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“I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that ‘all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.’ To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition.” Thomas Jefferson

Most people dismiss talk of States Rights as coded language seeking to reinstitute state supported segregation – or any other policy that they disagree with. In fact the real reason that the Constitution enumerated very specific rights to the federal government and reserved the remainder, very specifically in the 10th amendment – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. – was to prevent the federal government from overstepping its limits and assuming powers not granted.

If, for instance, you are in a state that is benefiting from an unconstitutional usurpation of powers – as New York certainly perceived itself to be – you may ignore the mote and be unready for the beam. The erosion of New York’s sovereignty had already begun and their prohibition of imposing the death penalty in a case that did not involve high treason or first degree murder was being roundly ignored so the federal government could conduct an execution – in blatant violation of State law – in a secure location.

On virtually the eve of the execution, in arguing for stay, Gordon’s attorney noted that the words of sentence specifically designated the City Prison,  the Tombs, as the place of execution. Dean argued:

The [sentence]  in this case . . . directs the execution to take place within the City Prison. I wish to raise the question whether that sentence can be carried into effect in this State without the consent of the State. . . .

Now, the [first] Section of the Act of 1860 of this State provides that no crime hereafter committed, except high treason and murder in the first degree, shall be punished with death in this State.  .  . I do claim that the first section applies distinctly to executions in any of the county jails in this State, and by that the Legislature has declared that they will not have their property applied to such purposes except in cases of treason and murder. . . .

The City Prison is private property to a certain extent. It belongs to the City. I don’t believe the [federal] Court can say that an execution shall take place there any more than in the house of the District Attorney.

I am informed that the [New York City] Commissioners of [Public] Charities and Corrections have given a consent that this execution shall take place in the City Prison. If they have it, it is entirely nugatory. They might as well give consent to turn it into a brothel. The consent must be given by the State.

The warning of counsel were prophetic considering that the federal government has long since turned itself into the madam of fifty brothels that provide little more than entertainment and sustenance to the bastards they produce.

Hanging Captain Gordon : the life and trial of an American slave trader    New York : Atria Books, 2006 Ron Soodalter Slave traders Legal status, laws, etc. United States History 19th century,  Gordon, Nathaniel, 1826-1862 Trials, litigation, etc Hardcover. 1st Atria Books hardcover ed. and printing. xiii, 318 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [291]-300) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

Revealing a little-known chapter of American history that continues to have an impact on our lives today, this is the first book to chronicle the trial and execution of the only man in American history to face conviction for the largely unprosecuted and unpunished crime of slave trading.

On a frosty day in late February 1862, hundreds gathered to watch the execution of Nathaniel Gordon. Hanging Captain Gordon explores the many compelling issues and circumstances that came together for this one man to pay the price for a crime committed by many.

When Gordon had sailed two years earlier to take Africans in chains from the Congo, he had no reason to fear hanging. Although his crime had been a hanging offense for more than forty years, no one had ever bothered to enforce it. But Gordon didn’t realize that a sea change was taking place in our nation – embroiled in a civil war with a new president at the helm. Abraham Lincoln needed to preserve the Union and was failing on every front.  Captain Gordon, in the wrong place at the wrong time, got caught up in the wave of change.

This history is filled with drama and sharply drawn characters, including the young and aggressive prosecutor who made Gordon his personal demon, the U.S. marshal who did everything in his power to ensure Gordon’s death, the corrupt officials who tried to help him evade punishment, and the old-guard justices who would bend the law to spare a slave trader.


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