SOCIAL SCIENCES

Prigg v. Pennsylvania: Slavery, The Supreme Court, and the Ambivalent Constitution

. October 2012. 216p. 978-0-70061-186-4.
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The landmark 1842 Supreme Court case Prigg v. Pennsylvania established the supremacy of federal fugitive slave law at a time when many Northern states had either ended or were phasing out slavery. The case arose when Pennsylvania indicted Edward Prigg for forcibly removing an ex-slave and her children to Maryland. Pennsylvania’s personal liberty law stipulated that fugitives receive due process. Maryland would not extradite Prigg for trial for kidnapping, and the case proceeded to federal court. In addition to providing extensive description and analysis of the case, Baker (history, Georgia State Univ.; The Rescue of Joshua Glover: A Fugitive Slave, the Constitution, and the Coming of the Civil War) traces the history of U.S. fugitive slave laws and discusses the individual rights of free blacks and servants, property claims of slaveholders, evolving roles of state and federal courts, and differing interpretations of federalism and fugitive law in the Constitution. ­
VERDICT   The only book-length treatment of this key opinion, this title is challenging reading, but for scholars and advanced students it offers great insight into the political and legal history of the antebellum period. Of special interest during the 150th anniversary years of the Civil War.

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