Summary of Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842)
Penn. statute barred self-help in the return of slaves. Prigg is a slave owner who was convicted in a criminal case under Penn law for trying to get his fugitive slave back. Prigg appeals conviction based on theory that Penn law in unconstitutional [Constitution, Article IV § 2 allows a slave owner to reclaim a fugitive slave from a free state].
1. Held: Federal law trumps state law
2. This clause reflects the compromise part of the constitution
3. Justice Story: This clause is self-executing, meaning no additional legislation is needed by Congress. Thus, since clause is self-executing, one can exercise self-help
a. Clause is very clear (like the prez must be 35 years old)
b. Majority’s approach reflects that this clause was a compromise
4. Justice Tawny (concurrence): Agrees w/ result, but believes that states should be able to legislate. Sees this as a compromise b/t states.
5. Justice McLean (dissent): Fugitive Slave Act does not address self-help. Process set up by Fed Govt in which owner was to go to the magistrate or federal judge ? need a hearing. Thus, self-help not allowed