Monday, January 08, 2007

Lemmon v. People XII

It's been a while. As you may recall, dissenting New York Court of Appeals Judge Thomas W. Clerke had concluded that, pursuant to the Constitution, "the citizens of any one State have a right of passage through the territory of another, peaceably, for business or pleasure; and the latter acquires no right over such person or his property."

He then turned to the question whether slaves were "property" under the rule he laid out. He answered in the affirmative, essentially arguing that the Constitution recognized slaves as property:

"[C]an any one State insist, under the federal compact, in reference to the rights of the citizens of any other State, that there is no such thing as the right of such citizens, in their own States, to the service and labor of any person. This is property; and whether the person is held to service and labor for a limited period, or for life, it matters not; it is still property -- recognized as an existing institution by the people who framed the present Constitution . . .."

Judge Clerke conceded that slavery was "a local institution," but found this no impediment to his conclusion:

"And what was the result of those convictions and deliberations [at the Constitutional Convention]? Undoubtedly, that while slavery should be deemed a local institution, depending upon the power of each State to determine what persons should share in the civil and political rights of the community the right is fully recognized in the Constitution, that any of the States may continue and allow the right of property in the labor and service of slaves."

Finally, Judge Clerke rejected the suggestion that the slaveholders' right was "founded merely on comity." The right to passage might be granted voluntarily under international law, but the Consititution cemented the right:

"The right yielded by what is termed comity under the law of nations, ripens, in necessary accordance with the declared purpose and tenor of the Constitution of the United States, into a conventional obligation, essential to its contemplated and thorough operation as an instrument of federative and national government."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails