fugitive by whom it is due. They do this-they do nothing more. And this denial of the right on the part of any State of the Union to defeat certain claims to labor held by citizens of another is a protection afforded to all claims for labor alike; to that of the master seeking a white apprentice, and to that of the master seeking a negro slave.
There is an evident intention, so far as words can mark intention, to go not further. There is an evident intention to refrain from any expression that might be constructed into an acknowledgment of slavery as a social institution. Nothing could be more notorious than the fact of its existence as such in many of the States then about to be united in one Federal Union. But the responsibility of that existence is studiously left to the States who permit it. It is acknowledged as a fact, not sanctioned. If, while it exists, it is protected in one of the incidents which belong alike to it and to apprenticeship, the reason is to be found in the necessity of the case. It is evidently with no other intent than to avert angry conflicts between State and State that an individual State is not permitted to release from involuntary labor any person who, by the municipal rule of another State, is subjected to it.
This view of the case is fully borne out by the remarkable phraseology of the provision under consideration. The word slave, thorough then universally used to designate a negro held to service or labor for life, is not employed. We know, from the debates in the convention which framed the Constitution, that this peculiarity was not accidental; nor can we overlook the inevitable inference from it. This provision does not recognize slavery, except as it recognizes apprenticeship. African slavery, according to the expressly selected word, and therefore according to the manifest intent of the framers of the Constitution, is here recognized as a claim to the service or labor of a negro; nothing more, nothing else.
It avails nothing to allege, even if it were true, that in 1787, when these words were wridered property. Chief Justice Taney, delivering the decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case, asserts that in the thirteen colonies which formed the Constitution "a negro of the African race was regarded as an article of property." If the opinion expressed on this subject by a large majority of those who sat in deliberation in the various States on the adoption of the Federal Constitution, as recorded by Ellit, a is to be received, as it properly may be, in evidence to prove the probable opinions of their constituents on this subject, then has the chief justice's assertion no foundation in truth. But true or not it has no legitimate bearing on the argument. Let the facts as to popular opinions in revolutionary days be as they may, they are but the opinions of individual colonists; and these cannot be received as a basis of construction for the words, nor can they rebut the plain intent of a constitutional provision. It is not what individual colonists believed, but what the framers of the Constitution incorporated in that instrument, that we have to deal with.
They avoided the use of the word slave. They incorporated the words "person held to service or labor." They admitted the existence, under State laws, of the claim to service or labor- none other;
a In evidence that this statement is correct, the Commission submit, among the documents accompanying this report, a carefully prepared abstract of the opinions on slavery, favorable and unfavorable, expressed in the various State conventions during the debates on the adoption of the U. S. Constitution. [Abstract omitted.]