The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Judges, State Powers and Fugitive Slaves

August 28, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)


The delegates continued tweaking the judiciary and spent much time on details of state powers.

Influences on the Delegates

The delegates did not refer to other nations or refer to specific influences today.
I want to point out one exchange initiated by the delegates from South Carolina. On the discussion of extradition between states, Colonel Pinckney wanted to include runaway slaves. Article XV reads:

Any person charged with treason, felony or high misdemeanor in any State, who shall flee from justice, and shall be found in any other State, shall, on demand of the Executive power of the State from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the State having jurisdiction of the offence.
General PINCKNEY was not satisfied with it. He seemed to wish some provision should be included in favor of property in slaves.
On the question on Article 14, —
New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, aye, — 9; South Carolina, no, — 1; Georgia, divided.
Article 15 being then taken up, the words, “high misdemeanor,” were struck out, and the words, “other crime,” inserted, in order to comprehend all proper cases; it being doubtful whether “high misdemeanor” had not a technical meaning too limited.
Mr. BUTLER and Mr. PINCKNEY moved to require “fugitive slaves and servants to be delivered up like criminals.”
Mr. WILSON. This would oblige the Executive of the State to do it at the public expense.
Mr. SHERMAN saw no more propriety in the public seizing and surrendering a slave or servant than a horse.
Mr. BUTLER withdrew his proposition, in order that some particular provision might be made, apart from this article.
Article 15, as amended, was then agreed to, nem. con.

After Pinckney couldn’t get a motion attached to Article XIV, he and Butler moved to add their fugitive slave clause. However, it was not added but Butler saved it for later.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
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