of opinion, that the peace and harmony of the country required the settlement of them by judicial decision.
It would certainly be a subject of regret that the conclusions of the court have not been assented to by all of its members if I did not know from its history and my own experience how rarely it has happened that the judges have been unanimous upon constitutional questions of moment and if our decision in this case had not been made by as large a majority of them as has been usually had on constitutional questions of importance.
Two of the judges, Mr. Justices McLean and Curtis, dissent from the opinion of the court. A third, Mr. Justice Nelson, gives a separate opinion upon a single point in the case with which I concur, assuming that the Circuit Court had jurisdiction, but he abstains altogether from expressing any opinion upon the eighth section of the act of 1820, known commonly as the Missouri Compromise law, and six of us declare that it was unconstitutional.
But it has been assumed that this court has acted extrajudicially in giving an opinion upon the eighth section of the act of 1820 because, as it has decided that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction of the case, this court had no jurisdiction to examine the case upon its merits.
But the error of such an assertion has arisen in part from a misapprehension of what has been heretofore decided by the Supreme Court in cases of a like kind with that before us, in part from a misapplication to the Circuit Courts of the United States of the rules of pleading concerning pleas to the jurisdiction which prevail in common law courts, and from its having been forgotten that this case was not brought to this court by appeal or writ of error from a State court, but by a writ of error to the Circuit Court of the United States.
The cases cited by the Chief Justice to show that this court has now only done what it has repeatedly done before in other cases, without any question of its correctness, speak for themselves. The differences between the rules concerning pleas to the jurisdiction in the courts of the United States and common law courts have been stated and sustained by reasoning and adjudged cases, and it has been shown that writs of error to a State court and to the Circuit Courts of the United States are to be determined by different laws and principles. In the first, it is our duty to ascertain if this court has jurisdiction, under the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act, to review the case from the State court, and if it shall be found that it has not, the case is at end so far as this court is concerned, for our power
to review the case upon its merits has been made, by the twenty-fifth section, to depend upon its having jurisdiction, when it has not, this court cannot criticise, controvert, or give any opinion upon the merits of a case from a State court.
But in a case brought to this court, by appeal or by writ of error from a Circuit Court of the United States, we begin a review of it not by inquiring if this court has jurisdiction, but if that court has it. If the case has been decided by that court upon its merits, but the record shows it to be deficient in those averments which by the law of the United States must be made by the plaintiff in the action to give the court jurisdiction of his case, we send it back to the court from which it was brought with directions to be dismissed though it has been decided there upon its merits.
So, in a case containing the averments by the plaintiff which are necessary to give the Circuit Court jurisdiction, if the defendant shall file his plea in abatement denying the truth of them, and the plaintiff shall demur to it, and the court should erroneously sustain the plaintiff's demurrer, or declare the plea to be insufficient, and by doing so require the defendant to answer over by a plea to the merits, and shall decide the case upon such pleading, this court has the same authority to inquire into the jurisdiction of that court to do so, and to correct its error in that regard, that it had in the other case to correct its error, in trying a case in which the plaintiff had not made those averments which were necessary to give the court jurisdiction. In both cases, the record is resorted to to determine the point of jurisdiction, but, as the power of review of cases from a Federal court by this court is not limited by the law to a part of the case, this court may correct an error upon the merits, and there is the same reason for correcting an erroneous judgment of the Circuit Court where the want of jurisdiction appears from any part of the record that there is for declaring a want of jurisdiction for a want of necessary averments. Any attempt to control the court from doing so by the technical common law rules of pleading in cases of jurisdiction, when a defendant has been denied his plea to it, would tend to enlarge the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court by limiting this court's review of its judgments in that particular. But I will not argue a point already so fully discussed. I have every confidence in the opinion of the court upon the point of jurisdiction, and do not allow myself to doubt that the error of a contrary conclusion will be fully understood by all who shall read the argument of the Chief Justice.
I have already said that the opinion of the court has my unqualified assent.
Mr. Justice NELSON.
I shall proceed to state the grounds upon which I have arrived at the conclusion that the judgment of the court below should be affirmed. The suit was brought in the court below by the plaintiff for the purpose of asserting his freedom and that of Harriet, his wife, and two children.
The defendant plead in abatement to the suit that the cause of action, if any, accrued to the plaintiff out of the jurisdiction of the court, and exclusively within the jurisdiction of the courts of the State of Missouri, for that the said plaintiff is not a citizen of the State of Missouri, as alleged in the declaration, because he is a negro of African descent, his ancestors were of pure African blood, and were brought into this country and sold as negro slaves.
To this plea the plaintiff demurred, and the defendant joined in demurrer. The court below sustained the demurrer, holding that the plea was insufficient in law to abate the suit.
The defendant then plead over in bar of the action:
1. The general issue. 2. That the plaintiff was a negro slave, the lawful property of the defendant. And 3. That Harriet, the wife of said plaintiff, and the two children, were the lawful slaves of the said defendant. Issue was taken upon these pleas, and the cause went down to trial before the court and jury, and an agreed state of facts was presented upon which the trial proceeded and resulted in a verdict for the defendant, under the instructions of the court.
The facts agreed upon were substantially as follows:
That, in the year 1834, the plaintiff, Scott, was a negro slave of Dr. Emerson, who was a surgeon in the army of the United States, and in that year he took the plaintiff from the State of Missouri to the military post at Rock Island, in the State of Illinois, and held him there as a slave until the month of April or May, 1836. At this date, Dr. Emerson removed, with the plaintiff, from the Rock Island post to the military post at Fort Snelling, situate on the west bank of the Mississippi river, in the Territory of Upper Louisiana, and north of the latitude thirty-six degrees thirty minutes, and north of the State of Missouri. That he held the plaintiff in slavery at Fort Snelling from the last-mentioned date until the year 1838.
That, in the year 1835, Harriet, mentioned in the declaration, was a negro slave of Major Taliaferro, who belonged to the army of the United States, and in that year he took her to Fort Snelling, already mentioned, and kept her there as a slave until the year 1836, and then sold and delivered her to Dr. Emerson, who held her in slavery at Fort Snelling until the year 1838. That, in the year 1836, the plaintiff and Harriet
were married at Fort Snelling with the consent of their master. The two children, Eliza and Lizzie, are the fruit of this marriage. The first is about fourteen years of age, and was born on board the steamboat Gipsey, north of the State of Missouri, and upon the Mississippi river, the other, about seven years of age, was born in the State of Missouri at the military post called Jefferson Barracks.
In 1838, Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff Harriet and their daughter Eliza from Fort Snelling to the State of Missouri, where they have ever since resided. And that, before the commencement of this suit, they were sold by the Doctor to Sandford, the defendant, who has claimed and held them as slaves ever since.
The agreed case also states that the plaintiff brought a suit for his freedom, in the Circuit Court of the State of Missouri, on which a judgment was rendered in his favor, but that, on a writ of error from the Supreme Court of the State, the judgment of the court below was reversed, and the cause remanded to the circuit for a new trial.
On closing the testimony in the court below, the counsel for the plaintiff prayed the court to instruct the jury, upon the agreed state of facts, that they ought to find for the plaintiff, when the court refused, and instructed them that, upon the facts, the law was with the defendant.
With respect to the plea in abatement, which went to the citizenship of the plaintiff and his competency to bring a suit in the Federal courts, the common law rule of pleading is that, upon a judgment against the plea on demurrer, and that the defendant answer over, and the defendant submits to the judgment and pleads over to the merits, the plea in abatement is deemed to be waived, and is not afterwards to be regarded as a part of the record in deciding upon the rights regarded as a part of the record in deciding upon the rights of the parties. There is some question, however, whether this rule of pleading applies to the peculiar system and jurisdiction of the Federal courts. As, in these courts, if the facts appearing on the record show that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction, its judgment will be reversed in the appellate court for that cause, and the case remanded with directions to be dismissed.
In the view we have taken of the case, it will not be necessary to pass upon this question, and we shall therefore proceed at once to an examination of the case upon its merits. The question upon the merits, in general terms, is whether or not the removal of the plaintiff, who was a slave, with his master from the State of Missouri to the State of Illinois, with a view to a temporary residence, and after such residence and
return to the slave State, such residence in the free State works an emancipation.
As appears from an agreed statement of facts, this question has been before the highest court of the State of Missouri, and a judgment rendered that this residence in the free State has no such effect, but, on the contrary, that his original condition continued unchanged.
The court below, the Circuit Court of the United States for Missouri, in which this suit was afterwards brought, followed the decision of the State court, and rendered a like judgment against the plaintiff.
The argument against these decisions is that the laws of Illinois forbidding slavery within her territory had the effect to set the slave free while residing in that State, and to impress upon him the condition and status of a freeman, and that, by force of these laws, this status and condition accompanied him on his return to the slave State, and, of consequence, he could not be there held as a slave.
This question has been examined in the courts of several of the slaveholding States, and different opinions expressed and conclusions arrived at. We shall hereafter refer to some of them, and to the principles upon which they are founded. Our opinion is that the question is one which belongs to each State to decide for itself, either by its Legislature or courts of justice, and hence, in respect to the case before us, to the State of Missouri -- a question exclusively of Missouri law, and which, when determined by that State, it is the duty of the Federal courts to follow it. In other words, except in cases where the power is restrained by the Constitution of the United States, the law of the State is supreme over the subject of slavery within its jurisdiction.
As a practical illustration of the principle, we may refer to the legislation of the free States in abolishing slavery and prohibiting its introduction into their territories. Confessedly, except as restrained by the Federal Constitution, they exercised, and rightfully, complete and absolute power over the subject. Upon what principle, then, can it be denied to the State of Missouri? The power flows from the sovereign character of the States of the Union, sovereign not merely as respects the Federal Government -- except as they have consented to its limitation -- but sovereign as respects each other. Whether, therefore, the State of Missouri will recognise or give effect to the laws of Illinois within her territories on the subject of slavery is a question for her to determine. Nor is there any constitutional power in this Government that can rightfully control her.
Every State or nation possesses an exclusive sovereignty and jurisdiction within her own territory, and her laws affect and bind all property and persons residing within it. It may regulate the manner and circumstances under which property is held, and the condition, capacity, and state of all persons therein, and also the remedy and modes of administering justice. And it is equally true that no State or nation can affect or bind property out of its territory, or persons not residing within it. No State therefore can enact laws to operate beyond its own dominions, and if it attempts to do so, it may be lawfully refused obedience. Such laws can have no inherent authority extraterritorially. This is the necessary result of the independence of distinct and separate sovereignties.
Now it follows from these principles that whatever force or effect the laws of one State or nation may have in the territories of another must depend solely upon the laws and municipal regulations of the latter, upon its own jurisprudence and polity, and upon its own express or tacit consent.
Judge Story observes in his Conflict of Laws, p. 24,
"that a State may prohibit the operation of all foreign laws, and the rights growing out of them, within its territories. . . . And that, when its code speaks positively on the subject, it must be obeyed by all persons who are within reach of its sovereignty; when its customary unwritten or common law speaks directly on the subject, it is equally to be obeyed."
Nations, from convenience and comity and from mutual interest and a sort of moral necessity to do justice, recognise and administer the laws of other countries. But of the nature, extent, and utility of them respecting property or the state and condition of persons within her territories, each nation judges for itself, and is never bound, even upon the ground of comity, to recognise them if prejudicial to her own interests. The recognition is purely from comity, and not from any absolute or paramount obligation.
Judge Story again observes, p. 398,
"that the true foundation and extent of the obligation of the laws of one nation within another is the voluntary consent of the latter, and is inadmissible when they are contrary to its known interests."
And he adds,
"in the silence of any positive rule affirming or denying or restraining the operation of the foreign laws, courts of justice presume the tacit adoption of them by their own Government unless they are repugnant to its policy or prejudicial to its interests."
These principles fully establish that it belongs to the sovereign
State of Missouri to determine by her laws the question of slavery within her jurisdiction, subject only to such limitations as may be found in the Federal Constitution, and further that the laws of other States of the Confederacy, whether enacted by their Legislatures or expounded by their courts, can have no operation within her territory or affect rights growing out of her own laws on the subject. This is the necessary result of the independent and sovereign character of the State. The principle is not peculiar to the State of Missouri, but is equally applicable to each State belonging to the Confederacy. The laws of each have no extraterritorial operation within the jurisdiction of another except such as may be voluntarily conceded by her laws or courts of justice. To the extent of such concession upon the rule of comity of nations, the foreign law may operate, as it then becomes a part of the municipal law of the State. When determined that the foreign law shall have effect, the municipal law of the State retires and gives place to the foreign law.
In view of these principles, let us examine a little more closely the doctrine of those who maintain that the law of Missouri is not to govern the status and condition of the plaintiff. They insist that the removal and temporary residence with his master in Illinois, where slavery is inhibited, had the effect to set him free, and that the same effect is to be given to the law of Illinois, within the State of Missouri, after his return. Why was he set free in Illinois? Because the law of Missouri, under which he was held as a slave, had no operation by its own force extraterritorially, and the State of Illinois refused to recognise its effect within her limits, upon principles of comity, as a state of slavery was inconsistent with her laws and contrary to her policy. But how is the case different on the return of the plaintiff to the State of Missouri? Is she bound to recognise and enforce the law of Illinois? For unless she is the status and condition of the slave upon his return remains the same as originally existed. Has the law of Illinois any greater force within the jurisdiction of Missouri than the laws of the latter within that of the former? Certainly not. They stand upon an equal footing. Neither has any force extraterritorially except what may be voluntarily conceded to them.
It has been supposed by the counsel for the plaintiff that a rule laid down by Huberus had some bearing upon this question. Huberus observes that
"personal qualities, impressed by the laws of any place, surround and accompany the person wherever he goes, with this effect: that in every place he enjoys and is subject to the same law which other persons of his
class elsewhere enjoy or are subject to."
De Confl.Leg., lib. 1, tit. 3, sec. 12, 1 Story Con.Laws, pp. 59, 60.
The application sought to be given to the rule was this: that as Dred Scott was free while residing in the State of Illinois, by the laws of that State, on his return to the State of Missouri, he carried with him the personal qualities of freedom, and that the same effect must be given to his status there as in the former State. But the difficulty in the case is in the total misapplication of the rule.
These personal qualities to which Huberus refers are those impressed upon the individual by the law of the domicil; it is this that the author claims should be permitted to accompany the person into whatever country he might go, and should supersede the law of the place where he had taken up a temporary residence.
Now as the domicil of Scott was in the State of Missouri, where he was a slave, and from whence he was taken by his master into Illinois for a temporary residence, according to the doctrine of Huberus, the law of his domicil would have accompanied him, and, during his residence there, he would remain in the same condition as in the State of Missouri. In order to have given effect to the rule, as claimed in the argument, it should have been first shown that a domicil had been acquired in the free State, which cannot be pretended upon the agreed facts in the case. But the true answer to the doctrine of Huberus is that the rule, in any aspect in which it may be viewed, has no bearing upon either side of the question before us, even if conceded to the extent laid down by the author, for he admits that foreign Governments give effect to these laws of the domicil no further than they are consistent with their own laws and not prejudicial to their own subjects; in other words, their force and effect depend upon the law of comity of the foreign Government. We should add also that this general rule of Huberus, referred to, has not been admitted in the practice of nations, nor is it sanctioned by the most approved jurists of international law. Story Con., sec. 91, 96, 103, 104; 2 Kent. Com., p. 457, 458; 1 Burge Con.Laws, pp. 12, 127.
We come now to the decision of this court in the case of Strader et al. v. Graham, 10 How. 2. The case came up from the Court of Appeals, in the State of Kentucky. The question in the case was whether certain slaves of Graham, a resident of Kentucky, who had been employed temporarily at several places in the State of Ohio with their master's consent and had returned to Kentucky into his service, had thereby
become entitled to their freedom. The Court of Appeals held that they had not. The case was brought to this court under the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act. This court held that it had no jurisdiction, for the reason the question was one that belonged exclusively to the State of Kentucky. The Chief Justice, in delivering the opinion of the court, observed that
"every State has an undoubted right to determine the status or domestic and social condition of the persons domiciled within its territory, except insofar as the powers of the States in this respect are restrained, or duties and obligations imposed upon them, by the Constitution of the United States. There is nothing in the Constitution of the United States, he observes that can in any degree control the law of Kentucky upon this subject. And the condition of the negroes, therefore, as to freedom or slavery after their return depended altogether upon the laws of that State, and could not be influenced by the laws of Ohio. It was exclusively in the power of Kentucky to determine for herself whether their employment in another State should or should not make them free on their return."
It has been supposed, in the argument on the part of the plaintiff that the eighth section of the act of Congress passed March 6, 1820, 3 St. at Large, p. 544, which prohibited slavery north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes, within which the plaintiff and his wife temporarily resided at Fort Snelling, possessed some superior virtue and effect, extraterritorially and within the State of Missouri, beyond that of the laws of Illinois or those of Ohio in the case of Strader et al. v. Graham. A similar ground was taken and urged upon the court in the case just mentioned, under the Ordinance of 1787, which was enacted during the time of the Confederation and reenacted by Congress after the adoption of the Constitution with some amendments adapting it to the new Government. 1 St. at Large p. 50.
In answer to this ground, the Chief Justice, in delivering the opinion of the court, observed:
"The argument assumes that the six articles which that ordinance declares to be perpetual are still in force in the States since formed within the territory and admitted into the Union. If this proposition could be maintained, it would not alter the question, for the regulations of Congress, under the old Confederation or the present Constitution, for the government of a particular Territory could have no force beyond its limits. It certainly could not restrict the power of the States within their respective territories, nor in any manner interfere with their laws and institutions, nor give this court control over them. "
"The ordinance in question, he observes, if still in force, could have no more operation than the laws of Ohio in the State of Kentucky, and could not influence the decision upon the rights of the master or the slaves in that State."
This view, thus authoritatively declared, furnishes a conclusive answer to the distinction attempted to be set up between the extraterritorial effect of a State law and the act of Congress in question.
It must be admitted that Congress possesses no power to regulate or abolish slavery within the States, and that, if this act had attempted any such legislation, it would have been a nullity. And yet the argument here, if there be any force in it, leads to the result that effect may be given to such legislation, for it is only by giving the act of Congress operation within the State of Missouri that it can have any effect upon the question between the parties. Having no such effect directly, it will be difficult to maintain upon any consistent reasoning that it can be made to operate indirectly upon the subject.
The argument, we think, in any aspect in which it may be viewed, is utterly destitute of support upon any principles of constitutional law, as, according to that, Congress has no power whatever over the subject of slavery within the State, and is also subversive of the established doctrine of international jurisprudence, as, according to that, it is an axiom that the laws of one Government have no force within the limits of another or extraterritorially except from the consent of the latter.
It is perhaps not unfit to notice in this connection that many of the most eminent statesmen and jurists of the country entertain the opinion that this provision of the act of Congress, even within the territory to which it relates, was not authorized by any power under the Constitution. The doctrine here contended for not only upholds its validity in the territory, but claims for it effect beyond and within the limits of a sovereign State -- an effect, as insisted, that displaces the laws of the State and substitutes its own provisions in their place.
The consequences of any such construction are apparent. If Congress possesses the power under the Constitution to abolish slavery in a Territory, it must necessarily possess the like power to establish it. It cannot be a one-sided power, as may suit the convenience or particular views of the advocates. It is a power, if it exists at all, over the whole subject, and then, upon the process of reasoning which seeks to extend its influence beyond the Territory and within the limits of a State, if Congress should establish, instead of abolish, slavery, we do
not see but that, if a slave should be removed from the Territory into a free State, his status would accompany him, and continue notwithstanding its laws against slavery. The laws of the free State, according to the argument, would be displaced, and the act of Congress, in its effect, be substituted in their place. We do not see how this conclusion could be avoided if the construction against which we are contending should prevail. We are satisfied, however, it is unsound, and that the true answer to it is that even conceding, for the purposes of the argument that this provision of the act of Congress is valid within the Territory for which it was enacted, it can have no operation or effect beyond its limits or within the jurisdiction of a State. It can neither displace its laws nor change the status or condition of its inhabitants.
Our conclusion therefore is, upon this branch of the case, that the question involved is one depending solely upon the law of Missouri, and that the Federal court sitting in the State and trying the case before us was bound to follow it.
The remaining question for consideration is what is the law of the State of Missouri on this subject? And it would be a sufficient answer to refer to the judgment of the highest court of the State in the very case were it not due to that tribunal to state somewhat at large the course of decision and the principles involved on account of some diversity of opinion in the cases. As we have already stated, this case was originally brought in the Circuit Court of the State, which resulted in a judgment for the plaintiff. The case was carried up to the Supreme Court for revision. That court reversed the judgment below and remanded the cause to the circuit for a new trial. In that state of the proceeding, a new suit was brought by the plaintiff in the Circuit Court of the United States, and tried upon the issues and agreed case before us, and a verdict and judgment for the defendant that court following the decision of the Supreme Court of the State. The judgment of the Supreme Court is reported in the 15 Misso.R. p. 576. The court placed the decision upon the temporary residence of the master with the slaves in the State and Territory to which they removed, and their return to the slave State, and upon the principles of international law that foreign laws have no extraterritorial force except such as the State within which they are sought to be enforced may see fit to extend to them, upon the doctrine of comity of nations.
This is the substance of the grounds of the decision.
The same question has been twice before that court since, and the same judgment given, 15 Misso.R. 595, 17 Ib. 434. It must be admitted, therefore, as the settled law of the State,
and, according to the decision in the case of Strader et al. v. Graham, is conclusive of the case in this court.
It is said, however that the previous cases and course of decision in the State of Missouri on this subject were different, and that the courts had held the slave to be free on his return from a temporary residence in the free State. We do not see, were this to be admitted, that the circumstance would show that the settled course of decision, at the time this case was tried in the court below, was not to be considered the law of the State. Certainly it must be unless the first decision of a principle of law by a State court is to be permanent and irrevocable. The idea seems to be that the courts of a State are not to change their opinions, or, if they do, the first decision is to be regarded by this court as the law of the State. It is certain, if this be so in the case before us, it is an exception to the rule governing this court in all other cases. But what court has not changed its opinions? What judge has not changed his?
Waiving, however, this view, and turning to the decisions of the courts of Missouri, it will be found that there is no discrepancy between the earlier and the present cases upon this subject. There are some eight of them reported previous to the decision in the case before us, which was decided in 1852. The last of the earlier cases was decided in 1836. In each one of these, with two exceptions, the master or mistress removed into the free State with the slave, with a view to a permanent residence -- in other words, to make that his or her domicil. And in several of the cases, this removal and permanent residence were relied on as the ground of the decision in favor of the plaintiff. All these cases, therefore, are not necessarily in conflict with the decision in the case before us, but consistent with it. In one of the two excepted cases, the master had hired the slave in the State of Illinois from 1817 to 1825. In the other, the master was an officer in the army, and removed with his slave to the military post of Fort Snelling, and at Prairie du Chien, in Michigan, temporarily, while acting under the orders of his Government. It is conceded the decision in this case was departed from in the case before us, and in those that have followed it. But it is to be observed that these subsequent cases are in conformity with those in all the slave States bordering on the free -- in Kentucky, 2 Marsh. 476, 5 B. Munroe 176, 9 ib. 565 -- in Virginia, 1 Rand. 15, 1 Leigh 172, 10 Grattan 495 -- in Maryland, 4 Harris and McHenry 295, 322, 325. In conformity also with the law of England on this subject, Ex parte Grace, 2 Hagg.Adm.R. 94, and with the opinions of the
most eminent jurists of the country. Story's Confl. 396a, 2 Kent Com. 258 n., 18 Pick. 193, Chief Justice Shaw. See Corresp. between Lord Stowell and Judge Story, 1 vol. Life of Story, p. 552, 558.
Lord Stowell, in communicating his opinion in the case of the slave Grace to Judge Story, states, in his letter, what the question was before him, namely:
"Whether the emancipation of a slave brought to England insured a complete emancipation to him on his return to his own country, or whether it only operated as a suspension of slavery in England, and his original character devolved on him again upon his return."
He observed, "the question had never been examined since an end was put to slavery fifty years ago," having reference to the decision of Lord Mansfield in the Case of Somersett, but the practice, he observed, "has regularly been that on his return to his own country, the slave resumed his original character of slave." And so Lord Stowell held in the case.
Judge Story, in his letter in reply, observes:
"I have read with great attention your judgment in the slave case, &c. Upon the fullest consideration which I have been able to give the subject, I entirely concur in your views. If I had been called upon to pronounce a judgment in a like case, I should have certainly arrived at the same result."
Again he observes:
"In my native State (Massachusetts), the state of slavery is not recognised as legal, and yet, if a slave should come hither and afterwards return to his own home, we should certainly think that the local law attached upon him, and that his servile character would be redintegrated."
We may remark in this connection that the case before the Maryland court, already referred to, and which was decided in 1799, presented the same question as that before Lord Stowell, and received a similar decision. This was nearly thirty years before the decision in that case, which was in 1828. The Court of Appeals observed, in deciding the Maryland case, that
"however the laws of Great Britain in such instances, operating upon such persons there, might interfere so as to prevent the exercise of certain acts by the masters, not permitted, as in the case of Somersett, yet, upon the bringing Ann Joice into this State (then the province of Maryland), the relation of master and slave continued in its extent, as authorized by the laws of this State."
And Luther Martin, one of the counsel in that case, stated, on the argument that the question had been previously decided the same way in the case of slaves returning from a residence in Pennsylvania, where they had become free under her laws.
The State of Louisiana, whose courts had gone further in
holding the slave free on his return from a residence in a free State than the courts of her sister States, has settled the law by an act of her Legislature in conformity with the law of the court of Missouri in the case before us. Sess. Law, 1846.
The case before Lord Stowell presented much stronger features for giving effect to the law of England in the case of the slave Grace than exists in the cases that have arisen in this country, for in that case the slave returned to a colony of England over which the Imperial Government exercised supreme authority. Yet, on the return of the slave to the colony, from a temporary residence in England, he held that the original condition of the slave attached. The question presented in cases arising here is as to the effect and operation to be given to the laws of a foreign State on the return of the slave within an independent sovereignty.
Upon the whole, it must be admitted that the current of authority both in England and in this country is in accordance with the law as declared by the courts of Missouri in the case before us, and we think the court below was not only right, but bound to follow it.
Some question has been made as to the character of the residence in this case in the free State. But we regard the facts as set forth in the agreed case as decisive. The removal of Dr. Emerson from Missouri to the military posts was in the discharge of his duties as surgeon in the army, and under the orders of his Government. He was liable at any moment to be recalled, as he was in 1838, and ordered to another post. The same is also true as it respects Major Taliaferro. In such a case, the officer goes to his post for a temporary purpose, to remain there for an uncertain time, and not for the purpose of fixing his permanent abode. The question we think too plain to require argument. The case of the Attorney General v. Napier, 6 Welsh, Hurtst. and Gordon Exch. Rep. 217, illustrates and applies the principle in the case of an officer of the English army.
A question has been alluded to, on the argument, namely, the right of the master with his slave of transit into or through a free State, on business or commercial pursuits, or in the exercise of a Federal right, or the discharge of a Federal duty, being a citizen of the United States, which is not before us. This question depends upon different considerations and principles from the one in hand, and turns upon the rights and privileges secured to a common citizen of the republic under the Constitution of the United States. When that question arises, we shall be prepared to decide it.
Our conclusion is that the judgment of the court below should be affirmed.
Mr. Justice GRIER.
I concur in the opinion delivered by Mr. Justice Nelson on the questions discussed by him.
I also concur with the opinion of the court as delivered by the Chief Justice that the act of Congress of 6th March, 1820, is unconstitutional and void and that, assuming the facts as stated in the opinion, the plaintiff cannot sue as a citizen of Missouri in the courts of the United States. But that the record shows a prima facie case of jurisdiction, requiring the court to decide all the questions properly arising in it, and as the decision of the pleas in bar shows that the plaintiff is a slave, and therefore not entitled to sue in a court of the United States, the form of the judgment is of little importance, for, whether the judgment be affirmed or dismissed for want of jurisdiction, it is justified by the decision of the court, and is the same in effect between the parties to the suit.
Mr. Justice DANIEL.
It may with truth be affirmed that since the establishment of the several communities now constituting the States of this Confederacy, there never has been submitted to any tribunal within its limits questions surpassing in importance those now claiming the consideration of this court. Indeed it is difficult to imagine, in connection with the systems of polity peculiar to the United States, a conjuncture of graver import than that must be, within which it is aimed to comprise and to control not only the faculties and practical operation appropriate to the American Confederacy as such, but also the rights and powers of its separate and independent members, with reference alike to their internal and domestic authority and interests and the relations they sustain to their confederates.
To my mind it is evident that nothing less than the ambitious and far-reaching pretension to compass these objects of vital concern is either directly essayed or necessarily implied in the positions attempted in the argument for the plaintiff in error.
How far these positions have any foundation in the nature of the rights and relations of separate, equal, and independent Governments, or in the provisions of our own Federal compact, or the laws enacted under and in pursuance of the authority of that compact will be presently investigated.
In order correctly to comprehend the tendency and force of those positions, it is proper here succinctly to advert to the
facts upon which the questions of law propounded in the argument have arisen.
This was an action of trespass vi et armis instituted in the Circuit Court of the United States for the district of Missouri, in the name of the plaintiff in error, a negro held as a slave, for the recovery of freedom for himself, his wife, and two children, also negroes.
To the declaration in this case the defendant below, who is also the defendant in error, pleaded in abatement that the court could not take cognizance of the cause because the plaintiff was not a citizen of the State of Missouri, as averred in the declaration, but was a negro of African descent, and that his ancestors were of pure African blood, and were brought into this country and sold as negro slaves, and hence it followed, from the second section of the third article of the Constitution, which creates the judicial power of the United States with respect to controversies between citizens of different States that the Circuit Court could not take cognizance of the action.
To this plea in abatement, a demurrer having been interposed on behalf of the plaintiff, it was sustained by the court. After the decision sustaining the demurrer, the defendant, in pursuance of a previous agreement between counsel, and with the leave of the court, pleaded in bar of the action: 1st, not guilty, 2dly that the plaintiff was a negro slave, the lawful property of the defendant, and as such the defendant gently laid his hands upon him, and thereby had only restrained him, as the defendant had a right to do, 3dly that with respect to the wife and daughters of the plaintiff, in the second and third counts of the declaration mentioned, the defendant had, as to them, only acted in the same manner, and in virtue of the same legal right.
Issues having been joined upon the above pleas in bar, the following statement, comprising all the evidence in the cause, was agreed upon and signed by the counsel of the respective parties, viz:
"In the year 1834, the plaintiff was a negro slave belonging to Doctor Emerson, who was a surgeon in the army of the United States. In that year, 1834, said Dr. Emerson took the plaintiff from the State of Missouri to the military post at Rock Island, in the State of Illinois, and held him there as a slave until the month of April or May, 1836. At the time last mentioned, said Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff from said military post at Rock Island to the military post at Fort Snelling, situate on the west bank of the Mississippi river in the Territory known as Upper Louisiana, acquired by the United States of France, and situate north of the latitude of thirty-six
degrees thirty minutes north, and north of the State of Missouri. Said Dr. Emerson held the plaintiff in slavery at said Fort Snelling from said last-mentioned date until the year 1838."
"In the year 1835, Harriet, who is named in the second count of the plaintiff's declaration, was the negro slave of Major Taliaferro, who belonged to the army of the United States. In that year, 1835, said Major Taliaferro took said Harriet to said Fort Snelling, a military post situated as hereinbefore stated, and kept her there as a slave until the year 1836, and then sold and delivered her as a slave at said Fort Snelling unto the said Dr. Emerson, hereinbefore named. Said Dr. Emerson held said Harriet in slavery at said Fort Snelling until the year 1838."
"In the year 1836, the plaintiff and said Harriet, at said Fort Snelling, with the consent of said Dr. Emerson, who then claimed to be their master and owner, intermarried and took each other for husband and wife. Eliza and Lizzie, named in the third count of the plaintiff's declaration, are the fruit of that marriage. Eliza is about fourteen years old, and was born on board the steamboat Gipsey, north of the north line of the State of Missouri, and upon the river Mississippi. Lizzie is about seven years old, and was born in the State of Missouri, at a military post called Jefferson barracks."
"In the year 1838, said Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff and said Harriet, and their said daughter Eliza, from said Fort Snelling to the State of Missouri, where they have ever since resided."
"Before the commencement of this suit, said Dr. Emerson sold and conveyed the plaintiff, said Harriet, Eliza, and Lizzie, to the defendant, as slaves, and the defendant has ever since claimed to hold them and each of them as slaves."
"At the times mentioned in the plaintiff's declaration, the defendant, claiming to be owner as aforesaid, laid his hands upon said plaintiff, Harriet, Eliza, and Lizzie, and imprisoned them, doing in this respect, however, no more than what he might lawfully do if they were of right his slaves at such times."
"Further proof may be given on the trial for either party."
"R. M. FIELD, for Plaintiff"
"H. A. GARLAND, for Defendant."
"It is agreed that Dred Scott brought suit for his freedom in the Circuit Court of St. Louis county that there was a verdict and judgment in his favor that on a writ of error to the Supreme Court, the judgment below was reversed, and the
cause remanded to the Circuit Court, where it has been continued to await the decision of this case."
"FIELD, for Plaintiff"
"GARLAND, for Defendant"
Upon the aforegoing agreed facts, the plaintiff prayed the court to instruct the jury that they ought to find for the plaintiff, and upon the refusal of the instruction thus prayed for, the plaintiff excepted to the court's opinion. The court then, upon the prayer of the defendant, instructed the jury that upon the facts of this case agreed as above, the law was with the defendant. To this opinion also the plaintiff's counsel excepted, as he did to the opinion of the court denying to the plaintiff a new trial after the verdict of the jury in favor of the defendant.
The question first in order presented by the record in this cause is that which arises upon the plea in abatement, and the demurrer to that plea, and upon this question, it is my opinion that the demurrer should have been overruled, and the plea sustained.
On behalf of the plaintiff, it has been urged that by the pleas interposed in bar of a recovery in the court below (which pleas both in fact and in law are essentially the same with the objections averred in abatement), the defence in abatement has been displaced or waived that it could therefore no longer be relied on in the Circuit Court, and cannot claim the consideration of this court in reviewing this cause. This position is regarded as wholly untenable. On the contrary, it would seem to follow conclusively from the peculiar character of the courts of the United States, as organized under the Constitution and the statutes, and as defined by numerous and unvarying adjudications from this bench, that there is not one of those courts whose jurisdiction and powers can be deduced from mere custom or tradition, not one whose jurisdiction and powers must not be traced palpably to, and invested exclusively by, the Constitution and statutes of the United States, not one that is not bound, therefore, at all times, and at all stages of its proceedings, to look to and to regard the special and declared extent and bounds of its commission and authority. There is no such tribunal of the United States as a court of general jurisdiction, in the sense in which that phrase is applied to the superior courts under the common law, and even with respect to the courts existing under that system, it is a well settled principle that consent can never give jurisdiction.
The principles above stated, and the consequences regularly deducible from them, have, as already remarked, been repeatedly
and unvaryingly propounded from this bench. Beginning with the earliest decisions of this court, we have the cases of Bingham v. Cabot et al., 3 Dallas 382, Turner v. Eurille, 4 Dallas 7, Abercrombie v. Dupuis, 1 Cranch 343 [omitted], Wood v. Wagnon, 2 Cranch 9, The United States v. The brig Union et al., 4 Cranch 216, Sullivan v. The Fulton Steamboat Company, 6 Wheaton 450, Mollan et al. v. Torrence, 9 Wheaton 537, Brown v. Keene, 8 Peters 112, and Jackson v. Ashton, 8 Peters 148, ruling, in uniform and unbroken current, the doctrine that it is essential to the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States that the facts upon which it is founded should appear upon the record. Nay, to such an extent and so inflexibly has this requisite to the jurisdiction been enforced that in the case of Capron v. Van Noorden, 2 Cranch 126, it is declared that the plaintiff in this court may assign for error his own omission in the pleadings in the court below where they go to the jurisdiction. This doctrine has been, if possible, more strikingly illustrated in a later decision, the case of The State of Rhode Island v. The State of Massachusetts, in the 12th of Peters.
In this case, on page 37 U. S. 718 of the volume, this court, with reference to a motion to dismiss the cause for want of jurisdiction, have said:
"However late this objection has been made, or may be made, in any cause in an inferior or appellate court of the United States, it must be considered and decided before any court can move one farther step in the cause, as any movement is necessarily to exercise the jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is the power to hear and determine the subject matter in controversy between the parties to a suit, to adjudicate or exercise any judicial power over them. The question is whether on the case before the court their action is judicial or extrajudicial, with or without the authority of law to render a judgment or decree upon the rights of the litigant parties. A motion to dismiss a cause pending in the courts of the United States is not analogous to a plea to the jurisdiction of a court of common law or equity in England; there, the superior courts have a general jurisdiction over all persons within the realm and all causes of action between them. It depends on the subject matter, whether the jurisdiction shall be exercised by a court of law or equity, but that court to which it appropriately belongs can act judicially upon the party and the subject of the suit unless it shall be made apparent to the court that the judicial determination of the case has been withdrawn from the court of general jurisdiction to an inferior and limited one. It is a necessary presumption that the court of general jurisdiction can act upon the given case when nothing to the
contrary appears; hence has arisen the rule that the party claiming an exemption from its process must set out the reason by a special plea in abatement, and show that some inferior court of law or equity has the exclusive cognizance of the case; otherwise the superior court must proceed in virtue of its general jurisdiction. A motion to dismiss therefore cannot be entertained, as it does not disclose a case of exception, and, if a plea in abatement is put in, it must not only make out the exception, but point to the particular court to which the case belongs. There are other classes of cases where the objection to the jurisdiction is of a different nature, as on a bill in chancery that the subject matter is cognizable only by the King in Council, or that the parties defendant cannot be brought before any municipal court on account of their sovereign character or the nature of the controversy, or to the very common cases which present the question, whether the cause belong to a court of law or equity. To such cases, a plea in abatement would not be applicable, because the plaintiff could not sue in an inferior court. The objection goes to a denial of any jurisdiction of a municipal court in the one class of cases, and to the jurisdiction of any court of equity or of law in the other, on which last the court decides according to its discretion."
"An objection to jurisdiction on the ground of exemption from the process of the court in which the suit is brought, or the manner in which a defendant is brought into it, is waived by appearance and pleading to issue, but when the objection goes to the power of the court over the parties or the subject matter, the defendant need not, for he cannot, give the plaintiff a better writ. Where an inferior court can have no jurisdiction of a case of law or equity, the ground of objection is not taken by plea in abatement, as an exception of the given case from the otherwise general jurisdiction of the court; appearance does not cure the defect of judicial power, and it may be relied on by plea, answer, demurrer, or at the trial or hearing. As a denial of jurisdiction over the subject matter of a suit between parties within the realm, over which and whom the court has power to act, cannot be successful in an English court of general jurisdiction, a motion like the present could not be sustained consistently with the principles of its constitution. But as this court is one of limited and special original jurisdiction, its action must be confined to the particular cases, controversies, and parties over which the Constitution and laws have authorized it to act, any proceeding without the limits prescribed is coram non judice, and its action a nullity. And whether the want or excess of power is objected by a party or is apparent
to the court, it must surcease its action or proceed extrajudicially."
In the constructing of pleadings either in abatement or in bar, every fact or position constituting a portion of the public law, or of known or general history, is necessarily implied. Such fact or position need not be specially averred and set forth; it is what the world at large and every individual are presumed to know -- nay, are bound to know and to be governed by.
If, on the other hand, there exist facts or circumstances by which a particular case would be withdrawn or exempted from the influence of public law or necessary historical knowledge, such facts and circumstances form an exception to the general principle, and these must be specially set forth and established by those who would avail themselves of such exception.
Now the following are truths which a knowledge of the history of the world, and particularly of that of our own country, compels us to know -- that the African negro race never have been acknowledged as belonging to the family of nations; that, as amongst them, there never has been known or recognised by the inhabitants of other countries anything partaking of the character of nationality, or civil or political polity; that this race has been by all the nations of Europe regarded as subjects of capture or purchase, as subjects of commerce or traffic; and that the introduction of that race into every section of this country was not as members of civil or political society, but as slaves, as property in the strictest sense of the term.
In the plea in abatement, the character or capacity of citizen on the part of the plaintiff is denied, and the causes which show the absence of that character or capacity are set forth by averment. The verity of those causes, according to the settled rules of pleading, being admitted by the demurrer, it only remained for the Circuit Court to decide upon their legal sufficiency to abate the plaintiff's action. And it now becomes the province of this court to determine whether the plaintiff below (and in error here), admitted to be a negro of African descent, whose ancestors were of pure African blood and were brought into this country and sold as negro slaves -- such being his status, and such the circumstances surrounding his position -- whether he can, by correct legal induction from that status and those circumstances, be clothed with the character and capacities of a citizen of the State of Missouri?
It may be assumed as a postulate that to a slave, as such, there appertains and can appertain no relation, civil or political, with the State or the Government. He is himself strictly property, to be used in subserviency to the interests, the convenience,
or the will, of his owner, and to suppose, with respect to the former, the existence of any privilege or discretion, or of any obligation to others incompatible with the magisterial rights just defined, would be by implication, if not directly, to deny the relation of master and slave, since none can possess and enjoy as his own that which another has a paramount right and power to withhold. Hence it follows necessarily that a slave, the peculium or property of a master, and possessing within himself no civil nor political rights or capacities, cannot be a CITIZEN. For who, it may be asked, is a citizen? What do the character and status of citizen import? Without fear of contradiction, it does not import the condition of being private property, the subject of individual power and ownership. Upon a principle of etymology alone, the term citizen, as derived from civitas, conveys the ideas of connection or identification with the State or Government, and a participation of its functions. But beyond this, there is not, it is believed, to be found in the theories of writers on Government or in any actual experiment heretofore tried, an exposition of the term citizen which has not been understood as conferring the actual possession and enjoyment, or the perfect right of acquisition and enjoyment, of an entire equality of privileges, civil and political.
Thus Vattel, in the preliminary chapter to his Treatise on the Law of Nations, says:
"Nations or States are bodies politic, societies of men united together for the purpose of promoting their mutual safety and advantage by the joint efforts of their mutual strength. Such a society has her affairs and her interests, she deliberates and takes resolutions in common, thus becoming a moral person who possesses an understanding and a will peculiar to herself."
Again, in the first chapter of the first book of the Treatise just quoted, the same writer, after repeating his definition of a State, proceeds to remark that,
"from the very design that induces a number of men to form a society which has its common interests and which is to act in concert, it is necessary that there should be established a public authority to order and direct what is to be done by each in relation to the end of the association. This political authority is the sovereignty."
Again, this writer remarks: "The authority of all over each member essentially belongs to the body politic, or the State."
By this same writer it is also said:
"The citizens are the members of the civil society, bound to this society by certain duties, and subject to its authority; they equally participate in its advantages. The natives or natural-born citizens are those born in the country of parents who are citizens. As society
cannot perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of the citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their parents, and succeed to all their rights."
"I say, to be of the country, it is necessary to be born of a person who is a citizen, for if he be born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country. The inhabitants, as distinguished from citizens, are foreigners who are permitted to settle and stay in the country."
Vattel, Book 1, cap. 19, p. 101.
From the views here expressed, and they seem to be unexceptionable, it must follow that, with the slave, with one devoid of rights or capacities, civil or political, there could be no pact that one thus situated could be no party to or actor in, the association of those possessing free will, power, discretion. He could form no part of the design, no constituent ingredient or portion of a society based upon common, that is, upon equal interests and powers. He could not at the same time be the sovereign and the slave.
But it has been insisted in argument that the emancipation of a slave, effected either by the direct act and assent of the master or by causes operating in contravention of his will, produces a change in the status or capacities of the slave such as will transform him from a mere subject of property into a being possessing a social, civil, and political equality with a citizen. In other words, will make him a citizen of the State within which he was, previously to his emancipation, a slave.
It is difficult to conceive by what magic the mere surcease or renunciation of an interest in a subject of property, by an individual possessing that interest, can alter the essential character of that property with respect to persons or communities unconnected with such renunciation. Can it be pretended that an individual in any State, by his single act, though voluntarily or designedly performed, yet without the co-operation or warrant of the Government, perhaps in opposition to its policy or its guaranties, can create a citizen of that State? Much more emphatically may it be asked how such a result could be accomplished by means wholly extraneous and entirely foreign to the Government of the State? The argument thus urged must lead to these extraordinary conclusions. It is regarded at once as wholly untenable, and as unsustained by the direct authority or by the analogies of history.
The institution of slavery, as it exists and has existed from the period of its introduction into the United States, though more humane and mitigated in character than was the same institution either under the republic or the empire of Rome, bears, both in its tenure and in the simplicity incident to the
mode of its exercise, a closer resemblance to Roman slavery than it does to the condition of villanage, as it formerly existed in England. Connected with the latter, there were peculiarities, from custom or positive regulation, which varied it materially from the slavery of the Romans or from slavery at any period within the United States.
But with regard to slavery amoungst the Romans, it is by no means true that emancipation, either during the republic or the empire, conferred, by the act itself, or implied, the status or the rights of citizenship.
The proud title of Roman citizen, with the immunities and rights incident thereto, and as contradistinguished alike from the condition of conquered subjects or of the lower grades of native domestic residents, was maintained throughout the duration of the republic, and until a late period of the eastern empire, and at last was in effect destroyed less by an elevation of the inferior classes than by the degradation of the free, and the previous possessors of rights and immunities civil and political, to the indiscriminate abasement incident to absolute and simple despotism.
By the learned and elegant historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, we are told that,
"In the decline of the Roman empire, the proud distinctions of the republic were gradually abolished, and the reason or instinct of Justinian completed the simple form of an absolute monarchy. The emperor could not eradicate the popular reverence which always waits on the possession of hereditary wealth or the memory of famous ancestors. He delighted to honor with titles and emoluments his generals, magistrates, and senators, and his precarious indulgence communicated some rays of their glory to their wives and children. But, in the eye of the law, all Roman citizens were equal, and all subjects of the empire were citizens of Rome. That inestimable character was degraded to an obsolete and empty name. T he voice of a Roman could no longer enact his laws, or create the annual ministers of his powers; his constitutional rights might have checked the arbitrary will of a master, and the bold adventurer from Germany or Arabia was admitted with equal favor to the civil and military command which the citizen alone had been once entitled to assume over the conquests of his fathers. The first Caesars had scrupulously guarded the distinction of ingenuous and servile birth, which was decided by the condition of the mother. The slaves who were liberated by a generous master immediately entered into the middle class of libertini, or freedmen, but they could never be enfranchised from the duties of obedience and gratitude, whatever were the fruits of
their industry, their patron and his family inherited the third part, or even the whole, of their fortune, if they died without children and without a testament. Justinian respected the rights of patrons, but his indulgence removed the badge of disgrace from the two inferior orders of freedmen; whoever ceased to be a slave obtained without reserve or delay the station of a citizen, and at length the dignity of an ingenuous birth was created or supposed by the omnipotence of the emperor. [Footnote 1]"
The above account of slavery and its modifications will be found in strictest conformity with the Institutes of Justinian. Thus, in book 1st, title 3d, it is said: "The first general division of persons in respect to their rights is into freemen and slaves." The same title, sec. 4th: "Slaves are born such, or become so. They are born such of bondwomen; they become so either by the law of nations, as by capture, or by the civil law." Section 5th: "In the condition of slaves there is no diversity, but among free persons there are many. Thus some are ingenui or freemen, others libertini or freedmen."
Tit. 4th. DE INGENUIS. "A freeman is one who is born free by being born in matrimony, of parents who both are free, or both freed, or of parents one free and the other freed. But one born of a free mother, although the father be a slave or unknown, is free."
Tit. 5th. DE LIBERTINIS. "Freedmen are those who have been manumitted from just servitude."
Section third of the same title states that "freedmen were formerly distinguished by a threefold division." But the emperor proceeds to say:
"Our piety leading us to reduce all things into a better state, we have amended our laws, and reestablished the ancient usage, for anciently liberty was simple and undivided -- that is, was conferred upon the slave as his manumittor possessed it, admitting this single difference that the person manumitted became only a freed man, although his manumittor was a free man."
And he further declares:
"We have made all freed men in general become citizens of Rome, regarding neither the age of the manumitted, nor the manumittor, nor the ancient forms of manumission. We have also introduced many new methods by which slaves may become Roman citizens."
By the references above given, it is shown, from the nature and objects of civil and political associations and upon the direct authority of history, that citizenship was not conferred
by the simple fact of emancipation, but that such a result was deduced therefrom in violation of the fundamental principles of free political association, by the exertion of despotic will to establish, under a false and misapplied denomination, one equal and universal slavery, and to effect this result required the exertions of absolute power -- of a power both in theory and practice, being in its most plenary acceptation the SOVEREIGNTY, THE STATE ITSELF -- it could not be produced by a less or inferior authority, much less by the will or the act of one who, with reference to civil and political rights, was himself a slave. The master might abdicate or abandon his interest or ownership in his property, but his act would be a mere abandonment. It seems to involve an absurdity to impute to it the investiture of rights which the sovereignty alone had power to impart. There is not perhaps a community in which slavery is recognised in which the power of emancipation and the modes of its exercise are not regulated by law -- that is, by the sovereign authority, and none can fail to comprehend the necessity for such regulation for the preservation of order and even of political and social existence.
By the argument for the plaintiff in error, a power equally despotic is vested in every member of the association, and the most obscure or unworthy individual it comprises may arbitrarily invade and derange its most deliberate and solemn ordinances. At assumptions anomalous as these, so fraught with mischief and ruin, the mind at once is revolted, and goes directly to the conclusions that to change or to abolish a fundamental principle of the society must be the act of the society itself -- of the sovereignty, and that none other can admit to a participation of that high attribute. It may further expose the character of the argument urged for the plaintiff to point out some of the revolting consequences which it would authorize. If that argument possesses any integrity, it asserts the power in any citizen, or quasi citizen, or a resident foreigner of anyone of the States, from a motive either of corruption or caprice, not only to infract the inherent and necessary authority of such State, but also materially to interfere with the organization of the Federal Government and with the authority of the separate and independent States. He may emancipate his negro slave, by which process he first transforms that slave into a citizen of his own State; he may next, under color of article fourth, section second, of the Constitution of the United States, obtrude him, and on terms of civil and political equality, upon any and every State in this Union, in defiance of all regulations of necessity or policy, ordained by those States for their internal happiness or safety. Nay, more: this manumitted slave
may, by a proceeding springing from the will or act of his master alone, be mixed up with the institutions of the Federal Government, to which he is not a party, and in opposition to the laws of that Government which, in authorizing the extension by naturalization of the rights and immunities of citizens of the United States to those not originally parties to the Federal compact, have restricted that boon to free white aliens alone. If the rights and immunities connected with or practiced under the institutions of the United States can by any indirection be claimed or deduced from sources or modes other than the Constitution and laws of the United States, it follows that the power of naturalization vested in Congress is not exclusive -- that it has in effect no existence, but is repealed or abrogated.
But it has been strangely contended that the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court might be maintained upon the ground that the plaintiff was a resident of Missouri, and that, for the purpose of vesting the court with jurisdiction over the parties, residence within the State was sufficient.
The first, and to my mind a conclusive, reply to this singular argument is presented in the fact that the language of the Constitution restricts the jurisdiction of the courts to cases in which the parties shall be citizens, and is entirely silent with respect to residence. A second answer to this strange and latitudinous notion is that it so far stultifies the sages by whom the Constitution was framed as to impute to them ignorance of the material distinction existing between citizenship and mere residence or domicil, and of the well known facts that a person confessedly an alien may be permitted to reside in a country in which he can possess no civil or political rights, or of which he is neither a citizen nor subject, and that, for certain purposes, a man may have a domicil in different countries, in no one of which he is an actual personal resident.
The correct conclusions upon the question here considered would seem to be these:
That, in the establishment of the several communities now the States of this Union, and in the formation of the Federal Government, the African was not deemed politically a person. He was regarded and owned in every State in the Union as property merely, and as such was not and could not be a party or an actor, much less a peer in any compact or form of government established by the States or the United States. That if, since the adoption of the State Governments, he has been or could have been elevated to the possession of political rights or powers, this result could have been effected by no authority less potent than that of the sovereignty -- the State -- exerted
to that end, either in the form of legislation or in some other mode of operation. It could certainly never have been accomplished by the will of an individual operating independently of the sovereign power, and even contravening and controlling that power. That, so far as rights and immunities appertaining to citizens have been defined and secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, the African race is not and never was recognised either by the language or purposes of the former, and it has been expressly excluded by every act of Congress providing for the creation of citizens by naturalization, these laws, as has already been remarked, being restricted to free white aliens exclusively.
But it is evident that, after the formation of the Federal Government by the adoption of the Constitution, the highest exertion of State power would be incompetent to bestow a character or status created by the Constitution or conferred in virtue of its authority only. Upon those, therefore, who were not originally parties to the Federal compact, or who are not admitted and adopted as parties thereto, in the mode prescribed by its paramount authority, no State could have power to bestow the character or the rights and privileges exclusively reserved by the States for the action of the Federal Government by that compact.
The States, in the exercise of their political power, might, with reference to their peculiar Government and jurisdiction, guaranty the rights of person and property, and the enjoyment of civil and political privileges, to those whom they should be disposed to make the objects of their bounty, but they could not reclaim or exert the powers which they had vested exclusively in the Government of the United States. They could not add to or change in any respect the class of persons to whom alone the character of citizen of the United States appertained at the time of the adoption of the Federal Constitution. They could not create citizens of the United States by any direct or indirect proceeding.
According to the view taken of the law as applicable to the demurrer to the plea in abatement in this cause, the questions subsequently raised upon the several pleas in bar might be passed by as requiring neither a particular examination nor an adjudication directly upon them. upon them. But as these questions are intrinsically of primary interest and magnitude, and have been elaborately discussed in argument, and as with respect to them the opinions of a majority of the court, including my own, are perfectly coincident, to me it seems proper that they should here be fully considered, and, so far as it is practicable for this court to accomplish such an end, finally put to rest.
The questions then to be considered upon the several pleas in bar, and upon the agreed statement of facts between the counsel, are: 1st. Whether the admitted master and owner of the plaintiff, holding him as his slave in the State of Missouri, and in conformity with his rights guarantied to him by the laws of Missouri then and still in force, by carrying with him for his own benefit and accommodation, and as his own slave, the person of the plaintiff into the State of Illinois, within which State slavery had been prohibited by the Constitution thereof, and by retaining the plaintiff during the commorancy of the master within the State of Illinois, had, upon his return with his slave into the State of Missouri, forfeited his rights as master by reason of any supposed operation of the prohibitory provision in the Constitution of Illinois, beyond the proper territorial jurisdiction of the latter State? 2d. Whether a similar removal of the plaintiff by his master from the State of Missouri, and his retention in service at a point included within no State, but situated north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes of north latitude, worked a forfeiture of the right of property of the master, and the manumission of the plaintiff?
In considering the first of these questions, the acts or declarations of the master, as expressive of his purpose to emancipate, may be thrown out of view, since none will deny the right of the owner to relinquish his interest in any subject of property at any time or in any place. The inquiry here bears no relation to acts or declarations of the owner as expressive of his intent or purpose to make such a relinquishment; it is simply a question whether, irrespective of such purpose and in opposition thereto, that relinquishment can be enforced against the owner of property within his own country, in defiance of every guaranty promised by its laws, and this through the instrumentality of a claim to power entirely foreign and extraneous with reference to himself, to the origin and foundation of his title, and to the independent authority of his country. A conclusive negative answer to such an inquiry is at once supplied by announcing a few familiar and settled principles and doctrines of public law.
Vattel, in his chapter the the general principles of the laws of nations, section 15th, tells us that
"nations, being free and independent of each other in the same manner that men are naturally free and independent, the second general law of their society is that each nation should be left in the peaceable enjoyment of that liberty which she inherits from nature."
"The natural society of nations," says this writer, "cannot subsist unless the natural rights of each be respected." In
section 16th he says,
"as a consequence of that liberty and independence, it exclusively belongs to each nation to form her own judgment of what her conscience prescribes for her -- of what it is proper or improper for her to do, and of course it rests solely with her to examine and determine whether she can perform any office for another nation without neglecting the duty she owes to herself. In all cases, therefore, in which a nation has the right of judging what her duty requires, no other nation can compel her to act in such or such a particular manner, for any attempt at such compulsion would be an infringement on the liberty of nations."
Again, in section 18th of the same chapter,
"nations composed of men, and considered as so many free persons living together in a state of nature, are naturally equal, and inherit from nature the same obligations and rights. Power or weakness does not produce any difference. A small republic is no less a sovereign state than the most powerful kingdom."
So, in section 20:
"A nation, then, is mistress of her own actions, so long as they do not affect the proper and perfect rights of any other nation -- so long as she is only internally bound, and does not lie under any external and perfect obligation. If she makes an ill use of her liberty, she is guilty of a breach of duty, but other nations are bound to acquiesce in her conduct, since they have no right to dictate to her. Since nations are free, independent, and equal, and since each possesses the right of judging, according to the dictates of her conscience, what conduct she is to pursue in order to fulfill her duties, the effect of the whole is to produce, at least externally, in the eyes of mankind, a perfect equality of rights between nations in the administration of their affairs and in the pursuit of their pretensions, without regard to the intrinsic justice of their conduct, of which others have no right to form a definitive judgment."
Chancellor Kent, in the 1st volume of his Commentaries, lecture 2d, after collating the opinions of Grotius, Heineccius, Vattel, and Rutherford, enunciates the following positions as sanctioned by these and other learned publicists, viz: that
"nations are equal in respect to each other, and entitled to claim equal consideration for their rights, whatever may be their relative dimensions or strength, or however greatly they may differ in government, religion, or manners. This perfect equality and entire independence of all distinct States is a fundamental principle of public law. It is a necessary consequence of this equality that each nation has a right to govern itself as it may think proper, and no one nation is entitled to dictate a form of government or religion, or a course of internal
policy, to another. This writer gives some instances of the violation of this great national immunity, and amongst them the constant interference by the ancient Romans, under the pretext of settling disputes between their neighbors, but with the real purpose of reducing those neighbors to bondage, the interference of Russia, Prussia, and Austria for the dismemberment of Poland, the more recent invasion of Naples by Austria in 1821, and of Spain by the French Government in 1823, under the excuse of suppressing a dangerous spirit of internal revolution and reform."
With reference to this right of self-government in independent sovereign States, an opinion has been expressed which, whilst it concedes this right as inseparable from and as a necessary attribute of sovereignty and independence, asserts nevertheless some implied and paramount authority of a supposed international law, to which this right of self-government must be regarded and exerted as subordinate, and from which independent and sovereign States can be exempted only by a protest, or by some public and formal rejection of that authority. With all respect for those by whom this opinion has been professed, I am constrained to regard it as utterly untenable, as palpably inconsistent, and as presenting in argument a complete felo de se.
Sovereignty, independence, and a perfect right of self-government, can signify nothing less than a superiority to and an exemption from all claims by any extraneous power, however expressly they may be asserted, and render all attempts to enforce such claims merely attempts at usurpation. Again, could such claims from extraneous sources be regarded as legitimate, the effort to resist or evade them, by protest or denial, would be as irregular and unmeaning as it would be futile. It could in no wise affect the question of superior right. For the position here combatted, no respectable authority has been, and none it is thought can be, adduced. It is certainly irreconcilable with the doctrines already cited from the writers upon public law.
Neither the Case of Lewis Somersett, Howell's State Trials, vol. 20, so often vaunted as the proud evidence of devotion to freedom under a Government which has done as much perhaps to extend the reign of slavery as all the world besides, nor does any decision founded upon the authority of Somersett's Case, when correctly expounded, assail or impair the principle of national equality enunciated by each and all of the publicists already referred to. In the case of Somersett, although the applicant for the habeas corpus and the individual claiming property in that applicant were both subjects and residents
within the British empire, yet the decision cannot be correctly understood as ruling absolutely and under all circumstances against the right of property in the claimant. That decision goes no farther than to determine that, within the realm of England, there was no authority to justify the detention of an individual in private bondage. If the decision in Somersett's Case had gone beyond this point, it would have presented the anomaly of a repeal by laws enacted for and limited in their operation to the realm alone, of other laws and institutions established for places and subjects without the limits of the realm of England, laws and institutions at that very time, and long subsequently, sanctioned and maintained under the authority of the British Government, and which the full and combined action of the King and Parliament was required to abrogate.
But could the decision in Somersett's Case be correctly interpreted as ruling the doctrine which it has been attempted to deduce from it, still that doctrine must be considered as having been overruled by the lucid and able opinion of Lord Stowell in the more recent case of the slave Grace, reported in the second volume of Haggard, p. 94, in which opinion, whilst it is conceded by the learned judge that there existed no power to coerce the slave whilst in England that yet, upon her return to the island of Antigua, her status as a slave was revived, or, rather, that the title of the owner to the slave as property had never been extinguished, but had always existed in that island. If the principle of this decision be applicable as between different portions of one and the same empire, with how much more force does it apply as between nations or Governments entirely separate, and absolutely independent of each other? For in this precise attitude the States of this Union stand with reference to this subject, and with reference to the tenure of every description of property vested under their laws and held within their territorial jurisdiction.
A strong illustration of the principle ruled by Lord Stowell, and of the effect of that principle even in a case of express contract, is seen in the case of Lewis v. Fullerton, decided by the Supreme Court of Virginia and reported in the first volume of Randolph, p. 15. The case was this: a female slave, the property of a citizen of Virginia, whilst with her master in the State of Ohio, was taken from his possession under a writ of habeas corpus, and set at liberty. Soon, or immediately after, by agreement between this slave and her master, a deed was executed in Ohio by the latter containing a stipulation that this slave should return to Virginia, and after a service of two years in that State, should there be free. The law of Virginia
regulating emancipation required that deeds of emancipation should, within a given time from their date, be recorded in the court of the county in which the grantor resided, and declared that deeds with regard to which this requisite was not complied with should be void. Lewis, an infant son of this female, under the rules prescribed in such cases, brought an action in forma pauperis in one of the courts of Virginia for the recovery of his freedom, claimed in virtue of the transactions above mentioned. Upon an appeal to the Supreme Court from a judgment against the plaintiff, Roane, Justice, in delivering the opinion of the court, after disposing of other questions discussed in that case, remarks:
"As to the deed of emancipation contained in the record that deed, taken in connection with the evidence offered in support of it, shows that it had a reference to the State of Virginia, and the testimony shows that it formed a part of this contract, whereby the slave Milly was to be brought back (as she was brought back) into the State of Virginia. Her object was therefore to secure her freedom by the deed within the State of Virginia after the time should have expired for which she had indented herself and when she should be found abiding within the State of Virginia."
"If, then, this contract had an eye to the State of Virginia for its operation and effect, the lex loci ceases to operate. In that case, it must, to have its effect, conform to the laws of Virginia. It is insufficient under those laws to effectuate an emancipation, for what of a due recording in the county court, as was decided in the case of Givens v. Mann in this court. It is also ineffectual within the Commonwealth of Virginia for another reason. The lex loci is also to be taken subject to the exception that it is not to be enforced in another country when it violates some moral duty or the policy of that country or is not consistent with a positive right secured to a third person or party by the laws of that country in which it is sought to be enforced. In such a case, we are told, 'magis jus nostrum, quam jus alienum servemus.' Huberus, tom. 2, lib. 1, tit. 3, 2 Fontblanque, p. 444."
"That third party in this instance is the Commonwealth of Virginia, and her policy and interests are also to be attended to. These turn the scale against the lex loci in the present instance."
The second or last-mentioned position assumed for the plaintiff under the pleas in bar, as it rests mainly if not solely upon the provision of the act of Congress of March 6, 1820, prohibiting slavery in Upper Louisiana north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude, popularly called the Missouri Compromise, that assumption renews the question, formerly so
zealously debated, as to the validity of the provision in the act of Congress, and upon the constitutional competency of Congress to establish it.
Before proceeding, however, to examine the validity of the prohibitory provision of the law, it may, so far as the rights involved in this cause are concerned, be remarked that conceding to that provision the validity of a legitimate exercise of power, still this concession could by no rational interpretation imply the slightest authority for its operation beyond the territorial limits comprised within its terms, much less could there be inferred from it a power to destroy or in any degree to control rights, either of person or property, entirely within the bounds of a distinct and independent sovereignty -- rights invested and fortified by the guaranty of that sovereignty. These surely would remain in all their integrity, whatever effect might be ascribed to the prohibition within the limits defined by its language.
But, beyond and in defiance of this conclusion, inevitable and undeniable as it appears, upon every principle of justice or sound induction, it has been attempted to convert this prohibitory provision of the act of 1820 not only into a weapon with which to assail the inherent -- the necessarily inherent -- powers of independent sovereign Governments, but into a mean of forfeiting that equality of rights and immunities which are the birthright or the donative from the Constitution of every citizen of the United States within the length and breadth of the nation. In this attempt, there is asserted a power in Congress, whether from incentives of interest, ignorance, faction, partiality, or prejudice, to bestow upon a portion of the citizens of this nation that which is the common property and privilege of all -- the power, in fine, of confiscation, in retribution for no offence, or, if for an offence, for that of accidental locality only.
It may be that, with respect to future cases, like the one now before the court, there is felt an assurance of the impotence of such a pretension; still, the fullest conviction of that result can impart to it no claim to forbearance, nor dispense with the duty of antipathy and disgust at its sinister aspect, whenever it may be seen to scowl upon the justice, the order, the tranquillity, and fraternal feeling which are the surest, nay, the only, means of promoting or preserving the happiness and prosperity of the nation, and which were the great and efficient incentives to the formation of this Government.
The power of Congress to impose the prohibition in the eighth section of the act of 1820 has been advocated upon an attempted construction of the second clause of the third section
of the fourth article of the Constitution, which declares that
"Congress shall have power to dispose of and to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory and other property belonging to the United States."
In the discussions in both houses of Congress at the time of adopting this eighth section of the act of 1820, great weight was given to the peculiar language of this clause, viz: territory and other property belonging to the United States, as going to show that the power of disposing of and regulating thereby vested in Congress was restricted to a proprietary interest in the territory or land comprised therein, and did not extend to the personal or political rights of citizens or settlers, inasmuch as this phrase in the Constitution, "territory or other property," identified territory with property, and inasmuch as citizens or persons could not be property, and especially were not property belonging to the United States. And upon every principle of reason or necessity, this power to dispose of and to regulate the territory of the nation could be designed to extend no farther than to its preservation and appropriation to the uses of those to whom it belonged, viz., the nation. Scarcely anything more illogical or extravagant can be imagined than the attempt to deduce from this provision in the Constitution a power to destroy or in any wise to impair the civil and political rights of the citizens of the United States, and much more so the power to establish inequalities amongst those citizens by creating privileges in one class of those citizens, and by the disfranchisement of other portions or classes by degrading them from the position they previously occupied.
There can exist no rational or natural connection or affinity between a pretension like this and the power vested by the Constitution in Congress with regard to the Territories; on the contrary, there is an absolute incongruity between them.
But whatever the power vested in Congress, and whatever the precise subject to which that power extended, it is clear that the power related to a subject appertaining to the United States, and one to be disposed of and regulated for the benefit and under the authority of the United States. Congress was made simply the agent or trustee for the United States, and could not, without a breach of trust and a fraud, appropriate the subject of the trust to any other beneficiary or cestui que trust than the United States, or to the people of the United States, upon equal grounds, legal or equitable. Congress could not appropriate that subject to any one class or portion of the people, to the exclusion of others, politically and constitutionally equals, but every citizen would, if any one
could claim it, have the like rights of purchase, settlement, occupation, or any other right, in the national territory.
Nothing can be more conclusive to show the equality of this with every other right in all the citizens of the United States, and the iniquity and absurdity of the pretension to exclude or to disfranchise a portion of them because they are the owners of slaves, than the fact that the same instrument which imparts to Congress its very existence and its every function guaranties to the slaveholder the title to his property, and gives him the right to its reclamation throughout the entire extent of the nation, and farther that the only private property which the Constitution has specifically recognised, and has imposed it as a direct obligation both on the States and the Federal Government to protect and enforce, is the property of the master in his slave; no other right of property is placed by the Constitution upon the same high ground, nor shielded by a similar guaranty.
Can there be imputed to the sages and patriots by whom the Constitution was framed, or can there be detected in the text of that Constitution, or in any rational construction or implication deducible therefrom, a contradiction so palpable as would exist between a pledge to the slaveholder of an equality with his fellow citizens, and of the formal and solemn assurance for the security and enjoyment of his property, and a warrant given, as it were uno flatu, to another to rob him of that property, or to subject him to proscription and disfranchisement for possessing or for endeavoring to retain it? The injustice and extravagance necessarily implied in a supposition like this cannot be rationally imputed to the patriotic or the honest, or to those who were merely sane.
A conclusion in favor of the prohibitory power in Congress, as asserted in the eighth section of the act of 1820, has been attempted, as deducible from the precedent of the ordinance of the convention of 1787, concerning the cession by Virginia of the territory northwest of the Ohio, the provision in which ordinance, relative to slavery, it has been attempted to impose upon other and subsequently acquired territory.
The first circumstance which, in the consideration of this provision, impresses itself upon my mind is its utter futility and want of authority. This court has, in repeated instances, ruled that whatever may have been the force accorded to this Ordinance of 1787 at the period of its enactment, its authority and effect ceased, and yielded to the paramount authority of the Constitution, from the period of the adoption of the latter. Such is the principle ruled in the cases of Pollard's Lessee v. Hagan, 3 How. 212, Parmoli v. The First Municipality of
New Orleans, 3 How. 589, Strader v. Graham, 16 How. 82. But apart from the superior control of the Constitution, and anterior to the adoption of that instrument, it is obvious that the inhibition in question never had and never could have any legitimate and binding force. We may seek in vain for any power in the convention either to require or to accept a condition or restriction upon the cession like that insisted on, a condition inconsistent with, and destructive of, the object of the grant. The cession was, as recommended by the old Congress in 1780, made originally and completed in terms to the United States, and for the benefit of the United States, i.e., for the people, all the people, of the United States. The condition subsequently sought to be annexed in 1787 (declared, too, to be perpetual and immutable), being contradictory to the terms and destructive of the purposes of the cession, and after the cession was consummated, and the powers of the ceding party terminated, and the rights of the grantees, the people of the United States, vested, must necessarily so far have been ab initio void. With respect to the power of the convention to impose this inhibition, it seems to be pertinent in this place to recur to the opinion of one contemporary with the establishment of the Government, and whose distinguished services in the formation and adoption of our national charter point him out as the artifex maximus of our Federal system. James Madison, in the year 1819, speaking with reference to the prohibitory power claimed by Congress, then threatening the very existence of the Union, remarks of the language of the second clause of the third section of article fourth of the Constitution
"that it cannot be well extended beyond a power over the territory as property, and the power to make provisions really needful or necessary for the government of settlers, until ripe for admission into the Union."
Again, he says,
"with respect to what has taken place in the Northwest territory, it may be observed that the ordinance giving it is distinctive character on the subject of slaveholding proceeded from the old Congress, acting with the best intentions, but under a charter which contains no shadow of the authority exercised, and it remains to be decided how far the States formed within that territory, and admitted into the Union, are on a different footing from its other members as to their legislative sovereignty. As to the power of admitting new States into the Federal compact, the questions offering themselves are whether Congress can attach conditions, or the new States concur in conditions, which after admission would abridge or enlarge the constitutional rights of legislation common to other States; whether Congress can, by a compact
with a new State, take power either to or from itself, or place the new member above or below the equal rank and rights possessed by the others; whether all such stipulations expressed or implied would not be nullities, and be so pronounced when brought to a practical test. It falls within the scope of your inquiry to state the fact that there was a proposition in the convention to discriminate between the old and the new States by an article in the Constitution. The proposition, happily, was rejected. The effect of such a discrimination is sufficiently evident. [Footnote 2]"
In support of the Ordinance of 1787, there may be adduced the semblance at least of obligation deductible from compact, the form of assent or agreement between the grantor and grantee, but this form or similitude, as is justly remarked by Mr. Madison, is rendered null by the absence of power or authority in the contracting parties and by the more intrinsic and essential defect of incompatibility with the rights and avowed purposes of those parties, and with their relative duties and obligations to others. If, then, with the attendant formalities of assent or compact, the restrictive power claimed was void as to the immediate subject of the ordinance, how much more unfounded must be the pretension to such a power as derived from that source (viz., the Ordinance of 1787) with respect to territory acquired by purchase or conquest under the supreme authority of the Constitution -- territory not the subject of mere donation, but obtained in the name of all, by the combined efforts and resources of all, and with no condition annexed or pretended.
In conclusion, my opinion is that the decision of the Circuit Court upon the law arising upon the several pleas in bar is correct, but that it is erroneous in having sustained the demurrer to the plea in abatement of the jurisdiction; that, for this error, the decision of the Circuit Court should be reversed, and the cause remanded to that court with instructions to abate the action for the reason set forth and pleaded in the plea in abatement.
In the aforegoing examination of this cause, the circumstance that the questions involved therein had been previously adjudged between these parties by the court of the State of Missouri has not been adverted to, for although it has been ruled by this court that in instances of concurrent jurisdiction, the court first obtaining possession or cognizance of the controversy should retain and decide it, yet, as in this case there had
been no plea, either of a former judgment or of autre action pendent, it was thought that the fact of a prior decision, however conclusive it might have been if regularly pleaded, could not be incidentally taken into view.
Vide Gibbons's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. London edition of 1825, vol. 3d, chap. 44, p. 183.
Letter from James Madison to Robert Walsh, November 27th, 1819, on the subject of the Missouri Compromise.
Mr. Justice CAMPBELL.
I concur in the judgment pronounced by the Chief Justice, but the importance of the cause, the expectation and interest it has awakened, and the responsibility involved in its determination, induce me to file a separate opinion.
The case shows that the plaintiff, in the year 1834, was a negro slave in Missouri, the property of Dr. Emerson, a surgeon in the army of the United States. In 1834, his master took him to the military station at Rock Island, on the border of Illinois, and in 1836 to Fort Snelling, in the present Minnesota, then Wisconsin, Territory. While at Fort Snelling, the plaintiff married a slave who was there with her master, and two children have been born of this connection, one during the journey of the family in returning to Missouri, and the other after their return to that State.
Since 1838, the plaintiff and the members of his family have been in Missouri in the condition of slaves. The object of this suit is to establish their freedom. The defendant, who claims the plaintiff and his family, under the title of Dr. Emerson, denied the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court by the plea that the plaintiff was a negro of African blood, the descendant of Africans who had been imported and sold in this country as slaves, and thus he had no capacity as a citizen of Missouri to maintain a suit in the Circuit Court. The court sustained a demurrer to this plea, a trial was then had upon the general issue, and special pleas to the effect that the plaintiff and his family were slaves belonging to the defendant.
My opinion in this case is not affected by the plea to the jurisdiction, and I shall not discuss the questions it suggests. The claim of the plaintiff to freedom depends upon the effect to be given to his absence from Missouri, in company with his master, in Illinois and Minnesota, and this effect is to be ascertained by a reference to the laws of Missouri. For the trespass complained of was committed upon one claiming to be a freeman and a citizen, in that State, and who had been living for years under the dominion of its laws. And the rule is that whatever is a justification where the thing is done, must be a justification in the forum where the case is tried. 20 How.St.Tri., 234, Cowp.S.C. 161.
The Constitution of Missouri recognises slavery as a legal condition, extends guaranties to the masters of slaves, and invites
immigrants to introduce them, as property, by a promise of protection. The laws of the State charge the master with the custody of the slave, and provide for the maintenance and security of their relation.
The Federal Constitution and the acts of Congress provide for the return of escaping slaves within the limits of the Union. No removal of the slave beyond the limits of the State, against the consent of the master, nor residence there in another condition, would be regarded as an effective manumission by the courts of Missouri, upon his return to the State. "Sicut liberis captis status restituitur sic servus domino." Nor can the master emancipate the slave within the State except through the agency of a public authority. The inquiry arises whether the manumission of the slave is effected by his removal, with the consent of the master, to a community where the law of slavery does not exist, in a case where neither the master nor slave discloses a purpose to remain permanently, and where both parties have continued to maintain their existing relations. What is the law of Missouri in such a case? Similar inquiries have arisen in a great number of suits, and the discussions in the State courts have relieved the subject of much of its difficulty. 12 B.M.Ky.R. 545, Foster v. Foster, 10 Gratt.Va.R. 485, 4 Har. and McH.Md.R. 295, Scott v. Emerson, 15 Misso. 576, 4 Rich.S.C.R., 186, 17 Misso. 434, 15 Misso. 596, 5 B.M. 173, 8 B.M. 540, 633, 9 B.M. 565, 5 Leigh 614, 1 Raud. 15, 18 Pick. 193.
The result of these discussions is that, in general, the status or civil and political capacity of a person is determined in the first instance by the law of the domicil where he is born; that the legal effect on persons arising from the operation of the law of that domicil is not indelible, but that a new capacity or status may be acquired by a change of domicil. That questions of status are closely connected with considerations arising out of the social and political organization of the State where they originate, and each sovereign power must determine them within its own territories.
A large class of cases has been decided upon the second of the propositions above stated in the Southern and Western courts -- cases in which the law of the actual domicil was adjudged to have altered the native condition and status of the slave although he had never actually possessed the status of freedom in that domicil. Rankin v. Lydia, 2 A.K.M., Herny v. Decker, Walk. 36, 4 Mart. 385, 1 Misso. 472, Hunter v. Fulcher, 1 Leigh.
I do not impugn the authority of these cases. No evidence is found in the record to establish the existence of a domicil
acquired by the master and slave either in Illinois or Minnesota. The master is described as an officer of the army who was transferred from one station to another along the Western frontier in the line of his duty and who, after performing the usual tours of service, returned to Missouri; these slaves returned to Missouri with him, and had been there for near fifteen years in that condition when this suit was instituted. But absence in the performance of military duty, without more, is a fact of no importance in determining a question of a change of domicil. Questions of that kind depend upon acts and intentions, and are ascertained from motives, pursuits, the condition of the family and fortune of the party, and no change will be inferred unless evidence shows that one domicil was abandoned and there was an intention to acquire another. 11 L. and Eq. 6, 6 Exch. 217, 6 M. and W. 511, 2 Curt.Ecc.R. 368.
The cases first cited deny the authority of a foreign law to dissolve relations which have been legally contracted in the State where the parties are and have their actual domicil -- relations which were never questioned during their absence from that State -- relations which are consistent with the native capacity and condition of the respective parties, and with the policy of the State where they reside, but which relations were inconsistent with the policy or laws of the State or Territory within which they had been for a time, and from which they had returned, with these relations undisturbed. It is upon the assumption that the law of Illinois or Minnesota was indelibly impressed upon the slave and its consequences carried into Missouri that the claim of the plaintiff depends. The importance of the case entitles the doctrine on which it rests to a careful examination.
It will be conceded that, in countries where no law or regulation prevails opposed to the existence and consequences of slavery, persons who are born in that condition in a foreign State would not be liberated by the accident of their introgression. The relation of domestic slavery is recognised in the law of nations, and the interference of the authorities of one State with the rights of a master belonging to another, without a valid cause, is a violation of that law. Wheat. Law of Na., 724, 5 Stats. at Large 601, Calh.Sp., 378, Reports of the Com. U.S. and G.B. 187, 238, 241.
The public law of Europe formerly permitted a master to reclaim his bondsman, within a limited period, wherever he could find him, and one of the capitularies of Charlemagne abolishes the rule of prescription. He directs,
"that wheresoever, within the bounds of Italy, either the runaway slave of the king, or of
the church, or of any other man shall be found by his master, he shall be restored without any bar or prescription of years, yet upon the provision that the master be a Frank or German, or of any other nation (foreign,) but if he be a Lombard or a Roman, he shall acquire or receive his slaves by that law which has been established from ancient times among them."
Without referring for precedents abroad or to the colonial history for similar instances, the history of the Confederation and Union affords evidence to attest the existence of this ancient law. In 1783, Congress directed General Washington to continue his remonstrances to the commander of the British forces respecting the permitting negroes belonging to the citizens of these States to leave New York, and to insist upon the discontinuance of that measure. In 1788, the resident minister of the United States at Madrid was instructed to obtain from the Spanish Crown orders to its Governors in Louisiana and Florida
"to permit and facilitate the apprehension of fugitive slaves from the States, promising that the States would observe the like conduct respecting fugitives from Spanish subjects."
The committee that made the report of this resolution consisted of Hamilton, Madison, and Sedgwick, 2 Hamilton's Works, 473, and the clause in the Federal Constitution providing for the restoration of fugitive slaves is a recognition of this ancient right, and of the principle that a change of place does not effect a change of condition. The diminution of the power of a master to reclaim his escaping bondsman in Europe commenced in the enactment of laws of prescription in favor of privileged communes. Bremen, Spire, Worms, Vienna, and Ratisbon, in Germany, Carcassonne, Beziers, Toulouse, and Paris, in France, acquired privileges on this subject at an early period. The ordinance of William the Conqueror that a residence of any of the servile population of England, for a year and a day, without being claimed, in any city, burgh, walled town, or castle of the King, should entitle them to perpetual liberty is a specimen of these laws.
The earliest publicist who has discussed this subject is Bodin, a jurist of the sixteenth century whose work was quoted in the early discussions of the courts in France and England on this subject. He says:
"In France, although there be some remembrance of old servitude, yet it is not lawful here to make a slave or to buy anyone of others, insomuch as the slaves of strangers, so soon as they set their foot within France, become frank and free, as was determined by an old decree of the court of Paris against an ambassador of Spain, who had brought a slave with him into France."
He states another case, which arose in the city of Toulouse, of a Genoese merchant, who had
carried a slave into that city on his voyage from Spain, and when the matter was brought before the magistrates, the
"procureur of the city, out of the records, showed certain ancient privileges given unto them of Tholouse, wherein it was granted that slaves, so soon as they should come into Tholouse, should be free."
These cases were cited with much approbation in the discussion of the claims of the West India slaves of Verdelin for freedom, in 1738, before the judges in admiralty, 15 Causes Celebres p. 1, 2 Masse Droit Com., sec. 58, and were reproduced before Lord Mansfield, in the cause of Somersett, in 1772. Of the cases cited by Bodin, it is to be observed that Charles V of France exempted all the inhabitants of Paris from serfdom or other feudal incapacities in 1371, and this was confirmed by several of his successors, 3 Dulaire Hist. de Par. 546, Broud. Court. de Par. 21, and the ordinance of Toulouse is preserved as follows:
"Civitas Tholosana fuit et erit sine fine libera, adeo ut servi et ancillae, sclavi et sclavae, dominos sive dominas habentes, cum rebus vel sine rebus suis, ad Tholosam vel infra terminos extra urbem terminatos accedentes acquirant libertatem."
Hist. de Langue, tome 3, p. 69; ibid. 6, p. 8, Loysel Inst. b. 1, sec. 6.
The decisions were made upon special ordinances, or charters, which contained positive prohibitions of slavery, and where liberty had been granted as a privilege, and the history of Paris furnishes but little support for the boast that she was a "sacro sancta civitas," where liberty always had an asylum, or for the "self-complacent rhapsodies" of the French advocates in the case of Verdelin, which amused the grave lawyers who argued the case of Somersett. The case of Verdelin was decided upon a special ordinance, which prescribed the conditions on which West India slaves might be introduced into France, and which had been disregarded by the master.
The Case of Somersett was that of a Virginia slave carried to England by his master in 1770, and who remained there two years. For some cause, he was confined on a vessel destined to Jamaica, where he was to be sold. Lord Mansfield, upon a return to a habeas corpus, states the question involved. "Here, the person of the slave himself," he says, "is the immediate subject of inquiry, can any dominion, authority, or coercion be exercised in this country, according to the American laws?" He answers:
"The difficulty of adopting the relation, without adopting it in all its consequences, is indeed extreme, and yet many of those consequences are absolutely contrary to the municipal law of England."
Again, he says:
"The return states that the slave departed, and refused to serve, whereupon he was kept to be sold abroad. . . . So high
an act of dominion must be recognised by the law of the country where it is used. The power of the master over his slave has been extremely different in different countries. . . . The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasion, and time itself from whence it was created are erased from the memory. It is so odious that nothing can be suffered to support it but positive law."
That there is a difference in the systems of States which recognise and which do not recognise the institution of slavery cannot be disguised. Constitutional law, punitive law, police, domestic economy, industrial pursuits, and amusements, the modes of thinking and of belief of the population of the respective communities all show the profound influence exerted upon society by this single arrangement. This influence was discovered in the Federal Convention, in the deliberations on the plan of the Constitution. Mr. Madison observed
"that the States were divided into different interests not by their difference of size, but by other different interests, not by their difference of size, but by other circumstances, the most material of which resulted from climate, but principally from the effects of their having or not having slaves. These two causes concur in forming the great division of interests in the United States."
The question to be raised with the opinion of Lord Mansfield, therefore, is not in respect to the incongruity of the two systems, but whether slavery was absolutely contrary to the law of England, for if it was so, clearly, the American laws could not operate there. Historical research ascertains that, at the date of the Conquest, the rural population of England were generally in a servile condition, and under various names denoting noting slight variances in condition, they were sold with the land like cattle, and were a part of its living money. Traces of the existence of African slaves are to be found in the early chronicles. Parliament in the time of Richard II, and also of Henry VIII, refused to adopt a general law of emancipation. Acts of emancipation by the last-named monarch and by Elizabeth are preserved.
The African slave trade had been carried on, under the unbounded protection of the Crown, for near two centuries when the case of Somersett was heard, and no motion for its suppression had ever been submitted to Parliament, while it was forced upon and maintained in unwilling colonies by the Parliament and Crown of England at that moment. Fifteen thousand negro slaves were then living in that island, where they had been introduced under the counsel of the most illustrious jurists of the realm, and such slaves had been publicly
sold for near a century in the markets of London. In the northern part of the kingdom of Great Britain, there existed a class of from 30,000 to 40,000 persons, of whom the Parliament said, in 1775, 15 George III, chap. 28,
"many colliers, coal-heavers, and salters are in a state of slavery or bondage, bound to the collieries and salt works where they work for life, transferable with the collieries and salt works when their original masters have no use for them, and whereas the emancipating or setting free the colliers, coal-heavers, and salters in Scotland, who are now in a state of servitude, gradually and upon reasonable conditions, would be the means of increasing the number of colliers, coal-heavers, and salters, to the great benefit of the public, without doing any injury to the present masters, and would remove the reproach of allowing such a state of servitude to exist in a free country,"
&c., and again, in 1799, "they declare that many colliers and coal-heavers still continue in a state of bondage" No statute, from the Conquest till the 15 George III, had been passed upon the subject of personal slavery. These facts have led the most eminent civilian of England to question the accuracy of this judgment, and to insinuate that, in this judgment, the offence of ampliare jurisdictionem by private authority was committed by the eminent magistrate who pronounced it.
This sentence is distinguishable from those cited from the French courts in this: that there positive prohibitions existed against slavery, and the right to freedom was conferred on the immigrant slave by positive law, whereas here the consequences of slavery merely -- that is the public policy -- were found to be contrary to the law of slavery. The case of the slave Grace, 2 Hagg., with four others, came before Lord Stowell in 1827, by appeals from the West India vice admiralty courts. They were cases of slaves who had returned to those islands, after a residence in Great Britain, and where the claim to freedom was first presented in the colonial forum. The learned judge in that case said:
"This suit fails in its foundation. She (Grace) was not a free person, no injury is done her by her continuance in slavery, and she has no pretensions to any other station than that which was enjoyed by every slave of a family. If she depends upon such freedom conveyed by a mere residence in England, she complains of a violation of right which she possessed no longer than whilst she resided in England, but which totally expired when that residence ceased, and she was imported into Antigua."
The decision of Lord Mansfield was, "that so high an act of dominion" as the master exercises over his slave, in sending him abroad for sale, could not be exercised in England
under the American laws, and contrary to the spirit of their own.
The decision of Lord Stowell is that the authority of the English laws terminated when the slave departed from England. That the laws of England were not imported into Antigua with the slave upon her return, and that the colonial forum had no warrant for applying a foreign code to dissolve relations which had existed between persons belonging to that island, and which were legal according to its own system. There is no distinguishable difference between the case before us and that determined in the admiralty of Great Britain.
The complaint here, in my opinion, amounts to this: that the judicial tribunals of Missouri have not denounced as odious the Constitution and laws under which they are organized, and have not superseded them on their own private authority for the purpose of applying the laws of Illinois, or those passed by Congress for Minnesota, in their stead. The eighth section of the act of Congress of the 6th of March, 1820, 3 Statutes at Large 545, entitled, "An act to authorize the people of Missouri to form a State Government," &c., is referred to as affording the authority to this court to pronounce the sentence which the Supreme Court of Missouri felt themselves constrained to refuse. That section of the act prohibits slavery in the district of country west of the Mississippi, north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude, which belonged to the ancient province of Louisiana, not included in Missouri.
It is a settled doctrine of this court that the Federal Government can exercise no power over the subject of slavery within the States, nor control the intermigration of slaves, other than fugitives, among the States. Nor can that Government affect the duration of slavery within the States, other than by a legislation over the foreign slave trade. The power of Congress to adopt the section of the act above cited must therefore depend upon some condition of the Territories which distinguishes them from States, and subjects them to a control more extended. The third section of the fourth article of the Constitution is referred to as the only and all-sufficient grant to support this claim. It is that
"new States may be admitted by the Congress to this Union, but no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State, nor any State be formed by the junction of two or more States, or parts of State, without the consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned, as well as of the Congress. The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property
belonging to the United States, and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular State."
It is conceded in the decisions of this court that Congress may secure the rights of the United States in the public domain, provide for the sale or lease of any part of it, and establish the validity of the titles of the purchasers, and may organize Territorial Governments, with powers of legislation. 44 U. S. 3 How. 212, 53 U. S. 12 How. 1, 26 U. S. 1 Pet. 511, 38 U. S. 13 P. 436, 57 U. S. 16 H. 164.
But the recognition of a plenary power in Congress to dispose of the public domain or to organize a Government over it does not imply a corresponding authority to determine the internal polity or to adjust the domestic relations or the persons who may lawfully inhabit the territory in which it is situated. A supreme power to make needful rules respecting the public domain, and a similar power of framing laws to operate upon persons and things within the territorial limits where it lies, are distinguished by broad lines of demarcation in American history. This court has assisted us to define them. In Johnson v. McIntosh, 8 Wheat. 595-543, they say:
"According to the theory of the British Constitution, all vacant lands are vested in the Crown, and the exclusive power to grant them is admitted to reside in the Crown, as a branch of the royal prerogative."
"All the lands we hold were originally granted by the Crown, and the establishment of a royal Government has never been considered as impairing its right to grant lands within the chartered limits of such colony."
And the British Parliament did claim a supremacy of legislation coextensive with the absoluteness of the dominion of the sovereign over the Crown lands. The American doctrine, to the contrary, is embodied in two brief resolutions of the people of Pennsylvania in 1774: 1st.
"That the inhabitants of these colonies are entitled to the same rights and liberties, within the colonies that the subjects born in England are entitled within the realm."
"That the power assumed by Parliament to bind the people of these colonies by statutes, in all cases whatever, is unconstitutional, and therefore the source of these unhappy difficulties."
The Congress of 1774, in their statement of rights and grievances, affirm "a free and exclusive power of legislation" in their several Provincial Legislatures,
"in all cases of taxation and internal polity, subject only to the negative of their sovereign, in such manner as has been heretofore used and accustomed."
1 Jour.Cong. 32.
The unanimous consent of the people of the colonies, then,
to the power of their sovereign, "to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory" of the Crown, in 1774, was deemed by them as entirely consistent with opposition, remonstrance, the renunciation of allegiance, and proclamation of civil war, in preference to submission to his claim of supreme power in the territories.
I pass now to the evidence afforded during the Revolution and Confederation. The American Revolution was not a social revolution. It did not alter the domestic condition or capacity of persons within the colonies, nor was it designed to disturb the domestic relations existing among them. It was a political revolution, by which thirteen dependent colonies became thirteen independent States. "The Declaration of Independence was not," says Justice Chase,
"a declaration that the United Colonies jointly, in a collective capacity, were independent States, &c., but that each of them was a sovereign and independent State -- that is, that each of them had a right to govern itself by its own authority and its own laws, without any control from any other power on earth."
3 U. S. 3 Dall. 199, 4 Cr. 212.
These sovereign and independent States, being united as a Confederation, by various public acts of cession became jointly interested in territory and concerned to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting it. It is a conclusion not open to discussion in this court
"that there was no territory within the (original) United States that was claimed by them in any other right than that of some of the confederate States."
Harcourt v. Gaillord, 12 Wh. 523. "The question whether the vacant lands within the United States," says Chief Justice Marshall,
"became joint property or belonged to the separate States was a momentous question which threatened to shake the American Confederacy to its foundations. This important and dangerous question has been compromised, and the compromise is not now to be contested."
6 C.R. 87.
The cessions of the States to the Confederation were made on the condition that the territory ceded should be laid out and formed into distinct republican States, which should be admitted as members to the Federal Union having the same rights of sovereignty, freedom, and independence as the other States. The first effort to fulfil this trust was made in 1785 by the offer of a charter or compact to the inhabitants who might come to occupy the land.
Those inhabitants were to form for themselves temporary State Governments, founded on the Constitutions of any of the States but to be alterable at the will of their Legislature, and
permanent Governments were to succeed these whenever the population became sufficiently numerous to authorize the State to enter the Confederacy, and Congress assumed to obtain powers from the States to facilitate this object. Neither in the deeds of cession of the States nor in this compact was a sovereign power for Congress to govern the Territories asserted. Congress retained power, by this act, "to dispose of and to make rules and regulations respecting the public domain," but submitted to the people to organize a Government harmonious with those of the confederate States.
The next stage in the progress of colonial government was the adoption of the Ordinance of 1787 by eight States, in which the plan of a Territorial Government, established by act of Congress, is first seen. This was adopted while the Federal Convention to form the Constitution was sitting. The plan placed the Government in that hands of a Governor, Secretary, and Judges, appointed by Congress, and conferred power on them to select suitable laws from the codes of the States until the population should equal 5,000. A Legislative Council, elected by the people, was then to be admitted to a share of the legislative authority, under the supervision of Congress, and States were to be formed whenever the number of the population should authorize the measure.
This ordinance was addressed to the inhabitants as a fundamental compact, and six of its articles define the conditions to be observed in their Constitution and laws. These conditions were designed to fulfill the trust in the agreements of cession that the States to be formed of the ceded Territories should be "distinct republican States." This ordinance was submitted to Virginia in 1788, and the 5th article, embodying as it does a summary of the entire act, was specifically ratified and confirmed by that State. This was an incorporation of the ordinance into her act of cession. It was conceded in the argument that the authority of Congress was not adequate to the enactment of the ordinance, and that it cannot be supported upon the Articles of Confederation. To a part of the engagements, the assent of nine States was required, and for another portion no provision had been made in those articles. Mr. Madison said, in a writing nearly contemporary, but before the confirmatory act of Virginia,
"Congress have proceeded to form new States, to erect temporary Governments, to appoint officers for them, and to prescribe the conditions on which such States shall be admitted into the Confederacy; all this has been done, and done without the least color of constitutional authority."
Federalist No. 38. Richard Henry Lee, one of the committee who reported the ordinance to Congress,
transmitted it to General Washington (15th July, 1787), saying,
"It seemed necessary, for the security of property among uninformed and perhaps licentious people, as the greater part of those who go there are, that a strong-toned Government should exist, and the rights of property be clearly defined."
The consent of all the States represented in Congress, the consent of the Legislature of Virginia, the consent of the inhabitants of the Territory, all concur to support the authority of this enactment. It is apparent in the frame of the Constitution that the Convention recognised its validity, and adjusted parts of their work with reference to it. The authority to admit new States into the Union, the omission to provide distinctly for Territorial Governments, and the clause limiting the foreign slave trade to States then existing, which might not prohibit it, show that they regarded this Territory as provided with Government and organized permanently with a restriction on the subject of slavery. Justice Chase, in the opinion already cited, says of the Government before, and it is in some measure true during the Confederation that
"the powers of Congress originated from necessity, and arose out of and were only limited by events, or, in other words, they were revolutionary in their very nature. Their extent depended upon the exigencies and necessities of public affairs,"
and there is only one rule of construction, in regard to the acts done, which will fully support them, viz., that the powers actually exercised were rightfully exercised wherever they were supported by the implied sanction of the State Legislatures and by the ratifications of the people.
The clauses in the 3d section of the 4th article of the Constitution, relative to the admission of new States and the disposal and regulation of the territory of the United States, were adopted without debate in the Convention.
There was a warm discussion on the clauses that relate to the subdivision of the States, and the reservation of the claims of the United States and each of the States from any prejudice. The Maryland members revived the controversy in regard to the Crown lands of the Southwest. There was nothing to indicate any reference to a government of Territories not included within the limits of the Union, and the whole discussion demonstrates that the Convention was consciously dealing with a Territory whose condition, as to government, had been arranged by a fundamental and unalterable compact.
An examination of this clause of the Constitution, by the light of the circumstances in which the Convention was placed, will aid us to determine its significance. The first clause is "that new States may be admitted by the Congress to this
Union." The condition of Kentucky, Vermont, Rhode Island, and the new States to be formed in the Northwest suggested this as a necessary addition to the powers of Congress. The next clause, providing for the subdivision of States and the parties to consent to such an alteration, was required by the plans on foot for changes in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia. The clause which enables Congress to dispose of and make regulations respecting the public domain was demanded by the exigencies of an exhausted treasury and a disordered finance, for relief by sales, and the preparation for sales, of the public lands, and the last clause that nothing in the Constitution should prejudice the claims of the United States or a particular State was to quiet the jealousy and irritation of those who had claimed for the United States all the unappropriated lands. I look in vain among the discussions of the time for the assertion of a supreme sovereignty for Congress over the territory then belonging to the United States, or that they might thereafter acquire. I seek in vain for an annunciation that a consolidated power had been inaugurated, whose subject comprehended an empire, and which had no restriction but the discretion of Congress. This disturbing element of the Union entirely escaped the apprehensive previsions of Samuel Adams, George Clinton, Luther Martin, and Patrick Henry, and in respect to dangers from power vested in a central Government over distant settlements, colonies, or provinces, their instincts were always alive. Not a word escaped them to warn their countrymen that here was a power to threaten the landmarks of this federative Union, and, with them, the safeguards of popular and constitutional liberty, or that, under this article, there might be introduced, on our soil, a single Government over a vast extent of country -- a Government foreign to the persons over whom it might be exercised and capable of binding those not represented, by statutes, in all cases whatever. I find nothing to authorize these enormous pretensions, nothing in the expositions of the friends of the Constitution, nothing in the expressions of alarm by its opponents -- expressions which have since been developed as prophecies. Every portion of the United States was then provided with a municipal Government, which this Constitution was not designed to supersede, but merely to modify as to its conditions.
The compacts of cession by North Carolina and Georgia are subsequent to the Constitution. They adopt the Ordinance of 1787, except the clause respecting slavery. But the precautionary repudiation of that article forms an argument quite as satisfactory to the advocates for Federal power, as its introduction
would have done. The refusal of a power to Congress to legislate in one place seems to justify the seizure of the same power when another place for its exercise is found.
This proceeds from a radical error which lies at the foundation of much of this discussion. It is that the Federal Government may lawfully do whatever is not directly prohibited by the Constitution. This would have been a fundamental error if no amendments to the Constitution had been made. But the final expression of the will of the people of the States, in the 10th amendment, is that the powers of the Federal Government are limited to the grants of the Constitution.
Before the cession of Georgia was made, Congress asserted rights, in respect to a part of her territory, which require a passing notice. In 1798 and 1800, acts for the settlement of limits with Georgia, and to establish a Government in the Mississippi Territory, were adopted. A Territorial Government was organized between the Chattahoochee and Mississippi rivers. This was within the limits of Georgia. These acts dismembered Georgia. They established a separate Government upon her soil, while they rather derisively professed
"that the establishment of that Government shall in no respects impair the rights of the State of Georgia, either to the jurisdiction or soil of the Territory."
The Constitution provided that the importation of such persons as any of the existing States shall think proper to admit shall not be prohibited by Congress before 1808. By these enactments, a prohibition was placed upon the importation of salves into Georgia, although her Legislature had made none.
This court have repeatedly affirmed the paramount claim of Georgia to this Territory. They have denied the existence of any title in the United States. 6 C.R. 87, 25 U. S. 12 Wh. 523, 44 U. S. 3 How. 212, 54 U. S. 13 How. 381. Yet these acts were cited in the argument as precedents to show the power of Congress in the Territories. These statutes were the occasion of earnest expostulation and bitter remonstrance on the part of the authorities of the State, and the memory of their injustice and wrong remained long after the legal settlement of the controversy by the compact of 1802. A reference to these acts terminates what I have to say upon the Constitutions of the Territory within the original limits of the United States. These Constitutions were framed by the concurrence of the States making the cessions and Congress, and were tendered to immigrants who might be attracted to the vacant territory. The legislative powers of the officers of this Government were limited to the selection of laws from the States, and provision was made for the introduction of popular institutions, and their emancipation
from Federal control whenever a suitable opportunity occurred. The limited reservation of legislative power to the officers of the Federal Government was excused on the plea of necessity, and the probability is that the clauses respecting slavery embody some compromise among the statesmen of that time; beyond these, the distinguishing features of the system which the patriots of the Revolution had claimed as their birthright from Great Britain predominated in them.
The acquisition of Louisiana in 1803 introduced another system into the United States. This vast province was ceded or Spain. To establish a Government constituted on similar principles, and with like conditions, was not an unnatural proceeding.
But there was great difficulty in finding constitutional authority for the measure. The third section of the fourth article of the Constitution was introduced into the Constitution on the motion of Mr. Gouverneur Morris. In 1803, he was appealed to for information in regard to its meaning. He answers:
"I am very certain I had it not in contemplation to insert a decree de coercendo imperio in the Constitution of America. . . . I knew then as well as I do now that all North America must at length be annexed to us. Happy indeed, if the lust of dominion stop here. It would therefore have been perfectly utopian to oppose a paper restriction to the violence of popular sentiment in a popular Government."
3 Mor.Writ. 185. A few days later, he makes another reply to his correspondent. "I perceive," he says,
"I mistook the drift of your inquiry, which substantially is whether Congress can admit, as a new State, territory which did not belong to the United States when the Constitution was made. In my opinion, they cannot. I always thought, when we should acquire Canada and Louisiana, it would be proper to GOVERN THEM AS PROVINCES, AND ALLOW THEM NO VOICE in our councils. In wording the third SECTION OF THE fourth article, I went as far as circumstances would permit to establish the exclusion. CANDOR OBLIGES ME TO ADD MY BELIEF THAT HAD IT BEEN MORE POINTEDLY EXPRESSED, A STRONG OPPOSITION WOULD HAVE BEEN MADE."
3 Mor.Writ. 192. The first Territorial Government of Louisiana was an Imperial one, founded upon a French or Spanish model. For a time, the Governor, Judges, Legislative Council, Marshal, Secretary, and officers of the militia were appointed by the President. [Footnote 2/1]
Besides these anomalous arrangements, the acquisition gave rise to jealous inquiries as to the influence it would exert in determining the men and States that were to be "the arbiters and rulers" of the destinies of the Union, and unconstitutional opinions, having for their aim to promote sectional divisions, were announced and developed. "Something," said an eminent statesman,
"something has suggested to the members of Congress the policy of acquiring geographical majorities. This is a very direct step towards disunion, for it must foster the geographical enmities by which alone it can be effected. This something must be a contemplation of particular advantages to be derived from such majorities, and is it not notorious that they consist of nothing else but usurpations over persons and property, by which they can regulate the internal wealth and prosperity of States and individuals?"
The most dangerous of the efforts to employ a geographical political power to perpetuate a geographical preponderance in the Union is to be found in the deliberations upon the act of the 6th of March, 1820, before cited. The attempt consisted of a proposal to exclude Missouri from a place in the Union unless her people would adopt a Constitution containing a prohibition upon the subject of slavery according to a prescription of Congress. The sentiment is now general, if not universal, that Congress had no constitutional power to impose the restriction. This was frankly admitted at the bar in the course of this argument. The principles which this court have pronounced condemn the pretension then made on behalf of the legislative department. In Groves v. Slaughter, 15 Pet., the Chief Justice said:
"The power over this subject is exclusively with the several States, and each of them has a right to decide for itself whether it will or will not allow persons of this description to be brought within its limits."
Justice McLean said:
"The Constitution of the United States operates alike in all the States, and one State has the same power over the subject of slavery as every other State."
In Pollard's Lessee v. Hagan, 3 How. 212, the court said:
"The United States have no constitutional capacity to exercise municipal
jurisdiction, sovereignty, or eminent domain within the limits of a State or elsewhere except in cases where it is delegated, and the court denies the faculty of the Federal Government to add to its powers by treaty or compact."
This is a necessary consequence resulting from the nature of the Federal Constitution, which is a federal compact among the States establishing a limited Government, with powers delegated by the people of distinct and independent communities, who reserved to their State Governments, and to themselves, the powers they did not grant. This claim to impose a restriction upon the people of Missouri involved a denial of the constitutional relations between the people of the States and Congress, and affirmed a concurrent right for the latter, with their people, to constitute the social and political system of the new States. A successful maintenance of this claim would have altered the basis of the Constitution. The new States would have become members of a Union defined in part by the Constitution and in part by Congress. They would not have been admitted to "this Union." Their sovereignty would have been restricted by Congress, as well as the Constitution. The demand was unconstitutional and subversive, but was prosecuted with an energy and aroused such animosities among the people that patriots whose confidence had not failed during the Revolution began to despair for the Constitution. [Footnote 2/2] Amid the utmost violence of this extraordinary contest, the expedient contained in the eighth section of this act was proposed to moderate it, and to avert the catastrophe it menaced. It was not seriously debated, nor were its constitutional aspects severely scrutinized by Congress. For the first time in the history of the country has its operation been embodied in a case at law and been presented to this court for their judgment. The inquiry is whether there are conditions in the Constitutions of the Territories which subject the capacity and status of persons within their limits to the direct action of Congress. Can Congress determine the condition and status of persons who inhabit the Territories?
The Constitution permits Congress to dispose of and to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States. This power applies as well to territory belonging to the United States within the States as beyond them. It comprehends all the public domain, wherever it may be. The argument is that
the power to make "ALL needful rules and regulations" "is a power of legislation," "a full legislative power," "that it includes all subjects of legislation in the territory," and is without any limitations, except the positive prohibitions which affect all the powers of Congress. Congress may then regulate or prohibit slavery upon the public domain within the new States, and such a prohibition would permanently affect the capacity of a slave whose master might carry him to it. And why not? Because no power has been conferred on Congress. This is a conclusion universally admitted. But the power to "make rules and regulations respecting the territory" is not restrained by State lines, nor are there any constitutional prohibitions upon its exercise in the domain of the United States within the States, and whatever rules and regulations respecting territory Congress may constitutionally make are supreme, and are not dependent on the situs of "the territory."
The author of the Farmer's Letters, so famous in the ante-revolutionary history, thus states the argument made by the American loyalists in favor of the claim of the British Parliament to legislate in all cases whatever over the colonies: "It has been urged with great vehemence against us," he says,
"and it seems to be thought their FORT by our adversaries that a power of regulation is a power of legislation, and a power of legislation, if constitutional, must be universal and supreme, in the utmost sense of the word. It is therefore concluded that the colonies, by acknowledging the power of regulation, acknowledged every other power."
This sophism imposed upon a portion of the patriots of that day. Chief Justice Marshall, in his life of Washington, says
"that many of the best-informed men in Massachusetts had perhaps adopted the opinion of the parliamentary right of internal government over the colonies; . . . that the English statute book furnishes many instances of its exercise; . . . that in no case recollected was their authority openly controverted;"
and "that the General Court of Massachusetts, on a late occasion, openly recognised the principle." Marsh.Wash., v. 2, p. 75, 76.
But the more eminent men of Massachusetts rejected it, and another patriot of the time employs the instance to warn us of "the stealth with which oppression approaches," and "the enormities towards which precedents travel." And the people of the United States, as we have seen, appealed to the last argument, rather than acquiesce in their authority. Could it have been the purpose of Washington and his illustrious associates, by the use of ambiguous, equivocal, and expansive
words, such as "rules," "regulations," "territory," to reestablish in the Constitution of their country that fort which had been prostrated amid the toils and with the sufferings and sacrifices of seven years of war? Are these words to be understood as the Norths, the Grenvilles, Hillsboroughs, Hutchinsons, and Dunmores -- in a word, as George III would have understood them -- or are we to look for their interpretation to Patrick Henry or Samuel Adams, to Jefferson, and Jay, and Dickinson, to the sage Franklin, or to Hamilton, who, from his early manhood, was engaged in combating British constructions of such words? We know that the resolution of Congress of 1780 contemplated that the new States to be formed under their recommendation were to have the same rights of sovereignty, freedom, and independence, as the old. That every resolution, cession, compact, and ordinance of the States observed the same liberal principle. That the Union of the Constitution is a union formed of equal States, and that new States, when admitted, were to enter "this Union." Had another union been proposed in "any pointed manner," it would have encountered not only "strong," but successful, opposition. The disunion between Great Britain and her colonies originated in the antipathy of the latter to "rules and regulations" made by a remote power respecting their internal policy. In forming the Constitution, this fact was ever present in the minds of its authors. The people were assured by their most trusted statesmen "that the jurisdiction of the Federal Government is limited to certain enumerated objects, which concern all members of the republic," and
"that the local or municipal authorities form distinct portions of supremacy, no more subject within their respective spheres to the general authority than the general authority is subject to them within its own sphere."
Still this did not content them. Under the lead of Hancock and Samuel Adams, of Patrick Henry and George Mason, they demanded an explicit declaration that no more power was to be exercised than they had delegated. And the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution were designed to include the reserved rights of the States, and the people, within all the sanctions of that instrument, and to bind the authorities, State and Federal, by the judicial oath it prescribes, to their recognition and observance. Is it probable, therefore that the supreme and irresponsible power, which is now claimed for Congress over boundless territories, the use of which cannot fail to react upon the political system of the States, to its subversion, was ever within the contemplation of the statesmen who conducted the counsels of the people in the formation of this Constitution? When
the questions that came to the surface upon the acquisition of Louisiana were presented to the mind of Jefferson, he wrote:
"I had rather ask an enlargement of power from the nation, where it is found necessary, than to assume it by a construction which would make our powers boundless. Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it blank paper by construction. I say the same as to the opinion of those who consider the grant of the treaty-making power as boundless. If it is, then we have no Constitution. If it has bounds, they can be no others than the definitions of the powers which that instrument gives. It specifies and delineates the operations permitted to the Federal Government, and gives the powers necessary to carry them into execution."
The publication of the journals of the Federal Convention in 1819, of the debates reported by Mr. Madison in 1840, and the mass of private correspondence of the early statesmen before and since, enable us to approach the discussion of the aims of those who made the Constitution with some insight and confidence.
I have endeavored, with the assistance of these, to find a solution for the grave and difficult question involved in this inquiry. My opinion is that the claim for Congress of supreme power in the Territories, under the grant to "dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting territory," is not supported by the historical evidence drawn from the Revolution, the Confederation, or the deliberations which preceded the ratification of the Federal Constitution. The Ordinance of 1787 depended upon the action of the Congress of the Confederation, the assent of the State of Virginia, and the acquiescence of the people who recognised the validity of that plea of necessity which supported so many of the acts of the Governments of that time, and the Federal Government accepted the ordinance as a recognised and valid engagement of the Confederation.
In referring to the precedents of 1798 and 1800, I find the Constitution was plainly violated by the invasion of the rights of a sovereign State, both of soil and jurisdiction, and in reference to that of 1804, the wisest statesmen protested against it, and the President more than doubted its policy and the power of the Government.
Mr. John Quincy Adams, at a later period, says of the last act
"that the President found Congress mounted to the pitch of passing those acts without inquiring where they acquired the authority, and he conquered his own scruples as they had done theirs."
But this court cannot undertake for themselves the same conquest. They acknowledge that our peculiar security
is in the possession of a written Constitution, and they cannot make it blank paper by construction.
They look to its delineation of the operations of the Federal Government, and they must not exceed the limits it marks out, in their administration. The court have said
"that Congress cannot exercise municipal jurisdiction, sovereignty, or eminent domain, within the limits of a State or elsewhere, beyond what has been delegated."
We are then to find the authority for supreme power in the Territories in the Constitution. What are the limits upon the operations of a Government invested with legislative, executive, and judiciary powers, and charged with the power to dispose of and to make all needful rules and regulations respecting a vast public domain? The feudal system would have recognised the claim made on behalf of the Federal Government for supreme power over persons and things in the Territories as an incident to this title -- that is the title to dispose of and make rules and regulations respecting it.
The Norman lawyers of William the Conqueror would have yielded an implicit assent to the doctrine that a supreme sovereignty is an inseparable incident to a grant to dispose of and to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the public domain. But an American patriot, in contrasting the European and American systems, may affirm
"that European sovereigns give lands to their colonists, but reserve to themselves a power to control their property, liberty, and privileges, but the American Government sells the lands belonging to the people of the several States (i.e., United States) to their citizens, who are already in the possession of personal and political rights which the Government did not give and cannot take away."
And the advocates for Government sovereignty in the Territories have been compelled to abate a portion of the pretensions originally made in its behalf, and to admit that the constitutional prohibitions upon Congress operate in the Territories. But a constitutional prohibition is not requisite to ascertain a limitation upon the authority of of the several departments of the Federal Government. Nor are the States or people restrained by any enumeration or definition of their rights or liberties.
To impair or diminish either, the department must produce an authority from the people themselves, in their Constitution, and, as we have seen, a power to make rules and regulations respecting the public domain does not confer a municipal sovereignty over persons and things upon it. But as this is "thought their fort" by our adversaries, I propose a more definite examination of it. We have seen, Congress does not
dispose of or make rules and regulations respecting domain belonging to themselves, but belonging to the United States.
These conferred on their mandatory, Congress, authority to dispose of the territory which belonged to them in common, and to accomplish that object beneficially and effectually, they gave an authority to make suitable rules and regulations respecting it. When the power of disposition is fulfilled, the authority to make rules and regulations terminates, for it attaches only upon territory "belonging to the United States."
Consequently, the power to make rules and regulations, from the nature of the subject, is restricted to such administrative and conservatory acts as are needful for the preservation of the public domain and its preparation for sale or disposition. The system of land surveys, the reservations for schools, internal improvements, military sites, and public buildings, the preemption claims of settlers, the establishment of land offices and boards of inquiry to determine the validity of land titles, the modes of entry and sale, and of conferring titles, the protection of the lands from trespass and waste, the partition of the public domain into municipal subdivisions, having reference to the erection of Territorial Governments and States, and perhaps the selection, under their authority, of suitable laws for the protection of the settlers until there may be a sufficient number of them to form a self-sustaining municipal Government -- these important rules and regulations will sufficiently illustrate the scope and operation of the 3d section of the 4th article of the Constitution. But this clause in the Constitution does not exhaust the powers of Congress within the territorial subdivisions, or over the persons who inhabit them. Congress may exercise there all the powers of Government which belong to them as the Legislature of the United States, of which these Territories make a part. Loughborough v. Blake, 5 Wheat. 317. Thus, the laws of taxation, for the regulation of foreign, Federal, and Indian commerce, and so for the abolition of the slave trade, for the protection of copyrights and inventions, for the establishment of postal communication and courts of justice, and for the punishment of crimes are as operative there as within the States. I admit that to mark the bounds for the jurisdiction of the Government of the United States within the Territory, and of its power in respect to persons and things within the municipal subdivisions it has created, is a work of delicacy and difficulty, and in a great measure is beyond the cognizance of the judiciary department of that Government. How much municipal power may be exercised by the people of the Territory before their admission to the Union, the courts of justice cannot decide. This must depend, for
the most part, on political considerations, which cannot enter into the determination of a case of law or equity. I do not feel called upon to define the jurisdiction of Congress. It is sufficient for the decision of this case to ascertain whether the residuary sovereignty of the States or people has been invaded by the 8th section of the act of 6th March, 1820, I have cited, insofar as it concerns the capacity and status of persons in the condition and circumstances of the plaintiff and his family.
These States, at the adoption of the Federal Constitution, were organized communities, having distinct systems of municipal law, which, though derived from a common source and recognising in the main similar principles, yet in some respects had become unlike, and, on a particular subject, promised to be antagonistic.
Their systems provided protection for life, liberty, and property among their citizens, and for the determination of the condition and capacity of the persons domiciled within their limits. These institutions, for the most part, were placed beyond the control of the Federal Government. The Constitution allows Congress to coin money, and regulate its value, to regulate foreign and Federal commerce, to secure, for a limited period, to authors and inventors a property in their writings and discoveries, and to make rules concerning captures in war, and, within the limits of these powers, it has exercised, rightly, to a greater or less extent, the power to determine what shall and what shall not be property.
But the great powers of war and negotiation, finance, postal communication, and commerce, in general, when employed in respect to the property of a citizen, refer to and depend upon the municipal laws of the States to ascertain and determine what is property, and the rights of the owner, and the tenure by which it is held.
Whatever these Constitutions and laws validly determine to be property, it is the duty of the Federal Government, through the domain of jurisdiction merely Federal, to recognise to be property.
And this principle follows from the structure of the respective Governments, State and Federal, and their reciprocal relations. They are different agents and trustees of the people of the several States, appointed with different powers and with distinct purposes, but whose acts, within the scope of their respective jurisdictions, are mutually obligatory. They are, respectively, the depositories of such powers of legislation as the people were willing to surrender, and their duty is to cooperate within their several jurisdictions to maintain the rights of the same citizens under both Governments unimpaired.
A proscription, therefore, of the Constitution and laws of one or more States, determining property, on the part of the Federal Government, by which the stability of its social system may be endangered is plainly repugnant to the conditions on which the Federal Constitution was adopted, or which that Government was designed to accomplish. Each of the States surrendered its powers of war and negotiation, to raise armies and to support a navy, and all of these powers are sometimes required to preserve a State from disaster and ruin. The Federal Government was constituted to exercise these powers for the preservation of the States, respectively, and to secure to all their citizens the enjoyment of the rights which were not surrendered to the Federal Government. The provident care of the statesmen who projected the Constitution was signalized by such a distribution of the powers of Government as to exclude many of the motives and opportunities for promoting provocations and spreading discord among the States, and for guarding against those partial combinations, so destructive of the community of interest, sentiment, and feeling, which are so essential to the support of the Union. The distinguishing features of their system consist in the exclusion of the Federal Government from the local and internal concerns of, and in the establishment of an independent internal Government within, the States. And it is a significant fact in the history of the United States that those controversies which have been productive of the greatest animosity, and have occasioned most peril to the peace of the Union, have had their origin in the well sustained opinion of a minority among the people that the Federal Government had overstepped its constitutional limits to grant some exclusive privilege, or to disturb the legitimate distribution of property or power among the States or individuals. Nor can a more signal instance of this be found than is furnished by the act before us. No candid or rational man can hesitate to believe that if the subject of the eighth section of the act of March, 1820, had never been introduced into Congress and made the basis of legislation, no interest common to the Union would have been seriously affected. And certainly the creation within this Union of large confederacies of unfriendly and frowning States, which has been the tendency and, to an alarming extent, the result produced by the agitation arising from it does not commend it to the patriot or statesman. This court have determined that the intermigration of slaves was not committed to the jurisdiction or control of Congress. Wherever a master is entitled to go within the United States, his slave may accompany him without any impediment from or fear of Congressional
legislation or interference. The question then arises whether Congress, which can exercise no jurisdiction over the relations of master and slave within the limits of the Union, and is bound to recognise and respect the rights and relations that validly exist under the Constitutions and laws of the States, can deny the exercise of those rights, and prohibit the continuance of those relations, within the Territories.
And the citation of State statutes prohibiting the immigration of slaves, and of the decisions of State courts enforcing the forfeiture of the master's title in accordance with their rule, only darkens the discussion. For the question is have Congress the municipal sovereignty in the Territories which the State Legislatures have derived from the authority of the people, and exercise in the States?
And this depends upon the construction of the article in the Constitution before referred to.
And, in my opinion that clause confers no power upon Congress to dissolve the relations of the master and slave on the domain of the United States, either within or without any of the States.
The eighth section of the act of Congress of the 6th of March, 1820, did not, in my opinion, operate to determine the domestic condition and status of the plaintiff and his family during their sojourn in Minnesota Territory, or after their return to Missouri.
The question occurs as to the judgment to be given in this case. It appeared upon the trial that the plaintiff, in 1834, was in a state of slavery in Missouri, and he had been in Missouri for near fifteen years in that condition when this suit was brought. Nor does it appear that he at any time possessed another state or condition de facto. His claim to freedom depends upon his temporary relocation, from the domicil of his origin, in company with his master, to communities where the law of slavery did not prevail. My examination is confined to the case as it was submitted upon uncontested evidence, upon appropriate issues to the jury, and upon the instructions given and refused by the court upon that evidence. My opinion is that the opinion of the Circuit Court was correct upon all the claims involved in those issues, and that the verdict of the jury was justified by the evidence and instructions.
The jury have returned that the plaintiff and his family are slaves.
Upon this record, it is apparent that this is not a controversy between citizens of different States, and that the plaintiff, at no period of the life which has been submitted to the view of the court, has had a capacity to maintain a suit in the courts
of the United States. And in so far as the argument of the Chief Justice upon the plea in abatement has a reference to the plaintiff or his family in any of the conditions or circumstances of their lives as presented in the evidence, I concur in that portion of his opinion. I concur in the judgment which expresses the conclusion that the Circuit Court should not have rendered a general judgment.
The capacity of the plaintiff to sue is involved in the pleas in bar, and the verdict of the jury discloses an incapacity under the Constitution. Under the Constitution of the United States, his is an incapacity to sue in their courts, while, by the laws of Missouri, the operation of the verdict would be more extensive. I think it a safe conclusion to enforce the lesser disability imposed by the Constitution of the United States, and leave to the plaintiff all his rights in Missouri. I think the judgment should be affirmed, on the ground that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction, or that the case should be reversed and remanded that the suit may be dismissed.
Mr. Varnum said: "The bill provided such a Government as had never been known in the United States." Mr. Eustis: "The Government laid down in this bill is certainly a new thing in the United States." Mr. Lucas: "It has been remarked that this bill establishes elementary principles never previously introduced in the Government of any Territory of the United States. Granting the truth of this observation," &c. Mr. Macon: "My first objection to the principle contained in this section is that it establishes a species of government unknown to the United States." Mr. Boyle: "Were the President an angel instead of a man, I would not clothe him with this power." Mr. G. W. Campbell: "On examining the section, it will appear that it really establishes a complete despotism." Mr. Sloan: "Can anything be more repugnant to the principles of just government? Can anything be more despotic?" -- Annals of Congress, 1803-1804
Mr. Jefferson wrote:
"The Missouri question is the most portentous one that ever threatened our Union. In the gloomiest moments of the revolutionary war, I never had any apprehension equal to that I feel from this source."
Mr. Justice CATRON.
The defendant pleaded to the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court that the plaintiff was a negro of African blood, the descendant of Africans, who had been imported and sold in this country as slaves, and thus had no capacity as a citizen of Missouri to maintain a suit in the Circuit Court. The court sustained a demurrer to this plea, and a trial was had upon the pleas, of the general issue, and also that the plaintiff and his family were slaves, belonging to the defendant. In this trial, a verdict was given for the defendant.
The judgment of the Circuit Court upon the plea in abatement is not open, in my opinion, to examination in this court upon the plaintiff's writ.
The judgment was given for him conformably to the prayer of his demurrer. He cannot assign an error in such a judgment. Tidd's Pr. 1163, 2 Williams's Saund. 46a, 2 Iredell N.C. 87, 2 W. and S. 391. Nor does the fact that the judgment was given on a plea to the jurisdiction avoid the application of this rule. Capron v. Van Noorden, 2 Cr. 126, 6 Wend. 465, 7 Met. 598, 5 Pike 1005.
The declaration discloses a case within the jurisdiction of the court -- a controversy between citizens of different States. The plea in abatement, impugning these jurisdictional averments, was waived when the defendant answered to the declaration by pleas to the merits. The proceedings on that plea remain a part of the technical record, to show the history of the case, but are not open to the review of this court by a writ
of error. The authorities are very conclusive on this point. Shepherd v. Graves, 14 How. 505, Bailey v. Dozier, 6 How. 23, 1 Stewart (Alabama) 46, 10 Ben. Monroe (Kentucky) 555, 2 Stewart (Alabama) 370, 443, 2 Scammon (Illinois) 78. Nor can the court assume as admitted facts the averments of the plea from the confession of the demurrer. That confession was for a single object, and cannot be used for any other purpose than to test the validity of the plea. Tompkins v. Ashley, 1 Moody and Mackin 32, 33 Maine 96, 100.
There being nothing in controversy here but the merits, I will proceed to discuss them.
The plaintiff claims to have acquired property in himself, and became free, by being kept in Illinois during two years.
The Constitution, laws, and policy, of Illinois are somewhat peculiar respecting slavery. Unless the master becomes an inhabitant of that State, the slaves he takes there do not acquire their freedom, and if they return with their master to the slave State of his domicil, they cannot assert their freedom after their return. For the reasons and authorities on this point, I refer to the opinion of my brother Nelson, with which I not only concur, but think his opinion is the most conclusive argument on the subject within my knowledge.
It is next insisted for the plaintiff that his freedom (and that of his wife and eldest child) was obtained by force of the act of Congress of 1820, usually known as the Missouri Compromise Act, which declares:
"That in all that territory ceded by France to the United States, which lies north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude, slavery and involuntary servitude shall be, and are hereby, forever prohibited."
From this prohibition, the territory now constituting the State of Missouri was excepted, which exception to the stipulation gave it the designation of a compromise.
The first question presented on this act is whether Congress had power to make such compromise. For if power was wanting, then no freedom could be acquired by the defendant under the act.
That Congress has no authority to pass laws and bind men's rights beyond the powers conferred by the Constitution is not open to controversy. But it is insisted that, by the Constitution, Congress has power to legislate for and govern the Territories of the United States, and that, by force of the power to govern, laws could be enacted prohibiting slavery in any portion of the Louisiana Territory, and, of course, to abolish slavery in all parts of it whilst it was or is governed as a Territory.
My opinion is that Congress is vested with power to govern
the Territories of the United States by force of the third section of the fourth article of the Constitution. And I will state my reasons for this opinion.
Almost every provision in that instrument has a history that must be understood before the brief and sententious language employed can be comprehended in the relations its authors intended. We must bring before us the state of things presented to the Convention, and in regard to which it acted, when the compound provision was made, declaring: 1st. That "new States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union." 2d.
"The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States. And nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or any particular State."
Having ascertained the historical facts giving rise to these provisions, the difficulty of arriving at the true meaning of the language employed will be greatly lessened.
The history of these facts is substantially as follows:
The King of Great Britain, by his proclamation of 1763, virtually claimed that the country west of the mountains had been conquered from France, and ceded to the Crown of Great Britain by the treaty of Paris of that year, and he says: "We reserve it under our sovereignty, protection, and dominion, for the use of the Indians."
This country was conquered from the Crown of Great Britain, and surrendered to the United States by the treaty of peace of 1783. The colonial charters of Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia included it. Other States set up pretensions of claim to some portions of the territory north of the Ohio, but they were of no value, as I suppose. 18 U. S. 5 Wheat. 375.
As this vacant country had been won by the blood and treasure of all the States, those whose charters did not reach it insisted that the country belonged to the States united, and that the lands should be disposed of for the benefit of the whole, and to which end the western territory should be ceded to the States united. The contest was stringent and angry long before the Convention convened, and deeply agitated that body. As a matter of justice, and to quiet the controversy, Virginia consented to cede the country north of the Ohio as early as 1783, and, in 1784, the deed of cession was executed by her delegates in the Congress of the Confederation conveying to the United States in Congress assembled, for the benefit of said States,
"all right, title, and claim, as well of soil as of jurisdiction, which this Commonwealth hath to the territory or tract of country within the limits of the Virginia
charter, situate, lying, and being to the northwest of the river Ohio."
In 1787 (July 13), the ordinance was passed by the old Congress to govern the Territory.
Massachusetts had ceded her pretension of claim to western territory in 1785, Connecticut hers in 1786, and New York had ceded hers. In August, 1787, South Carolina ceded to the Confederation her pretension of claim to territory west of that State. And North Carolina was expected to cede hers, which she did do in April, 1790. And so Georgia was confidently expected to cede her large domain, now constituting the territory of the States of Alabama and Mississippi.
At the time the Constitution was under consideration, there had been ceded to the United States, or was shortly expected to be ceded, all the western country from the British Canada line to Florida and from the head of the Mississippi almost to its mouth, except that portion which now constitutes the State of Kentucky.
Although Virginia had conferred on the Congress of the Confederation power to govern the Territory north of the Ohio, still it cannot be denied, as I think, that power was wanting to admit a new State under the Articles of Confederation.
With these facts prominently before the Convention, they proposed to accomplish these ends:
1st. To give power to admit new States.
2d. To dispose of the public lands in the Territories, and such as might remain undisposed of in the new States after they were admitted.
And, thirdly, to give power to govern the different Territories as incipient States not of the Union, and fit them for admission. No one in the Convention seems to have doubted that these powers were necessary. As early as the third day of its session (May 29th), Edmund Randolph brought forward a set of resolutions containing nearly all the germs of the Constitution, the tenth of which is as follows:
"Resolved, That provision ought to be made for the admission of States lawfully arising within the limits of the United States, whether from a voluntary junction of government and territory or otherwise, with the consent of a number of voices in the National Legislature less than the whole."
August 18th, Mr. Madison submitted, in order to be referred to the committee of detail, the following powers as proper to be added to those of the General Legislature:
"To dispose of the unappropriated lands of the United States. . . . To institute temporary Governments for new States arising therein."
3 Madison Papers 1353.
These, with the resolution that a district for the location of the seat of Government should be provided, and some others, were referred, without a dissent, to the committee of detail to arrange and put them into satisfactory language.
Gouverneur Morris constructed the clauses, and combined the views of a majority on the two provisions, to admit new States, and secondly, to dispose of the public lands and to govern the Territories in the meantime, between the cessions of the States and the admission into the Union of new States arising in the ceded territory. 3 Madison Papers 1456 to 1466.
It was hardly possible to separate the power "to make all needful rules and regulations" respecting the government of the territory and the disposition of the public lands.
North of the Ohio, Virginia conveyed the lands, and vested the jurisdiction in the thirteen original States, before the Constitution was formed. She had the sole title and sole sovereignty, and the same power to cede, on any terms she saw proper that the King of England had to grant the Virginia colonial charter of 1609, or to grant the charter of Pennsylvania to William Penn. The thirteen States, through their representatives and deputed ministers in the old Congress, had the same right to govern that Virginia had before the cession. Baldwin's Constitutional Views 90. And the sixth article of the Constitution adopted all engagements entered into by the Congress of the Confederation as valid against the United States, and that the laws made in pursuance of the new Constitution to carry out this engagement should be the supreme law of the land, and the judges bound thereby. To give the compact and the ordinance which was part of it full effect under the new Government, the Act of August 7th, 1789, was passed, which declares,
"Whereas, in order that the ordinance of the United States in Congress assembled, for the government of the Territory northwest of the river Ohio, may have full effect, it is requisite that certain provisions should be made so as to adapt the same to the present Constitution of the United States."
It is then provided that the Governor and other officers should be appointed by the President, with the consent of the Senate, and be subject to removal, &c., in like manner that they were by the old Congress, whose functions had ceased.
By the powers to govern given by the Constitution, those amendments to the ordinance could be made, but Congress guardedly abstained from touching the compact of Virginia further than to adapt it to the new Constitution.
It is due to myself to say that it is asking much of a judge
who has for nearly twenty years been exercising jurisdiction from the western Missouri line to the Rocky Mountains and, on this understanding of the Constitution, inflicting the extreme penalty of death for crimes committed where the direct legislation of Congress was the only rule, to agree that he had been all the while acting in mistake, and as an usurper.
More than sixty years have passed away since Congress has exercised power to govern the Territories by its legislation directly or by Territorial charters, subject to repeal at all times, and it is now too late to call that power into question, if this court could disregard its own decisions, which it cannot do, as I think. It was held in the case of Cross v. Harrison, 16 How. 193-194, that the sovereignty of California was in the United States in virtue of the Constitution, by which power had been given to Congress to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States, with the power to admit new States into the Union. That decision followed preceding ones, there cited. The question was then presented, how it was possible for the judicial mind to conceive that the United States Government, created solely by the Constitution, could, by a lawful treaty, acquire territory over which the acquiring power had no jurisdiction to hold and govern it, by force of the instrument under whose authority the country was acquired, and the foregoing was the conclusion of this court on the proposition. What was there announced was most deliberately done, and with a purpose. The only question here is, as I think, how far the power of Congress is limited.
As to the Northwest Territory, Virginia had the right to abolish slavery there, and she did so agree in 1787, with the other States in the Congress of the Confederation, by assenting to and adopting the Ordinance of 1787 for the government of the Northwest Territory. She did this also by an act of her Legislature, passed afterwards, which was a treaty in fact.
Before the new Constitution was adopted, she had as much right to treat and agree as any European Government had. And, having excluded slavery, the new Government was bound by that engagement by article six of the new Constitution. This only meant that slavery should not exist whilst the United States exercised the power of government, in the Territorial form, for, when a new State came in, it might do so with or without slavery.
My opinion is that Congress had no power, in face of the compact between Virginia and the twelve other States, to force slavery into the Northwest Territory, because there it was bound to that "engagement," and could not break it.
In 1790, North Carolina ceded her western territory, now the State of Tennessee, and stipulated that the inhabitants thereof should enjoy all the privileges and advantages of the ordinance for governing the territory north of the Ohio river, and that Congress should assume the government, and accept the cession, under the express conditions contained in the ordinance: Provided, "That no regulation made, or to be made, by Congress, shall tend to emancipate slaves."
In 1802, Georgia ceded her western territory to the United States, with the provision that the Ordinance of 1787 should in all its parts extend to the territory ceded, "that article only excepted which forbids slavery." Congress had no more power to legislate slavery out from the North Carolina and Georgia cessions than it had power to legislate slavery in, north of the Ohio. No power existed in Congress to legislate at all, affecting slavery, in either case. The inhabitants, as respected this description of property, stood protected whilst they were governed by Congress, in like manner that they were protected before the cession was made, and when they were, respectively, parts of North Carolina and Georgia.
And how does the power of Congress stand west of the Mississippi river? The country there was acquired from France by treaty in 1803. It declares that the First Consul, in the name of the French Republic, doth hereby cede to the United States, in full sovereignty, the colony or province of Louisiana, with all the rights and appurtenances of the said territory. And, by article third, that
"the inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States, and admitted as soon as possible, according to the principles of the Federal Constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities, of citizens of the United States, and in the meantime, they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and the religion which they profess."
Louisiana was a province where slavery was not only lawful, but where property in slaves was the most valuable of all personal property. The province was ceded as a unit, with an equal right pertaining to all its inhabitants, in every part thereof, to own slaves. It was, to a great extent, a vacant country, having in it few civilized inhabitants. No one portion of the colony of a proper size for a State of the Union had a sufficient number of inhabitants to claim admission into the Union. To enable the United States to fulfil the treaty, additional population was indispensable, and obviously desired with anxiety by both sides so that the whole country should, as soon as possible, become States of the Union. And for this
contemplated future population, the treaty as expressly provided as it did for the inhabitants residing in the province when the treaty was made. All these were to be protected "in the meantime," that is to say, at all times, between the date of the treaty and the time when the portion of the Territory where the inhabitants resided was admitted into the Union as a State.
At the date of the treaty, each inhabitant had the right to the free enjoyment of his property, alike with his liberty and his religion, in every part of Louisiana; the province then being one country, he might go everywhere in it and carry his liberty, property, and religion with him, and in which he was to be maintained and protected until he became a citizen of a State of the Union of the United States. This cannot be denied to the original inhabitants and their descendants. And, if it be true that immigrants were equally protected, it must follow that they can also stand on the treaty.
The settled doctrine in the State courts of Louisiana is that a French subject coming to the Orleans Territory, after the treaty of 1803 was made and before Louisiana was admitted into the Union, and being an inhabitant at the time of the admission, became a citizen of the United States by that act that he was one of the inhabitants contemplated by the third article of the treaty, which referred to all the inhabitants embraced within the new State on its admission.
That this is the true construction I have no doubt.
If power existed to draw a line at thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north, so Congress had equal power to draw the line on the thirtieth degree -- that is due west from the city of New Orleans -- and to declare that, north of that line, slavery should never exist. Suppose this had been done before 1812, when Louisiana came into the Union, and the question of infraction of the treaty had then been presented on the present assumption of power to prohibit slavery; who doubts what the decision of this court would have been on such an act of Congress, yet the difference between the supposed line and that on thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north is only in the degree of grossness presented by the lower line.
The Missouri Compromise line of 1820 was very aggressive; it declared that slavery was abolished forever throughout a country reaching from the Mississippi river to the Pacific ocean, stretching over thirty-two degrees of longitude and twelve and a half degrees of latitude on its eastern side, sweeping over four-fifths, to say no more, of the original province of Louisiana.
That the United States Government stipulated in favor of
the inhabitants to the extent here contended for has not been seriously denied, as far as I know, but the argument is that Congress had authority to repeal the third article of the treaty of 1803, insofar as it secured the right to hold slave property in a portion of the ceded territory, leaving the right to exist in other parts. In other words, that Congress could repeal the third article entirely, at its pleasure. This I deny.
The compacts with North Carolina and Georgia were treaties also, and stood on the same footing of the Louisiana treaty, on the assumption of power to repeal the one, it must have extended to all, and Congress could have excluded the slaveholder of North Carolina from the enjoyment of his lands in the Territory now the State of Tennessee, where the citizens of the mother State were the principal proprietors.
And so in the case of Georgia. Her citizens could have been refused the right to emigrate to the Mississippi or Alabama Territory unless they left their most valuable and cherished property behind them.
The Constitution was framed in reference to facts then existing or likely to arise; the instrument looked to no theories of Government. In the vigorous debates in the Convention, as reported by Mr. Madison and others, surrounding facts and the condition and necessities of the country gave rise to almost every provision; and among those facts, it was prominently true that Congress dare not be intrusted with power to provide that, if North Carolina or Georgia ceded her western territory, the citizens of the State (in either case) could be prohibited, at the pleasure of Congress, from removing to their lands, then granted to a large extent, in the country likely to be ceded unless they left their slaves behind. That such an attempt, in the face of a population fresh from the war of the Revolution and then engaged in war with the great confederacy of Indians extending from the mouth of the Ohio to the Gulf of Mexico, would end in open revolt all intelligent men knew.
In view of these facts, let us inquire how the question stands by the terms of the Constitution, aside from the treaty? How it stood in public opinion when the Georgia cession was made, in 1802, is apparent from the fact that no guaranty was required by Georgia of the United States for the protection of slave property. The Federal Constitution was relied on to secure the rights of Georgia and her citizens during the Territorial condition of the country. She relied on the indisputable truths that the States were by the Constitution made equals in political rights, and equals in the right to participate in the common property of all the States united, and held in trust for
them. The Constitution having provided that "The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens of the several States," the right to enjoy the territory as equals was reserved to the States, and to the citizens of the States, respectively. The cited clause is not that citizens of the United States shall have equal privileges in the Territories, but the citizen of each State shall come there in right of his State, and enjoy the common property. He secures his equality through the equality of his State by virtue of that great fundamental condition of the Union -- the equality of the States.
Congress cannot do indirectly what the Constitution prohibits directly. If the slaveholder is prohibited from going to the Territory with his slaves, who are parts of his family in name and in fact, it will follow that men owning lawful property in their own States, carrying with them the equality of their State to enjoy the common property, may be told, you cannot come here with your slaves, and he will be held out at the border. By this subterfuge, owners of slave property, to the amount of thousand of millions, might be almost as effectually excluded from removing into the Territory of Louisiana north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes, as if the law declared that owners of slaves, as a class, should be excluded, even if their slaves were left behind.
Just as well might Congress have said to those of the North, you shall not introduce into the territory south of said line your cattle or horses, as the country is already overstocked, nor can you introduce your tools of trade, or machines, as the policy of Congress is to encourage the culture of sugar and cotton south of the line, and so to provide that the Northern people shall manufacture for those of the South, and barter for the staple articles slave labor produces. And thus the Northern farmer and mechanic would be held out, as the slaveholder was for thirty years, by the Missouri restriction.
If Congress could prohibit one species of property, lawful throughout Louisiana when it was acquired, and lawful in the State from whence it was brought, so Congress might exclude any or all property.
The case before us will illustrate the construction contended for. Dr. Emerson was a citizen of Missouri; he had an equal right to go to the Territory with every citizen of other States. This is undeniable, as I suppose. Scott was Dr. Emerson's lawful property in Missouri; he carried his Missouri title with him, and the precise question here is whether Congress had the power to annul that title. It is idle to say that, if Congress could not defeat the title directly, that it might be done
indirectly, by drawing a narrow circle around the slave population of Upper Louisiana and declaring that, if the slave went beyond it, he should be free. Such assumption is mere evasion, and entitled to no consideration. And it is equally idle to contend that, because Congress has express power to regulate commerce among the Indian tribes and to prohibit intercourse with the Indians, that therefore Dr. Emerson's title might be defeated within the country ceded by the Indians to the United States as early as 1805, and which embraces Fort Snelling. Am.State Papers, vol. 1, p. 734. We must meet the question whether Congress had the power to declare that a citizen of a State, carrying with him his equal rights secured to him through his State, could be stripped of his goods and slaves and be deprived of any participation in the common property? If this be the true meaning of the Constitution, equality of rights to enjoy a common country (equal to a thousand miles square) may be cut off by a geographical line, and a great portion of our citizens excluded from it.
Ingenious indirect evasions of the Constitution have been attempted and defeated heretofore. In the Passenger Cases, 7 How.R., the attempt was made to impose a tax on the masters, crews, and passengers of vessels, the Constitution having prohibited a tax on the vessel itself, but this Court held the attempt to be a mere evasion, and pronounced the tax illegal.
I admit that Virginia could, and lawfully did, prohibit slavery northwest of the Ohio by her charter of cession, and that the territory was taken by the United States with this condition imposed. I also admit that France could, by the treaty of 1803, have prohibited slavery in any part of the ceded territory, and imposed it on the United States as a fundamental condition of the cession, in the meantime, till new States were admitted in the Union.
I concur with Judge Baldwin that Federal power is exercised over all the territory within the United States, pursuant to the Constitution and the conditions of the cession, whether it was a part of the original territory of a State of the Union or of a foreign State, ceded by deed or treaty, the right of the United States in or over it depends on the contract of cession, which operates to incorporate as well the Territory as its inhabitants into the Union. Baldwin's Constitutional Views 84.
My opinion is that the third article of the treaty of 1803, ceding Louisiana to the United States, stands protected by the Constitution, and cannot be repealed by Congress.
And, secondly that the Act of 1820, known as the Missouri
Compromise, violates the most leading feature of the Constitution -- a feature on which the Union depends and which secures to the respective States and their citizens and entire EQUALITY of rights, privileges, and immunities.
On these grounds, I hold the compromise act to have been void, and consequently that the plaintiff, Scott, can claim no benefit under it.
For the reasons above stated, I concur with my brother judges that the plaintiff Scott is a slave, and was so when this suit was brought.
Mr. Justice McLEAN and Mr. Justice CURTIS dissented.
Mr. Justice McLEAN dissenting.
This case is before us on a writ of error from the Circuit Court for the district of Missouri.
An action of trespass was brought which charges the defendant with an assault and imprisonment of the plaintiff, and also of Harriet Scott, his wife, Eliza and Lizzie, his two children, on the ground that they were his slaves, which was without right on his part and against law.
The defendant filed a plea in abatement,
"that said causes of action, and each and every of them, if any such accrued to the said Dred Scott, accrued out of the jurisdiction of this court, and exclusively within the jurisdiction of the courts of the State of Missouri, for that, to-wit, said plaintiff, Dred Scott, is not a citizen of the State of Missouri, as alleged in his declaration, because he is a negro of African descent, his ancestors were of pure African blood, and were brought into this country and sold as negro slaves, and this the said Sandford is ready to verify, wherefore he prays judgment whether the court can or will take further cognizance of the action aforesaid."
To this a demurrer was filed which, on argument, was sustained by the court, the plea in abatement being held insufficient; the defendant was ruled to plead over. Under this rule, he pleaded: 1. Not guilty, 2. That Dred Scott was a negro slave, the property of the defendant, and 3. That Harriet, the wife, and Eliza and Lizzie, the daughters of the plaintiff, were the lawful slaves of the defendant.
Issue was joined on the first plea, and replications of de injuria were filed to the other pleas.
The parties agreed to the following facts: In the year 1834, the plaintiff was a negro slave belonging to Dr. Emerson, who was a surgeon in the army of the United States. In that year, Dr. Emerson took the plaintiff from the State of Missouri to
the post of Rock Island, in the State of Illinois, and held him there as a slave until the month of April or May, 1836. At the time last mentioned, Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff from Rock Island to the military post at Fort Snelling, situate on the west bank of the Mississippi river, in the territory Known as Upper Louisiana, acquired by the United States of France, and situate north of latitude thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north, and north of the State of Missouri. Dr. Emerson held the plaintiff in slavery, at Fort Snelling from the last-mentioned date until the year 1838.
In the year 1835, Harriet, who is named in the second count of the plaintiff's declaration, was the negro slave of Major Taliaferro, who belonged to the army of the United States. In that year, Major Taliaferro took Harriet to Fort Snelling, a military post situated as hereinbefore stated, and kept her there as a slave until the year 1836, and then sold and delivered her as a slave, at Fort Snelling, unto Dr. Emerson, who held her in slavery at that place until the year 1838.
In the year 1836, the plaintiff and Harriet were married at Fort Snelling, with the consent of Dr. Emerson, who claimed to be their master and owner. Eliza and Lizzie, named in the third count of the plaintiff's declaration, are the fruit of that marriage. Eliza is about fourteen years old, and was born on board the steamboat Gipsey, north of the north line of the State of Missouri, and upon the river Mississippi. Lizzie is about seven years old, and was born in the State of Missouri at the military post called Jefferson Barracks.
In the year 1838, Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff and said Harriet and their daughter Eliza from Fort Snelling to the State of Missouri, where they have ever since resided.
Before the commencement of the suit, Dr. Emerson sold and conveyed the plaintiff, Harriet, Eliza, and Lizzie, to the defendant as slaves, and he has ever since claimed to hold them as slaves.
At the times mentioned in the plaintiff's declaration, the defendant, claiming to be the owner, laid his hands upon said plaintiff, Harriet, Eliza, and Lizzie, and imprisoned them, doing in this respect, however, no more than he might lawfully do if they were of right his slaves at such times.
In the first place, the plea to the jurisdiction is not before us on this writ of error. A demurrer to the plea was sustained, which ruled the plea bad, and the defendant, on leave, pleaded over.
The decision on the demurrer was in favor of the plaintiff, and, as the plaintiff prosecutes this writ of error, he does not complain of the decision on the demurrer. The defendant
might have complained of this decision, as against him, and have prosecuted a writ of error to reverse it. But as the case, under the instruction of the court to the jury, was decided in his favor, of course he had no ground of complaint.
But it is said, if the court, on looking at the record, shall clearly perceive that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction, it is a ground for the dismissal of the case. This may be characterized as rather a sharp practice, and one which seldom, if ever, occurs. No case was cited in the argument as authority, and not a single case precisely in point is recollected in our reports. The pleadings do not show a want of jurisdiction. This want of jurisdiction can only be ascertained by a judgment on the demurrer to the special plea. No such case, it is believed, can be cited. But if this rule of practice is to be applied in this case, and the plaintiff in error is required to answer and maintain as well the points ruled in his favor, as to show the error of those ruled against him, he has more than an ordinary duty to perform. Under such circumstances, the want of jurisdiction in the Circuit Court must be so clear as not to admit of doubt. Now the plea which raises the question of jurisdiction, in my judgment, is radically defective. The gravamen of the plea is this:
"That the plaintiff is a negro of African descent, his ancestors being of pure African blood, and were brought into this country and sold as negro slaves."
There is no averment in this plea which shows or conduces to show an inability in the plaintiff to sue in the Circuit Court. It does not allege that the plaintiff had his domicil in any other State, nor that he is not a free man in Missouri. He is averred to have had a negro ancestry, but this does not show that he is not a citizen of Missouri within the meaning of the act of Congress authorizing him to sue in the Circuit Court. It has never been held necessary, to constitute a citizen within the act, that he should have the qualifications of an elector. Females and minors may sue in the Federal courts, and so may any individual who has a permanent domicil in the State under whose laws his rights are protected, and to which he owes allegiance.
Being born under our Constitution and laws, no naturalization is required, as one of foreign birth, to make him a citizen. The most general and appropriate definition of the term citizen is "a freeman." Being a freeman, and having his domicil in a State different from that of the defendant, he is a citizen within the act of Congress, and the courts of the Union are open to him.
It has often been held that the jurisdiction, as regards parties, can only be exercised between citizens of different States,
and that a mere residence is not sufficient, but this has been said to distinguish a temporary from a permanent residence.
To constitute a good plea to the jurisdiction, it must negative those qualities and rights which enable an individual to sue in the Federal courts. This has not been done, and on this ground the plea was defective, and the demurrer was properly sustained. No implication can aid a plea in abatement or in bar; it must be complete in itself; the facts stated, if true, must abate or bar the right of the plaintiff to sue. This is not the character of the above plea. The facts stated, if admitted, are not inconsistent with other facts which may be presumed and which bring the plaintiff within the act of Congress.
The pleader has not the boldness to allege that the plaintiff is a slave, as that would assume against him the matter in controversy, and embrace the entire merits of the case in a plea to the jurisdiction. But beyond the facts set out in the plea, the court, to sustain it, must assume the plaintiff to be a slave, which is decisive on the merits. This is a short and an effectual mode of deciding the cause, but I am yet to learn that it is sanctioned by any known rule of pleading.
The defendant's counsel complain that, if the court take jurisdiction on the ground that the plaintiff is free, the assumption is against the right of the master. This argument is easily answered. In the first place, the plea does not show him to be a slave; it does not follow that a man is not free whose ancestors were slaves. The reports of the Supreme Court of Missouri show that this assumption has many exceptions, and there is no averment in the plea that the plaintiff is not within them.
By all the rules of pleading, this is a fatal defect in the plea. If there be doubt, what rule of construction has been established in the slave States? In Jacob v. Sharp, Meigs's Rep., Tennessee 114, the court held, when there was doubt as to the construction of a will which emancipated a slave, "it must be construed to be subordinate to the higher and more important right of freedom."
No injustice can result to the master from an exercise of jurisdiction in this cause. Such a decision does not in any degree affect the merits of the case; it only enables the plaintiff to assert his claims to freedom before this tribunal. If the jurisdiction be ruled against him on the ground that he is a slave, it is decisive of his fate.
It has been argued that, if a colored person be made a citizen of a State, he cannot sue in the Federal court. The Constitution declares that Federal jurisdiction "may be exercised between citizens of different States," and the same is provided
in the act of 1789. The above argument is properly met by saying that the Constitution was intended to be a practical instrument, and where its language is too plain to be misunderstood, the argument ends.
In Chirae v. Chirae, 2 Wheat. 261, 4 Curtis 99, this court says: "That the power of naturalization is exclusively in Congress does not seem to be, and certainly ought not to be, controverted." No person can legally be made a citizen of a State, and consequently a citizen of the United States, of foreign birth, unless he be naturalized under the acts of Congress. Congress has power "to establish a uniform rule of naturalization."
It is a power which belongs exclusively to Congress, as intimately connected with our Federal relations. A State may authorize foreigners to hold real estate within its jurisdiction, but it has no power to naturalize foreigners, and give them the rights of citizens. Such a right is opposed to the acts of Congress on the subject of naturalization, and subversive of the Federal powers. I regret that any countenance should be given from this bench to a practice like this in some of the States, which has no warrant in the Constitution.
In the argument, it was said that a colored citizen would not be an agreeable member of society. This is more a matter of taste than of law. Several of the States have admitted persons of color to the right of suffrage, and, in this view, have recognised them as citizens, and this has been done in the slave as well as the free States. On the question of citizenship, it must be admitted that we have not been very fastidious. Under the late treaty with Mexico, we have made citizens of all grades, combinations, and colors. The same was done in the admission of Louisiana and Florida. No one ever doubted, and no court ever held that the people of these Territories did not become citizens under the treaty. They have exercised all the rights of citizens, without being naturalized under the acts of Congress.
There are several important principles involved in this case which have been argued, and which may be considered under the following heads:
1. The locality of slavery, as settled by this court and the courts of the States.
2. The relation which the Federal Government bears to slavery in the States.
3. The power of Congress to establish Territorial Governments and to prohibit the introduction of slavery therein.
4. The effect of taking slaves into a new State or Territory, and so holding them, where slavery is prohibited.
5. Whether the return of a slave under the control of his
master, after being entitled to his freedom, reduces him to his former condition.
6. Are the decisions of the Supreme Court of Missouri on the questions before us binding on this court within the rule adopted.
In the course of my judicial duties, I have had occasion to consider and decide several of the above points.
1. As to the locality of slavery. The civil law throughout the Continent of Europe, it is believed, without an exception, is that slavery can exist only within the territory where it is established, and that, if a slave escapes or is carried beyond such territory, his master cannot reclaim him, unless by virtue of some express stipulation. Grotius, lib. 2, chap. 15, 5, 1, lib. 10, chap. 10, 2, 1, Wicqueposts Ambassador, lib. 1, p. 418, 4 Martin 385, Case of the Creole in the House of Lords, 1842, 1 Phillimore on International Law 316, 335.
There is no nation in Europe which considers itself bound to return to his master a fugitive slave under the civil law or the law of nations. On the contrary, the slave is held to be free where there is no treaty obligation, or compact in some other form, to return him to his master. The Roman law did now allow freedom to be sold. An ambassador or any other public functionary could not take a slave to France, Spain, or any other country of Europe without emancipating him. A number of slaves escaped from a Florida plantation, and were received on board of ship by Admiral Cochrane; by the King's Bench, they were held to be free. 2 Barn. and Cres. 440.
In the great and leading case of Prigg v. The State of Pennsylvania, 16 Pet. 539, 14 Curtis 421, this court said that, by the general law of nations, no nation is bound to recognise the state of slavery, as found within its territorial dominions, where it is in opposition to its own policy and institutions, in favor of the subjects of other nations where slavery is organized. If it does it, it is as a matter of comity, and not as a matter of international right. The state of slavery is deemed to be a mere municipal regulation, founded upon and limited to the range of the territorial laws. This was fully recognised in Somersett's Case, Lafft's Rep. 1, 20 Howell's State Trials, 79, which was decided before the American Revolution.
There was some contrariety of opinion among the judges on certain points ruled in Prigg's Case, but there was none in regard to the great principle that slavery is limited to the range of the laws under which it is sanctioned.
No case in England appears to have been more thoroughly examined than that of Somersett. The judgment pronounced
by Lord Mansfield was the judgment of the Court of King's Bench. The cause was argued at great length, and with great ability, by Hargrave and others, who stood among the most eminent counsel in England. It was held under advisement from term to term, and a due sense of its importance was felt and expressed by the Bench.
In giving the opinion of the court, Lord Mansfield said:
"The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasion, and time itself from whence it was created is erased from the memory; it is of a nature that nothing can be suffered to support it but positive law."
He referred to the contrary opinion of Lord Hardwicke, in October, 1749, as Chancellor: "That he and Lord Talbot, when Attorney and Solicitor General, were of opinion that no such claim as here presented, for freedom, was valid."
The weight of this decision is sought to be impaired from the terms in which it was described by the exuberant imagination of Curran. The words of Lord Mansfield, in giving the opinion of the court, were such as were fit to be used by a great judge in a most important case. It is a sufficient answer to all objections to that judgment that it was pronounced before the Revolution, and that it was considered by this court as the highest authority. For near a century, the decision in Somersett's Case has remained the law of England. The Case of the Slave Grace, decided by Lord Stowell in 1827, does not, as has been supposed, overrule the judgment of Lord Mansfield. Lord Stowell held that, during the residence of the slave in England, "No dominion, authority, or coercion, can be exercised over him." Under another head, I shall have occasion to examine the opinion in the Case of Grace.
To the position that slavery can only exist except under the authority of law, it is objected that in few if in any instances has it been established by statutory enactment. This is no answer to the doctrine laid down by the court. Almost all the principles of the common law had their foundation in usage. Slavery was introduced into the colonies of this country by Great Britain at an early period of their history, and it was protected and cherished until it became incorporated into the colonial policy. It is immaterial whether a system of slavery was introduced by express law or otherwise, if it have the authority of law. There is no slave State where the institution is not recognised and protected by statutory enactments and judicial decisions. Slaves are made property by the laws of the slave States, and as such are liable to the claims of creditors;
they descend to heirs, are taxed, and, in the South, they are a subject of commerce.
In the case of Rankin v. Lydia, 2 A. K. Marshall's Rep., Judge Mills, speaking for the Court of Appeals of Kentucky, says:
"In deciding the question [of slavery], we disclaim the influence of the general principles of liberty which we all admire, and conceive it ought to be decided by the law as it is, and not as it ought to be. Slavery is sanctioned by the laws of this State, and the right to hold slaves under our municipal regulations is unquestionable. But we view this as a right existing by positive law of a municipal character, without foundation in the law of nature or the unwritten and common law."
I will now consider the relation which the Federal Government bears to slavery in the States:
Slavery is emphatically a State institution. In the ninth section of the first article of the Constitution, it is provided
"that the migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year 1808, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation not exceeding ten dollars for each person."
In the Convention, it was proposed by a committee of eleven to limit the importation of slaves to the year 1800, when Mr. Pinckney moved to extend the time to the year 1808. This motion was carried -- New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, voting in the affirmative, and New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, in the negative. In opposition to the motion, Mr. Madison said:
"Twenty years will produce all the mischief that can be apprehended from the liberty to import slaves, so long a term will be more dishonorable to the American character than to say nothing about it in the Constitution."
The provision in regard to the slave trade shows clearly that Congress considered slavery a State institution, to be continued and regulated by its individual sovereignty; and to conciliate that interest, the slave trade was continued twenty years not as a general measure, but for the "benefit of such States as shall think proper to encourage it."
In the case of Groves v. Slaughter, 15 Peters 499, 14 Curtis 137, Messrs. Clay and Webster contended that, under the commercial power, Congress had a right to regulate the slave trade among the several States, but the court held that Congress had no power to interfere with slavery as it exists in the States, or to regulate what is called the slave trade among
them. If this trade were subject to the commercial power, it would follow that Congress could abolish or establish slavery in every State of the Union.
The only connection which the Federal Government holds with slaves in a State arises from that provision of the Constitution which declares that
"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."
This being a fundamental law of the Federal Government, it rests mainly for its execution, as has been held, on the judicial power of the Union, and so far as the rendition of fugitives from labor has become a subject of judicial action, the Federal obligation has been faithfully discharged.
In the formation of the Federal Constitution, care was taken to confer no power on the Federal Government to interfere with this institution in the States. In the provision respecting the slave trade, in fixing the ratio of representation, and providing for the reclamation of fugitives from labor, slaves were referred to as persons, and in no other respect are they considered in the Constitution.
We need not refer to the mercenary spirit which introduced the infamous traffic in slaves to show the degradation of negro slavery in our country. This system was imposed upon our colonial settlements by the mother country, and it is due to truth to say that the commercial colonies and States were chiefly engaged in the traffic. But we know as a historical fact that James Madison, that great and good man, a leading member in the Federal Convention, was solicitous to guard the language of that instrument so as not to convey the idea that there could be property in man.
I prefer the lights of Madison, Hamilton, and Jay as a means of construing the Constitution in all its bearings, rather than to look behind that period into a traffic which is now declared to be piracy, and punished with death by Christian nations. I do not like to draw the sources of our domestic relations from so dark a ground. Our independence was a great epoch in the history of freedom, and while I admit the Government was not made especially for the colored race, yet many of them were citizens of the New England States, and exercised, the rights of suffrage when the Constitution was adopted, and it was not doubted by any intelligent person that its tendencies would greatly ameliorate their condition.
Many of the States, on the adoption of the Constitution, or
shortly afterward, took measures to abolish slavery within their respective jurisdictions, and it is a well known fact that a belief was cherished by the leading men, South as well as North, that the institution of slavery would gradually decline until it would become extinct. The increased value of slave labor, in the culture of cotton and sugar, prevented the realization of this expectation. Like all other communities and States, the South were influenced by what they considered to be their own interests.
But if we are to turn our attention to the dark ages of the world, why confine our view to colored slavery? On the same principles, white men were made slaves. All slavery has its origin in power, and is against right.
The power of Congress to establish Territorial Governments, and to prohibit the introduction of slavery therein, is the next point to be considered.
After the cession of western territory by Virginia and other States to the United States, the public attention was directed to the best mode of disposing of it for the general benefit. While in attendance on the Federal Convention, Mr. Madison, in a letter to Edmund Randolph dated the 22d April, 1787, says:
"Congress are deliberating on the plan most eligible for disposing of the western territory not yet surveyed. Some alteration will probably be made in the ordinance on that subject."
And in the same letter he says:
"The inhabitants of the Illinois complain of the land jobbers, &c., who are purchasing titles among them. Those of St. Vincent's complain of the defective criminal and civil justice among them, as well as of military protection."
And on the next day, he writes to Mr. Jefferson:
"The government of the settlements on the Illinois and Wabash is a subject very perplexing in itself, and rendered more so by our ignorance of the many circumstances on which a right judgment depends. The inhabitants at those places claim protection against the savages, and some provision for both civil and criminal justice."
In May, 1787, Mr. Edmund Randolph submitted to the Federal Convention certain propositions as the basis of a Federal Government, among which was the following:
"Resolved, That provision ought to be made for the admission of States lawfully arising within the limits of the United States, whether from a voluntary junction of government and territory or otherwise, with the consent of a number of voices in the National Legislature less than the whole."
Afterward, Mr. Madison submitted to the Convention, in order to be referred to the committee of detail, the following powers, as proper to be added to those of general legislation:
"To dispose of the unappropriated lands of the United States. To institute temporary Governments for new States arising therein. To regulate affairs with the Indians, as well within as without the limits of the United States."
Other propositions were made in reference to the same subjects, which it would be tedious to enumerate. Mr. Gouverneur Morris proposed the following:
"The Legislature shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States, and nothing in this Constitution contained shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims either of the United States or of any particular State."
This was adopted as a part of the Constitution, with two verbal alterations -- Congress was substituted for Legislature, and the word either was stricken out.
In the organization of the new Government, but little revenue for a series of years was expected from commerce. The public lands were considered as the principal resource of the country for the payment of the Revolutionary debt. Direct taxation was the means relied on to pay the current expenses of the Government. The short period that occurred between the cession of western lands to the Federal Government by Virginia and other States, and the adoption of the Constitution, was sufficient to show the necessity of a proper land system and a temporary Government. This was clearly seen by propositions and remarks in the Federal Convention, some of which are above cited, by the passage of the Ordinance of 1787, and the adoption of that instrument by Congress, under the Constitution, which gave to it validity.
It will be recollected that the deed of cession of western territory was made to the United States by Virginia in 1784, and that it required the territory ceded to be laid out into States that the land should be disposed of for the common benefit of the States, and that all right, title, and claim, as well of soil as of jurisdiction, were ceded, and this was the form of cession from other States.
On the 13th of July, the Ordinance of 1787 was passed, "for the government of the United States territory northwest of the river Ohio," with but one dissenting vote. This instrument provided there should be organized in the territory not less than three nor more than five States, designating their boundaries. It passed while the Federal Convention was in session, about two months before the Constitution was adopted by the Convention. The members of the Convention must therefore have been well acquainted with the provisions of the
Ordinance. It provided for a temporary Government, as initiatory to the formation of State Governments. Slavery was prohibited in the territory.
Can anyone suppose that the eminent men of the Federal Convention could have overlooked or neglected a matter so vitally important to the country in the organization of temporary Governments for the vast territory northwest of the river Ohio? In the 3d section of the 4th article of the Constitution, they did make provision for the admission of new States, the sale of the public lands, and the temporary Government of the territory. Without a temporary Government, new States could not have been formed, nor could the public lands have been sold.
If the third section were before us now for consideration for the first time, under the facts stated, I could not hesitate to say there was adequate legislative power given in it. The power to make all needful rules and regulations is a power to legislate. This no one will controvert, as Congress cannot make "rules and regulations," except by legislation. But it is argued that the word "territory" is used as synonymous with the word "land," and that the rules and regulations of Congress are limited to the disposition of lands and other property belonging to the United States. That this is not the true construction of the section appears from the fact that, in the first line of the section, "the power to dispose of the public lands" is given expressly, and, in addition, to make all needful rules and regulations. The power to dispose of is complete in itself, and requires nothing more. It authorizes Congress to use the proper means within its discretion, and any further provision for this purpose would be a useless verbiage. As a composition, the Constitution is remarkably free from such a charge.
In the discussion of the power of Congress to govern a Territory, in the case of the Atlantic Insurance Company v. Canter, 1 Peters 511, 7 Curtis 685, Chief Justice Marshall, speaking for the court, said, in regard to the people of Florida,
"they do not, however, participate in political power, they do not share in the Government till Florida shall become a State; in the meantime, Florida continues to be a Territory of the United States, governed by virtue of that clause in the Constitution which empowers Congress 'to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.'"
And he adds,
"perhaps the power of governing a Territory belonging to the United States, which has not, by becoming a State, acquired the means of self-government, may result
necessarily from the fact that it is not within the jurisdiction of any particular State, and is within the power and jurisdiction of the United States. The right to govern may be the inevitable consequence of the right to acquire territory, whichever may be the source whence the power is derived, the possession of it is unquestioned."
And, in the close of the opinion, the court says, "in legislating for them [the Territories], Congress exercises the combined powers of the General and State Governments."
Some consider the opinion to be loose and inconclusive, others that it is obiter dicta, and the last sentence is objected to as recognising absolute power in Congress over Territories. The learned and eloquent Wirt, who, in the argument of a cause before the court, had occasion to cite a few sentences from an opinion of the Chief Justice, observed, "no one can mistake the style, the words so completely match the thought."
I can see no want of precision in the language of the Chief Justice; his meaning cannot be mistaken. He states, first, the third section as giving power to Congress to govern the Territories, and two other grounds from which the power may also be implied. The objection seems to be that the Chief Justice did not say which of the grounds stated he considered the source of the power. He did not specifically state this, but he did say, "whichever may be the source whence the power is derived, the possession of it is unquestioned." No opinion of the court could have been expressed with a stronger emphasis; the power in Congress is unquestioned. But those who have undertaken to criticise the opinion consider it without authority because the Chief Justice did not designate specially the power. This is a singular objection. If the power be unquestioned, it can be a matter of no importance on which ground it is exercised.
The opinion clearly was not obiter dicta. The turning point in the case was whether Congress had power to authorize the Territorial Legislature of Florida to pass the law under which the Territorial court was established, whose decree was brought before this court for revision. The power of Congress, therefore, was the point in issue.
The word "territory," according to Worcester, "means land, country, a district of country under a temporary Government." The words "territory or other property," as used, do imply, from the use of the pronoun "other" that territory was used as descriptive of land, but does it follow that it was not used also as descriptive of a district of country? In both of these senses, it belonged to the United States -- as land for the purpose of sale, as territory for the purpose of government.
But if it be admitted that the word territory, as used, means land, and nothing but land, the power of Congress to organize a temporary Government is clear. It has power to make all needful regulations respecting the public lands, and the extent of those "needful regulations" depends upon the direction of Congress, where the means are appropriate to the end, and do not conflict with any of the prohibitions of the Constitution. If a temporary Government be deemed needful, necessary, requisite, or is wanted, Congress has power to establish it. This court says, in McCulloch v. The State of Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316,
"If a certain means to carry into effect any of the powers expressly given by the Constitution to the Government of the Union be an appropriate measure, not prohibited by the Constitution, the degree of its necessity is a question of legislative discretion, not of judicial cognizance."
The power to establish post offices and post roads gives power to Congress to make contracts for the transportation of the mail, and to punish all who commit depredations upon it in its transit or at its places of distribution. Congress has power to regulate commerce, and, in the exercise of its discretion, to lay an embargo, which suspends commerce; so, under the same power, harbors, lighthouses, breakwaters, &c., are constructed.
Did Chief Justice Marshall, in saying that Congress governed a Territory by exercising the combined powers of the Federal and State Governments, refer to unlimited discretion? A Government which can make white men slaves? Surely such a remark in the argument must have been inadvertently uttered. On the contrary, there is no power in the Constitution by which Congress can make either white or black men slaves. In organizing the Government of a Territory, Congress is limited to means appropriate to the attainment of the constitutional object. No powers can be exercised which are prohibited by the Constitution or which are contrary to its spirit, so that, whether the object may be the protection of the persons and property of purchasers of the public lands, or of communities who have been annexed to the Union by conquest or purchase, they are initiatory to the establishment of State Governments, and no more power can be claimed or exercised than is necessary to the attainment of the end. This is the limitation of all the Federal powers.
But Congress has no power to regulate the internal concerns of a State, as of a Territory; consequently, in providing for the Government of a Territory, to some extent the combined powers of the Federal and State Governments are necessarily exercised.
If Congress should deem slaves or free colored persons injurious to the population of a free Territory, as conducing to lessen the value of the public lands, or on any other ground connected with the public interest, they have the power to prohibit them from becoming settlers in it. This can be sustained on the ground of a sound national policy, which is so clearly shown in our history by practical results that it would seem no considerate individual can question it. And, as regards any unfairness of such a policy to our Southern brethren, as urged in the argument, it is only necessary to say that, with one-fourth of the Federal population of the Union, they have in the slave States a larger extent of fertile territory than is included in the free States, and it is submitted, if masters of slaves be restricted from bringing them into free territory, that the restriction on the free citizens of non-slaveholding States, by bringing slaves into free territory, is four times greater than that complained of by the South. But not only so; some three or four hundred thousand holders of slaves, by bringing them into free territory, impose a restriction on twenty millions of the free States. The repugnancy to slavery would probably prevent fifty or a hundred freemen from settling in a slave Territory, where one slaveholder would be prevented from settling in a free Territory.
This remark is made in answer to the argument urged that a prohibition of slavery in the free Territories is inconsistent with the continuance of the Union. Where a Territorial Government is established in a slave Territory, it has uniformly remained in that condition until the people form a State Constitution; the same course where the Territory is free, both parties acting in good faith, would be attended with satisfactory results.
The sovereignty of the Federal Government extends to the entire limits of our territory. Should any foreign power invade our jurisdiction, it would be repelled. There is a law of Congress to punish our citizens for crimes committed in districts of country where there is no organized Government. Criminals are brought to certain Territories or States, designated in the law, for punishment. Death has been inflicted in Arkansas and in Missouri on individuals, for murders committed beyond the limit of any organized Territory or State, and no one doubts that such a jurisdiction was rightfully exercised. If there be a right to acquire territory, there necessarily must be an implied power to govern it. When the military force of the Union shall conquer a country, may not Congress provide for the government of such country? This would be an implied power essential to the acquisition of new territory.
This power has been exercised, without doubt of its constitutionality, over territory acquired by conquest and purchase.
And when there is a large district of country within the United States, and not within any State Government, if it be necessary to establish a temporary Government to carry out a power expressly vested in Congress -- as the disposition of the public lands -- may not such Government be instituted by Congress? How do we read the Constitution? Is it not a practical instrument?
In such cases, no implication of a power can arise which is inhibited by the Constitution, or which may be against the theory of its construction. As my opinion rests on the third section, these remarks are made as an intimation that the power to establish a temporary Government may arise, also, on the other two grounds stated in the opinion of the court in the insurance case, without weakening the third section.
I would here simply remark that the Constitution was formed for our whole country. An expansion or contraction of our territory required no change in the fundamental law. When we consider the men who laid the foundation of our Government and carried it into operation, the men who occupied the bench, who filled the halls of legislation and the Chief Magistracy, it would seem, if any question could be settled clear of all doubt, it was the power of Congress to establish Territorial Governments. Slavery was prohibited in the entire Northwestern Territory, with the approbation of leading men, South and North, but this prohibition was not retained when this ordinance was adopted for the government of Southern Territories, where slavery existed. In a late republication of a letter of Mr. Madison, dated November 27, 1819, speaking of this power of Congress to prohibit slavery in a Territory, he infers there is no such power from the fact that it has not been exercised. This is not a very satisfactory argument against any power, as there are but few, if any, subjects on which the constitutional powers of Congress are exhausted. It is true, as Mr. Madison states that Congress, in the act to establish a Government in the Mississippi Territory, prohibited the importation of slaves into it from foreign parts, but it is equally true that, in the act erecting Louisiana into two Territories, Congress declared,
"it shall not be lawful for any person to bring into Orleans Territory, from any port or place within the limits of the United States, any slave which shall have been imported since 1798, or which may hereafter be imported, except by a citizen of the United States who settles in the Territory, under the penalty of the freedom of such slave."
The inference of Mr. Madison, therefore, against the power of
Congress, is of no force, as it was founded on a fact supposed, which did not exist.
It is refreshing to turn to the early incidents of our history and learn wisdom from the acts of the great men who have gone to their account. I refer to a report in the House of Representatives, by John Randolph, of Roanoke, as chairman of a committee, in March, 1803 -- fifty-four years ago. From the Convention held at Vincennes, in Indiana, by their President, and from the people of the Territory, a petition was presented to Congress praying the suspension of the provision which prohibited slavery in that Territory. The report stated
"that the rapid population of the State of Ohio sufficiently evinces, in the opinion of your committee, that the labor of slaves is not necessary to promote the growth and settlement of colonies in that region. That this labor, demonstrably the dearest of any, can only be employed to advantage in the cultivation of products more valuable than any known to that quarter of the United States; that the committee deem it highly dangerous and inexpedient to impair a provision wisely calculated to promote the happiness and prosperity of the Northwestern country, and to give strength and security to that extensive frontier. In the salutary operation of this sagacious and benevolent restraint, it is believed that the inhabitants will, at no very distant day, find ample remuneration for a temporary privation of labor and of emigration."
1 vol. State Papers, Public Lands 160.
The judicial mind of this country, State and Federal, has agreed on no subject within its legitimate action with equal unanimity as on the power of Congress to establish Territorial Governments. No court, State or Federal, no judge or statesman, is known to have had any doubts on this question for nearly sixty years after the power was exercised. Such Governments have been established from the sources of the Ohio to the Gulf of Mexico, extending to the Lakes on the north and the Pacific Ocean on the west, and from the lines of Georgia to Texas.
Great interests have grown up under the Territorial laws over a country more than five times greater in extent than the original thirteen States, and these interests, corporate or otherwise, have been cherished and consolidated by a benign policy without anyone supposing the law-making power had united with the Judiciary, under the universal sanction of the whole country, to usurp a jurisdiction which did not belong to them. Such a discovery at this late date is more extraordinary than anything which has occurred in the judicial history of this or any other country. Texas, under a previous organization,
was admitted as a State, but no State can be admitted into the Union which has not been organized under some form of government. Without temporary Governments, our public lands could not have been sold, nor our wildernesses reduced to cultivation and the population protected, nor could our flourishing States, West and South, have been formed.
What do the lessons of wisdom and experience teach under such circumstances if the new light, which has so suddenly and unexpectedly burst upon us, be true? Acquiescence; acquiescence under a settled construction of the Constitution for sixty years, though it may be erroneous, which has secured to the country an advancement and prosperity beyond the power of computation.
An act of James Madison, when President, forcibly illustrates this policy. He had made up his opinion that Congress had no power under the Constitution to establish a National Bank. In 1815, Congress passed a bill to establish a bank. He vetoed the bill on objections other than constitutional. In his message, he speaks as a wise statesman and Chief Magistrate, as follows:
"Waiving the question of the constitutional authority of the Legislature to establish an incorporated bank as being precluded, in my judgment, by the repeated recognitions under varied circumstances of the validity of such an institution in acts of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of the Government, accompanied by indications, in different modes, of a concurrence of the general will of the nation."
Has this impressive lesson of practical wisdom become lost to the present generation?
If the great and fundamental principles of our Government are never to be settled, there can be no lasting prosperity. The Constitution will become a floating waif on the billows of popular excitement.
The prohibition of slavery north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes, and of the State of Missouri, contained in the act admitting that State into the Union, was passed by a vote of 134 in the House of Representatives to 42. Before Mr. Monroe signed the act, it was submitted by him to his Cabinet, and they held the restriction of slavery in a Territory to be within the constitutional powers of Congress. It would be singular if, in 1804, Congress had power to prohibit the introduction of slaves in Orleans Territory from any other part of the Union, under the penalty of freedom to the slave, if the same power, embodied in the Missouri Compromise, could not be exercised in 1820.
But this law of Congress, which prohibits slavery north of
Missouri and of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes, is declared to have been null and void by my brethren. And this opinion is founded mainly, as I understand, on the distinction drawn between the Ordinance of 1787 and the Missouri Compromise line. In what does the distinction consist? The ordinance, it is said, was a compact entered into by the confederated States before the adoption of the Constitution, and that, in the cession of territory, authority was given to establish a Territorial Government.
It is clear that the ordinance did not go into operation by virtue of the authority of the Confederation, but by reason of its modification and adoption by Congress under the Constitution. It seems to be supposed in the opinion of the Court that the articles of cession placed it on a different footing from territories subsequently acquired. I am unable to perceive the force of this distinction. That the ordinance was intended for the government of the Northwestern Territory, and was limited to such Territory, is admitted. It was extended to Southern Territories, with modifications, by acts of Congress, and to some Northern Territories. But the ordinance was made valid by the act of Congress, and, without such act, could have been of no force. It rested for its validity on the act of Congress, the same, in my opinion, as the Missouri Compromise line.
If Congress may establish a Territorial Government in the exercise of its discretion, it is a clear principle that a court cannot control that discretion. This being the case, I do not see on what ground the act is held to be void. It did not purport to forfeit property, or take it for public purposes. It only prohibited slavery, in doing which it followed the Ordinance of 1787.
I will now consider the fourth head, which is: "The effect of taking slaves into a State or Territory, and so holding them where slavery is prohibited."
If the principle laid down in the case of Prigg v. The State of Pennsylvania is to be maintained, and it is certainly to be maintained until overruled, as the law of this Court, there can be no difficulty on this point. In that case, the court says: "The state of slavery is deemed to be a mere municipal regulation, founded upon and limited to the range of the territorial laws." If this be so, slavery can exist nowhere except under the authority of law, founded on usage having the force of law, or by statutory recognition. And the court further says:
"It is manifest from this consideration that, if the Constitution had not contained the clause requiring the rendition of fugitives from labor, every non-slaveholding State in the Union would have been at liberty to have declared free all runaway slaves
coming within its limits, and to have given them entire immunity and protection against the claims of their masters."
Now if a slave abscond, he may be reclaimed, but if he accompany his master into a State or Territory where slavery is prohibited, such slave cannot be said to have left the service of his master where his services were legalized. And if slavery be limited to the range of the territorial laws, how can the slave be coerced to serve in a State or Territory not only without the authority of law, but against its express provisions? What gives the master the right to control the will of his slave? The local law, which exists in some form. But where there is no such law, can the master control the will of the slave by force? Where no slavery exists, the presumption, without regard to color, is in favor of freedom. Under such a jurisdiction, may the colored man be levied on as the property of his master by a creditor? On the decease of the master, does the slave descend to his heirs as property? Can the master sell him? Any one or all of these acts may be done to the slave where he is legally held to service. But where the law does not confer this power, it cannot be exercised.
Lord Mansfield held that a slave brought into England was free. Lord Stowell agreed with Lord Mansfield in this respect, and that the slave could not be coerced in England, but on her voluntary return to Antigua, the place of her slave domicil, her former status attached. The law of England did not prohibit slavery, but did not authorize it. The jurisdiction which prohibits slavery is much stronger in behalf of the slave within it than where it only does not authorize it.
By virtue of what law is it that a master may take his slave into free territory and exact from him the duties of a slave? The law of the Territory does not sanction it. No authority can be claimed under the Constitution of the United States, or any law of Congress. Will it be said that the slave is taken as property, the same as other property which the master may own? To this I answer that colored persons are made property by the law of the State, and no such power has been given to Congress. Does the master carry with him the law of the State from which he removes into the Territory?, and does that enable him to coerce his slave in the Territory? Let us test this theory. If this may be done by a master from one slave State, it may be done by a master from every other slave State. This right is supposed to be connected with the person of the master, by virtue of the local law. Is it transferable? May it be negotiated, as a promissory note or bill of exchange? If it be assigned to a man from a free State, may he coerce the slave by virtue of it? What shall this thing be
denominated? Is it personal or real property? Or is it an indefinable fragment of sovereignty which every person carries with him from his late domicil? One thing is certain -- that its origin has been very recent, and it is unknown to the laws of any civilized country.
A slave is brought to England from one of its islands, where slavery was introduced and maintained by the mother country. Although there is no law prohibiting slavery in England, yet there is no law authorizing it, and for near a century, its courts have declared that the slave there is free from the coercion of the master. Lords Mansfield and Stowell agree upon this point, and there is no dissenting authority.
There is no other description of property which was not protected in England, brought from one of its slave islands. Does not this show that property in a human being does not arise from nature or from the common law, but, in the language of this court, "it is a mere municipal regulation, founded upon and limited to the range of the territorial laws?" This decision is not a mere argument, but it is the end of the law, in regard to the extent of slavery. Until it shall be overturned, it is not a point for argument, it is obligatory on myself and my brethren, and on all judicial tribunals over which this court exercises an appellate power.
It is said the Territories are common property of the States, and that every man has a right to go there with his property. This is not controverted. But the court says a slave is not property beyond the operation of the local law which makes him such. Never was a truth more authoritatively and justly uttered by man. Suppose a master of a slave in a British island owned a million of property in England, would that authorize him to take his slaves with him to England? The Constitution, in express terms, recognises the status of slavery as founded on the municipal law: "No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall," &c. Now unless the fugitive escape from a place where, by the municipal law, he is held to labor, this provision affords no remedy to the master. What can be more conclusive than this? Suppose a slave escape from a Territory where slavery is not authorized by law, can he be reclaimed?
In this case, a majority of the court have said that a slave may be taken by his master into a Territory of the United States the same as a horse, or any other kind of property. It is true this was said by the court, as also many other things which are of no authority. Nothing that has been said by them, which has not a direct bearing on the jurisdiction of the court, against which they decided, can be considered as
authority. I shall certainly not regard it as such. The question of jurisdiction, being before the court, was decided by them authoritatively, but nothing beyond that question. A slave is not a mere chattel. He bears the impress of his Maker, and is amenable to the laws of God and man, and he is destined to an endless existence.
Under this head I shall chiefly rely on the decisions of the Supreme Courts of the Southern States, and especially of the State of Missouri.
In the first and second sections of the sixth article of the Constitution of Illinois, it is declared that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall hereafter be introduced into this State otherwise than for the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, and in the second section it is declared that any violation of this article shall effect the emancipation of such person from his obligation to service. In Illinois, a right of transit through the State is given the master with his slaves. This is a matter which, as I suppose, belongs exclusively to the State.
The Supreme Court of Illinois, in the case of Jarrot v. Jarrot, 2 Gilmer 7, said:
"After the conquest of this Territory by Virginia, she ceded it to the United States and stipulated that the titles and possessions, rights and liberties of the French settlers should be guarantied to them. This, it has been contended, secured them in the possession of those negroes as slaves which they held before that time, and that neither Congress nor the Convention had power to deprive them of it, or, in other words, that the ordinance and Constitution should not be so interpreted and understood as applying to such slaves when it is therein declared that there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the Northwest Territory, nor in the State of Illinois, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes. But it was held that those rights could not be thus protected, but must yield to the ordinance and Constitution."
The first slave case decided by the Supreme Court of Missouri contained in the reports was Winny v. Whitesides, 1 Missouri Rep. 473, at October term, 1824. It appeared that, more than twenty-five years before, the defendant, with her husband, had removed from Carolina to Illinois, and brought with them the plaintiff; that they continued to reside in Illinois three or four years, retaining the plaintiff as a slave, after which, they removed to Missouri, taking her with them.
The court held that if a slave be detained in Illinois until he be entitled to freedom, the right of the owner does not revive when he finds the negro in a slave State.
That when a slave is taken to Illinois by his owner, who takes up his residence there, the slave is entitled to freedom.
In the case of Lagrange v. Chouteau, 2 Missouri Rep. 20, at May Term, 1828, it was decided that the Ordinance of 1787 was intended as a fundamental law for those who may choose to live under it, rather than as a penal statute.
That any sort of residence contrived or permitted by the legal owner of the slave, upon the faith of secret trusts or contracts, in order to defeat or evade the ordinance, and thereby introduce slavery de facto, would entitle such slave to freedom.
In Julia v. McKinney, 3 Missouri Rep. 279, it was held, where a slave was settled in the State of Illinois, but with an intention on the part of the owner to be removed at some future day, that hiring said slave to a person to labor for one or two days, and receiving the pay for the hire, the slave is entitled to her freedom, under the second section of the sixth article of the Constitution of Illinois.
Rachel v. Walker, 4 Missouri Rep. 350, June Term, 1836, is a case involving, in every particular, the principles of the case before us. Rachel sued for her freedom, and it appeared that she had been bought as a slave in Missouri by Stockton, an officer of the army, taken to Fort Snelling, where he was stationed, and she was retained there as a slave a year, and then Stockton removed to Prairie du Chien, taking Rachel with him as a slave, where he continued to hold her three years, and then he took her to the State of Missouri, and sold her as a slave.
"Fort Snelling was admitted to be on the west side of the Mississippi river, and north of the State of Missouri, in the territory of the United States. That Prairie du Chien was in the Michigan Territory, on the east side of the Mississippi river. Walker, the defendant, held Rachel under Stockton."
The court said, in this case:
"The officer lived in Missouri Territory, at the time he bought the slave; he sent to a slaveholding country and procured her; this was his voluntary act, done without any other reason than that of his convenience, and he and those claiming under him must be holden to abide the consequences of introducing slavery both in Missouri Territory and Michigan, contrary to law; and on that ground Rachel was declared to be entitled to freedom."
In answer to the argument that, as an officer of the army, the master had a right to take his slave into free territory, the court said no authority of law or the Government compelled him to keep the plaintiff there as a slave.
"Shall it be said that, because an officer of the army owns
slaves in Virginia, that when, as officer and soldier, he is required to take the command of a fort in the non-slaveholding States or Territories, he thereby has a right to take with him as many slaves as will suit his interests or convenience? It surely cannot be law. If this be true, the court say, then it is also true that the convenience or supposed convenience of the officer repeals, as to him and others who have the same character, the ordinance and the act of 1821 admitting Missouri into the Union, and also the prohibition of the several laws and Constitutions of the non-slaveholding States."
In Wilson v. Melvin, 4 Missouri R. 592, it appeared the defendant left Tennessee with an intention of residing in Illinois, taking his negroes with him. After a month's stay in Illinois, he took his negroes to St. Louis, and hired them, then returned to Illinois. On these facts, the inferior court instructed the jury that the defendant was a sojourner in Illinois. This the Supreme Court held was error, and the judgment was reversed.
The case of Dred Scott v. Emerson, 15 Missouri R. 682, March Term, 1852, will now be stated. This case involved the identical question before us, Emerson having, since the hearing, sold the plaintiff to Sandford, the defendant.
Two of the judges ruled the case, the Chief Justice dissenting. It cannot be improper to state the grounds of the opinion of the court and of the dissent.
The court say:
"Cases of this kind are not strangers in our court. Persons have been frequently here adjudged to be entitled to their freedom on the ground that their masters held them in slavery in Territories or States in which that institution is prohibited. From the first case decided in our court, it might be inferred that this result was brought about by a presumed assent of the master, from the fact of having voluntarily taken his slave to a place where the relation of master and slave did not exist. But subsequent cases base the right to 'exact the forfeiture of emancipation,' as they term it, on the ground, it would seem, that it was the duty of the courts of this State to carry into effect the Constitution and laws of other States and Territories, regardless of the rights, the policy, or the institutions, of the people of this State."
And the court say that the States of the Union, in their municipal concerns, are regarded as foreign to each other; that the courts of one State do not take notice of the laws of other States, unless proved as facts; and that every State has the right to determine how far its comity to other States shall extend; and it is laid down that when there is no act of manumission decreed to the free State, the courts of the slave States
cannot be called to give effect to the law of the free State. Comity, it alleges, between States depends upon the discretion of both, which may be varied by circumstances. And it is declared by the court "that times are not as they were when the former decisions on this subject were made." Since then, not only individuals but States have been possession with a dark and fell spirit in relation to slavery, whose gratification is sought in the pursuit of measures whose inevitable consequence must be the overthrow and destruction of our Government. Under such circumstances, it does not behoove the State of Missouri to show the least countenance to any measure which might gratify this spirit. She is willing to assume her full responsibility for the existence of slavery within her limits, nor does she seek to share or divide it with others.
Chief Justice Gamble dissented from the other two judges. He says:
"In every slaveholding State in the Union, the subject of emancipation is regulated by statute, and the forms are prescribed in which it shall be effected. Whenever the forms required by the laws of the State in which the master and slave are resident are complied with, the emancipation is complete, and the slave is free. If the right of the person thus emancipated is subsequently drawn in question in another State, it will be ascertained and determined by the law of the State in which the slave and his former master resided, and when it appears that such law has been complied with, the right to freedom will be fully sustained in the courts of all the slaveholding States, although the act of emancipation may not be in the form required by law in which the court sits."
"In all such cases, courts continually administer the law of the country where the right was acquired, and when that law becomes known to the court, it is just as much a matter of course to decide the rights of the parties according to its requirements as it is to settle the title of real estate situated in our State by its own laws."
This appears to me a most satisfactory answer to the argument of the court. Chief Justice continues:
"The perfect equality of the different States lies at the foundation of the Union. As the institution of slavery in the States is one over which the Constitution of the United States gives no power to the General Government, it is left to be adopted or rejected by the several States, as they think best, nor can any one State, or number of States, claim the right to interfere with any other State upon the question of admitting or excluding this institution."
"A citizen of Missouri who removes with his slave to Illinois
has no right to complain that the fundamental law of that State to which he removes, and in which he makes his residence, dissolves the relation between him and his slave. It is as much his own voluntary act as if he had executed a deed of emancipation. No one can pretend ignorance of this constitutional provision, and,"
"the decisions which have heretofore been made in this State and in many other slaveholding States give effect to this and other similar provisions on the ground that the master, by making the free State the residence of his slave, has submitted his right to the operation of the law of such State, and this,"
he says, "is the same in law as a regular deed of emancipation."
"I regard the question as conclusively settled by repeated adjudications of this court, and if I doubted or denied the propriety of those decisions, I would not feel myself any more at liberty to overturn them than I would any other series of decisions by which the law of any other question was settled. There is with me,"
"nothing in the law relating to slavery which distinguishes it from the law on any other subject or allows any more accommodation to the temporary public excitements which are gathered around it."
"In this State," he says,
"it has been recognised from the beginning of the Government as a correct position in law that a master who takes his slave to reside in a State or Territory where slavery is prohibited thereby emancipates his slave."
These decisions, which come down to the year 1837, seemed to have so fully settled the question that, since that time, there has been no case bringing it before the court for any reconsideration until the present. In the case of Winny v. Whitesides, the question was made in the argument "whether one nation would execute the penal laws of another," and the court replied in this language, Huberus, quoted in 4 Dallas, which says,
"personal rights or disabilities obtained or communicated by the laws of any particular place are of a nature which accompany the person wherever he goes,"
and the Chief Justice observed, in the case of Rachel v. Walker, the act of Congress called the Missouri Compromise was held as operative as the Ordinance of 1787.
When Dred Scott, his wife and children, were removed from Fort Snelling to Missouri in 1838, they were free, as the law was then settled, and continued for fourteen years afterwards, up to 1852, when the above decision was made. Prior to this, for nearly thirty years, as Chief Justice Gamble declares, the residence of a master with his slave in the State of Illinois, or in the Territory north of Missouri, where slavery was prohibited
by the act called the Missouri Compromise, would manumit the slave as effectually as if he had executed a deed of emancipation, and that an officer of the army who takes his slave into that State or Territory and holds him there as a slave liberates him the same as any other citizen -- and, down to the above time, it was settled by numerous and uniform decisions; and that, on the return of the slave to Missouri, his former condition of slavery did not attach. Such was the settled law of Missouri until the decision of Scott and Emerson.
In the case of Sylvia v. Kirby, 17 Misso.Rep. 434, the court followed the above decision, observing it was similar in all respects to the case of Scott and Emerson.
This court follows the established construction of the statutes of a State by its Supreme Court. Such a construction is considered as a part of the statute, and we follow it to avoid two rules of property in the same State. But we do not follow the decisions of the Supreme Court of a State beyond a statutory construction as a rule of decision for this court. State decisions are always viewed with respect and treated as authority, but we follow the settled construction of the statutes not because it is of binding authority, but in pursuance of a rule of judicial policy.
But there is no pretence that the case of Dred Scott v. Emerson turned upon the construction of a Missouri statute, nor was there any established rule of property which could have rightfully influenced the decision. On the contrary, the decision overruled the settled law for near thirty years.
This is said by my brethren to be a Missouri question, but there is nothing which gives it this character except that it involves the right to persons claimed as slaves who reside in Missouri, and the decision was made by the Supreme Court of that State. It involves a right claimed under an act of Congress and the Constitution of Illinois, and which cannot be decided without the consideration and construction of those laws. But the Supreme Court of Missouri held, in this case that it will not regard either of those laws, without which there was no case before it, and Dred Scott, having been a slave, remains a slave. In this respect, it is admitted this is a Missouri question -- a case which has but one side if the act of Congress and the Constitution of Illinois are not recognised.
And does such a case constitute a rule of decision for this court -- a case to be followed by this court? The course of decision so long and so uniformly maintained established a comity or law between Missouri and the free States and Territories where slavery was prohibited, which must be somewhat regarded in this case. Rights sanctioned for twenty-eight years
ought not and cannot be repudiated, with any semblance of justice, by one or two decisions, influenced, as declared, by a determination to counteract the excitement against slavery in the free States.
The courts of Louisiana having held for a series of years that, where a master took his slave to France, or any free State, he was entitled to freedom, and that, on bringing him back, the status of slavery did not attach, the Legislature of Louisiana declared by an act that the slave should not be made free under such circumstances. This regulated the rights of the master from the time the act took effect. But the decision of the Missouri court, reversing a former decision, affects all previous decisions, technically, made on the same principles, unless such decisions are protected by the lapse of time or the statute of limitations. Dred Scott and his family, beyond all controversy, were free under the decisions made for twenty-eight years, before the case of Scott v. Emerson. This was the undoubted law of Missouri for fourteen years after Scott and his family were brought back to that State. And the grave question arises whether this law may be so disregarded as to enslave free persons. I am strongly inclined to think that a rule of decision so well settled as not to be questioned cannot be annulled by a single decision of the court. Such rights may be inoperative under the decision in future, but I cannot well perceive how it can have the same effect in prior cases.
It is admitted that, when a former decision is reversed, the technical effect of the judgment is to make all previous adjudications on the same question erroneous. But the case before us was not that the law had been erroneously construed, but that, under the circumstances which then existed, that law would not be recognised, and the reason for this is declared to be the excitement against the institution of slavery in the free States. While I lament this excitement as much as anyone, I cannot assent that it shall be made a basis of judicial action.
In 1816, the common law, by statute, was made a part of the law of Missouri, and that includes the great principles of international law. These principles cannot be abrogated by judicial decisions. It will require the same exercise of power to abolish the common law as to introduce it. International law is founded in the opinions generally received and acted on by civilized nations, and enforced by moral sanctions. It becomes a more authoritative system when it results from special compacts, founded on modified rules, adapted to the exigencies of human society; it is, in fact, an international morality, adapted to the best interests of nations. And in regard to the States
of this Union, on the subject of slavery, it is eminently fitted for a rule of action subject to the Federal Constitution. "The laws of nations are but the natural rights of man applied to nations." Vattel.
If the common law have the force of a statutory enactment in Missouri, it is clear, as it seems to me, that a slave who, by a residence in Illinois in the service of his master, becomes entitled to his freedom, cannot again be reduced to slavery by returning to his former domicil in a slave State. It is unnecessary to say what legislative power might do by a general act in such a case, but it would be singular if a freeman could be made a slave by the exercise of a judicial discretion. And it would be still more extraordinary if this could be done not only in the absence of special legislation, but in a State where the common law is in force.
It is supposed by some that the third article in the treaty of cession of Louisiana to this country by France in 1803 may have some bearing on this question. The article referred to provides
"that the inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated into the Union, and enjoy all the advantages of citizens of the United States, and in the meantime they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and the religion they profess."
As slavery existed in Louisiana at the time of the cession, it is supposed this is a guaranty that there should be no change in its condition.
The answer to this is, in the first place, that such a subject does not belong to the treaty-making power, and any such arrangement would have been nugatory. And, in the second place, by no admissible construction can the guaranty be carried further than the protection of property in slaves at that time in the ceded territory. And this has been complied with. The organization of the slave States of Louisiana, Missouri, and Arkansas embraced every slave in Louisiana at the time of the cession. This removes every ground of objection under the treaty. There is therefore no pretence growing out of the treaty that any part of the territory of Louisiana, as ceded, beyond the organized States, is slave territory.
Under the fifth head, we were to consider whether the status of slavery attached to the plaintiff and wife on their return to Missouri.
This doctrine is not asserted in the late opinion of the Supreme Court of Missouri, and, up to 1852, the contrary doctrine was uniformly maintained by that court.
In its late decision, the court say that it will not give effect in Missouri to the laws of Illinois, or the law of Congress
called the Missouri Compromise. This was the effect of the decision, though its terms were that the court would not take notice, judicially, of those laws.
In 1851, the Court of Appeals of South Carolina recognised the principle that a slave, being taken to a free State, became free. Commonwealth v. Pleasants, 10 Leigh Rep. 697. In Betty v. Horton, the Court of Appeals held that the freedom of the slave was acquired by the action of the laws of Massachusetts by the said slave's being taken there. 5 Leigh Rep. 615.
The slave States have generally adopted the rule that, where the master, by a residence with his slave in a State or Territory where slavery is prohibited, the slave was entitled to his freedom everywhere. This was the settled doctrine of the Supreme Court of Missouri. It has been so held in Mississippi, in Virginia, in Louisiana, formerly in Kentucky, Maryland, and in other States.
The law where a contract is made and is to be executed governs it. This does not depend upon comity, but upon the law of the contract. And if, in the language of the Supreme Court of Missouri, the master, by taking his slave to Illinois and employing him there as a slave, emancipates him as effectually as by a deed of emancipation, is it possible that such an act is not matter for adjudication in any slave State where the master may take him? Does not the master assent to the law when he places himself under it in a free State?
The States of Missouri and Illinois are bounded by a common line. The one prohibits slavery; the other admits it. This has been done by the exercise of that sovereign power which appertains to each. We are bound to respect the institutions of each, as emanating from the voluntary action of the people. Have the people of either any right to disturb the relations of the other? Each State rests upon the basis of its own sovereignty, protected by the Constitution. Our Union has been the foundation of our prosperity and national glory. Shall we not cherish and maintain it? This can only be done by respecting the legal rights of each State.
If a citizen of a free State shall entice or enable a slave to escape from the service of his master, the law holds him responsible not only for the loss of the slave, but he is liable to be indicted and fined for the misdemeanor. And I am bound here to say that I have never found a jury in the four States which constitute my circuit which have not sustained this law where the evidence required them to sustain it. And it is proper that I should also say that more cases have arisen in my circuit, by reason of its extent and locality, than in all
other parts of the Union. This has been done to vindicate the sovereign rights of the Southern States and protect the legal interests of our brethren of the South.
Let these facts be contrasted with the case now before the court. Illinois has declared in the most solemn and impressive form that there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in that State, and that any slave brought into it with a view of becoming a resident shall be emancipated. And effect has been given to this provision of the Constitution by the decision of the Supreme Court of that State. With a full knowledge of these facts, a slave is brought from Missouri to Rock Island, in the State of Illinois, and is retained there as a slave for two years, and then taken to Fort Snelling, where slavery is prohibited by the Missouri Compromise Act, and there he is detained two years longer in a state of slavery. Harriet, his wife, was also kept at the same place four years as a slave, having been purchased in Missouri. They were then removed to the State of Missouri, and sold as slaves, and, in the action before us, they are not only claimed as slaves, but a majority of my brethren have held that, on their being returned to Missouri, the status of slavery attached to them.
I am not able to reconcile this result with the respect due to the State of Illinois. Having the same rights of sovereignty as the State of Missouri in adopting a Constitution, I can perceive no reason why the institutions of Illinois should not receive the same consideration as those of Missouri. Allowing to my brethren the same right of judgment that I exercise myself, I must be permitted to say that it seems to me the principle laid down will enable the people of a slave State to introduce slavery into a free State, for a longer or shorter time, as may suit their convenience, and by returning the slave to the State whence he was brought, by force or otherwise, the status of slavery attaches, and protects the rights of the master, and defies the sovereignty of the free State. There is no evidence before us that Dred Scott and his family returned to Missouri voluntarily. The contrary is inferable from the agreed case:
"In the year 1838, Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff and said Harriet, and their daughter Eliza, from Fort Snelling to the State of Missouri, where they have ever since resided."
This is the agreed case, and can it be inferred from this that Scott and family returned to Missouri voluntarily? He was "removed," which shows that he was passive, as a slave, having exercised no volition on the subject. He did not resist the master by absconding or force. But that was not sufficient to bring him within Lord Stowell's decision; he must have acted voluntarily. It would be a
mockery of law and an outrage on his rights to coerce his return and then claim that it was voluntary, and, on that ground, that his former status of slavery attached.
If the decision be placed on this ground, it is a fact for a jury to decide whether the return was voluntary, or else the fact should be distinctly admitted. A presumption against the plaintiff in this respect, I say with confidence, is not authorized from the facts admitted.
In coming to the conclusion that a voluntary return by Grace to her former domicil, slavery attached, Lord Stowell took great pains to show that England forced slavery upon her colonies, and that it was maintained by numerous acts of Parliament and public policy, and, in short, that the system of slavery was not only established by Great Britain in her West Indian colonies, but that it was popular and profitable to many of the wealthy and influential people of England who were engaged in trade, or owned and cultivated plantations in the colonies. No one can read his elaborate views and not be struck with the great difference between England and her colonies and the free and slave States of this Union. While slavery in the colonies of England is subject to the power of the mother country, our States, especially in regard to slavery, are independent, resting upon their own sovereignties and subject only to international laws, which apply to independent States.
In the case of Williams, who was a slave in Granada, having run away, came to England, Lord Stowell said:
"The four judges all concur in this -- that he was a slave in Granada, though a free man in England, and he would have continued a free man in all other parts of the world except Granada."
Strader v. Graham, 10 Howard 82 and 18 Curtis 305, has been cited as having a direct bearing in the case before us. In that case, the court say:
"It was exclusively in the power of Kentucky to determine for itself whether the employment of slaves in another State should or should not make them free on their return."
No question was before the court in that case except that of jurisdiction. And any opinion given on any other point is obiter dictum, and of no authority. In the conclusion of his opinion, the Chief Justice said: "In every view of the subject, therefore, this court has no jurisdiction of the case, and the writ of error must on that ground be dismissed."
In the case of Spencer v. Negro Dennis, 8 Gill's Rep. 321, the court say:
"Once free, and always free, is the maxim of Maryland law upon the subject. Freedom having once vested, by no compact between the master and the the liberated slave,
nor by any condition subsequent attached by the master to the gift of freedom can a state of slavery be reproduced."
In Hunter v. Bulcher, 1 Leigh 172:
"By a statute of Maryland of 1796, all slaves brought into that State to reside are declared free; a Virginian-born slave is carried by his master to Maryland; the master settled there, and keeps the slave there in bondage for twelve years; the statute in force all the time; then he brings him as a slave to Virginia, and sells him there. Adjudged, in an action brought by the man against the purchaser, that he is free."
Judge Kerr, in the case, says:
"Agreeing, as I do, with the general view taken in this case by my brother Green, I would not add a word but to mark the exact extent to which I mean to go. The law of Maryland having enacted that slaves carried into that State for sale or to reside shall be free, and the owner of the slave here having carried him to Maryland, and voluntarily submitting himself and the slave to that law, it governs the case."
In every decision of a slave case prior to that of Dred Scott v. Emerson, the Supreme Court of Missouri considered it as turning upon the Constitution of Illinois, the Ordinance of 1787, or the Missouri Compromise Act of 1820. The court treated these acts as in force, and held itself bound to execute them by declaring the slave to be free who had acquired a domicil under them with the consent of his master.
The late decision reversed this whole line of adjudication, and held that neither the Constitution and laws of the States nor acts of Congress in relation to Territories could be judicially noticed by the Supreme Court of Missouri. This is believed to be in conflict with the decisions of all the courts in the Southern States, with some exceptions of recent cases.
In Marie Louise v. Morat et al., 9 Louisiana Rep. 475, it was held, where a slave having been taken to the kingdom of France or other country by the owner, where slavery is not tolerated, operates on the condition of the slave, and produces immediate emancipation, and that, where a slave thus becomes free, the master cannot reduce him again to slavery.
Josephine v. Poultney, Louisiana Annual Rep. 329,
"where the owner removes with a slave into a State in which slavery is prohibited, with the intention of residing there, the slave will be thereby emancipated, and their subsequent return to the State of Louisiana cannot restore the relation of master and slave."
To the same import are the cases of Smith v. Smith, 13 Louisiana Rep. 441, Thomas v. Generis, Louisiana Rep. 483, Harry et al. v. Decker and Hopkins, Walker's Mississippi Rep. 36. It was held that
"slaves within the jurisdiction
of the Northwestern Territory became freemen by virtue of the Ordinance of 1787, and can assert their claim to freedom in the courts of Mississippi."
Griffith v. Fanny, 1 Virginia Rep. 143. It was decided that a negro held in servitude in Ohio, under a deed executed in Virginia, is entitled to freedom by the Constitution of Ohio.
The case of Rhodes v. Bell, 2 How. 397, 15 Curtis 152, involved the main principle in the case before us. A person residing in Washington city purchased a slave in Alexandria, and brought him to Washington. Washington continued under the law of Maryland, Alexandria under the law of Virginia. The act of Maryland of November, 1796, 2 Maxcy's Laws 351, declared anyone who shall bring any negro, mulatto, or other slave, into Maryland, such slave should be free. The above slave, by reason of his being brought into Washington city, was declared by this court to be free. This, it appears to me, is a much stronger case against the slave than the facts in the case of Scott.
In Bush v. White, 3 Monroe 104, the court say:
"That the ordinance was paramount to the Territorial laws, and restrained the legislative power there as effectually as a Constitution in an organized State. It was a public act of the Legislature of the Union, and a part of the supreme law of the land, and, as such, this court is as much bound to take notice of it as it can be of any other law."
In the case of Rankin v. Lydia, before cited, Judge Mills, speaking for the Court of Appeals of Kentucky, says:
"If, by the positive provision in our code, we can and must hold our slaves in the one case, and statutory provisions equally positive decide against that right in the other, and liberate the slave, he must, by an authority equally imperious, be declared free. Every argument which supports the right of the master on one side, based upon the force of written law, must be equally conclusive in favor of the slave, when he can point out in the statute the clause which secures his freedom."
And he further said:
"Free people of color in all the States are, it is believed, quasi citizens, or, at least, denizens. Although none of the States may allow them the privilege of office and suffrage, yet all other civil and conventional rights are secured to them, at least such rights were evidently secured to them by the ordinance in question for the government of Indiana. If these rights are vested in that or any other portion of the United States, can it be compatible with the spirit of our confederated Government to deny their existence in any other part? Is there less comity existing between State and State, or State
and Territory, than exists between the despotic Governments of Europe?"
These are the words of a learned and great judge, born and educated in a slave State.
I now come to inquire, under the sixth and last head, "whether the decisions of the Supreme Court of Missouri on the question before us are binding on this court."
While we respect the learning and high intelligence of the State courts, and consider their decisions, with others, as authority, we follow them only where they give a construction to the State statutes. On this head, I consider myself fortunate in being able to turn to the decision of this court, given by Mr. Justice Grier, in Pease v. Peck, a case from the State of Michigan, 18 Howard, 589, decided in December Term, 1855. Speaking for the court, Judge Grier said:
"We entertain the highest respect for that learned court (the Supreme Court of Michigan), and, in any question affecting the construction of their own laws where we entertain any doubt, would be glad to be relieved from doubt and responsibility by reposing on their decision. There are, it is true, many dicta to be found in our decisions averring that the courts of the United States are bound to follow the decisions of the State courts on the construction of their own laws. But although this may be correct, yet a rather strong expression of a general rule, it cannot be received as the annunciation of a maxim of universal application. Accordingly, our reports furnish many cases of exceptions to it. In all cases where there is a settled construction of the laws of the a State by its highest judicature established by admitted precedent, it is the practice of the courts of the United States to receive and adopt it without criticism or further inquiry. When the decisions of the State court are not consistent, we do not feel bound to follow the last if it is contrary to our own convictions, and much more is this the case where, after a long course of consistent decisions, some new light suddenly springs up, or an excited public opinion has elicited new doctrines subversive of former safe precedent."
These words, it appears to me, have a stronger application to the case before us than they had to the cause in which they were spoken as the opinion of this court, and I regret that they do not seem to be as fresh in the recollection of some of my brethren as in my own. For twenty-eight years, the decisions of the Supreme Court of Missouri were consistent on all the points made in this case. But this consistent course was suddenly terminated, whether by some new light suddenly springing up, or an excited public opinion, or both, it is not
necessary to say. In the case of Scott v. Emerson, in 1852, they were overturned and repudiated.
This, then, is the very case in which seven of my brethren declared they would not follow the last decision. On this authority I may well repose. I can desire no other or better basis.
But there is another ground which I deem conclusive, and which I will restate.
The Supreme Court of Missouri refused to notice the act of Congress or the Constitution of Illinois under which Dred Scott, his wife, and children claimed that they are entitled to freedom.
This being rejected by the Missouri court, there was no case before it, or least it was a case with only one side. And this is the case which, in the opinion of this court, we are bound to follow. The Missouri court disregards the express provisions of an act of Congress and the Constitution of a sovereign State, both of which laws for twenty-eight years it had not only regarded, but carried into effect.
If a State court may do this, on a question involving the liberty of a human being, what protection do the laws afford? So far from this being a Missouri question, it is a question, as it would seem, within the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act, where a right to freedom being set up under the act of Congress, and the decision being against such right, it may be brought for revision before this court, from the Supreme Court of Missouri.
I think the judgment of the court below should be reversed.
Mr. Justice CURTIS dissenting.
I dissent from the opinion pronounced by the Chief Justice, and from the judgment which the majority of the court think it proper to render in this case. The plaintiff alleged in his declaration that he was a citizen of the State of Missouri, and that the defendant was a citizen of the State of New York. It is not doubted that it was necessary to make each of these allegations to sustain the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court. The defendant denied, by a plea to the jurisdiction either sufficient or insufficient, that the plaintiff was a citizen of the State of Missouri. The plaintiff demurred to that plea. The Circuit Court adjudged the plea insufficient, and the first question for our consideration is whether the sufficiency of that plea is before this court for judgment upon this writ of error. The part of the judicial power of the United States, conferred by Congress on the Circuit Courts, being limited to certain described cases and controversies, the question whether a particular
case is within the cognizance of a Circuit Court may be raised by a plea to the jurisdiction of such court. When that question has been raised, the Circuit Court must, in the first instance, pass upon and determine it. Whether its determination be final or subject to review by this appellate court must depend upon the will of Congress, upon which body the Constitution has conferred the power, with certain restrictions, to establish inferior courts, to determine their jurisdiction, and to regulate the appellate power of this court. The twenty-second section of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which allows a writ of error from final judgments of Circuit Courts, provides that there shall be no reversal in this court, on such writ of error, for error in ruling any plea in abatement other than a plea to the jurisdiction of the court. Accordingly it has been held from the origin of the court to the present day that Circuit Courts have not been made by Congress the final judges of their own jurisdiction in civil cases. And that when a record comes here upon a writ of error or appeal, and on its inspection, it appears to this court that the Circuit Court had not jurisdiction, its judgment must be reversed and the cause remanded to be dismissed for want of jurisdiction.
It is alleged by the defendant in error in this case that the plea to the jurisdiction was a sufficient plea; that it shows, on inspection of its allegations, confessed by the demurrer, that the plaintiff was not a citizen of the State of Missouri; that, upon this record, it must appear to this court that the case was not within the judicial power of the United States as defined and granted by the Constitution, because it was not a suit by a citizen of one State against a citizen of another State.
To this it is answered first that the defendant, by pleading over after the plea to the jurisdiction was adjudged insufficient, finally waived all benefit of that plea.
When that plea was adjudged insufficient, the defendant was obliged to answer over. He held no alternative. He could not stop the further progress of the case in the Circuit Court by a writ of error, on which the sufficiency of his plea to the jurisdiction could be tried in this court, because the judgment on that plea was not final, and no writ of error would lie. He was forced to plead to the merits. It cannot be true, then, that he waived the benefit of his plea to the jurisdiction by answering over. Waiver includes consent. Here, there was no consent. And if the benefit of the plea was finally lost, it must be not by any waiver, but because the laws of the United States have not provided any mode of reviewing the decision of the Circuit Court on such a plea when that decision is against the defendant. This is not the
law. Whether the decision of the Circuit Court on a plea to the jurisdiction be against the plaintiff or against the defendant, the losing party may have any alleged error in law, in ruling such a plea, examined in this court on a writ of error when the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of two thousand dollars. If the decision be against the plaintiff, and his suit dismissed for want of jurisdiction, the judgment is technically final, and he may at once sue out his writ of error. Mollan v. Torrance, 9 Wheat. 537. If the decision be against the defendant, though he must answer over and wait for a final judgment in the cause, he may then have his writ of error, and upon it obtain the judgment of this court on any question of law apparent on the record touching the jurisdiction. The fact that he pleaded over to the merits, under compulsion, can have no effect on his right to object to the jurisdiction. If this were not so, the condition of the two parties would be grossly unequal. For if a plea to the jurisdiction were ruled against the plaintiff, he could at once take his writ of error and have the ruling reviewed here, while, if the same plea were ruled against the defendant, he must not only wait for a final judgment, but could in no event have the ruling of the Circuit Court upon the plea reviewed by this court. I know of no ground for saying that the laws of the United States have thus discriminated between the parties to a suit in its courts.
It is further objected that, as the judgment of the Circuit Court was in favor of the defendant and the writ of error in this cause was sued out by the plaintiff, the defendant is not in a condition to assign any error in the record, and therefore this court is precluded from considering the question whether the Circuit Court had jurisdiction.
The practice of this court does not require a technical assignment of errors. See the rule. Upon a writ of error, the whole record is open for inspection, and if any error be found in it, the judgment is reversed. Bank of United States v. Smith, 11 Wheat. 171.
It is true, as a general rule, that the court will not allow a party to rely on anything as cause for reversing a judgment which was for his advantage. In this, we follow an ancient rule of the common law. But so careful was that law of the preservation of the course of its courts that it made an exception out of that general rule, and allowed a party to assign for error that which was for his advantage if it were a departure by the court itself from its settled course of procedure. The cases on this subject are collected in Bac.Ab., Error H. 4. And this court followed this practice in Capron v. Van Noorden,
2 Cranch 126, where the plaintiff below procured the reversal of a judgment for the defendant on the ground that the plaintiff's allegations of citizenship had not shown jurisdiction.
But it is not necessary to determine whether the defendant can be allowed to assign want of jurisdiction as an error in a judgment in his own favor. The true question is not what either of the parties may be allowed to do, but whether this court will affirm or reverse a judgment of the Circuit Court on the merits when it appears on the record by a plea to the jurisdiction that it is a case to which the judicial power of the United States does not extend. The course of the court is where no motion is made by either party, on its own motion, to reverse such a judgment for want of jurisdiction, not only in cases where it is shown, negatively, by a plea to the jurisdiction that jurisdiction does not exist, but even where it does not appear, affirmatively that it does exist. Pequignot v. The Pennsylvania R.R. Co., 16 How. 104. It acts upon the principle that the judicial power of the United States must not be exerted in a case to which it does not extend, even if both parties desire to have it exerted. Cutler v. Rae, 7 How. 729. I consider, therefore, that, when there was a plea to the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court in a case brought here by a writ of error, the first duty of this court is sua sponte, if not moved to it by either party, to examine the sufficiency of that plea, and thus to take care that neither the Circuit Court nor this court shall use the judicial power of the United States in a case to which the Constitution and laws of the United States have not extended that power.
I proceed, therefore, to examine the plea to the jurisdiction.
I do not perceive any sound reason why it is not to be judged by the rules of the common law applicable to such pleas. It is true, where the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court depends on the citizenship of the parties, it is incumbent on the plaintiff to allege on the record the necessary citizenship, but when he has done so, the defendant must interpose a plea in abatement the allegations whereof show that the court has not jurisdiction, and it is incumbent on him to prove the truth of his plea.
In Sheppard v. Graves, 14 How. 27, the rules on this subject are thus stated in the opinion of the court:
"That although, in the courts of the United States, it is necessary to set forth the grounds of their cognizance as courts of limited jurisdiction, yet wherever jurisdiction shall be averred in the pleadings, in conformity with the laws creating those courts, it must be taken, prima facie, as existing, and it is incumbent
on him who would impeach that jurisdiction for causes dehors the pleading, to allege and prove such causes that the necessity for the allegation, and the burden of sustaining it by proof, both rest upon the party taking the exception."
These positions are sustained by the authorities there cited, as well as by Wickliffe v. Owings, 17 How. 47.
When, therefore, as in this case, the necessary averments as to citizenship are made on the record, and jurisdiction is assumed to exist, and the defendant comes by a plea to the jurisdiction to displace that presumption, he occupies, in my judgment, precisely the position described in Bacon Ab., Abatement:
"Abatement, in the general acceptation of the word, signifies a plea, put in by the defendant, in which he shows cause to the court why he should not be impleaded, or, if at all, not in the manner and form he now is."
This being, then, a plea in abatement to the jurisdiction of the court, I must judge of its sufficiency by those rules of the common law applicable to such pleas.
The plea was as follows:
"And the said John F. A. Sandford, in his own proper person, comes and says that this court ought not to have or take further cognizance of the action aforesaid, because he says that said cause of action, and each and every of them (if any such have accrued to the said Dred Scott), accrued to the said Dred Scott out of the jurisdiction of this court, and exclusively within the jurisdiction of the courts of the State of Missouri, for that, to-wit, the said plaintiff, Dred Scott, is not a citizen of the State of Missouri, as alleged in his declaration, because he is a negro of African descent, his ancestors were of pure African blood, and were brought into this country and sold as negro slaves, and this the said Sandford is ready to verify. Wherefore, he prays judgment whether this court can or will take further cognizance of the action aforesaid."
The plaintiff demurred, and the judgment of the Circuit Court was that the plea was insufficient.
I cannot treat this plea as a general traverse of the citizenship alleged by the plaintiff. Indeed, if it were so treated, the plea was clearly bad, for it concludes with a verification, and not to the country, as a general traverse should. And though this defect in a plea in bar must be pointed out by a special demurrer, it is never necessary to demur specially to a plea in abatement; all matters, though of form only, may be taken advantage of upon a general demurrer to such a plea. Chitty on Pl. 465.
The truth is that, though not drawn with the utmost technical accuracy, it is a special traverse of the plaintiff's allegation
of citizenship, and was a suitable and proper mode of traverse under the circumstances. By reference to Mr. Stephen's description of the uses of such a traverse contained in his excellent analysis of pleadings, Steph. on Pl. 176, it will be seen how precisely this plea meets one of his descriptions. No doubt the defendant might have traversed, by a common or general traverse, the plaintiff's allegation that he was a citizen of the State of Missouri, concluding to the country. The issue thus presented being joined, would have involved matter of law on which the jury must have passed under the direction of the court. But, by traversing the plaintiff's citizenship specially -- that is, averring those facts on which the defendant relied to show that, in point of law, the plaintiff was not a citizen, and basing the traverse on those facts as a deduction therefrom -- opportunity was given to do what was done -- that is, to present directly to the court, by a demurrer, the sufficiency of those facts to negative, in point of law, the plaintiff's allegation of citizenship. This, then, being a special, and not a general or common, traverse, the rule is settled that the facts thus set out in the plea as the reason or ground of the traverse must of themselves constitute, in point of law, a negative of the allegation thus traversed. Stephen on Pl. 183, Ch. on Pl. 620. And upon a demurrer to this plea, the question which arises is whether the facts that the plaintiff is a negro of African descent, whose ancestors were of pure African blood and were brought into this country and sold as negro slaves, may all be true, and yet the plaintiff be a citizen of the State of Missouri within the meaning of the Constitution and laws of the United States which confer on citizens of one State the right to sue citizens of another State in the Circuit Courts. Undoubtedly, if these facts, taken together, amount to an allegation that, at the time of action brought, the plaintiff was himself a slave, the plea is sufficient. It has been suggested that the plea, in legal effect, does so aver, because, if his ancestors were sold as slaves, the presumption is they continued slaves, and, if so, the presumption is the plaintiff was born a slave, and, if so, the presumption is he continued to be a slave to the time of action brought.
I cannot think such presumptions can be resorted to to help out defective averments in pleading, especially in pleading in abatement, where the utmost certainty and precision are required. Chitty on Pl. 457. That the plaintiff himself was a slave at the time of action brought is a substantive fact having no necessary connection with the fact that his parents were sold as slaves. For they might have been sold after he was born, or the plaintiff himself, if once a slave, might have
became a freeman before action brought. To aver that his ancestors were sold as slaves is not equivalent, in point of law, to an averment that he was a slave. If it were, he could not even confess and avoid the averment of the slavery of his ancestors, which would be monstrous, and if it be not equivalent in point of law, it cannot be treated as amounting thereto when demurred to, for a demurrer confesses only those substantive facts which are well pleaded, and not other distinct substantive facts which might be inferred therefrom by a jury. To treat an averment that the plaintiff's ancestors were Africans, brought to this country and sold as slaves, as amounting to an averment on the record that he was a slave because it may lay some foundation for presuming so is to hold that the facts actually alleged may be treated as intended as evidence of another distinct facts not alleged. But it is a cardinal rule of pleading, laid down in Dowman's Case, 9 Rep. 9b, and in even earlier authorities therein referred to, "that evidence shall never be pleaded, for it only tends to prove matter of fact, and therefore the matter of fact shall be pleaded." Or, as the rule is sometimes stated, pleadings must not be argumentative. Stephen on Pleading 384, and authorities cited by him. In Com.Dig., Pleader E. 3, and Bac. Abridgement, Pleas I, 5, and Stephen on Pl., many decisions under this rule are collected. In trover, for an indenture whereby A granted a manor, it is no plea that A did not grant the manor, for it does not answer the declaration except by argument. Yelv. 223.
So, in trespass for taking and carrying away the plaintiff's goods, the defendant pleaded that the plaintiff never had any goods. The court said, "this is an infallible argument that the defendant is not guilty, but it is no plea." Dyer a 43.
In ejectment, the defendant pleaded a surrender of a copyhold by the hand of Fosset, the steward. The plaintiff replied that Fosset was not steward. The court held this no issue, for it traversed the surrender only agrumentatively. Cro.Elis. 260.
In these cases and many others reported in the books, the inferences from the facts stated were irresistible. But the court held they did not, when demurred to, amount to such inferable facts. In the case at bar, the inference that the defendant was a slave at the time of action brought, even if it can be made at all from the fact that his parents were slaves, is certainly not a necessary inference. This case, therefore, is like that of Digby v. Alexander, 8 Bing. 116. In that case, the defendant pleaded many facts strongly tending to show that he was once Earl of Stirling, but as there was no positive allegation
that he was so at the time of action brought, and, as every fact averred might be true and yet the defendant not have been Earl of Stirling at the time of action brought, the plea was held to be insufficient.
A lawful seizin of land is presumed to continue. But if, in an action of trespass quare clausum, the defendant were to plead that he was lawfully seized of the locus in quo one month before the time of the alleged trespass, I should have no doubt it would be a bad plea. See Mollan v. Torrance, 9 Wheat. 537. So if a plea to the jurisdiction, instead of alleging that the plaintiff was a citizen of the same State as the defendant, were to allege that the plaintiff's ancestors were citizens of that State, I think the plea could not be supported. My judgment would be, as it is in this case, that if the defendant meant to aver a particular substantive fact as existing at the time of action brought, he must do it directly and explicitly, and not by way of inference from certain other averments which are quite consistent with the contrary hypothesis. I cannot, therefore, treat this plea as containing an averment that the plaintiff himself was a slave at the time of action brought, and the inquiry recurs whether the facts that he is of African descent, and that his parents were once slaves, are necessarily inconsistent with his own citizenship in the State of Missouri within the meaning of the Constitution and laws of the United States.
In Gassies v. Ballon, 6 Pet. 761, the defendant was described on the record as a naturalized citizen of the United States, residing in Louisiana. The court held this equivalent to an averment that the defendant was a citizen of Louisiana, because a citizen of the United States, residing in any State of the Union, is, for purposes of jurisdiction, a citizen of that State. Now the plea to the jurisdiction in this case does not controvert the fact that the plaintiff resided in Missouri at the date of the writ. If he did then reside there, and was also a citizen of the United States, no provisions contained in the Constitution or laws of Missouri can deprive the plaintiff of his right to sue citizens of States other than Missouri in the courts of the United States.
So that, under the allegations contained in this plea and admitted by the demurrer, the question is whether any person of African descent, whose ancestors were sold as slaves in the United States, can be a citizen of the United States. If any such person can be a citizen, this plaintiff has the right to the judgment of the court that he is so, for no cause is shown by the plea why he is not so, except his descent and the slavery of his ancestors.
The first section of the second article of the Constitution
uses the language, "a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution." One mode of approaching this question is to inquire who were citizens of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution.
Citizens of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution can have been no other than citizens of the United States under the Confederation. By the Articles of Confederation, a Government was organized, the style whereof was "The United States of America." This Government was in existence when the Constitution was framed and proposed for adoption, and was to be superseded by the new Government of the United States of America, organized under the Constitution. When, therefore, the Constitution speaks of citizenship of the United States existing at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, it must necessarily refer to citizenship under the Government which existed prior to and at the time of such adoption.
Without going into any question concerning the powers of the Confederation to govern the territory of the United States out of the limits of the States, and consequently to sustain the relation of Government and citizen in respect to the inhabitants of such territory, it may safely be said that the citizens of the several States were citizens of the United States under the Confederation.
That Government was simply a confederacy of the several States, possessing a few defined powers over subjects of general concern, each State retaining every power, jurisdiction, and right, not expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled. And no power was thus delegated to the Government of the Confederation to act on any question of citizenship or to make any rules in respect thereto. The whole matter was left to stand upon the action of the several States, and to the natural consequence of such action that the citizens of each State should be citizens of that Confederacy into which that State had entered, the style whereof was, "The United States of America."
To determine whether any free persons, descended from Africans held in slavery, were citizens of the United States under the Confederation, and consequently at the time of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, it is only necessary to know whether any such persons were citizens of either of the States under the Confederation at the time of the adoption of the Constitution.
Of this there can be no doubt. At the time of the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, all free native-born inhabitants of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New
York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, though descended from African slaves, were not only citizens of those States, but such of them as had the other necessary qualifications possessed the franchise of electors, on equal terms with other citizens.
The Supreme Court of North Carolina, in the case of the State v. Manuel, 4 Dev. and Bat. 20, has declared the law of that State on this subject in terms which I believe to be as sound law in the other States I have enumerated, as it was in North Carolina.
"According to the laws of this State," says Judge Gaston, in delivering the opinion of the court,
"all human beings within it, who are not slaves, fall within one of two classes. Whatever distinctions may have existed in the Roman laws between citizens and free inhabitants, they are unknown to our institutions. Before our Revolution, all free persons born within the dominions of the King of Great Britain, whatever their color or complexion, were native-born British subjects -- those born out of his allegiance were aliens. Slavery did not exist in England, but it did in the British colonies. Slaves were not, in legal parlance persons, but property. The moment the incapacity, the disqualification of slavery, was removed, they became persons, and were then either British subjects or not British subjects, according as they were or were not born within the allegiance of the British King. Upon the Revolution, no other change took place in the laws of North Carolina than was consequent on the transition from a colony dependent on a European King to a free and sovereign State. Slaves remained slaves. British subjects in North Carolina became North Carolina freemen. Foreigners, until made members of the State, remained aliens. Slaves, manumitted here, became freemen, and therefore, if born within North Carolina, are citizens of North Carolina, and all free persons born within the State are born citizens of the State. The Constitution extended the elective franchise to every freeman who had arrived at the age of twenty-one and paid a public tax, and it is a matter of universal notoriety that, under it, free persons, without regard to color, claimed and exercised the franchise until it was taken from free men of color a few years since by our amended Constitution."
In the State v. Newcomb, 5 Iredell's R. 253, decided in 1844, the same court referred to this case of the State v. Manuel, and said:
"That case underwent a very laborious investigation, both by the bar and the bench. The case was brought here by appeal, and was felt to be one of great importance in principle. It was considered with an anxiety and care worthy of the principle involved, and which give it a controlling
influence and authority on all questions of a similar character."
An argument from speculative premises, however well chosen, that the then state of opinion in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was not consistent with the natural rights of people of color who were born on that soil, and that they were not, by the Constitution of 1780 of that State, admitted to the condition of citizens, would be received with surprise by the people of that State who know their own political history. It is true, beyond all controversy that persons of color, descended from African slaves, were by that Constitution made citizens of the State, and such of them as have had the necessary qualifications have held and exercised the elective franchise, as citizens, from that time to the present. See Com. v. Aves, 18 Pick. R. 210.
The Constitution of New Hampshire conferred the elective franchise upon "every inhabitant of the State having the necessary qualifications," of which color or descent was not one.
The Constitution of New York gave the right to vote to "every male inhabitant, who shall have resided," &c., making no discrimination between free colored persons and others. See Con. of N.Y., Art. 2, Rev.Stats. of N.Y., vol. 1, p. 126.
That of New Jersey, to "all inhabitants of this colony, of full age, who are worth