The Oberlin Evangelist
December 22, 1858
The Wellington Rescue Case
Some of our readers will remember a short notice in our paper of Sept. 29, of “the Slave Hunt” – a case of decoying a young man of color out of this village under pretense of supplying him with labor, but really to bring him easily within the grasp of men deputed to take him away into bondage. As stated in that account, this claimed fugitive was given up to his friends without a shot or even a blow. But early in November, the United States’ District Court at Cleveland took up the case and after four weeks examination before a grand jury, found indictments against thirty-three gentlemen, mostly citizens of Oberlin or of Wellington, for “rescuing” and against three citizens of Oberlin for “aiding and abetting” the said rescue.
Dec. 7 the U.S. Marshall came to Oberlin, called on fifteen gentlemen and left with them each his paper, inviting them to appear before the court forthwith. Accordingly they repaired to Cleveland next day, unattended, and answered “not guilty” to the charges made in the indictment. Through their counsel, Judge Spaulding, they signified their readiness and desire to proceed at once to trial. But the Prosecuting attorney was y no means ready. Then came up the question what should be done with the indicted parties. The Judge said five hundred dollars each could not be considered excessive bail. Some remarks having been made about lodgings in jail, Judge S. suggested to his honor the Judge, whether it would appear well to immure fifteen free citizens of Ohio for two weeks in an Ohio jail for the accommodation of two slave-holders of Kentucky. The gentlemen indicted then withdrew to consult together, and soon decided not to give bail. The court then accepted their won recognizance, and they returned quietly to their homes to await the convenience of the court on the second Tuesday of March, 1859.
Thus far our Oberlin friends indicted in this case have borne themselves as men can afford to who are conscious of having done no wrong. Their appearance before the court designated them as the innocent rather than the guilty parties. We are confident they will possess their souls in patience, and bide the issue without fear.
To the honor of the gentlemen of the Cleveland bar, it should be said that their best men were ready to give their professional services in this suit without cost to the prosecuted parties – a boon to the cause of liberty and righteousness. The gentlemen who managed the case – Messrs Spaulding Riddle, and Griswold – enter upon their work with enthusiasm and evince consummate ability.
The gentlemen of our community who have the honor of being indicted for “aiding and abetting” are Prof. H.E. Peck, J.M. Fitch, and Ralph Plumb.