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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the Civil Rights Mass-Meeting held at Lincoln Hall, October 22, 1883. Speeches of Hon. Frederick Douglass and Robert G. Ingersoll.
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to service or labor." They were ashamed to put in the word "master," so they called him "the party to whom service or labor may be due."
How can a slave owe service? How can a slave owe labor? How could a slave make a contract? How could the master have a legal claim against a slave? And yet, the Supreme Court to the United States found no difficulty in upholding the Fugitive Slave Law by virtue of that clause. There were hundreds of decisions declaring that Congress had power to pass laws to carry that clause into effect, and it was carried into effect.
You will observe the wording of this clause: "No person held to service or labor in any 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 upon the claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."
To whom was this clause directed? To individuals or to States? It expressly provides that the "person" held to service or labor shall not be discharged from such service or labor in consequence of any law or regulation in the "State" to which he has fled. Did that law apply to States, or individuals?
The Supreme Court held that it applied to individuals as well as to States. Any "person," in any States, interfering with the master who was endeavoring to steal the person he called his slave, was liable to indictment, and hundreds and thousands were indicted, and hundreds languished in prisons because they were noble enough to hold in infinite contempt such infamous laws and such infamous decisions. The best men in United States—the noblest spirits under the flag—were imprisoned because they were charitable, because they were just, because they showed the hunted slave the path to freedom, and taught him where to find amid the glittering host of heaven the blessed Northern Star.
Every fugitive slave carried that clause with him when he entered a free State; carried it into every hiding place; and every Northern man was bound, by virtue of that clause, to act as the spy and hound of slavery. The Supreme Court, with infinite ease, made a club of that clause with which to strike down that liberty of the fugitive and the manhood of the North.
In the Dred Scott decision it was solemnly decided that a man of African descent, whether a slave or not, was not, and could not be a citizen of a State or of United States. The Supreme Court held on the even tenor of its way, and in the rebellion that tribunal was about the last fort to surrender.
The moment the 13th Amendment was adopted, the slaves became freemen. The distinction between "white" and "col-
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