I’m typing up a book called The Myths of Property by my friend Karen Coulter. It’s fascinating, and throwing me into all kinds of fits and moods. Here’s a quote from Judge Read of Ohio in 1845:
Slavery is wrong, inflicted by force and supported alone by the municipal power of the state or territory where it exists. It is opposed to the principles of natural justice and right, and is the mere creature of positive law. Hence, it being my duty to declare the law, not to make it, the question is not, what conforms to the great principle of natural rights and universal freedom—but what do the positive laws and institutions … command and direct.
So basically he’s saying “well, slavery is abhorrent, but I’m just a judge, so I’ll work within the constraints of the law as exists.”