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Page 639 of Life and speeches of Henry Clay (vol. 2)

ON THE COMPROXISE RESOLUTIONS. right to have the fugitive surrendered on the application to deliver him up, as enjoined by the Constitution. I think, Mr. President, that with regard to the object of this provi- sion there can be no doubt. It imposes an obligation upon the States -free or slaveholding-it imposes an obligation upon the officers of Government, State or Federal-and I add upon the people of the Unuited States, underparticular circumstances-to assist in the recovery and surrender of fugitive slaves from their masters. There ha; been some confusion, and I think misconception, upon the subject, in con- sequence of a recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States. I think that decision has been entirely misapprehended. There is a vast difference between imposing impediments, and afford- ing facilities in the way of recovering the fugitive slave. The Supreme Court of the United States have only decided that the laws of impedi- ments are unconstitutional. I know, sir, there are some general ex- pressions in the opinions to which I have referred-the case of Maryland and Pennsylvania-that would seem to import otherwise; but I think that when you come to attentively read the whole opinions pronounced by the judges, and take the trouble that I have taken to converse with the judges themselves, you will find that the whole ex- tent of the principle which they intended to adopt was, that any laws of impediment enacted by the States were laws forbidden by the pro- vision of the Constitution to which I have referred, and that the Gen- eral Government had no right to impose obligations upon the State officers that were not imposed by the authority of their own constitu- tional laws. Why, it is impossible ! If the decision had been other- wise, it would have been extrajudicial. The court had no right to decide whether the laws of facility were or were not unconstitutional. The only question before the court was upon the laws of impediment passed by the Legislature of Pennsylvania. If they have gone beyond the case before them to decide upon a case not before them, the de- eisionl is what lawyers call " obiter dlictutm," and is not binding upon that court itself, or upon any other tribunal. I say it is utterly im- possible for that court with the case before them of the passage of a law by a State Legislature, affording aid and assistance to the owner of the slave to get back his property again ; it is utterly impossible that that or any other tribunal should pronounce the decision that such aid and assistance rendered by the authorities of the State under this provision of the Constitution of the United States was unconsti- 639

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