231. In Pennsylvania, as early as 1780, an act was passed providing for the abolition of slavery, but excepting from its operation “slaves attending upon delegates in Congress, foreign ministers and consuls, and persons passing through or sojourning in” the State. In the case of sojourners, it was “provided, that such slaves be not retained in the State longer than six months.” Many decisions have been made, construing this statute, in none of which have the views of the court denied the principles for which we contend.
In New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, similar statutes were passed soon after the adoption of Federal Constitution.
232. In Illinois this question underwent a most searching and thorough examination in the case of Willard v. The People. It was argued by the counsel, and fully considered by the Court. The case made was that of the transit of a master with his slave through the territory of Illinois. The whole Court concurred in the opinion, that the master’s rights were in no wise affected by this transit; and Justice Scates, who delivered the opinion of the Court says, ” It would be productive of great and irremediable evils of discord, of heartburnings, and alienation of that kind and fraternal feeling which should characterize the American brotherhood, and tend greatly to weaken the common bond of union among us, and our nationality of Character, interest and feeling. It would be startling indeed, if we should deny to our neighbors and kindred that common right of free and safe passage which foreign nations would hardly dare deny. The recognition of this right is no violation of our Constitution. It is not an introduction of slavery into this State, as was contended in argument, and the slave does not become free by the Constitution of Illinois, by coming into the State for the mere purpose of passage through it”
Thomas R.R. Cobb, An inquiry Into The Law of Negro Slavery In The United States of America, Vol.1, 1858
P. Finkelman, An Imperfect Union, Slavery, Federalism, and Comity, 2000
Cobb was a lawyer, politician writer and a Confederate officer.
In 1843 Sarah Liles was traveling from Kentucky to Illinois, during the journey her slave Sarah escaped and was hidden by Julius Willard. Harboring a slave or servant “owing service or labor to any other” was a criminal offense in Illinois, resulting in ether a $500 fine or 6 months imprisonment. Willard was convicted and failed in his appeal to the state supreme court; here his lawyers argued that in a State were slavery does not exist the slave becomes free, further arguing that slavery was “unnatural and artificial.” The court favored the perspective that a common right of free and safe passage without disturbing property was a constitutional right of citizens and also an international obligation.