The Mississippi Constitution included a provision that arguably prohibited the importation of slaves from other states. Little doubt existed as to its purpose, which was to provide economic protection to local slave traders from out-of-state competition. From a constitutional standpoint, the difficult problem was distinguishing the economic protectionism of the Mississippi Constitution from other state laws that likewise prohibited the importation of slave, but on abolitionist grounds. If either was struck down as an unconstitutional state regulation of interstate commerce, then logic seemed to dictate that the same fate should befall the other. The majority opinion artfully avoided this nettlesome question.
McLean, J., concurring. Given that slavery is local in its effects, the states should be able to regulate their respective slave trades. The states have an interest in making sure that the slave population does not become a threat to the general public.
Taney, C.J. Justice McLean correctly concludes that the power to regulate slavery should rest with the states.
Baldwin, J. A state may abolish slavery entirely, but it may not maintain slavery within its own borders and simultaneously attempt to regulate the interstate slave trade. A state may regulate slavery within its own borders to any extent it desires, but it cannot purport to extend such regulations to trade with other states. The Privileges and Immunities Clause requires that states treat each other on equal footing.
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