On March 26, 1826 the state of Pennsylvania passed a law stating for anyone to take by force or violence, or cause to be carried away, or by false pretense seduce any negro or mulatto from any part of the Commonwealth with the intent to sell or cause to be sold, keeping our detaining any negro or mulatto as a slave or servant for life, or for any time whatsoever the people upon conviction would be guilty of a felony and forced to pay no less than $500 and no more than $1000, and shall be sentenced to serve a term of no less than seven years and no more than 21 years and shall be confined to hard labor.
Margaret Morgan was a slave in the state of Maryland under the ownership of Margaret Ashmore a citizen of Maryland. In 1832, Margaret Morgan escaped to Pennsylvania where she had a family; one specific child was born in Pennsylvania over a year later. In 1837, with the help of a Maryland State Constable, Margaret Ashmore sent the Constable to forcibly remove Margaret Morgan and her children from the state of Maryland. Margaret Morgan and her children including the one born in Pennsylvania for all returned to the possession of Margaret Ashmore. The hearing of this case by the Court of Oyor and Terminer of York County along with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed Margaret Morgan was a slave for life under the ownership of Margaret Ashmore.
The issues in this case deal with the subject of fugitives and also states’ rights and federal rights and also states’ right amongst each other.
1. Is the Pennsylvania state law constitutional?
2. Can the state of Pennsylvania legislate on such matters as fugitives or is this only a matter to be dealt with the federal law?
3. Is it constitutional for a private citizen of one state to enter another state for the purpose of reclaiming property (in this case a slave)?
Decision & Reasoning
The opinion of the Court declared the Pennsylvania statute