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Prigg v. Pennsylvania

United States Supreme Court
41 U.S. (16 Pet.) 539 (1842)

Prigg v. Pennsylvania


In 1837, Edward Prigg (defendant) captured Margaret Morgan and her children in Pennsylvania. Prigg claimed that Morgan was a fugitive slave. Pennsylvania was a non-slave-holding state and was a common refuge for fugitive slaves. The federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 authorized the owner of a fugitive slave to seize the slave and bring the slave before a federal judge or state magistrate to obtain a certificate after proving that the slave was actually a fugitive slave. Prigg did not prove that Morgan was a slave before any federal judge or state magistrate in Pennsylvania. Instead, Prigg forcibly removed Morgan and her children to Maryland, where a county judge adjudged them to be slaves. Prigg was charged and convicted under a Pennsylvania law designed to prevent self-help in the return of fugitive slaves. Prigg challenged this law as unconstitutional.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Story, J.)

Concurrence (Taney, C.J.)

Dissent (McLean, J.)

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