Johnson-v-Tompkins-1833

Johnson v. Tompkins
(13 F. Cas. 840 (C.C.E.D. Pa.)

[1833]

…Baldwin J charged the jury….

   The first section of the bill of rights in the constitution of Pennsylvania declares that all men have the inherent and indefeasible right of enjoying and defending life and liberty of acquiring possessing and protecting property that no man can be deprived of his liberty or property but by the judgment of his peers or the law of the land Sect 9 That the right of citizens to bear arms in defence of themselves and the state shall not be questioned Sect 21 The second section of the fourth article of the constitution of the United States declares the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states. The tenth section of the first article prohibits any state from passing any law which impairs the obligation of a contract. The second amendment provides that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

…We shall pursue this subject no further, in its bearing on the political rights of the states composing the union–in recalling your attention to these rights, which are the subject of this controversy, we declare to you as the law of the case, that they are inherent and unalienable–so recognised by all our fundamental laws.

   The constitution of the state or union is not the source of these rights, or the others to which we have referred you, they existed in their plenitude before any constitutions, which do not create but protect and secure them against any violation by the legislatures or courts, in making, expounding or administering laws.

   The nature of this case, its history, and the course of the argument, call on us to declare explicitly what is the effect of a constitutional protection or guarantee of any right, or the injunction of any duty. The twenty sixth section of the bill of rights in the constitution of Pennsylvania, is in these words; “to guard against transgressions of the high powers we have delegated we declare [we the people of Pennsylvania], that every thing in this article is excepted out of the general powers of government, and shall for ever remain inviolate.” A higher power declares this constitution and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, shall be the supreme laws of the land, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding” Const U.S., art. 6, clause 2.

   An amendment of the constitution is of still higher authority, for it has the effect of controlling and repealing the express provisions of the constitution authorizing a power to be exercised, by a declaration that it shall not be construed to give such power. 3 Dall 382.

   We have stated to you the various provisions of the constitution of the United States and its amendments, as well as that of this state; you see their authority and obligation to be supreme over any laws or regulations which are repugnant to them, or which violate, infringe or impair any right thereby secured; the conclusions which result are too obvious to be more than stated.

    Jack was the property of the plaintiff, who had a right to possess and protect his slave or servant, whom he had a right to seize and take away to his residence in New Jersey by force, if force was necessary, he had a right to secure him from escape, or rescue, by any means not cruel or wantonly severe–he had a right to carry arms in defence of his property or person, and to use them if either were assailed with such force, numbers or violence as made it necessary for the protection or safety of either; he had a right to come into the state and take Jack on Sunday, the act of taking him up and conveying him to the Billet, was no breach of the peace if not done by noise and disorder, occasioned by himself or his party–and their peaceable entry into the house of Mrs. Kinderdine was lawful and justifiable, for this purpose, in doing these acts, they were supported by laws which no human authority could shake or question.”–U.S. Supreme Court Justice BALDWIN, Circuit Court of The United States,

[Pennsylvania April Term 1833 Before Hon. Henry Baldwin, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Hon Joseph Hopkinson District Judge, Johnson v. Tompkins (13 F. Cas. 840 (C.C.E.D. Pa. 1833)), and others.]

* – Henry Baldwin, (Jan. 14, 1780 – April 21, 1844), was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from January 18, 1830, to April 21, 1844.

   Justice Baldwin was personally involved in cases deciding the issue of slavery. In the case of Johnson v. Tompkins, 13 F. Cas. 840 (C.C.E.D. Pa. 1833), he instructed the jury that although slavery’s existence “is abhorrent to all our ideas of natural right and justice,” the jury must respect the legal status of slavery. He was the sole dissenter in the case United States v. The Amistad, in which Associate Justice Joseph Story delivered the Court’s decision to free the 36 kidnapped African adults and children who were on board the schooner, La Amistad. In Groves v. Slaughter, 40 U.S. (15 Pet.) 449 (1841), Justice Baldwin emphatically expressed his opinion that, as a matter of constitutional law, slaves are property, not persons.

   In another federal case, Justice Baldwin interpreted the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution. That case was Magill v. Brown, 16 Fed. Cas. 408 (C.C.E.D. Pa. 1833), in which Justice Baldwin stated: “We must take it therefore as a grant by the people of the state in convention, to the citizens of all the other states of the Union, of the privileges and immunities of the citizens of this state.” This eventually became the view accepted by the Supreme Court, and remains so. He also interpreted the Clause that way, in dictum, when speaking for the Court in Rhode Island v. Massachusetts, 37 U.S. (12 Pet.) 657, 751 (1838) (each State “by the Constitution has agreed that those of any other state shall enjoy rights, privileges, and immunities in each, as its own do”).

   Justice Baldwin was a friend and admirer of Chief Justice John Marshall, and wrote of Marshall that “no commentator ever followed the text more faithfully, or ever made a commentary more accordant with its strict intention and language.” Baldwin was at Marshall’s bedside when the old Chief Justice died in 1835.

   In 1837, Justice Baldwin authored a treatise titled A General View of the Origin and Nature of the Constitution and Government of the United States: Deduced from the Political History and Condition of the Colonies and States. Baldwin opposed the two prevailing schools of Constitutional interpretation: the strict constructionists and the school of liberal interpretation. Likewise, his views followed a middle course between the extremes of states’ rights on the one hand, and nationalism on the other hand.

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The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms shall NOT be infringed.

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