The Grand Traverse Herald
Traverse City, Michigan
June 10, 1859
(We surrender our Editorial columns this week to the Detroit Advertiser’s graphic and interesting report of Freedom’s Mass Convention at Cleveland.
These are stirring times, and this is one of the signs!)
MASS CONVENTION AT CLEVELAND.
NORTHERN OHIO MOVING!
The Oberlin Rescuers Sustained.
FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW CONDEMNED!
Speeches of Gov. Chase, Hon. J.R. Giddings, President Mahan, and Others.
From the Special Reporter of the Detroit Daily Advertiser
Cleveland, May 24.
This day is one that will long be remembered by the citizens of the Western Reserve. At an early hour, Cleveland was a scene of unusual life and activity. Every road leading into this beautiful city was lined with passengers in carriages, wagons, on foot, and horseback. Trains on all the Railroads were laden with passengers. The Cleveland and Pittsburg Railroad brought in an early train of cars, laden with delegates. There were six car loads from Elyria, thirteen car loads from Oberlin, seven car loads on the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad, five on the Cleveland and Pittsburg, and nine car loads on the Cleveland and Mahoning Railroad. Altogether, the Railroads brought in nearly 4,000 persons. The steamers from Detroit, Sandusky, Buffalo and other places, were also laden with passengers.
Delegates from Wellington, Oberlin and Ashtabula formed a procession at the Railroad Depots, and marched to the music of their respective bands to the public square. At 10 o’clock a large concourse of people were assembled on the square.
Those not familiar with the Public Square of Cleveland, will require some description: It is a large Park, studded with shade trees of maple, elm, &c. Near one corner is the jail of the county, where the Oberlin prisoners are confined. At another corner is the United States Court House, Post Office and Court House where the trials are being held, and in front of this, but on the opposite side of the road, beneath the shade of the maples, is erected a large plank platform, especially for this occasion. Bands of music are playing in various pats of the Park, and thousands of well-dressed men and women are seen in every direction, while every few minutes there are fresh arrivals on the ground, and as each procession arrives, it is greeted with cheers of welcome and music. At length the multitude congregated around the platform, presenting a forest of heads in every direction. Not less than from ten to fifteen thousand persons were present.
At eleven o’clock, the Convention organized by electing Rufus P. Spaulding, temporary Chairman, and J.C. Grannis, Secretary pro tem.
Professor Morgan opened the proceedings with prayer.
The Chairman pro tem in a neat speech, stated the object of the Convention was to consult together upon the best means of preserving the sacred right of liberty, which we derived as our choicest inheritance from our fathers. He thanked God that we yet lived under a Constitution which permitted us thus to assemble and deliberate. How long it might endure, depended on ourselves. He then read the resolution of the Congress of 1774, condemning the slave trade, and compared it with the resolutions of Vicksburg, Mississippi, declaring that all laws prohibiting the traffic in slaves from the coast of Africa, ought to be abolished. He said the latter sentiment in Charleston, S.C., and in Savannah, Ga., and other parts of the South amounted almost to an infatuation. He then declared the intention of the Convention to observe the strictest order, and counseled all present, as they valued the name of Republican, as individual members of the great heroic, enlightened and patriotic party, to let good order, intelligence and faithfulness to themselves, and the cause, characterized all their doings this day. [Loud cheers.]
A Committee on Nominations and a Committee on Business, consisting of one from each of the 22 counties represented, were then appointed, and arranged to meet at the office of the Secretary.
Delegations were announced from Saratoga, N.Y., and from Michigan.
A recess was then taken until 2 o’clock, and a procession formed, which marched around the Public Square, and proceeded through the principal streets.
Long before the hour to which the Convention had been adjourned, there was a large concourse of persons around the platform.
Hon. Edward Wade was loudly called for, and he made one of his forcible, telling speeches. He contended that the present prosecutions, being based on the Dred Scott Decision, were without the foundation of law. That decision being extra-judicial, and being made at a time when no case in point was under consideration, was not binding as law, it was merely a dictum of the Judge. This was a principle well known to Judge Willson, and acknowledged in all Courts. Speaking of the Supreme court, Mr. Wade said, he wished this assembly could witness it in session; he could assure them their bumps of veneration would fall at once [Laughter and cheers.]
After Mr. Wade had sat down some time, he was called up again. In his first speech he addressed Democrats, telling them that nothing could save them politically, but the adoption of true Jeffersonian doctrines. In this speech he addressed the other class of politicians, sometimes voting the Democratic ticket – the Conservative, old line Whigs. He contended that these two classes were responsible for all these aggressions, and the strength of the slave-power. He said, were it not for them, Southern Slavery could not control the government of this country an hour. He resumed his seat amid great cheering.
Judge Tilden, from the committee on permanent organization, presented a report nominating officers of the Convention.
Mr. Joseph Haydon sung a song composed for the occasion. It consisted of about fifty stanzas, and was well received.
Three cheers were given for Judge Tilden, who came forward and addressed the assembly. He contended that it was a duty incumbent upon them as citizens of Ohio, to arrest the slave power in its aggressions on the liberties of the Northern people. He remembered the time when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that whenever a slave set his foot upon free soil with the consent of his master, he became entitled to his freedom. But such is not the ruling with the present degenerated Court. Judge Tilden made a powerful and logical speech, and sat down amidst enthusiastic applause.
J.W. Vance, of Mt. Vernon, claimed that the law was on the side of the prisoners, and charged Judges Willson and Belden with violating law, packing juries, and taking the evidence of perjured witnesses to effect what was pre-determined before the trial commenced.
The Chairman, Hon. J.R. Giddings, here appeared upon the stand. This was a signal for three tremendous cheers.
[We are happy to report that Mr. G. is now in excellent health, and appears to have regained all his former vigor. He was humorously introduced to the meeting as a young man of little experienced, for whom they would make all allowances.]
Mr. Giddings commenced by referring to the period when he entered the Western Reserve with his knapsack and accoutrements as a common soldier. It was, he said, on the 10th of September, 1812, in the midst of the conflict of the British and their allies, the Indian savages. The glorious victory of Perry soon followed. He wanted to know if they could respect the memory of those fearless patriots and yet allow piratical slave-catchers to prowl about this glorious New England of the West, to capture a man made in the image of God? After speaking some time on the general principles involved in the case, a gentleman in the meeting asked Mr. Giddings: Can you tell us how we are to take hold in this case so as to accomplish release to our friends?
Mr. Giddings said he had no hesitation as to the means to be employed. He would have a committee of three appointed to wait on one of the State Judges to obtain a writ of habeas corpus, for the release, not only of the prisoners who had been convicted but of those awaiting trial, and although he had not intended to run again for any public office, he would accept an appointment on this committee. [Cheers.] He would apply to Judge Tilden. He did not know that he would grant it; but if you appoint me on this committee I will not give rest to my head nor slumber to eyelids until I have done all that can be done to bring our friends from out of the clutches of these despots. [Tremendous cheering.] He would go to Judge Tilden, and if he would not grant the writ, he would go to any other of the State Judges having power to issue the writ. [A voice: We do not want you to go to too many Judges! We are ready to take it into our own hands.] [Loud cheers.] The Democratic press have accused me of advocating the principle that the people have a right to release these prisoners when other means have failed, by force. God knows that is the first true statement the Democratic press have made about me. [Loud cheers.] It is one of two things we have to do in this case: we must either submit or resist. Am I not right? [Yes, yes.] Mr. Giddings then took a vote on the question of submission or resistance. Not a voice was heard for submission, but when the vote was taken on resistance a universal shout of “yea” was heard throughout the assembly. After paying his respects to Judges Willson and Belden, whose names he held in utter abhorrence, Mr. Giddings concluded by stating that he wished to be understood as saying that when every peaceable, legal means are exhausted, and when they shall fail, while I can raise an arm I will strike, and while my voice can utter a word I will not cease to pray for Liberty. [Loud applause, and three cheers for Mr. Giddings.]
John Coon, Esq., from the Committee on Resolutions, reported the following Declaration, which was adopted amid the greatest enthusiasm:
This assembly of the People of Ohio, holding –
That next to our duty to the Supreme Being, is the obligation to preserve our free institutions and our civil liberties;
That the greatest tyrants have been those whose titles have been least questions;
That every violation of the Constitution should be watched with jealously and resented with spirit;
That the history of every free people has shown the impossibility of a cordial compliance with laws, which neither embody nor execute, the public will;
That the enforcement of such laws against an unwilling people, is productive only of evils threatening public order and the stability of governmental institutions:
And holding, furthermore –
That the history of the Government of the United States, as recently administered, is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having, in direct object, the Africanization of this continent by the diffusion and establishment of Slavery, and the restriction and limitation of Freedom, thus reversing the ancient policy of the founders of the Republic which looked to the extinction of Slavery and the extension of Liberty; and
That the Dred Scott decision, reversing all the well-established rules which for ages have been the bulwark of personal liberty, yields its legitimate fruits in the recent atrocities committed in the heart of the Western Reserve, and calls upon us for new efforts and new sacrifices for constitutional liberty, do, therefore, publish and
1st. That the several States composing the United States of America are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government; but that, by compact, under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes, delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force, and being void can derive no validity for mere judicial interpretation; that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral party; that this government, created by this compact, was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself, since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers: but that, as in all other cases of compact among parties having no judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.
2d. That the law commonly called the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, was in the opinion of this assembly, passed by Congress in the exercise of powers improperly assumed and had it been presented as an original question to a wise, impartial, and independent Court, must have been held to be in conflict with the Constitution, and therefore void.
3d. That one of the most alarming symptoms of degeneracy in the General Government is the plant subserviency of the Supreme Court of the United States to the objects of party politics, thus greatly diminishing that public confidence in the Judiciary, so essential to good order; that the extent to which the Supreme Court has thus compromised its character, renders it incumbent upon the people to consider what measures are necessary to restore that tribunal to its ancient estates.
4th. That in the opinion of this Assembly an amendment of the Federal Judiciary system is indispensably necessary, so that the sovereignty of the States may be guarded from oppression. As a means to this end, it is strongly recommended that the life-tenure of Judges be abolished, and that the judicial office be limited to a term of years; that Congress so remodel the judicial circuits that a majority of the citizens of the United States shall have a majority of the Justices of the Supreme Court.
5th. That the recent proceedings of the Federal Court for this District in producing the conviction of person indicted under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Law, by the employment of the most disgraceful partisan means is without a parallel even in the modern history of despotisms; that the victims of that Court now incarcerated in yonder prison, convicted or accused of “humanity to man,” are entitled to and we hereby tender to them, our cordial sympathy; and to make this sympathy effectual, we hereby recommend that a fund be raised for their relief and indemnification, to be called the “Fund of Liberty,” and to the end that every Republican on the Western Reserve may share in accumulating the fund, that contributions be limited to One Dollar each; the same to be collected under the direction of the several County Committees of the Reserve; that three Commissioners be appointed by this assembly, to be called “Commissioners of the Liberty Fund,” who shall receive said fund, disburse it for the objects named, and account therefore by periodical publications until their duties are performed; applying any surplus to the advancement of Republicanism and Liberty.
6th. That our fellow-citizens of Loraine county who are now in jail, awaiting the pleasures of the United States District Judge for their trial are entitled to their liberty and must have it peaceably and in conformity with the rules of law. In pursuit of this end it is resolved, that Joshua R. Giddings, of Ashtabula county, and Herman Canfield, of Medina county, and Robert F. Payne, of Cuyahoga county, be constituted a committee to sue out a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of said prisoners, without unnecessary delay, and that they address the application at their discretion, to any judicial officer of the State, having power to grant the writ.
7th. That the chief reliance of freedom in the American Republic, rests in the great Republican party, to which the people and the age look for a restoration of every branch of the Federal Government to the pristine purity of Jeffersonian Republicanism; that stimulated as well by the wrongs and outrages which were the immediate occasion of this vast assemblage, as the late triumphs of the people over Federal power and corruption, it is the manifest duty of Republicans everywhere to renew their united efforts with an energy not to be remitted, until that great result is accomplished.
The Chairman, Mr. Giddings, here called on the Marshal to summon Herman Canfield, of Medina county, and Robert F. Payne, of Cuyahoga county, to meet him at his room at the Angiers Hotel within fifteen minutes, to carry out the fifth clause of the Declaration. [Loud applause.] He said, I see this is an occasion that will tell upon the history of the Western Reserve. I desire with all possible solemnity that every man here assembled will perform the high and transcendent duties which we are bound to discharge to our fellow men, to ourselves, and to history, in a manner that we can tell to prosperity. Let us act so as to preserve our names untarnished by servility.
“Hail Columbia,” by the Chagrin Falls Band.
Mr. Joseph Root made a fervent and eloquent speech, which we regret our limits compel us to omit.
Loud calls were made for Governor Chase, who on appearing in front of the platform was greeted with every manifestation of enthusiasm and delight.
Governor Chase said a few hours ago he was sitting in his office at Columbus, not expecting to meet them that day, but having received a summons to this assembly of his fellow citizens, he felt his duty was here and here be therefore come. [Cheers.] He had not come to speak to them words of excitement, nor to urge them to do anything, which they would hereafter regret. There were two courses to be pursued in every important junction of affairs – a right course and a wrong course. If the American people are sovereigns of the land; if the control of the highest and lowest are in their own hands through freeman’s scepter of sovereignty, the ballot-box, the coarse was to appeal steadfastly to the law, and if necessary, reform the law-makers and law administrators. [Cheers.] You can do it all, and therefore it is unnecessary that we, the sovereigns of the land, should resort to any local action which we do not believe can be carried out at all times and under all circumstance. What was the case before them? Some of the most respected men of our State – men whom he had known and honored for many years – dear personal friends – were at this moment incarcerated in the jail of this county for an act which they believed to be right, and which there is hardly one man in ten thousand who can lay his hand upon his heart and look up to the blue sky before God and say that he does not believe it to be right also. This was a great wrong - one which had been framed into what was called law. But while this wrong exists, what was the true measure or mode of redress? Mr. Chase then proceeded to give the true story of the State and Federal Government, and showed the relations between them. He state that while he should respect the processes issued by the united States Courts, he should not fail to secure the faithful execution of any process which the State Courts might issue. [Cries of “that’s all we want.”] Mr. Chase then made a learned exposition of the unconstitutionality of Fugitive Slave law – vindicated the United States Constitution from the charge of protecting slavery, contending that, rightly construed, it was a guarantee of liberty, and not a prop of slavery. Thus, said he, I have given you what is in my heart, what is in my understanding – just what I will live by, and just what I am willing to die by. I part with you exhorting you to be faithful to the truth, faithful to freedom, and in so doing you will be faithful to your constitution and to your country [Loud applause, followed by three hearty cheers for Gov. Chase.]
Judge Hitchcock, M. Delano, and Mr. Carter made appropriate speeches.
John M. Langston, A.B., brother of the convict Langston, made a speech full of high-toned manly utterance, and concluded by appealing to the people to abolish all law withholding from him and other colored persons their rights as citizens.
The Chair announced Messrs. Fuller, of Cuyahoga, Reuben Hitchcock, of Lake, and Philemon Bliss, of Lorain, as Commissioners of the Liberty Fund as required by clause five of the Declaration.
Mr. Brown made an able speech, showing the partiality of the United States Court in imprisoning a United States Marshal thirty days for shooting down a man, while for laboring to secure liberty to a fellow man the fine is $600 and 60 days imprisonment in the jail. A man from Wellington is let off with a merely nominal fine, while for the same offense a man from Oberlin is fined $600 and sixty days imprisonment. This showed how much respect the dignity of this Court deserves.
President Mahan, from Adrian, formerly President of Oberlin College, said he felt to-day that he had not lived in vain. He had conferred the degree of B.A. on some of those prisoners. He had taught them the principles, which they had obeyed, and he rejoiced to know to-day that they had not forgotten their instruction nor dishonor their teacher. If he had heard that one of his pupils had been false to the cause of freedom, he should have asked himself if he had not neglected his own duty or committed some fault. He disagreed somewhat with his friend Langston in his hatred of the Fugitive Slave Law. He liked that law because it was a proper representative of its parent. [Laughter.] Because it could not be executed either in Ohio or Michigan, and he liked it because it was ruinous to the party by whom it was originated and by whom it is sustained. [Cheers.] Mr. Mahan concluded by saying that the sympathies of the people of Michigan were with them; they had already taken steps to contribute towards the liberty fund, to which they begged the privilege of subscribing.
After some further proceedings, the Convention adjourned sinc dic.
A large number of persons assembled around the jail and were allowed free access to the prisoners in the yard of the prison. Mr. Langston was allowed to address the people in the forenoon and we heard his speech highly spoken of.