“The Basis of Slavery,” New York Times, 3 December 1857, p. 5.
New York Times
The Basis of Slavery
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The Basis of Slavery – Explanation of the Union.
From the Washington Union.
The Chicago Times, and one or two other papers of like proneness to find fault with the Union, are grievously exercised over one of our late editorials, because, as they interpret it, we advance a novel and alarming doctrine as to the extension of Slavery into the Free States. In discussing one of the heresies of Free-Soilism we restated the constitutional principle recognized in the Dred Scott case which determined that the owner of a slave does not lose the title to his property by carrying him into a State whose laws prohibit Slavery. In stating this principle, our language may have been less guarded than it should have been, considering the readiness of such journals as those before referred to cavil with the Union; but we had no other purpose than to confront Free-Soilers with the great fundamental principle solemnly settled by the highest judicial tribunal known to our Government. It was not meant by us that the owner of a slave could carry him into a Free State and there settle permanently, and by that means establish Slavery in such Free State contrary to its laws. Whatever power the State might have to impair the contract by which the owner in such case would hold his title to his property, the fact if his settling permanently in a State whose laws prohibit Slavery would be deemed conclusive of his purpose to abide by its laws. The result, however, is entirely different when the settlement in a Free State is only temporary. In such case it is well settled that his title is not affected, but is unimpaired on his return to a State where Slavery is recognized by its laws. This conclusion is a legitimate and necessary deduction from the fact that the Constitution of the United States recognized and guaranties the title to property in slaves. It was this principle that we were laying down in the article to which exception was taken, and the inference drawn from it, that we were advancing the doctrine that Slavery could be established in any Free State in defiance of its laws, is wholly gratuitous and unwarranted.