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JOHN VAN BUREN'S VIEWS.
213 to swear that he is a slave who has hereby commanded to aid and assist escaped from his owner's service, in the prompt and efficient execution he cannot require a trial by jury of this law." of the issue so raised, although Mr. John Van Buren, in a letter the judge or commissioner before to a Massachusetts Convention of whom the claimant sees fit to bring | opponents of this law, while admithim may be in league with that ting the right to reclaim and the claimant to get him out of the pro- duty of surrendering fugitives from tection of the law and into the power Slavery, condemned the enactment of his deadly enemies. And it is in all its more important features : specially provided by this act' that first, as an assumption by Congress
“In no trial or hearing under this act of a duty properly devolving on the shall the testimony of such alleged fugitive States, 10 and to be rightfully executed be admitted in evidence."
by State laws, tribunals, and function2. It did not even allow him al
aries. The demurrer that the Suhearing before a judge; but author
preme Court had decided" adversely ized the captor to take him at once
to this position was met by Mr. Van before any commissioner appointed
Buren as follows: to take depositions, etc., by a Judge of the Federal Courts, who was “By this decision, judges in determining clothed by this act with plenary
the question of authority would probably
be concluded. But, in a popular discussion power in the premises; on whose of the propriety of a law, with a view to its rendition and certificate he might repeal or modification, I suppose we are at
liberty to believe in opposition to a decision be hurried off at once into Slavery,
of the Supreme Court. Even the executive without stay or appeal.
and legislative departments deny its au3. Said commissioner was to re
thority to bind them. The Supreme Court
| decided that the Alien and Sedition Law ceive $10 for his services in case he was constitutional, and Matthew Lyon was directed the surrender of the alleged imprisoned under it. The President, Mr.
Jefferson, decided that it was not, and parfugitive, but only $5 in case he, for
doned Mr. Lyon. The Supreme Court deany cause, decided against the claim cided that Congress could constitutionally ant. The act thus, in effect, offered
charter a Bank of the United States, and
that the propriety and necessity of doing so him a bribe to decide against the
were to be judged by Congress. The person charged with owing “service President, Gen. Jackson, decided that such or labor." 8
an act was unconstitutional, and vetoed it.
With these examples before me, I feel au4. The persons charged with the thorized to express the opinion which I duty of arresting the alleged fugitives
entertain, that the Fugitive Slave Act is
unconstitutional, because Congress has no were, in every instance, authorized
power to legislate upon the subject." and empowered by the act to “summon and call to their aid the by- With regard to the denial by this standers, or posse comitatus of the act of all semblance of a jury trial to proper county," to aid them in their persons claimed under it as fugitive work; “and all good citizens are slaves, Mr. Van Buren was equally
. Sec. 6.
9 Dated New York, April 4, 1851. 8 The reason, or, at least, the excuse, offered 10 This view was also taken by many South for this, imported that the labor of making out rons of the “State Rights" school, especially by the necessary papers was greater in case of a several eminent South Carolinians. rendition than in the alternative.
| 11 In the case of Prigg against Pennsylvania.
decided and forcible, as is evinced by obligation on the claimant to take the perthese further extracts from his letter:
son he seizes to any particular place; and if
I have a right to try the question of title to “But, to those who regard the decision of
| property I hold at the place where the propthe Supreme Court as conclusive, it is im- | erty is, and where the demand is mad portant to consider other objections to the | how can it be argued that I have no such act. Conceding the power of Congress to right when the demand made is for my legislate upon this subject, I think the act thews and sinews ? in question is unconstitutional, because it "It is urged that juries would not render does not give the person seized a trial by verdicts in favor of claimants, where the
jury at the place where he is so seized, and right was established. This does not corbefore he is put in the custody of the claim- | respond with my observation of jury trials. ant, with a warrant to transport him. * * *
On the contrary, whatever prejudice jurors “In my judgment, the claim of service may feel against the law, I have hardly ever secured by the Constitution, if it requires a known them to fail in obeying the directions law to enforce it, and if Congress can pass of the Court upon a point of law. such a law, can only be provided for by an " It is also suggested, that the expense of act which secures the trial of a question in recovering a fugitive by this mode would a regular suit before a jury. The seventh amount to a destruction of the right. If amendment to the Constitution provides such an evil exists, it is incident to this unthat, “in suits at common law, where the fortunate relation. It certainly furnishes value in controversy shall exceed twenty no reason why the Constitution should be dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be violated, and a safeguard broken down in preserved,' etc. This amendment, as well reference to the liberty of a human being, as the fifth, which declares that ‘no person, which is secured to him in defending a shall be deprived of life, liberty, or proper horse or a bale of cotton." ty, without due process of law,' grew out of the opposition manifested to the adoption That the provisions of this act of the Constitution, because it did not, in were harsh and cruel is certain : but terms, provide for the trial by jury in civil cases. It is needless to remind an American
that any act providing for the recovof the anxiety with which this institutionery of fugitives from Slavery could has been watched. It is well described by
have been at once humane and effi
7 Mr. Justice Story, in the case of Parsons vs. Bedford, 3 Peters, 446. Justice Story also cient, is not obvious. And, as the explains what is meant by 'a suit at com capture and rendition of alleged mon law, in the section quoted. It covers all suits except those of equity, admiralty,
slaves under this act claimed a large or maritime jurisdiction; and the Judiciary share of public attention during the Act of 1789 (chapter 20, sections 9, 12, and
three or four years immediately fol13), carries this construction into practical operation. It will hardly be claimed that lowing its passage, while the residue Congress can take a case which entitles a of the Compromise measures evoked party to a jury, and deprive him of a jury by converting it into a summary proceed
no special excitement, and had none ing, or that they can, in the same way, de other than a noiseless, passive operaprive him of his liberty or property without
tion, it is not remarkable that greater due process of law. If they could do this, the trial by jury and the due process of law
success in slave-hunting, with greater secured by the Constitution become a mock- | | alacrity on the part of the Free ery. Treating this as a mere question of
States in ministering to such success, property exceeding twenty dollars in value, I entertain no doubt that it is a case where seemed to the general Northern a jury trial is secured by the Constitution. I mind the sum and substance, the “It may be said that a person seized can
“being's end and aim,” of the Comtry the question of his right to freedom by a jury at the place whence he fled. This is promises of 1850. And, as the Feda consolation, to be sure, to a man whose
eral Administration, whereof Mr. freedom has been destroyed by seizure and transportation from his home; and, if he
Fillmore remained the official head, could get his witnesses to the place where and Mr. Webster became the anithe claimant concludes to take him, he could have a trial. But the act in question
mating soul, gave prominence and provides no jury trial anywhere; there is no emphasis to the exertions of its sub
SLAVE-HUNTING IN FULL BLAST.
ordinates in aid of slave-catching, ber, was resisted by the alarmed, inthe alienation from it of anti-Slavery dignant blacks, and received a ball Whigs became more and more decid- from a musket fired by one of them ed and formidable.
which proved fatal; and his son, Numerous arrests of alleged fu- who had accompanied him, was gitives were made in various parts wounded. And in Milwaukee, Wis., of the country, but not with uniform Sherman M. Booth having been consuccess. In New York City, Phila- victed in the U. S. District Court of delphia, and other marts largely en- aiding in the rescue of Joshua Glogaged in Southern trade, no serious ver, a fugitive from St. Louis, the resistance was offered; though in one Supreme Court of that State, on a case a black man remanded to Mary- habeas corpus sued out in his behalf, land as a fugitive was honorably re- decided the Fugitive Slave Law unjected and set at liberty by the constitutional and void, and set him claimant, as not the slave for whom at liberty. This decision was overhe had been mistaken. In Boston, ruled, however, by the Supreme serious popular repugnance to ren- Court of the United States in a unanidition was repeatedly manifested; mous decision affirming the validity and in one case a negro known as of the Fugitive Slave Law, and diShadrach, who had been arrested as recting that, though a State Court a fugitive, was rescued and escaped. might properly grant a habeas corpus In other cases, however, and con- in behalf of a person imprisoned spicuously in those of Thomas Sims 12 under Federal authority, yet that the and Anthony Burns, 13 the State and custodian in such case had only to City authorities, the Judiciary, the make return that he was so held, and Military, the merchants, and proba- that this return, being proved truthbly a decided majority of the citi- ful, must be accepted by the State zens, approved and aided the surren- Court as sufficient and conclusiveder. There were cases, however, the Federal and State jurisdictions wherein the popular sentiment of the being each sovereign within its procountry was on the side of the hunted per sphere, and each entitled to blacks--as was evinced at Syracuse, 14 entire respect from the other, though N. Y., in the rescue of Jerry Loguen, operative over the, same territory. an alleged fugitive, from the hands And this remains to this day the adof the authorities, and his protection judicated law of the land. by alternately hiding and forward- The activity and universality of ing him until he made his escape slave-hunting, under the act of 1850, into Canada. At Christiana, Lan- were most remarkable. That act caster Co., Pa.,15 where a considerable | became a law on the 18th of Septemnumber of negroes were compactly ber; and, within ten days thereafter, settled, Edward Gorsuch, a Mary- a negro named James Hamlet had land slaveholder, who attempted, been seized in the city of New York, with two or three accomplices, to and very summarily dispatched to a seize his alleged slaves, four in num- woman in Baltimore, who claimed
12 April 12, 1851. 13 May 27, 1854. | 14 October 1, 1851. 15 September 11, 1851.
him as her slave. Before the act was Slavery. In Columbia, Pa., March, a month old, there had been several 1852, a negro, named William arrests under it, at Harrisburg and Smith, was seized as a fugitive by a near Bedford, Pa., in Philadelphia, Baltimore police officer, while workat Detroit, and in other places. ing in a lumber-yard, and, attemptWithin the first year of its existence, ing to escape, the officer drew a pismore persons, probably, were seized tol and shot him dead. In Wilkesas fugitive slaves than during the barre, Pa., a deputy marshal and three preceding sixty years. Many of these or four Virginians suddenly came seizures were made under circum upon a nearly white mulatto waiter stances of great aggravation. Thus, at a hotel, and, falling upon him in Philadelphia, Euphemia Williams, from behind with a club, partially who had lived in Pennsylvania in shackled him. He fought them off freedom all her life, as she affirmed, with the hand-cuff which they had and had there become the mother of secured to his right wrist, and, coversix living children, of whom the old- ed with blood, rushed from the est was seventeen, was arrested in house and plunged into the Susque1851 as the slave of a Marylander hanna, exclaiming: “I will be named Purnell, from whom she was drowned rather than taken alive!” charged with escaping twenty-two He was pursued to the river-bank, years before. Her six children were and thence fired upon repeatedly, at claimed, of course, as also the prop- a very short distance, as he stood in erty of her alleged master. Upon the water, up to his neck, until a ball a full hearing, Judge Kane decided entered his head, instantly covering that she was not the person claimed his face with blood. The by-standby Burnell as his slave Mahala. But ers, who had by this time collected, there were several instances in which were disgusted and indignant, and persons who had lived in unchalleng- the hunters, fearing their interposied freedom from fifteen to twenty- tion, retired for consultation. He five years were seized, surrendered, thereupon came out of the water, and carried away into life-long Sla- apparently dying, and lay down on very.
the shore. One of his pursuers reThe needless brutality with which marked that “dead niggers were not these seizures were often made, tend-worth taking South.” His clothes ed to intensify the popular repug- having been torn off in the scuffle, nance which they occasioned. In some one brought a pair of pantarepeated instances, the first notice loons, and put them on him, and he the alleged fugitive had of his peril was helped to his feet by a negro was given him by a blow on the named Rex; on seeing which, the head, sometimes with a heavy club hunters returned and presented their or stick of wood; and, being thus revolvers, driving him again into the knocked down, he was carried, bleed- river, where he remained more than ing and insensible, before the facile an hour, with only his head above commissioner, who made short work the water. His claimants dared not of identifying him, and earning his come within his powerful grasp, as ten dollars, by remanding him into he afterward said, “he would have
his face some o
FREE BLACKS KIDNAPPED.
217 died contented, could he have car- | be expected that they should be ? In ried two or three of them down with many instances, free colored girls him.” And the hunters were deter were hired for household service at red or shamed by the spectators from some point distant from that where further firing. Preparations being they had previously resided, and made to arrest them as rioters, they were known; and, being thus unsusabsconded; whereupon, their victim pectingly spirited away from all who waded some distance up the stream, could identify them, were hurried and was soon after found by some off into Slavery. Sometimes, though women, lying flat on his face in a not often, negroes were tempted by corn-field, insensible. He was then heavy bribes to betray their brethren duly cared for, and his wounds into the hands of the slave-hunters. dressed, which was the last that was | In one instance, a clerk in a dryseen of him. His assailants were goods store in western New York, afterward arrested in Philadelphia, who was of full age, a member of a on a charge of riot, on a warrant church, and had hitherto borne a reissued on due complaint by a State spectable character, hired two colored magistrate ; but Justice Grier, of the boys to work for him in a hotel in United States Supreme Court, arrest Ohio, and on his way thither sold ed the proceedings as an unauthor- them as fugitive slaves to three Kenized interference with Federal offi tuckians, who appear to have becers in the discharge of their duty. lieved his representations. One of In his opinion, discharging the pris the intended victims, detecting the oners, he said:
plot, escaped from the cars, knocking “We are unable to perceive in this trans
down the Kentuckian who underaction anything worthy of blame in the took to prevent him. The other was conduct of these officers, in their unsuccess sold for $750 to an honorable slaveful endeavors to fulfill a most dangerous and
| holder in Warsaw, Ky., who, upon disgusting duty; except, perhaps, a want of sufficient courage and perseverance in proof of the outrage, promptly and the attempt to execute the writ!”
cheerfully returned him to freedom. Of course, a law affording such One girl, who was hired from New facilities and temptations to kidnap- York, to live as a servant in Newark, ping was not allowed to pass unim- N. J., was taken directly through proved by the numerous villains who Newark to Washington, and there regarded negroes as the natural and offered to a slave-trader for $600, but lawful prey of whites under all cir- not accepted; when she, having becumstances. The Kentucky Yeo- come alarmed, appealed to the hotelman, a Democratic pro-Slavery keeper for protection; whereupon organ, once remarked that the work the kidnappers abandoned her, but of arresting fugitives had become a were ultimately arrested at Ellicott's regular business along the border Mills, Md., and returned to Newline between the Slave and Free York, where the husband was conStates, and that some of those engag-victed, and sent to the penitentiary. ed in it were not at all particular as In one instance, a negro, near Edto the previous slavery or freedom of wardsville, Ills., who had been emthose they arrested. How could it ployed in the work of capturing sev