Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Gen. Pinckney was not satisfied with it"

In Slavery and the Supreme Court, 1825-1861, Earl M. Maltz points out a minor but interesting incident at the Constitutional Convention that I had not noticed before.

On Tuesday August 18, 1787, the delegates took up proposed Article XIV, the precursor to the Privileges and Immunities Clause, which provided, "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States."

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina raised an objection. Madison's notes are vague on the nature of Pinckney's concern and suggest that he did not fully understand what Pinckney was driving at:
Gen. Pinkney was not satisfied with it [Art. XIV]. He seemed to wish some provision should be included in favor of property in slaves.

Prof. Maltz makes the intriguing suggestion that Pinkney foresaw the issue that became a serious bone of contention in the 1850s, exemplified by the New York case of Lemmon v. People: whether masters risked losing their slave property by traveling, even temporarily, to or through free states. If Prof. Maltz is correct, Pinckney was presumably looking to add language that would insure that masters could bring their "servants" with them on visits to other states.

If that is what General Pinckney was getting at, the result is equally interesting. The delegates quickly disposed of the objection by a lopsided 9 to 1 to 1 vote, with South Carolina the sole dissenter and Georgia "divided."

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