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The Strict Construction Argument:

Answer the 3 judicial questions using strict construction theory only. The relevant articles of the Constitution are as follows:

Article 1, Section 2: "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."

Article 1, Section 9: "The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person."

Article 4, Section 1: "Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof."

Article 4, Section 2: "The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states."

Article 4, Section 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."

Article 4, Section 3: "The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state."

Article 6, Section 2: "This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding."

The Precedent Argument:

Answer the 3 judicial questions based on precedents set by the Supreme Court or applicable state rulings in cases that dealt with similar judicial issues occurring before 1857. State any inconsistencies between the precedents, if found.

Rachel v. Walker (1836 Missouri Supreme Court case) -- Missouri's case law prior to the Dred Scott case showed that in the cases where slave owners took slaves to free territory and then returned to the slave state, the slaves were actually emancipated upon arrival in the free state. This was based on an informal legal precedent called "comity" (one court recognizing the jurisdiction of another.) This particular case determined that even an officer residing on a military post in a free state was obligated to follow that state's rules. (Fehrenbacher, 130)

U.S. v. The Amistad (1841 U.S. Supreme Court case) -- In this case, kidnapped Africans were transported from Guinea to Cuba on a Portuguese slave ship in violation of Spanish laws forbidding the international slave trade. The slaves were sold to two Spaniards who were overpowered by the Africans while transporting them on the Amistad. The Africans were attempting to return to Africa, but the ship landed near Long Island, New York and they were taken to New London, Connecticut. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Africans stating that there was no evidence that the Africans were in fact slaves (they found that the documents that the Cubans had given were falsified.) However, even though the Court did rule in the Africans favor, they did not use the language of the defense argument which stated that because the Africans were brought into the free states of New York and Connecticut they were legally free. (Wiecek, 41-43)

Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842 U.S. Supreme Court case) -- This case dealt with the constitutionality of personal liberty laws in free states. In this case Pennsylvania's 1826 law was used to prosecute a slave-catcher (Prigg) who had taken Margaret Moran to Maryland without the required "certificate of removal." The Supreme Court held that the Pennsylvania act was unconstitutional and that a master had the right to recapture runaway slaves based on common law or because of the fugitive-slave clause in the Constitution. (The basis of the right of recapture was disputed by the judges.) (Wiecek, 44)

Strader v. Graham (1851 U.S. Supreme Court case) -- In that case two slave musicians were taken into Ohio and then later escaped from Kentucky to Canada. The slave-owner captured them back and it was argued in court that they were freed the minute they set foot on free soil. The Kentucky Court of Appeals decided in favor of the slave-owner (it was really a suit for damages by the slave-owner against the men who had abetted their escape.) The Supreme Court dismissed the case stating it lacked jurisdiction because the Northwest Ordinance did not apply to Ohio because it was superseded by state law, thus the case did not present a federal question. Taney's opinion in this case outlined the idea that once the slaves were returned to Kentucky, Kentucky law applied and Ohio law could not be considered. (Fehrenbacher, 135-136).

The Natural Law Argument:

Answer the 3 judicial questions based on "natural law" which is a "theory that some laws are basic and fundamental to human nature and are discoverable by human reason without reference to specific legislative enactments or judicial decisions." (From: "Natural Law." The Columbia Encyclopedia. Online. Internet. 24 Mar. 2005. Available:

Many anti-slavery activists argued that slavery was against natural law. The Supreme Court used natural law principles ("the general principles of right and wrong") to condemn the international slave trade in the 1822 case of United States v. La Jeune Eugenie. (Wiecek, 37)

The Declaration of Independence Argument:

Answer the 3 judicial questions based on the following statement in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…"

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