but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.
It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves;
and the intention of the lawgiver is the law.
All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution—to this provision as much as to any other.
To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause "shall be delivered up" their oaths are unanimous.
Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not with nearly equal unanimity frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?
There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by national or by State authority, but surely that difference is not a very material one.
If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him or to others by which authority it is done.
And should anyone in any case be content that his oath shall go unkept on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?
Again: In any law upon this subject ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced,
so that a free man be not in any case surrendered as a slave?
And might it not be well at the same time to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that
the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States"?
I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservations and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules;
and while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced,
I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations,
to conform to and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed than to violate any of them trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.
It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under our National Constitution.
During that period fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens have in succession administered the executive branch of the Government.
They have conducted it through many perils, and generally with great success.