Boston, April 29, 1859
A ‘Professional’ Blackguard.
At the trial of the Wellington Slave Rescue Case, at Cleveland, Ohio – thirty-seven citizens of Oberlin and Wellington being under indictment by the United States, on the charge of having illegally rescued an apprehended fugitive slave – the closing argument for the iniquitous prosecution was made by Judge Belden. The following were his opening remarks, indicating a low and depraved mind and heart: -
I do not know whether I shall address myself to you, sir, to you, gentlemen of the jury, or to this audience. Why, sir, the audience and the multitude in the house have been the tribunal to which the gentlemen of the defence have talked. Here are a number of saints from Oberlin, - Saint Peck, Saint Plumb, Saint Fitch and sub-Saint Bushnell, - gathered here, and their counsel have, as a fit beginning and a fit ending of a bad beginning, set aside the Judge and Jury, and spoke to a multitude alone. One of the gentlemen says he has but little reverence and small opinion of the merits of the Supreme Court, and as for Judge McLean, he was but a small sort of man who had but little legal knowledge. Why, was this the same Judge McLean that Mr. Spaulding wanted to make President a few years ago? (Wanted to get him off the bench’ – Judge Spaulding.) Look at the ‘constitutional arguments which have been brought forward, such as the boy who was exhibited her before the court, with the Probate, Crowbait Judge, who took a seat beside your Honor upon the bench. What sort of an argument was that? Again, the gentleman reads a series of resolutions, which purported to be sanctioned by your Honor. But it was known, or should have been known by him that this placing of your Honor’s name to those resolutions was a libel upon you name. At this meeting, the name of your Honor was place to these resolutions without authority and without permission. I have now a note from one of the most prominent members of the bar in this city, by which I learn that this law was referred, at the meeting, to a select committee, to examine and report upon. Judge Hitchcock, who was chairman of that committee, reported upon it that it was entirely constitutional. (‘I think, Judge Belden, that this matter is foreign to the subject’ – Judge Willson.) I think so too, and will drop it, having bee forced into it by the defence.
This Oberlin ‘higher law’ – which I call ‘Devil’s law,’ as interpreted by the Oberlin saints – is just what makes every man’ conscience his criterion as to right or wrong. The true ‘higher law’ is the law of the country in which we exist, and there would be no safety for the whole world or community, a perfect hell upon earth would prevail, if this law was carried out. It gives all to the black man, but the devil take the white man! It places no constraint upon any human being, save his own free will, and takes all power from the law.
The ordinance, which remanded fugitives to slavery, is within the letter and spirit of the Constitution, and there are always means for peaceably and quietly executing these laws. Until this higher, this devil’s law was acted upon, the law for the recovery of fugitives was in force. It was for modern wisdom to find out that this law is unconstitutional. Daniel Webster believed tit to be constitutional, the statement of the gentleman for the defence to the contrary notwithstanding. But disunion and opposition arose, and spread through the land, because this does away with habeas corpus and trial by jury. (Read from Webster in support of the law.) The counsel for the defence has said, ‘Liberty, or no Union.’ Oh! What an estimate of Liberty. Wipe out the Union, and you blot out Liberty. Break down the law, and anarchy stalks through the land, while ‘devil law’ reigns supreme.
I advise our friends of Oberlin, Saint Peck, Saint Plumb and the rest, to go to some good church, where the Bible is preached, and not politics; where women do not point to your church spires as hell-poles because the Bible sanctions slavery - for it does sanction it, in the case of Paul and Onesimus. Paul preached obedience to servants. If these Oberlin Saints had about one half as much piety as the Southern masters and mistresses have, it would be well as between them and their God. The slaves are no more fit for liberty than our children at the age of 12 or 14. You find but few, even in the North, who are worthy of their liberty, and prepared to us it. How many, or rather, how few there are in Europe who are capable of taking car of themselves! The ‘higher law’ people appeal to the passions, and not to common sense. To go to the South now, and set the slaves free, would be a horrible crime, throwing them into a condition far worse than they are now placed in. You may as well say to this community, ‘Throw away your marriage relation,’ because it is sometimes abused. I am a Northern man with National principles, and I say that those living in slavery cannot be set free, if it is wished to preserve the Union. Oh! You craven-hearted, stingy crew, who point to England’s free laws, why do you not do as they do there, and train the slaves until they are ready to take care of themselves? Some men let their philanthropy take the ‘higher law’ road until it leads them to perdition. There was no special enactment by which slavery existed here in early times. It results from the eternal law of races. The black race is not equal to the white.
Not in one single one of the many conventions, which met in the various States of the Union, was there any objection or action passed against this provision for the recovery of fugitives. (Read and quoted from high sources relative to this matter, especially from opinions of Daniel Webster.) In these times they had not the higher law. They made law, and abided by it.
In both the act of 1793 and that of 1850, the slave is to be removed to the State from which he fled, and there tried. His recovery is merely a preliminary proceeding. You may charge the Southern courts with corruption, but I should rather be tried in Kentucky than by all the saints you can collect in Oberlin for forty years.