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Trial of Bushnell begun - Lowe arrested for kidnapping - The traverse jury — The indictment - The
law - The Constitution – Testimony of Bacon; of Cochran; of Jennings. - Second Day - Jen-
NINE years ago the moral sense of the better part of our nation, not to say of the civilized world, was shocked by the passage by Congress of the Fugitive Slave Act. The iniquities of this new device of oppression, its assault upon personal rights in the virtual suspension of Habeas Corpus, its daring invasion of States-rights, its summary and cruel process of recaption, its arbitrary requirement that all citizens shall serve the man-hunter at his call, and the vindictive penalties which it denounced against any who might be constrained by self-respect or humanity to disregard its infamous precepts, – these peculiarities, made this composing draught* as “molten lead to a mint-julep” in comparison with all previous pro-slavery Federal enactments. Language could not describe the terror which this villany framed into law carried to the souls of the colored people scattered through the North, who saw that now, whether free or not, they mighit, at any moment, be spirited away under nominally-legal forms, and consigned to hopeless slavery. Nor could words express the profound apprehension with which the friends of Freedom foresaw in this new and abject concession to the slave-holding power its final predominance in our country.
But the horror with which this so-called law was very generally regarded in the Free States was qualified, and almost, if not quite appeased by the conviction that so infamous an enactment would not and could not be enforced. Alas, for the hopos based on this conviction! The carrying into slavery of several persons afterwards proved to be free, and the recaption of one poor fugitive from oppression after another, soon proved that the cruel statute was not a dead letter. It has been from its enactment, a living, as well as terrible, reality.
* The illustration is borrowed from a Speech made by a celebrated Cleveland divine soon after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act.
What this ordinance, misnamed law, is; what its purposes, what its demands, and what its penalties are, and what the measures by which it enforces itself against the conscience and sense of justice which everywhere in the North oppose it, — all these points have been well illustrated in the now celebrated Oberlin-Wellington Rescue trials. These trials occurred on the Western Reserve—a name honorable for the reputation for love of Freedom which is coupled with it, and may, therefore, be supposed to exhibit a fair encounter on a fair field between the despotic enactment, and the outraged sense of right which protests against it. They engaged on both sides, and at the bar of both the Federal and Supreme State Courts, the highest legal talent in the State. A correct history of them will, therefore, show clearly what the Fugitive Slave Act is, and what measures its enforcement requires. Such a history is presented in this volume. Its compiler is a young man of excellent ability who has had more than common experience in reporting public events, and it has been made up, as the undersigned know from constant communication with the compiler, and from a careful review of his materials, with religious fidelity to truth. In closing this Introduction, we beg leave to urge the readerssof this volume to inquire, in the light of what is here presented, whether the fact that the Fugitive Slave Act can exist, and be in form enforced, does not prove that regard for Freedom no longer presides in the councils of our Government; that the slave-holding power has smitten down the personal rights of freemen, and trampled on the honor and rights of the States; and whether, if the Free States do not speedily, by judicial and legislative action, assert their rights, our whole country will not soon, under the operation of the Dred Scott decision, be embraced in the arms of a gigantic tyranny which shall know no law but its own despotic will. Especially would we ask our fellow-citizens of Ohio, whether they are willing longer to allow arbitrary encroachments on the part of the Federal Government, and timid deference to precedent on the part of our State Judiciary, to make our noble State a mere province of an overshadowing empire of centralized and malignant power.
RALPH PLUMB, CUYAHOGA County JAIL, Cleveland, Ohio, July 1, 1859.
THE digest of the testimony in Mr. Bushnell's case was made during the progress of the trial, and with such care that it is believed it will be found more accurate and comprehensive than any hitherto published. The argu ments of Messrs. Riddle, Spalding, Griswold, Backus, and Wolcott were reported phonographically, and are published with the sanction of their authors. Every effort was made to secure equally full and accurate reports of the arguments. of the counsel for the Government, but, unfortunately, without success. For such use as has been made of the materials of others, it has been endeavored to accord due acknowledgment elsewhere, save that it remains to mention here the kind offices of Mr. J. H. Kagi, of Mr. J. M. Greene, and of one whose modesty forbids the mention of her name. To Mr. Greene, the reader is indebted for the stereoscopic view which is found engraved upon the title-page.
The materials with which the writer has wrought, have been superabundant. Much that seemed scarcely less important than the rest, and at first none less, has been necessarily omitted. Necessarily, lest the general reader should feel burdened. To the people of Ohio, it is believed that every link of this remarkable chain of events has surpassing significance and interest.
But, lest it may not be so abroad, the best judgment of the compiler has been taxed to omit nothing essential, while accepting nothing trivial. If others would have chosen more wisely, no one can regret more sincerely than himself that their counsel was not seasonably at his command.
Such typographical errors as may have escaped notice in the proofs, the reader is asked to be patient with, in consideration of the urgency with which the work has been pressed; the last page being in type within eight days after the Reception of Mr. Bushnell,