MOORE V. PEOPLE, 55 U. S. 13 (1852)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Moore v. People, 55 U.S. 14 How. 13 13 (1852)

Moore v. People

55 U.S. (14 How.) 13


A state, under its general and admitted power to define and punish offenses against its own peace and policy, may repel from its borders an unacceptable population, whether paupers, criminals, fugitives, or liberated slaves, and consequently may punish her citizens and others who thwart this policy by harboring, secreting, or in any way assisting such fugitives.

It is no objection to such legislation that the offender may be liable to punishment under the act of Congress for the same acts, when injurious to the owner of the fugitive slave.

The case of Prigg v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 16 Pet. 539, presented the following questions, which were decided by the Court:

1. That under and in virtue of the Constitution of the United States, the owner of a slave is clothed with entire authority in every state in the Union, to seize and recapture his slave, wherever he can do it without illegal violence or a breach of the peace.

2. That the government of the United States is clothed with appropriate authority and functions to enforce the delivery, on claim of the owner, and has properly exercised it in the Act of Congress of 12th February, 1793.

Page 55 U. S. 14

3. That any state law or regulation which interrupts, impedes, limits, embarrasses, delays, or postpones the right of the owner to the immediate possession of the slave, and the immediate command of his service, is void.

This Court has not decided that state legislation in aid of the claimant, and which does not directly nor indirectly delay, impede, or frustrate the master in the exercise of his right under the Constitution, or in pursuit of his remedy given by the act of Congress, is void.

The section of the law of Illinois under which Eels was indicted in 1842, and the facts in the case are set forth in the opinion of the Court, and need not be repeated. The court before which he was tried fined him four hundred dollars, and the Supreme Court of Illinois affirmed the judgment. The case is reported in 4 Scammon 498.

Page 55 U. S. 17

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