a claim (regarded in its constitutional aspect) in the nature of what the law calls a chose in action-or, in other words, a species of debt-a thing to which, though it cannot be strictly said to be in actual possession, one has a right.
In common parlance we employ words, in connection with slavery, which imply much more than such a claim. We say slave-holder and slave-owner; we speak of the institution of slavery; but we do not say apprentice-holder or apprentice-owner, nor do we speak of the institution of apprenticeship. The reason, whether valid or invalid, for such variance of phraseology in speaking of the two classes of claims is not to be found in any admission, express or implied, in the provision of the Constitution now under consideration. The framers of that instrument employed one and the saem phrase to designate the master of the apprentice and the master of the slave. Both are termed "the party to whom service or labor may be due."
The employment of the popular phraseology referred to, indicating social disabilities and a subjection of one race to another, which originated in local legislation alone, has had a tendency to mislead public opinion as to the actual connection between slavery and the Federal Constitution. The mass of our people had come to think, at last, not only that the claim to labor was recognized, and was protected in cases where the denial of that claim might have led to a dangerous conflict of authority between States, which was true, but also that the framers of the Federal Constitution, straying off from the landmarks set up by the Declaration of Independence, had recognized as just, and had pledged the Nation to defend against all comers, a social institution under which one human being became the chattel of another, which was false.
If we were to regard the Constitution as indorsing slavery in all its changing phases, shaped by successive State laws and institutions as these phases have been, whither might not the doctrine have led us? Amongst the ancient Romans the master had the power of life and death over his slave. Let us suppose that South Carolina had enacted, as she might have enacted, a statute granting to her slave-holders this terrible power. Is the Federal Constitution, because of such statute, to be understood as recognizing the doctrine that murder is no crime if perpetrated on the person of a negro held to labor? Instinctively we reject an inference so monstrous that we must have lost all respect for the best men of the revolutionary period before we could adopt it.
The second and only other provision of the Constitution which refers to slaves (article I, section 2) remains to be considered, in these words:
Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.
To avoid mistakes, it was deemed necessary to include apprentices by express specification. Why this? Every one would have felt it to be absurd if the words had been, "the whole number of free persons, including farm laborers." But why absurd? Because persons engaged in free labor are, beyond question, free persons. Not so those "bound to service." While so bound, apprentices may be considered not free; when the "term of years," and with it the bondage to service, expires, they become free, or, as the common phrase is, "their own masters." It was necessary and proper, therefore, to