The Oberlin Evangelist
May 25, 1859
The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Case.
Our last notice of this case left our brethren – twenty in number, in Cleveland jail. At this present writing (May 2nd) they still remain there, except that those gentlemen from Wellington have signed each otherŐs bail bonds -- $500, each, and have gone home, and two are dismissed by a Ňnolle prosequi,Ó granted in consequence of a radical mistake in their names. Simeon Bushnell, against whom a verdict of guilty has been found by the jury but whose sentence by the Court is still withheld, remained quietly in jail with his fellow prisoners one week; was then induced by false pretences to go into the United StateŐs Court building, inveigled into the MarshalŐs room and locked up. He was kept there, under close confinement one week, obviously through fear that a writ of Habeas Corpus might be granted to take him from their hands. When it became known that this writ would not be granted at present, he was permitted to return to his fellow prisoners in the jail.
Next after the case of Bushnell, came on that of Chas. Langston. This has progressed slowly – the Court having had several adjournments. Up to this time the testimony for the prosecutor is unfinished.
The point of absorbing interest during the past week has been the application to the Supreme Court of Ohio for a writ of Habeas Corpus. The petition for this writ was rested especially on the ground that the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 and of 1850 are unconstitutional and therefore void. The Court, however, have evaded any decision upon this point, their decision being that the application for a writ is premature, the prisoners with one exception, not having had their trial, and therefore it should be presumed still that the U.S. Court will do them justice.
It does not therefore yet appear with certainty what this court will do if applied to after the trials are over.
The decision they have given is not very satisfactory; for:
1. The citizens of Ohio are already restrained of their liberty – under the action of
enactments passed by Congress, which they believe to be utterly unconstitutional and void.
2. Appealing to the proper authorities in the sovereign state of Ohio for redress, they
ask a clear decision on the question whether those enactments under which they are held, are or are not in fact unconstitutional and void; - and this request is evaded.
3. One of the parties – Mr. Bushnell, has already heard his verdict. The Court have
not met his case at all.
4. The U.S. District Judge has declared in open Court that he shall assume the
enactment of 1793 and 1850 to be constitutional, and valid. Hence the issue on his part is made; if our State Court proposes to make issue o this point at all, we see no good reason for delay.
We need not say that we regard this question as one of immense importance. None greater has arisen since our Federal Government was organized. We condemn the Fugitive Slave Act.
As to the latter we can only take time now to say, that the clause in the constitution on this subject makes no allusion to Congress, delegates no power to Congress, but manifestly contemplates only the State into which the persons held to service in another State has escaped. This State into which he has escaped shall not release him from his services, but shall deliver him upon proper claim &c. Therefore Congress in assuming to legislate upon this clause have transcended their legitimate powers.
2. The several States were absolutely independent sovereignties when in 1787, they
entered into the Federal compact and adopted the present Federal Constitution. In adopting this, they relinquished only a specified amount of sovereignty – not one iota beyond what was named. All the rest, they reserved to themselves, in this amount, that most sacred prerogative – the protection of their own citizens in their personal rights and liberties.
has long been intensely striving towards the accumulation and concentration of power in its own hands. Aggressions upon State sovereignty are altogether in order. Unless a stand is made against this tendency, our system will shortly be -- not a limited Republic, but centralized despotism.