The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Slaves and conflict of laws

A interesting-looking article (PDF) Methodological Interventions and the Slavery Cases by Louise Weinberg considers the conflict of laws problems arising from claims for recovery of fugitive slaves - and claims of slaves for their freedom.

The problem she addresses is not the exercise of Federal jurisdiction (under the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850) but that of judges in state courts in slave and free states.

The first example she gives (p7a) is that of a judge in a slave state (Georgia, say) in suit brought by the pretended (Georgian) owner of a (Georgian) slave that temporarily resided in a free state (New York, say). New York law says that residence in a free state emancipates; Georgia law says that it does not [1].

Which state's law does the Georgia judge apply to the case?

Weinberg says [2]
The fascinating thing is that the courts of the slave states in such cases typically did rule in a slave's favor, at least until near the close of the antebellum period...

Now, the background to the passing of the 1850 Act that I've been talking about (August 16) was, I'd thought, the fact that Yankee enforcement (or the lack of it) of the 1793 was a powerful wedge issue for Southerners. (At least, it had been since the Wilmot Proviso first came on the Congressional scene.)

Yet, Weinberg is suggesting, Southern pols had failed to straighten out their own judiciaries on the issue!

Earlier (p5), I read
A mandatory resort in any court even to the best imaginable choice rule, on the face of it, would be akin to saying "eeny, meeny, miny, mo"—not a good way to secure someone's release from bondage.

I recall the the eeny meeny problem of air stewardess Jennifer Cundiff (January 28 2004) and admire Weinberg's pluck.

As we say over here, I bet (s)he drinks Carling Black Label...

  1. My supposition. But if there's no difference in law between the jurisdictions, there can't be a conflict!

  2. Much to my surprise - but, then, what do I know?!

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