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1859: The Supreme Court and the Metaphysics of Supremacy

1859: The Supreme Court and the Metaphysics of Supremacy

Chapter:
XVI. 1859: The Supreme Court and the Metaphysics of Supremacy
Source:
A Community Built on Words
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226677224.003.0017

Article IV, section 2 of the Constitution states that “[n]o person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, by Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.” Like all other provisions of the original Constitution that related to the institution of slavery, this clause squeamishly avoided use of the term “slave,” but no doubt has ever existed about its intention, which was to require the return to their legal masters of fugitive slaves who escaped into states that had abolished slavery. The clause is located at the end of a series of provisions imposing duties on the states, only one of which (the full faith and credit clause of Article IV, section 1) expressly empowers Congress to enact legislation relating to those duties.

Keywords:   Supreme Court, Constitution, institution of slavery, Article IV, Congress, legislation

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