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A SLAVE CASE.
On the 6th of January the slave case--that of Antonio Pacheco was reported to the House, and was taken up. It was a claim for the value of a slave who was hired by a United States officer; betook himself to the everglades ; fought with the Indians against the whites; was taken in arms as an enemy, and as an enemy sent out of the Territory, for the purpose of securing the lives of the inhabitants.
Mr. Giddings, speaking of the case, recommended that
"The Committee on Military Affairs were unable to unite in a report upon the case. Five slaveholders, representing slave property on this floor, and constituting a majority of the committee, have reported a bill for the payment of this amount to the claimant. Four Northern members, representing freemen only, have made a minority report against the bill. This report, as I think, is sustained by irrefutable argu
"The majority of the committee assume the position that slaves are regarded by the Federal Constitution as property, and that this government and the people of the free States are bound to regard them as property, and to pay for them as we would for so many mules or oxen taken into the public service. The minority deny this doctrine. They insist that the Federal Constitution treats them as persons only, and that this government cannot constitutionally involve the people of the free States in the guilt of sustaining slavery; that we have no constitutional powers to legislate upon the relation of master and slave.
"In 1772, Lord Mansfield boldly assailed the doc
trine laid down in this Hall to-day, and exhibited its absurdity in one of the ablest opinions to be found on record. From that period this doctrine of property in man has found no supporters under the government of England. With all our refinement as a nation; with all our boasted adherence to liberty, on this subject we are three quarters of a century behind our mothercountry.
"When Sir Warren Hastings was on trial in the House of Peers, in 1787, Mr. Sheridan, speaking on this subject, in his own peculiar and fervid eloquence, declared that allegiance to that Power which gives us the forms of men, commands us to maintain the rights of men; and never yet was this truth dismissed from the human heart-never, in any time, in any agenever in any clime where rude man ever had any social feelings-never was this unextinguishable truth destroyed from the heart of man, placed as it is in the core and centre of it by his Maker, that man was not made the property of man.' This was the language of British statesmen sixty-two years since. To-day we have before this branch of the American Congress the report of a committee avowing that, under this federal government, in the middle of the nineteenth century, 'man is the property of his fellow-mortal.'
"These sentiments of the British statesmen and jurists inspired the hearts of our Americans patriots in 1776, when they declared it to be a 'SELF-EVIDENT TRUTH THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.' When they framed our Constitution, they declared their object was to establish justice, and to secure to themselves aud their posterity the blessings of liberty.' This subject of holding property in men did not escape their attention, nor have they left us ignorant of their views in regard to it. Mr. Madison, the father of the Constitution, has left to us a clear and explicit account of their intentions. He informs us, that on
"Wednesday, August 22, the Convention proceed
ed to consider the report of the Committee of Detail, in relation to duties on exports, a capitation tax, and a navigation act. The fourth section reported was as follows:
"No tax or duty shall be laid by the Legislature on articles exported from any State, nor on the migration nor importation of such persons as the several States shall think proper to admit; nor shall such migration nor importation be prohibited.'
"Mr. Gerry thought we had nothing to do with the conduct of the States as to slavery, but we ought to be careful not to give any sanction.'
"Our people think with Mr. Gerry, that' we have nothing to do with slavery in the States.' We are determined that we will not be involved in its guilt. With Mr. Gerry, we intend to be careful to give it no sanction.' No, sir; we will not sanction your slavery by paying our money for the bodies of slaves. This is the doctrine which we hold, and which we expect to maintain; yet the members of this body are now engaged in legislating upon the price of human flesh. If we pass this bill, we shall give our most solemn sanction to that institution which Gerry and his compatriots detested. Will the members from Pennsylvania, the successors of Franklin and Wilson, lend their sanction to slavery, by voting the moneys of the People to pay for slaves?
"But Mr. Madison tells us that Mr. Sherman (of Connecticut) was opposed to any tax on slaves, as making the matter worse, because it implied they were property.'
"I understand that some gentlemen from the North admit that slaves are property. Mr. Sherman and the framers of the Constitution would do no act by which it could be implied that they were property.
"Mr. Madison also participated in the discussion himself; and, as he informs us, 'DECLARED THAT HE
THOUGHT IT WRONG TO ADMIT THAT THERE COULD BE
PROPERTY IN MEN.' And the report of the Committee was so amended as to exclude that idea.
"In that assemblage of illustrious statesmen, no man expressed his dissent from these doctrines of Gerry, of Sherman, and of Madison. These doctrines. are: 1. That we should have nothing to do with slavery, but ought to be careful not to give it any sanction.' 2. That we should do no act by which it can be implied that there can be property in men.' 3. That it would be WRONG FOR US TO ADMIT THAT THERE CAN BE PROPERTY IN MEN.' Such were the views of those who framed the Constitution. They intended to express their views in such language as to be understood. Will this House stand by them ?"
"With great propriety the gentleman from NewHampshire inquired, at what time the liability of government to pay for this slave commenced? The question has not been answered, nor do I think it can be answered. The undertaking was hazardous in the highest degree. The troops were all killed but two or three, by the enemy, and those were supposed to be dead. This man alone escaped unhurt. This danger was foreseen, and the master put a price upon the services to compare with the risk. Did this contract bind the government to pay for the master's loss, admitting the slave to have been property? Was it any part of the compact that the government should insure the property? It strikes me that no lawyer would answer in the affirmative. The law of bailment is surely understood by every tyro in the profession. The bailee for hire is bound to exercise the same degree of care over the property that careful men ordinarily take of their own property. If, then, the property be lost, the owner sustains such loss. Now, conceding this man to be property, the government would not have been liable, had he ran away, or been killed by accident, or died of sickness. Yet, sir, when property is lost or
destroyed by the act of God or the common enemies of the country, no bailee is ever holden responsible-not even common carriers, and that is the highest species of bailment. Had this officer, acting on his own responsibility, agreed to take this negro through the country for hire (admitting the man to have been property, and governed by the same rules of law as though he had been a mule or an ass), and he had been captured by the enemy, no law would have held such bailee liable. But, sir, an entirely different rule of law prevails where the owner of a chattel lets it to a bailee for wages. Had this man been a mule or an ass, and the officer had hired him of the owner for wages, to ride through that country, or to work in a team, or in any other manner, and he had been captured by the enemy, the bailee would not have been liable, upon any rule of law or of justice; nor would he have been liable if lost in any other manner, except by neglect of the bailee.
"The gentleman from South Carolina [Mr. Burt] said he would place this case upon strictly legal principles. Sir, I meet the gentleman on that proposition. I, too, for the sake of the argument, am willing to submit it on principles of law; and I believe that no jurist, or even justice of the peace, would hesitate to reject the case on those grounds. All must admit that the liability of the government concerning this man ceased when he was captured by the enemy; up to this point the government was not liable. I understood the author of this bill [Mr. Burt] to argue, however, that we became liable under the contract of bailment. That contract was ended when the man was captured. The claimant then failed to perform his part of it. The stipulation on the part of the master was, that the negro should pilot the troops from Fort Brooke to Fort King, the place of their destination, at the rate of twenty-five dollars per month. He was captured when only half the distance was accomplished. Here the master ceased to perform his compact; it was be