April 26, 1859
This hot-bed of radicalism is just now under some sort of subjection to the powers that be. A hurdle load of crazy fellows have been on trial at Cleveland for forcible resistance to the fugitive slave act. One of them, Bushnell, has been convicted, but not yet sentenced. – The rest were, on Saturday a week, offered their parole, but declining it, had to go to jail, of course. They wanted to play the martyr badly, but as they had gone to prison of their own choice they only succeeded in acting the fool. Prof. Peck preached, the rest sung –
“Am I a soldier of the cross,” &c.
And a regular programme for newspaper sympathy was carried out. But the thing failed of affect, for the plain reason that there was no sort of persecution in the case.
The Portsmouth Times
May 3, 1859
Rebellion and Bloodshed Threatened.
Our readers are aware that an application for a writ of habeas corpus, to bring up Bushnell, who has been convicted in the United States Court at Cleveland for the rescue of a fugitive slave, has been pending in the Supreme court at this city. Judge Spaulding concluded his argument in favor of the issue of the writ, as we are informed by a very extraordinary statement. He told the Court, substantially, unless they issued the writ, DECLARED THE FUGITIVE LAW UNCONSTITUTIONAL, and attempted TO NULLIFY THE LAW AND CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES,there would be FORCIBLE RESISTANCE and BLOODSHED in the Western Reserve. We should think that the court would despise this insulting, ad captandum appeal. The judges are sworn to be governed by the Constitution of the United States, in the exercise of their jurisdiction as a State Court, and it is their duty to give effect to its provisions in their decision, and not to nullify them. The threats of rebellion and bloodshed by the abolitionists of the Reserve are simply nonsensical and contemptible. – What must be the legal argument in aid of which it is necessary to call in such disgraceful assertions? If the abolitionists are about to rise in rebellion and riot, unless they are permitted to prevent the execution of the statutes of the United States, THEY SHOULD BE CLINCHED BY THE STRONG HAND OF POWER, not indulged in their insensate vagaries. Is it really the case that they have reached this pitch of fanatical atrocity? If so, let them repose upon “the flinty and steel couch of civil was,” when they provoke it. This country is not at their mercy. Its laws can be granted, and WILL BE, in spite of them. Any disorders into which they may be hurried by their rampant fanaticism will be speedily repressed, and the actors in them condignly punished. – there is, however, no probability that these person s will proceed to further illegal extremities. They know that if they once make it manifest, that they are determined to resist the execution of the laws of the United States, by a general resort to force, the people of Ohio will crush them out and grind them between the upper and the nether mill-stones of the outraged law. We think Judge Spaulding’s rhetoric about impending bloodshed upon the Western Reserve of this State is merely idle, wicked and senseless bounce, unless some rampant, fanatical, truculent preacher should be taken with a bleeding at the nose in delivering a violent disunion sermon. - Ohio Statesman.
The Portsmouth Times
May 3, 1859
From the Ohio Statesman.
An Oberlinite writes to the Cincinnati Gazette to the effect, that the recent conviction for the rescue will make no difference to the sentiments and acts of the students and people of that village. He says:
And were the same circumstances to occur again, the number of volunteers who would willingly offer themselves to assist I releasing a slave, and transgressing the same law, would be rather increased than diminished.
Now, we are of opinion that this is the mere idle boasting of a poltroon. But if this is the temper and resolution of the Oberlinites, we hope their courage may be speedily put to the test. In arresting any other fugitive I that village, it will be the duty of the Marshal to summon to his aid a reasonable number of resolute men – men whose loyalty to the constitution and whose courage are well known – who will retain their prisoner at all hazards, and resist to the death any illegal attempt to rescue him. If the Marshals n a conflict with a mob for the custody of their prisoner kill some of the rescuers, it will be justifiable homicide, and any judge charging a jury to the contrary, ought to be and would be impeached. If any of the rescuers kill a marshal, it will be murder, and the whole gang will be accomplices. The hanging of the ringleaders would follow; for the people of this
State will no longer tolerate a little fanatical squad in Oberlin, in resisting the United States laws, and setting the Constitution at defiance. We are convinced, that all this threatening and blowing on the part of the Oberlinites and Abolitionists is resorted to conceal their trepidation. It ought, however, to increase the firmness and resolution of the Court, the jury and the officers. They are armed in the invincible and invulnerable panoply of the law; and if the Abolitionists are determined to proceed to violent extremities against it, the sooner the better.
The Portsmouth Times
May 3, 1859
The Habeas Corpus Application.
The Supreme Court yesterday morning rendered its decision in the matter of the application for a writ of habeas corpus, to bring up Bushnell and the Oberlin rescuers, now in custody of the United States Officers. The Court unanimously declined to interfere, refusing to allow the writ. This is well, for had the judges been moved by the representation of heated fanatics, or the evil suggestions of unscrupulous demagogues, to override the law and interfere with the lawful jurisdiction of the United States Court and its officers, the consequences would have been fearful. Yet many of the Republicans here were mad enough to desire it. They are much cast down by this decision of the judges of their own party, and we should think it would open the eyes of those deluded men who have been incited to resist the law by men in high places. They will now find, that Gov. Chase has no power to set aside the United States laws, and protect from punishment those whom his teachings and fulminations have incited to break them. – These Oberlin cases will do a world of good. They have shown the healthy, national sentiment of our people in an eminent degree. It is demonstrated, that except the more violent ad fanatical of the Republicans, all our citizens are against resistance to law, and will, if necessary, come forward to vindicate it.
The Portsmouth Times
May 3, 1859
The Republican party in Ohio have made their issues, and taken the initiatory steps for the campaign upon which political parties are about to enter. The Federal trials at Cleveland in April and May have had a most unexpected influence in shaping the character of that organization and determining its position in the contest. True, the tendency of the sham-republican doctrines has been, from the beginning, towards sectionalism, geographical parties, disunion, and civil war, but no one anticipated that these things would be precipitated upon so soon or so insolently.
That this Wellington rescue case may be understood by the humblest intellect in this county, we will present it succinctly; state the principles it involved; the parties to it; the results as far as developed; with the moral of those results. And here we find a recital of the facts, ready made to our hand, so lucid, impartial, and complete, that we adopt it at once:
Last fall, a slave by the name of John ran away from his master I Kentucky, and succeeded in reaching Oberlin in Lorain County, in this State, and supposing from the people, he met there, that he was already in Canada, he did not try to go further. His master pursued him, and, by aid of the United States officers, succeeded in retaking John, near Oberlin.
His master started back with him, but only succeeded in reaching the town of Wellington, not many miles from Oberlin, when he was overtaken, and the hotel at which he stopped, was surrounded by a mob of negros and white persons, numbering about one thousand, many of them armed with rifles and other weapons, threatening the lives of all who resisted them, in their attempts to rescue the slave John. – The negro (John) was confined in an upper room in the hotel, and during the excitement, his master proposed to the mob, that John might choose, whether he would go with them, or return to Kentucky with him. To this, some of them assented, but when John came out on the balcony to tell the mob that he chose rather to return to his old home in Kentucky than go with them, he was threatened with immediate death if he dared to make such a decision. – The mob (rescuers) finally broke into the room, knocked the officers down, and carried the negro John back to Oberlin by force.
Since that time thirty-seven of these rioters (rescuers) have been identified, arrested, tried, and convicted, in the United States Court for the Northern District of Ohio, for this act of resistance to the United States officers. It should be remembered that THEY ARE NOT PUNISHED BECAUSE THEY RESCUED THE NEGRO, BUT BECAUSE THEY RESISTED THE OFFICERS, WHO WERE THEN IN THE DISCHARGE OF THEIR SWORN DUTY, as the master had place I their hands a warrant from a Commissioner of said Court, for the arrest of said John. It is needless to argue anything about this Fugitive Slave Law, in presence of which the master retakes his slave, and in pursuance of which the officers were acting. Sufficient, that the same kind of a law has been in force since the foundation of the Government, in some form or other, that it was one of the compromises upon which the Constitution itself is founded, and that it has been decided a constitutional law, by the Supreme Court of the United States, and cannot therefore be gain-sayed by any State Court. We have nothing to do with the merits of this enactment, at present; we only say that it is the law of the land, and as long as we pretend to be a law-abiding people it should be obeyed. If defects, errors, exist in the law, there is a proper way provided to correct them. So soon as we attempt to correct laws by mobs, that soon do we return Mexicans. All liberty and law is overthrown at once, and, “our last estate would be worse than the first.” But to continue the case: when the Oberlinites found, they could not control the U.S. Courts at Cleveland they applied to Judge Brinkerhoff, a Republican Supreme Judge, and he granted them a writ of habeas corpus, directed to the sheriff of Cuyahoga County, who presented it to the Marshal of the Northern District, and he gave up the prisoners Bushnell and Langston, who had been convicted as aforesaid. They were brought before the Supreme Court of Ohio, at Columbus, and the Constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Law argued at a great length by A.G. Riddle, of Cleveland, Attorney-General Walcott, for the Rescuers, and Noah H. Swayne, for the Government of the United States.
Upon hearing the case, three Judges – Swan, Peck and Scott, agreed that the Fugitive Slave Law was not only the law of the land, but that it was a constitutional law, and must be sustained. The other two Judges delivered opinions against the law.
While the Supreme Court was in session, hearing the arguments of counsel on the habeas corpus case, every art of outside pressure was used to intimidate, overbear, and coerce that tribunal into a decision favorable to the prisoners. It was openly said that, should Judge Swan dare pronounce the Fugitive Slave Law to be constitutional, his position was thereby forfeited. WE SPEAK WHAT WE KNOW, for the writer was in Columbus at the time, and not a Reserve man that he saw – apart from democratic delegates and government officials – held any other language. In plain words, here was a lawless faction suspending threats over the head of the first judicial officer in the State of Ohio should he have the intrepidity to respect that Constitution which he had sworn to support, and a law made under it, which he was bound by that oath to recognize and enforce. It was as though a common horse-thief were to carry out his “higher law” notions, and attempt to bully a judge by the swaggering menace of what his gang might do if he be not instantly cleared, - law or no law. What sort of government have we – what security is there for life, property or rights – what are judges, courts or laws worth – if faction thus may impudently come to the bar, hurl its defiance at the judgment seat, and –worse than all –carry its threat into speedy execution with a bold front, a strong hand, and an outstretched arm? Yet, with this startling assault upon the honor and security of the Bench right before him – “all of which he SAW and part of which he WAS” a neighbor of ours has the nonchalance to jest about “the late frost,” the “red measles,” “Time and Eternity,” &c., all “in a horn” we suppose! One would think he had been taking a – drink of water; he is so cool about the matter.
The decision of the Court was rendered on Monday, May 30. We need not say that it was hailed with satisfaction by conservative men everywhere, but execrated by abolitionists of all shades. – And here we can fitly tell a cotemporary what he seems to have forgotten, from his sneer at “how these locofocos do love Swan,” that immediately after the Opinion of the Chief Justice was published, and before his shameful treatment by those who profess to set so much by the sacredness of law, every locofoco Pres that had a chance to speak – the Statesman, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Democrat, Newark Advocate and several others – came out unreservedly in favor of the decision, and in terms the most complimentary to the intrepid jurist by whom it had been pronounced.
But on the Reserve – that heart-core of Ohio sham-republicanism – the most offensive demonstrations took place. Bells were tolled at Painesville and other places; indignation meetings were held; a good deal of treasonable talking done, the upshot of all which (for so says the Cleveland Leader) was the fixed purpose to degrade the “Judge who had proved false to freedom.”
When the Republican Convention met, (Thursday, June 2) the Supreme Judgeship, as it is well known, was THE question of the day. The Reserve came down breathing vengeance against Swan, Central Ohio resolved to stand by him and would have rolled back the tide of fanaticism but for the astounding and unlooked-for behavior of the delegates from Hamilton, Scioto, Lawrence, Ross, Jackson, Vinton, Meigs, Athens, and other conservative counties. These were the timeservers who succumbed to the Reserve – who abandoned Swan to the mercy of faction, and who, for the most selfish of party purposes, connived at the outrageous threats of the Higher-lawites. They deserted Swan because they lacked the courage, the manliness, the grit to stand by him, his principles or anything else that put in peril the loaves and fishes they were longing to get or keep. – Giddings chased the whole brood as he would so many curlews, cooped them as if they were a flock of pigeons, and would not allow them to make any nomination for the Supreme Bench, except it were agreeable to him and his associates. Here is the proof direct from Giddings’ home organ – the Ashtabula Sentinel:
Through the whole of Wednesday, until late at night, the contest was maintained with firmness. Each party appeared confident. The radical Republicans offered the nomination to those of the Central and Southern portions of the State, provided they would name a “reliable” man. – Several named were entirely acceptable to the more devoted friends of liberty; but they were already in better positions and would not accept the nomination. Judge Cholson was named, and such assurances of his position given that the friends of freedom agreed to accept him, if the party should refrain their hatred of the Fugitive Slave Law, AND JUDGE CHOLSON ACCEPT THE NOMINATION WITH THE EXAMPLE OF SWAN’S REPUDIATION BEFORE HIM.”
And that the springs of action I that delectable convention may appear more plainly, and that every word of our censure may be established out of the mouth of an adversary, we reproduce the avowal of the Dayton Gazatte:
The delegates, from all parts of the State, generally concurred in the opinion, that it was the best policy neither to affirm or disaffirm the opinions of Judge Swan; and hence, it became expedient to take up another man. Many who coincided with him, voted against him, because they were unwilling to risk his nomination. Others again, were unwilling to commit the party to an endorsement of the Fugitive Slave Law, and, to have nominated Judge Swan, with his judicial decision in favor of its constitutionality would have been singularly inconsistent.
We need not pursue these details any further, at present; nor is it necessary. For we have told a plain tale, and have said quite enough to convince any rational mind about the facts and their significance. As to the un-candid, the bigoted, and the obstinately wrong, we shall not waste words upon them: THEY would not be persuaded though we were to reason with the eloquence of Isaiah and Ezekiel combined.
-- Now, what do all these things import?
It certainly requires no great sagacity to divine that the Wellington Rescue Case is the pivot on which Ohio politics for the year of grace, 1859, have been made to revolve. Though the Rescuers were avowedly guilty of a scandalous violation of the law of the land, and though their offence admitted of no possible extenuation, yet, FOR THAT VERY REASON, has their cause been espoused with all the readier zeal by a traitorous crew intent upon forcing Ohio into collision with Federal Government. These mobocrats, fanatics, and traitors have been exalted by their partisans into heroes, martyrs, and “Sons of Liberty!” Every species of chicane which pettifogging artifice devise was exhausted in their behalf. – Monster meetings were convened expressly to consecrate felony, to canonize criminals and to stimulate disloyalty to the General Government. On these occasions, the compromises, which lie at the very basis of the federal union, were denounced, the laws of the country spit upon; the authorities held up to scorn, and the domestic institutions of fifteen states of the Confederacy execrated with a rancor disgraceful even to diabolic natures. Furthermore: The faction, which has been conspicuous at every stage of these extraordinary proceedings sought, in its satanic audacity, to intimidate the Supreme Bench of Ohio, and, failing in that, it straightway seizes the control of the Republican State Convention, and strikes down the judge who, with a courage worthy of old Rome, had spurned its threats. It dictates the sham-republican nominations: dictates its own platform even to the crouching creatures from the south, which it finds there, and now, having the entire control of the sham-republican organization, it clutches at every department of our state government – executive, legislative, judicial – to the end that lawlessness may dictate its law to Ohio.