Groves v. Slaughter 15 Peters 449 (1841)

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GROVES v. SLAUGHTER 15 Peters 449 (1841)

Groves was the only case to come before the United States Supreme Court involving the relative powers of the state and federal governments over the interstate slave trade. Mississippi's Constitution forbade the importation of slaves for sale. In suit on a defaulted note given for an imported slave, the Court majority, speaking through Justice smith thompson, held that the state constitutional provision was not self-executing and was unenforceable without legislation implementing it. Concurring opinions revealed a wide divergence of opinion among the justices on slavery-related questions. Justice john mclean asserted that slaves were essentially persons, not property. Chief Justice roger b. taney insisted that state power over blacks, slave or free, was exclusive and superseded any exercise of federal power under the slave-trade or commerce clause. Justice henry baldwin denied that states could exclude the slave trade.

William M. Wiecek