The claimant, loath to lose these four human “chattels,” carried the case to the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri, where at its March term, 1852, it was reversed, and a decree rendered that these negroes were not entitled to freedom. Three judges formed the court, and two of them joined in an opinion bearing internal evidence that it was prompted, not by considerations of law and justice, but by a spirit of retaliation growing out of the ineradicable antagonism of freedom and slavery.
[Sidenote] Scott, J., 15 Mo. Reports, pp. 582-6.
Every State [says the opinion] has the right of determining how far, in a spirit of comity, it will respect the laws of other States. Those laws have no intrinsic right to be enforced beyond the limits of the State for which they were enacted. The respect allowed them will depend altogether on their conformity to the policy of our institutions. No State is bound to carry into effect enactments conceived in a spirit hostile to that which pervades her own laws.... It is a humiliating spectacle to see the courts of a State confiscating the property of her own citizens by the command of a foreign law.... Times now are not as they were when the former decisions on this subject were made. Since then not only individuals but States have been possessed with a dark and fell spirit in relation to slavery, whose gratification is sought in the pursuit of measures whose inevitable consequence must be the overthrow and destruction of our Government. Under such circumstances it does not behoove the State of Missouri to show the least countenance to any measure which might gratify this spirit. She is willing to assume her full responsibility for the existence slavery within her limits, nor does she seek to share or divide it with others.
To this partisan bravado the third judge replied with a dignified rebuke; in his dissenting opinion he said:
[Sidenote] Gamble, J., 15 Mo. Reports, pp. 589-92.
As citizens of a slave-holding State, we have no right to complain of our neighbors of Illinois, because they introduce into their State Constitution a prohibition of slavery; nor has any citizen of Missouri who removes with his slave to Illinois a right to complain that the fundamental law of the State to which he removes, and in which he makes his residence, dissolves the relation between him and his slave. It is as much his own voluntary act as if he had executed a deed of emancipation.... There is with me nothing in the law relating to slavery which distinguishes it from the law on any other subject, or allows any more accommodation to the temporary public excitements which are gathered around it.... In this State it has been recognized from the beginning of the government, as a correct position in law, that a master who takes his slave to reside in a State or Territory where slavery is prohibited thereby emancipates his slave. [Citing