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Law Outlines > Constitutional Law I Outlines

Slavery Outline

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This is an extract of our Slavery document, which we sell as part of our Constitutional Law I Outlines collection written by the top tier of Georgetown University Law Center students.

The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Constitutional Law I Outlines. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:


  1. The Constitution of the United States provides:

    1. "A person charged in any state with treason, felony or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another state, shall, on demand of the executive authority of the state from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime." Art. IV, § 2, cl. 2

    2. "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." Art. IV, § 2, cl. 3

      1. BUT, note that this provision of the Constitution was changed by the Thirteenth Amendment.

  2. Prigg v Pennsylvania (1842) (pg. 217)

    1. In Prigg, the Court determined that Art. IV, § 2, cl. 3 created a right of self-help for slaveholders of which had run away slaves. Since the Congress had spoken with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, Congress occupied the field of regulation with respect to run away slaves such that the Pennsylvania law, of which prescribed additional requirements to the federal law, was preempted by the federal law. However, the Court goes further than this and holds that based upon the need for uniformity in protecting this right that "the power of legislation on this subject" is "exclusive to congress." (pg. 222)

    2. Regarding interpretation, the Court noted two important things regarding the proper interpretation of Art. IV, § 2, cl. 3:

      1. First, the Court noted that historically, "the object of [Art. IV, § 2, cl. 3] was to secure to the citizens of the slave-holding states the complete right and title of ownership in their slaves, as property, in every state in the Union into which they might escape from the state where they were held in servitude." Prigg v Pennsylvania (pg. 219)

      2. Secondly, the Court stated that "[i]f, by one mode of interpretation, the right must become shadowy and unsubstantial, and without any remedial power adequate to the end, and by another mode, it will attain its just end and secure its manifest purpose, it would seem upon principles of reasoning, absolutely irresistible, that the latter ought to prevail." Prigg v Pennsylvania (pg. 219)

        • "No court of justice can be authorized so to construe any clause of the constitution as to defeat its obvious ends, when another construction, equally accordant with the words and sense thereof, will enforce and protect them." Prigg v Pennsylvania (pg. 219)

    3. The Court therefore determined that the right to self-help must be recognized.

      1. "The clause manifestly contemplates the existence of a positive, unqualified right on the part of the owner of the slave, which no state law or regulation can in any way qualify, regulate, or restrain." Prigg v Pennsylvania (pg. 220)

      2. "[T]he owner of the slave is clothed with entire authority, in every state of the Union, to seize and recapture his slave, whenever he can do it, without any breach of the peace or illegal violence." Prigg v Pennsylvania (pg. 220)

    4. The Court then noted that "[i]f . . . the constitution guarantees...

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