The Cleveland Daily Herald
Cleveland, April 14, 1859
The Rescue Case.
The interest has daily increased in this trial until on the commencement of the arguments every spot in the Court Room and in the Judge’s parlors, adjoining, was crowded with spectators; among them a very large number of ladies.
The argument of Judge Bliss was as good a one as so bad a cause admits of, for no man with a heart can throw his soul into such a case. It is an up hill business to talk even to a listening jury when the entire audience sympathy is against the orator; when, too, Counsel knows that every step he takes he treads upon State rights, and tramples freedom in the dust. Judge Bliss acquitted himself well; for he had nothing to make his case out of, save an arbitrary, cruel, vindictive and shameless law.
Mr. Riddle followed. Here let us say that our report gives no correct idea of matter or his manner. Mr. Riddle’s style is peculiar, it cannot be reported, and even a verbatim report would not properly afford a just conception of his argument. It was brilliant, flashing and scathing. The last part of it, where he took up the occurrences of that day at Wellington, step by step, from the gathering of the crowd at the fire until John escaped, was a powerful and convincing speech. It stripped the case to the buff, laid it bare and showed just what was done by the captors and the slave, and by the crowd, and it left but little for the government to rely upon. Mr. Riddle’s sifting of the testimony was complete.
The enthusiasm of the crowd could not be repressed; but broke out – improperly, we admit – into prolonged applause. Mr. R. spoke, in all, about seven hours, and he held the jury closely all the time.
Judge Spalding opened his speech with one of the most eloquent introductions we ever hear. He gave some vivid illustrations of the Higher Law, as visited on Napoleon and as proclaimed by the immortal Jefferson.
At one point in his argument, in which he replied to the assertion of government counsel that there was on danger of white men being captured as slaves, he pointed to a boy as white as any in the room, and with a burst of eloquence that thrilled the house, said that lad but a few weeks since was manumitted in this city, before Probate Judge Tilden, by his lawful master. The house was electrified, and some indiscreet persons calling out, “let the boy stand up,” the lad did stand up, and probably not comprehending what was or was not proper in a Court of Justice, maintained his elevated position some moments, although told by the Court, immediately on his rising, to take his seat. The effect of making profert of a white slave in Court, was magical, and was a conclusive answer to the government counsel on that point.
Judge Spalding in the latter part of his argument addressed himself to the facts and made an argument of commanding force upon the question of the legality of the capture and the notice the crowd had upon the subject. His positions were strong and impregnable to the effect that the crowd used all means to learn by that authority the negro was held, that when that authority at last was disclosed ti was the warrant, which was good for nothing, and that the Power of Attorney was not shown as their authority but was an after thought when it became manifest the warrant was illegal.
The argument of Judge Spalding has added even to his former reputation as a lawyer and advocate, and whatever may be the fate of the argument with the jury it has sown valuable seed in a large and intelligent audience.