The Daily National Intelligencer
April 27, 1859
The Oberlin Rescue Case.
During the progress of the trial at Cleveland, Ohio of sundry persons for rescuing a fugitive slave, Deputy Sheriff Whitney, of Lorain county, arrested in the court room, upon a State warrant for kidnapping, two of the United States witnesses. The incident created great excitement.
“Whitney’s counsel said that the arrest was mad object to the prior claims of the court upon the witnesses, but requested that the court would keep them, so that the deputy sheriff might be able to secure them and take them to Lorain for trial. The presiding Judge was at first disposed to treat the arrest as a contempt of court; but the idea was not carried out. The United States Marshal would not allow the deputy sheriff to sit near the two witnesses nor to sit within the bar. The indictment for kidnapping is based on the assistance rendered by the witnesses to the claimant of a fugitive slave. They are named Jennings and Mitchell. The Judge would not give any assurance that they should be handed over to the deputy sheriff after they had testifies.”
The last news from this case is that on Friday Mr. Bushnell, the convicted prisoner, was removed from the county jail to the Marshal’s room in the Government building; the reason being that the Marshal apprehended a habeas corpus from the Supreme Court at Columbus, requiring the prisoner and demanding by what right he was held. The marshal seems determined, not only to do his full duty, but to prevent any sins of omission being laid to his charge. In Columbus, on Thursday, on application of Judge Spaulding, the prisoner’s counsel, for a habeas corpus, the Supreme Court took the following action:
“The Court entered a rule on the United States Marshal of the Northern District and Sheriff of Cuyahoga county, as well as the United States District Attorney for said Northern District, to show cause, by ten o’clock on Wednesday, the 23d instant, why the writ of habeas corpus should not issue according to the prayer of the applicants.”
The Daily National Intelligencer
May 12, 1859
The Oberlin Rescue Trials.
In the Oberlin Rescue cases, at Cleveland, sentence has been passed upon Messrs. Langston and Bushnell. The former was condemned in a fine of $100 and the costs of prosecution; the latter to sixty days’ imprisonment and a fine of $600, besides the costs of prosecution. It is stated that the costs in Mr. Bushnell’s case will amount to $1,600.
On the same day Mr. S.J. Andrews called the attention of the Court to the indictments against Matthew DeWolf, Abner Loveland, and Loron Wadsworth. He said that these men wished to withdraw the plea of not guilty and enter the plea of noli contendere; in other words, they asked that the indictments be withdrawn.
In behalf of his clients Mr. Andrews said that, in withdrawing their plea of not guilty, they protested against its being supposed they had knowingly violated the laws of the land, and they wished such protest to be made a part of the record, and he was instructed by his clients to say that they had no sympathy with those men who thought this law was one that should not be obeyed; they had no sympathy with those men who think this law should be resisted even to blood.
He stated that they were accidentally connected with the rescue, that they went to Wellington village to help their neighbors who were suffering from fire; that while there, in the midst of an intense excitement which would naturally arise on such an occasion in a small village, the report was made that a justice had issued a warrant to arrest persons supposed illegally to have in custody a negro man; that they mingled in the crowd, and talked with the crowd and to a certain extent acted with the crowd in endeavoring to ascertain whether the man was legally in custody or not. They supposed they had a right to inquire into the matter, but as soon as they found that the negro was legally held they desisted. They did not intend to step over the limits of the law.
He further stated for them that they had no conception of a worse country than that in which the decisions of the highest courts should be disregarded; they hold themselves, as good citizens, to stand by the law; whether that law is constitutional or unconstitutional they think should be determined by that body which, under the Constitution of these United States, is appointed to decide such questions. Mr. A, for his clients, further said that they have no sympathy with the doctrine lately broached that would bring our Federal courts and State courts into conflict; they believe that if any reform is needed that reform must come from the courts themselves, and they disclaim any intention of resisting the laws of their country. He said that his clients, s good citizens, felt bound to submit to the law as it is laid down, and if the law is bad they thought it should be reformed in the mode pointed out by the Constitution of the United States.
After hearing Mr. Andrews the Court accepted the apology of the defendants, and in consideration thereof sentenced them to pay a fine of twenty dollars each, to pay the costs of prosecution, and be committed to the custody of the Marshal for twenty-four hours.
The trial of the remainder of the prisoners has been continued to another term of the court. The principal reasons assigned for this postponement are:
That Anderson Jennings, Jacob Lowe, R.P. Mitchell, and Samuel Davis, necessary witnesses, had been arrested by the Sheriff of Lorain county by a warrant issued for “kidnapping” in Lorain Court of Common Pleas, and had been or would be taken away, so that their testimony could not be had.
That the next term of the Lorain Court of Common Pleas would commence on Tuesday next, (17th instant,) and that the District Attorney had been appointed by the Government for their defence.
That the offence charged against these men was based solely upon the facts that these defendants were engaged in seizing and arresting, by virtue of the laws of the United States, the fugitive from justice mentioned in the indictment for rescue; and that the indictment for kidnapping was found on testimony of some of the rescuers, or on testimony procured by them.
That no trial could be had in any of the remaining cases in all probability without a most unreasonable delay, which would be caused by the action of the defendants or their confederates, or by advise of their counsel.
The Daily National Intelligencer
July 12, 1859
Finale of the Oberlin Rescue Cases.
The most of our readers are award that the people on the Western Reserve of Ohio have been excited for more than a year about the attempted abduction of John, a colored man, form Oberlin. Nearly forty of the leading citizens of Oberlin were indicted for rescuing John from his Kentucky owners and sending him off to Canada. Two of this number, Bushnell, a white man, and Langston, a colored man, were tried and convicted in April last of having taken part in this rescue case. The other defendants have been in jail at Cleveland awaiting their trial.
The counsel for the defence mad application to the Supreme Court of Ohio and endeavored to get these prisoners in jail discharged on the ground of the unconstitutionality of the fugitive slave law. That court refused – three judges concurring with the majority and two dissenting.
The Kentuckians, whom the Lorain county people treated as kidnappers, were indicted for attempting to carry off a citizen of Ohio, and while attending the United States Court at Cleveland were arrested and gave bail for their trial in the county in July.
These cases came on last week, and by an agreement entered into by the United States and State Prosecuting Attorneys all the defendants charged in the United States Court, save only Bushnell and Langston, were discharged, a nolle prosequi being entered in their case. The Kentuckians have also had a nolle prosequi entered in their cases.
So these two cases, that have excited the Reserve for a year, and threatened at one time the collision of the State and United States authorities, have ended.