FOR THE JIM GRAY CASE
Argument of H.S. Fitch, esq
ARGUMENT OF H. S. FITCH, ESQ., U. S. DIST. ATT'Y, ON THE TRIAL OF JOHN HOSSACK, INDICTED FOR RESCUING A FUGITIVE SLAVE, OCTOBER 20, 1859, DELIVERED IN THE U. S. DISTRICT COURT, SATURDAY, MARCH 4, 1860.
May it please your Honor--Gentlemen of the Jury: In consideration of the length of time consumed already in this case, by the extensive evidence, and the arguments which have arisen during the progress of the trial, and the weariness manifested both by the Court and Jury, I shall, to avoid all further delay, proceed to discharge the duty which still remains for me to perform, immediately, and in doing so I shall be brief. It is not my habit to make long speeches, and, in this ease, I labor under a considerable disadvantage in not having been allowed by the Court the time necessary for a careful examination of the evidence, in order to select such portions thereof as I desire particularly to present for your attention; I shall, therefore, have to rely entirely upon my memory, and the impression which this evidence has left upon my own mind, irrespective of the record as it may appear from the transcript of the reporter's notes. If, then, I shall make any slip or mistake in quoting the testimony, I trust that I shall be excused.
Gentlemen, the case has at length reached the jury. I congratulate you upon the fact. The somewhat supercilious air of superiority, and unnecessary confidence in his own ability, with which the learned counsel who opened for the defense announced that he would probably advance such legal objections as would prevent the ease from ever reaching its present stage, becomes, in view of the success which has attended his efforts, decidedly refreshing.
The learned counsel, (Mr. Arnold,) "apprehended" that we would fail in this point, and he "apprehended" we would fail in that point; and, in fact, he was tremulously apprehensive lest the entire prosecution should prove a failure. It doubtless afforded him pleasure to ascertain how unfounded were all his apprehensions. The defense, as stated in the opening by the learned counsel, was based, first, upon the atrocious nature of the fugitive slave law; second, upon the intrinsic merits of violating that law; and third, upon the infamous character of the men who attempt to execute its provisions.
These commendable propositions were ornated in a manner at once peculiar and pathetic.
You all remember, gentlemen, that thrilling romance entitled the "Jolly Kidnappers of Jonesboro," which the estimable orator narrated with such power of common-place and such venerable platitude of pathos. He harrowed up your souls with the extraordinary exploits of Mr. Roots, a tender invalid and itinerant philanthropist, who, it seems, travels around for the benefit of his health and the regeneration of mankind, afflicted with a billious complaint and too many bowels of compassion. He informed you how this charitable dispeptic, hearing that the kidnappers had seized upon another dusky victim, like an Egyptian crocodile upon a negro babe, had followed them with impossible speed through indescribable regions of terra incognita, till they arrived, "at the witching hour of night," at Jonesboro', when the melancholy Roots, like James' solitary horseman, "might have been seen" following the negro through the streets of that barbaric village, guided only by the "clanking of his chains," and the white of his eyes. It was an exciting narrative of snivilization most touchingly narrated--a thrilling tale which would throw the "immortal Bonner" into ecstacies, and I trust my learned friend, the Sylvanus Cobb of the bar, will announce its continuation in the "Ledger for next week." Then came that remarkable romance of the life, capture and escape of that colored Roman, the negro Berkley--a "more excellent foolery than the other." As the counsel dilated and expatiated, with all the eloquence of Jefferson Brick, upon each feature of this pathetic story, it strikes me I observed one susceptible juror deeply moved, and as "the big round tears coursed one another down his innocent nose piteous chase," he reminded me of the stricken stag in Arden forest, over which the melancholy Jaques philosophised. It was a child-like, primitive tribute to the power of the orator.
It was comforting during the heavy business of this protracted case to refresh one's mind with these interesting specimens of light literature; but I regret, for the sake of the defense, that the testimony introduced at this trial should have so clearly shown that these little oratorical escapades lack the merit of belonging to that class of fictions known as "true narratives founded on facts." There is scarcely a scintilla of proof establishing the truth of these stories, and none showing that Mr. Phillipps, the owner of the fugitive slave, or Mr. Albright, the U. S. Deputy Marshal, were in any manner connected with them.
You were given distinctly to understand that the defense in this trial would prove that Mr. Phillipps and Mr. Albright, and all other persons connected with this prosecution, were but a party of kidnappers, who made it their business, and took cruel delight in running down the poor fugitive, and carrying him back to his master and all the horrors of slavery. How far, gentlemen, that invective, and that wholesale denunciation of these gentlemen has been sustained and carried out by the proof, I leave to your better judgments. You have seen the atrocious Phillipps upon the stand; you have seen the infamous Albright upon the stand; you have marked the manner in which they gave their testimony; you have witnessed the calmness, the patience, the truthfulness with which they withstood the long and rigid cross-examination of the counsel for the defense, and you can now judge for yourselves whether they are justly entitled to the harsh epithets that have been applied to them.
Before proceeding, however, to analyze the evidence or discuss the principles herein involved, let us briefly glance at some of the preliminary facts, in order the better to appreciate the position assumed by the prisoner, and the better to understand the reasons, if any such exist, why he is entitled to your favorable consideration.
After this man and his companions were arrested, and failed through ingenuity of counsel to quash the indictments, it was expected that in view of the impossibility of an early trial, they would give bail and return home; but though abundantly able so to do, they ostentatiously refused, preferring to impose upon themselves a voluntary confinement, and assume the doubtful merit of a self-solicited abasement. In short, the worthy gentlemen proposed to play for the amusement of the public, an interesting farce, called "Martyrdom made easy; or, Search for sympathy under difficulties." The role of the martyr has always been considered dubious and difficult, but when you add to the original lacrymose character of the part an attempt at imitation, it becomes truly pitiful. This man and his compeers, in thus refusing to give bail, were merely repeating to a small but delighted audience the mock heroics of the comedians of Oberlin, and in that humble imitative style have gone through their lessons comparatively safe and contemptible.
While suffering the imaginary privations of this voluntary imprisonment, the Rev. Mr. Bassett, the learned Mr. Scoville, and other distinguished obscurities of Ottawa, sent them some private letters through the public press, which touching epistle was addressed to "our Brethren in Bonds."
Mr. Arnold--We object to the counsel's traveling out of the record, and trying the case by the public press.
Mr. Fitch--The gentleman himself in his opening--
The Court--I hope the counsel on both sides will mention none of those matters which have nothing to do with the case, and confine themselves to the law and the evidence.
Mr. Fitch.--With the permission of the Court, I will allude one moment longer to this fact; and the opening by the counsel in this case justifies me in so alluding. The jury will bear me out when I say, that in my statement of the case, on the part of the Government, I said I wanted to conduct it with all fairness and courtesy. I then deprecated the introduction of all extraneous matter, any appeals to passions, prejudices, or politics, and expressed an earnest desire that the case might be tried purely upon its merits; but neither my advice or my example was followed, and the counsel must abide by the consequences. The less I am interrupted, the less I shall say, and the less said, the more comfortable for the learned counsel.
You must suppose, gentlemen, from the expression, "brethren in bonds," that these philanthropists were actually in "durance vile," and fed their hungry "bowels of compassion" upon the "vapors of a dungeon"--laid them down to unpleasant dreams upon an inconvenient scarcity of straw; and, in a word, had undergone all the squalid solitude of a prison life. This is all a mistake. The phrase "brethren in bonds," must be taken in this connection in a very metaphorical sense.
Whatsoever things are snug, whatsoever things are palatable, whatsoever things are pleasant; if there be anything good to eat, if there be anything agreeable to take, them "brethren in bonds" had it. They basked in the light of sentimental old ladies; they were clasped to the palpitating bosoms of distinguished parsons; condoling committees, with comforting resolutions, waited on them; they fructified upon the fatness of the land; boquets, bulletins, and banquets, were the daily offerings at the shrine of their affected martyrdom. In the meanwhile, that most liberal and relaxed of all public functionaries, Sheriff Gray, laying aside his "insolence of office," extended to these persecuted gentlemen the freedom of the city, and the light of their countenance was seen upon the by-ways, and they were to be met on the street corners, where loafers most do congregate, coming and going with all the impunity of undetected rogues, and all the insolence of impenitent offenders. And these are the "brethren in bonds."
"Oh! for a forty-parson power to chaunt thy praise, hypocrisy."
But this defendant is still further fortunate in the multitude and in the magnitude of his counsel. You have seen, gentlemen, this formidable array of legal talent and learning, and you have seen the ability with which each one has fulfilled the duties of his respective role. There was the eloquent mute, (Mr. Lamed,)--the ornamental gentleman to whom was given the task of conducting the "masterly inactivity" of this trial, and whose course was marked throughout by an unbroken brilliancy of silence. There was the industrious librarian (Mr. Goodwin), who took charge of that little museum of overruled cases--which counsel have so assiduously collected. There, too, was the legal grammarian, (Mr. Arnold,)--the finical objector, the gentleman so full of strategical commas, and sudden sallies into orthography--who was all the time endeavoring to succeed by stealth, and was all the time eminently unsuccessful.
Finally, we had, with others "too numerous to mention," Mr. Knox, the Jupiter Tonans, the master mind of this defense--a courteous gentleman and a consummate lawyer--who wilt follow me, and from whose hands I expect to receive a most formidable castigation. Glance at this array, gentlemen, and then reflect that it is all "without money and without price." I stand before you, the salaried servant of the Government, sworn to do my duty, but guarranteed some trifling compensation for my services. It is pleasant to turn from so mercenary a spectacle to the exalted position occupied by the opposite counsel.
Ben Johnson says a lawyer's tongue will not wag, nor scarce keep still without a fee. But you have the living present proof that this is a slur upon the profession. Lawyers are not usually prone to Samaritan sensibilities--nor given to the charitable occupation of gratuitous advice. But to show how fallacious are general rules based upon the supposed carnal nature of the legal fraternity, I have only to point to these six learned eleemosynary institutions. Although you may have heretofore believed, with the ancient satirist, that it is an attorney's business to sell his tears and barter his indignation, I beseech you when entertained by the pathetic periods and eloquent invective of learned counsel, not to associate them with any of the ordinary selfish motives that are supposed to actuate mankind. They have no private purposes to advance--no public schemes to forward--no popular favor to propitiate--no political ambitions to promote--but stand before you volunteer, disinterested defenders of a great abstraction. It may be said of them as was said of the liberal Brooks
Who nursed in clubs disdains a vulgar trade;
"Having thus shown you, gentlemen, how far upon general principles this man is entitled to your sympathy, let us examine the evidence.
It was incumbent on this prosecution to prove first, that the negro, Jim, was owned by and escaped from Richard Phillipps; and that he was rescued from the legal custody Of the owner, the Deputy United States Marshal then and there assisting by virtue of his warrant. Upon this point of ownership we have the evidence, first, of Richard Phillipps, who swears distinctly that he owned Jim, the negro; that he had purchased him, three years previous to his escape, from his sister, Mrs. Gray; that he knew his mother; that she was a black woman and a slave; that he knew and owned his father, who died a slave in his possession. You have proof, not only that Jim himself was a slave, but you have his pedigree back as far as any jury or any man under the law can require.
You have Mr. Phillipps' testimony upon another point to which I wish to call your attention, I will take up these matters one by one, as they are arranged in my memory.
He testifies that Jim disappeared without his knowledge or consent; that he, the master, knew not where he was until he heard he was lodged in the Jonesboro' jail. During that time quite a period had elapsed. I mention this to remind you that he could have had nothing to do with Jim's original confinement; that he could have entered into no preconcerted arrangement with any person who was instrumental in placing Jim in jail, and consequently is entirely disconnected with any suppositions scheme of kidnapping which the imaginative counsel may attempt to portray. Upon this point of ownership we have, too, the negro's own admission or recognition of his master. The very moment he sees Mr. Phillipps he acknowledges himself his slave, saying, "That's my master." We have furthermore the testimony of Mr. Phillipps' son, to the effect that he paid the money for the negro and brought him home to his father's plantation. He says he took a receipt for the one thousand dollars paid for the slave, and brought it to his father, containing also, I believe, a description of the negro. To show you that we have brought a superabundance of evidence in proof of ownership, I will call your attention to the language of our most learned judges of the law. [ Mr. F. hero read to the jury from 4 McLean's Reports, 417; 5 McLean's R., 484: also I Curtis' Reports, 24, 40, and the charge of Jude Wilson in "The Oberlin Rescue Case," page 167--the last given not as authority, unless confirmed by the instructions of the Court.]
Having established the ownership that Mr. Phillipps had in this slave, and shown that the slave escaped from his plantation, and from under his control, without his consent or knowledge, we have established two of the material allegations in the indictment, which we are called upon by that indictment to prove. We have also shown you that Mr. Phillipps, hearing that his slave was in Jonesboro', proceeded there, was recognized by the slave, and made his demand before the proper officers--the sheriff and jailer--who refused to deliver the negro up, because they wore then under a mandate of the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois to bring the negro before Judge Caton at Ottawa--a mandate peremptory and imperative.
The law of 1850, and the Constitution, gave Mr. Phillipps, the master, the day he entered Jonesboro', an incontrovertible right to re-capture and take possession of his slave instanter under ordinary circumstances; but the fact that those who then had control of the negro, Jim, were under a writ of habeas corpus from the Supreme Court of this State, to have his body at Ottawa at a certain time, prevented him from so proceeding, and rendered it impossible that he should pursue that more summary method of reclaiming and recovering his property. He was therefore compelled to proceed to Springfield, and in pursuance of the provisions of the law, procure a warrant or process, from the United States Commissioner, for the apprehension and rendition of the fugitive. In reference to the authority of the Commissioner, and the legality of this warrant, I shall call your attention to the law hereafter, although not at length, as I have little doubt the Court, in its charge to the jury, will instruct you that upon the face of the commission, a certified copy of which is before you, this Commissioner was empowered to issue this warrant; and the warrant itself fulfills to the letter the description and character of a Commissioner's warrant demanded by the act of 1850, and described in the indictment. He obtained this warrant upon his affidavit and complaint, which has been so often read in your hearing during the progress of this trial. You will see that it corresponds almost exactly with his testimony, which has not been shaken or changed one particle by the lengthy and searching cross-examinations to which he was subjected.
You will find, further, that this negro was commonly called Jim, as alleged in the indictment, although he was sometimes, by way of distinction, called Jim Gray, partly because of a custom, says Mr. Phillipps, of carrying with the negro the name of the person from whom he was last purchased, and partly to distinguish him from another slave of similar name. But, of course, this last owner's name is not the one by which the negro is most commonly known, from the fact that if such were the case, the name might be changed in the course of a negro's life ten or twenty times, just as often as he passed from master to master, depending upon the state of the market, and the necessities of the owners.
This point, however, is more or less immaterial, as the Court will doubtless instruct. It is only necessary for us to prove the identity of the slave, and not his name. With reference to the regularity of this warrant, and the soundness of the innumerable objections urged against it, you have heard elaborate argument of counsel (occupying one whole day), and you have marked and will observe the decision of the Court fully sustaining our position. The same may be said with reference to the legality of the deputation of the United States Marshal, both by pard and in writing.
The Judge will instruct that if you believe the witness upon these points, Mr. Albright was, at least, an officer de facto, with color of authority, and not a usurper, and that is all that is essential for the purposes of this prosecution. I will not, therefore, consume any time in discussing these points at present.
The attempt of counsel to make the validity of a warrant depend upon the color of the ink, the point of the pen, and the accidental circumstance under which it was written, is scarcely worthy of comment.
A process might be written in as many colors as Jacob's coat, and with a "gray goose quill," or a feather plucked from the spread-eagle of learned counsel, without in the slightest degree affecting its force and effect.
What occurs after Mr. Dougherty has handed this writ to Mr. Albright, appointing him his deputy? Here, by the way, gentlemen, I may remark what you probably noticed, the readiness and the frequency with which these learned gentlemen were surprised during the progress of this trial, by the presentation of our witnesses. You observed the close scrutiny, the intense watchfulness with which they examined the names, the initials and the spelling of the names of our witnesses, many of them their own neighbors and friends. They did not deceive you nor me in reference to the question of this surprise; but I will tell you when they were surprised, it was when Root their own witness' testimony was brought out, and it will be found that he was the "root of all their evil;" for wherein we were wanting in evidence, wherever we lacked proof, that ready spoken gentlemen supplied it, much to our gratification. This Root, it seems, came up with Albright and the negro to Decatur, together with some gentlemen by the names of Jones and Smith and others, with equally strange and ominous names, whom he says, and whom I have no reason to doubt, were not of the very best character. He states, and I believe it is in evidence, that these men were in the habit of hunting up fugitives and advertising them with a view of securing a reward. It is not a very laudable occupation, certainly, nor such a one as a high-minded or honorable gentleman would be engaged in; nor is it such a one as makes the follower of it necessarily a rogue. But Mr. Albright states distinctly that he had nothing to do with them. He indignantly repudiated and repelled the insinuation of the counsel that they were his associates, although circumstances compelled him to be in their company.
Arriving at La Salle, it seems that the story of Berkely--that heroic negro who jumped overboard from a steamboat into the Mississippi river, swam ashore and returned to Ottawa, bleeding so that he could be tracked through the streets of that Christian city by the blood of his feet,--the story of this Berkely had reached La Salle, and created considerable excitement. Root, or that very benevolent gentleman, Judge Davis, informed Mr. Albright that they had better avoid doing anything which would exasperate the public, and, therefore, he took off the chain with which he had previously had the slave bound, and they proceeded to Ottawa. While there, Mr. Cook made a demand on Mr. Albright for the papers by virtue of which he held this negro in custody. He says Mr. Albright told him he had not got them--that they were in the hands of Mr. Phillipps' attorney, Mr. Avery. Mr. Cook was, you well remember, one of that committee of legal gentlemen, appointed by the meeting held the evening previous, to examine whether there was any legal defects in the process by which this negro was held, through which he might escape from Mr. Phillipps. Mr. Cook's inquiry was directed to that object. They proceeded to Mr. Avery in search of the papers, found them, examined them critically, with all a lawyer's sharpness of perception, and returned and reported to the meeting. We have not been able to find out precisely what they did report; but the evidence goes so far as to show that it was reported the negro was held on a writ of habeas corpus, and when he should be discharged upon that writ, they would attempt to hold him by the warrant issued by the United States Commissioner, as a fugitive slave. That much is in evidence. What took place afterwards we have not been able to find out, because of the fact that it criminated the witnesses, and they declined to state it. But that is enough for our purpose, as I shall have occasion to show hereafter.
There is one point in Mr. Phillipps' evidence, outside of the proof of ownership, to which I wish, at this time, to call attention. It seems that these philanthropists appointed a "Committee of Ways and Means" to wait upon Mr. Phillipps, and ascertain how much he would take for his negro. Phillipps--simple, unsophisticated old gentleman--supposing the offer was a bona fide one, stated that he would take a thousand dollars, the sum he had paid years before, and the value assessed by law. His time, labor, trouble, vexation of spirit, was all laid aside, and he merely demanded what he gave. As there were, at the least calculation, twenty of these devotees of freedom, with a surplus of worldly goods and a ready command of means, it would have required but fifty dollars each to have closed this bargain, obtain the negro's liberty, and preserve intact the integrity of the law, and inviolate the constitutional rights of a citizen. Think of it, gentlemen, a slave unfettered and no law broken--a brother ransomed and no authority insulted--a human being redeemed and no community disgraced, and all for fifty dollars.
But such a course would have been inconsistent with the true spirit of fanaticism--a violation of all the well established rules of bigotry; besides, it would have been expensive, and Abolitionism seldom indulges in that kind of exercise.
How much more agreeable to take the negro for nothing! How much more piquant to season emancipation with a spree of larceny! How much more pleasant to infuse philanthropy with a relish of brute violence! No, gentlemen, it was with the dignity of a riot, by the valor of a mob, upon the principles, of robbery, that these, moral hypocrites and political. prostitutes, chose to proclaim their own shame and violate the Constitution.
Where do you first find Mr. Hossack connected with this affair? It is at the secret meeting held at Stout's office, to deliberate upon the best scheme of unlawful violence. He was chairman of that meeting. For this information we are indebted to that candid and remarkable Mr. Root. At that meeting a discussion took place, which present the fact that they considered it a violation of honor and morality to hold property, in man; that they looked, upon all who did so as infamous. What else was said or done beyond a few facts, we have been unable to ascertain. But we have ascertained the character and general object of the meeting; and that it was there stated that this negro was a fugitive; that Mr. Phillipps was there claiming him under the fugitive slave law, and by virtue of a warrant duly issued. These facts are settled by the evidence. They are brought home to this man, Hossack, at the very inception of the transaction. The proof is clear that he acted with a full knowledge of the whole of them; and if the legal gentlemen of Ottawa, who were his counsel, misled him, that is his misfortune. If he thought that there were quibbles and technical questions that could be raised, either resulting from the character of the pen with which Mr. Dougherty wrote this appointment, or the color of the ink, or the spelling of the words, which would render it void and enable him to violate the fugitive slave law, and now finds himself mistaken, it is his misfortune. The fact that learned counsel advised him of some technicalities and quibbles which might render the writ voidable in their opinion, does not diminish the offense with which he is charged, or relieve him from one particle of his responsibility. I tried, and tried hard, to get out of Mr. Geo. Bristol the particulars of what was done at that meeting. But when I pressed him too closely, he asked the protection of the Court from such questions, upon the ground that an answer would criminate him. That protection was granted, and he saved himself.
You all remember this Mr. George Bristol, I suppose--that little sour fellow, with the weak, wicked eyes, who looked so "like a man made after a supper of cheese-paring," only answering a question when thrice repeated, and then with a reluctant "I don't remember."
He is one of the genus known in legal parlance as "unwilling witnesses."
Now, gentlemen, what is an unwilling witness? Simply a man who is very unwilling to tell the truth; whom it is hard to understand, because he is resolved not to be understood; a man who lies obliquely, and hints untruths; whose drunken veracity endeavors to walk the invisible crack between equivocation and falsehood; whose hesitation is perversion, and his silence perjury; a witness who struggles with his oath, and wishes he was only out of court that he might relieve his overcharged imagination by some good up and down solid lying. A reluctant witness is also gifted with a unique memory. The accuracy with which he forgets real facts is only equalled by the facility with which he remembers imaginary ones. Like the graven gods of the Jews, ears he hath but hears not, eyes he hath but sees not, and if I may be allowed the violent supposition, brains he hath and understands not anything that it is disagreeable to hear, see, or understand. He is the antipathy of justice, and the contempt of honorable men. I need hardly add that Mr. Bristol came clear up to the definition.
It seems that this Bristol was an active participant at the secret meeting where the programme for the following day's performance was matured. He was conspicuously present at the secret conclave, but most resolutely absent from the public risk. He had all the corruption of the criminal, without the courage to commit the crime. He is one of those poor snivelers of vicious sentimentalities, but lacks the nerve to carry out his inclinations for vice. He is the "meanest Roman of them all." One of those unfortunate cowards who never enjoy even the luxury of running away from danger, because they dare not approach near enough to render retreat necessary.
But the facts we failed to get from Bristol, we easily got from Roots, or rather the attorneys on the Other side got it out for us. His testimony shows distinctly that this man, Hossack, was present at this meeting--yes, was chairman of it; that the object stated and the discussion held at that meeting was how to effect the liberation of this fugitive. He testifies that the fact was clearly known and stated at this meeting, over which Mr. Hossack presided, that this warrant or writ existed; that the examination before Judge Caton would probably result in the discharge of the negro upon the habeas corpus, and an attempt to hold him under the Commissioner's warrant.
Now, gentlemen, turn to the scene which transpired before the rescue itself. It seems that the examination was held in a small room, which serves for the library room or the clerk's office in the court house at Ottawa; that it was densely crowded throughout a great part of the proceedings. If I am not mistaken in my recollection of the testimony, some witnesses testify to the fact that Mr. Hossack was present in this room before the decision was given. But I waive that point, as I may be wrong, though I think I am correct. There is evidence to show that Mr. Hossack was in that court room immediately after Judge Caton's decision, and before his appeal to the people--certainly before his second appeal. The evidence shows that he must have been there before the second appeal, because he was standing near the window when Judge Caton was writing out his decision. That was previous to his appeal elicited by Stout's motion and the vote upon it. We have him present, then, at this examination. Judge Caton's decision was a public one, delivered from the bench to the crowd. In that decision he announced all the facts immediately connected with this case--that this man was discharged from a writ of habeas corpus, because he had been illegally committed by the County Judge of Union county under a statute of this State, which the judge held to be unconstitutional and void; that he was claimed by Albright, as United States Deputy Marshal, as a fugitive from labor, and remanded to his custody to be taken to Springfield, there to abide by the decision of the Commissioner.
Judge Caton, it appears, anticipated an attack. He feared that these men had come there to rescue him, and he endeavored, by every possible means in his power, to prevent it. Just examine, without entering into the minutiae of this case, the circumstances under which it occurred.
This outrage was committed in open contempt of the Appellate Court of Illinois--in the presence of the highest judicial functionary known to our State--after a patient and impartial hearing--after an elaborate and able argument--after a careful and convincing decision from the bench. Nay, more--Judge Caton anticipates their intention, and endeavors, by every persuasive means in his power, to prevent the meditated outrage. He commanded them as a sworn conservator of the peace--he reasoned with them as an official expounder of the law--he appealed to them as a citizen of the same State, as a neighbor from the same city, not to rob an offensive, friendless stranger within their gates, who asked nothing but what the law gave, and stood ready to fulfill all the law required. But men who had resolved to disregard the Constitution of the United States, were not likely to respect a judge in clambers. Men who had determined to plunder an unprotected stranger, could scarcely be expected to be moved by any appeal to manhood, honor, or any other quality of which they were perfectly destitute. The learned judge committed the mistake of supposing he was addressing gentlemen, at least,--men who recognize the laws of hospitality, if not the laws of Congress;--who had some sense of shame, if none of duty--men who would observe the ordinary decencies of life, although oblivious of the more remote obligations of allegiance.
It is only necessary for the prosecution to show, as a material fact alleged in the indictment, that the defendant had such knowledge with reference to this transaction as would render any acts of his in violation of the law criminal. There are, gentlemen, at least twenty points established in this testimony, each and any of which unsupported would be conclusive upon this question of knowledge. It is proved that he was present at the midnight meeting held in Mr. Stout's office, and was chairman of the meeting at the time the committee, of which you have heard, was appointed to investigatehe claims of Mr. Phillipps and the authority of Mr. Albright. What was the report of that committee and what was the result and object of their investigation? Simply to obtain such information as would enable them, peaceably if they could, forcibly if they must, to prevent Mr. Phillipps from reclaiming his slave, or the United States officer from carrying him before the Commissioner. The whole burden of the discussion at that meeting was with reference to the attempt of Mr. Phillipps to obtain his slave under and in accordance with the provisions of the act of 1850.
Again, there is no doubt in my mind, and I think none in yours, upon the examination of this evidence, that Mr. Hossack was present at the time Judge Caton delivered his decision, and there can be no doubt that he was present at the time the learned judge made his appeal to the crowd and endeavored to dissuade from violating the law, or interfering with the execution of the process then in the hands of the United States Marshal. In that decision the learned judge states the reasons upon which it was based and all the circumstances of the case to the crowd. He informs them that the negro was discharged under the writ of habeas corpus, but remanded to the custody of the United States authorities to be taken, in obedience to the warrant, before the Commissioner, there to answer the claim of his alleged owner, Mr. Phillipps. If, under these circumstances, and with all these sources of information, Mr. Hossack had not such knowledge as would render criminal any attempts of his to interfere with the claimant and officer, then no man can have such knowledge. To convince you that these facts establish far more than is absolutely necessary to render Mr. Hossack liable for anything he may have afterwards done, I will read to you the law with reference to this point. [Mr. F. here read from 4 McLean, 513, 418; 4 Washington, 329; 3 McLean, 634; 4 McLean, 269; 1 American Law Register, 142.]
Having established, now, gentlemen, the facts of the Phillipps ownership, the escape of the fugitive, his arrest and re-capture by the officer and the claimant, and brought home the knowledge of these facts to the defendant, both from his own researches and the information given him by others, it only remains for me to establish the rescue itself and the participation of Mr. Hossack therein. So far as the law is concerned, it is not necessary for us to show that Mr. Hossack did anything in the way of the actual layingon of hands upon the slave, or that he used manual force. He was not obliged, in order to violate the law, to take possession of the negro and carry him off bodily. It is sufficient if he approves of the common intent, and co-operates with or encourages the action of the crowd; and that action is practically to impede the officer in the execution of his process, or assist, directly or indirectly, the negro to escape from the claimant. Upon this point I will call your attention to the law, as laid down in the books. [Roscoe's Crim. Ev., 84; 3 Archibald's Crim. Pleadings, 34; 4 McLean, 403; 6 McLean, 269; 2 Russell on Crimes, 773; 2 Curtis' Cir. Reports, appendix.]
Now, gentlemen, let us apply the principles of law here so clearly laid down to the facts of this ease as they appear by the testimony.
Regarding the fact of a forcible rescue having taken place, you have the overwhelming testimony of the prosecution, and no attempt at denial on the part of the defense. It may, therefore, be passed by as an uncontroverted fact; and it only remains to show Mr. Hossack's participation in it. I shall review the evidence upon this point as briefly as possible, deeming it but a poor compliment to your intelligence or integrity to suppose, that as reasonable men, you have any serious doubts regarding this portion of the transaction.
First, we have the significant window episode, as described by Mr. Crandall, occurring immediately after the decision and appeal of Judge Caton. The opening of the basement window, nearest the slave, and opposite the carriage; the clearing away of the crowd from that corner, by defendant and others; the convenient exit thus provided for the fugitive; the remark made to Hossack about "getting the negro out;" and the inquiry put by Hossack to his followers, as to "how Crandall was on this," all prove conclusively that at the very inception of this rescue, the prisoner had assumed that leadership of the conspiracy which he maintained throughout.
It is here worthy of remark, that this first attempt at a rescue failed not for want of any activity upon the part of Mr. Hossack and his companions, but from the significant reluctance of the slave himself. The window is open, the crowd away, the carriage convenient, the watchword whispered in his ear, and the proposed candidate for freedom is beckoned by his philanthropic friends to the north star. But the obdurate darkey moves not a step, gives no token of those "pantings for liberty," to wit, Canadian freedom and starvation, which eloquent counsel has informed us agitated his bosom, and evidently prefers to return to the "land of Egypt and the house of bondage"--a comfortable servitude and an everlasting laziness. The truth seems to be that this rescue was accomplished not only in violation of the law, the authority of the government, and the solemn appeal of the judge, but against the actual inclination and bodily resistance of the slave himself. Next, gentlemen, you have Judge Caton's testimony regarding Mr. Hossack's conduct during the subsequent scenes.
You have seen Judge Caton, and heard his testimony. In my opening, I stated, I feared, we would not have his presence here. Fortunately, I was disappointed. He came, and he has told his story. A story as clear as a sunbeam. He is a man, whose character for truth, integrity and intelligence, is above suspicion. He was the most impartial witness we could have found. His statement is worthy of the most complete credence. He was the judge who adjudicated upon these very facts, and had a thorough knowledge of them all. The character of his office, the functions he was called upon to perform, and the schooling which years upon the bench had given him, rendered him a most dispassionate, clear-headed, and impartial observer. He saw all clearly, and he tells it clearly. He states his decision, and the fact that his decision, and the reasons upon which it was based, was announced publicly to the crowd. He states that he appealed to the crowd to observe the law, and again when Dr. Stout made his motion, he replied to it by a second appeal. He goes out, but returns immediately, not knowing to what violence the fanaticism and fury of these men may lead them; and as he turns back he meets Mr. Hossack coming out, and bringing the negro with him by the arm. He knew him and remembers him because of the high state of excitement expressed in his countenance. He swears distinctly and positively to have thus seen him, and all the Claudius B. Kings, and Edward Chamberlains, and Hervey Kings, in the city of Ottawa, could not convince me, and I think, could not convince you, that Judge Caton was not telling, the facts precisely as they occurred. He saw Hossack coming out of that room, holding the negro by the arm, making his way through the crowd, the most active, prominent, and conspicuous person engaged in rescuing and running off this fugitive slave. He was the leading man in the transaction, and the excitement of his position and feelings being apparent in his face, it attracted the attention of a calm, considerate observer, who had preserved his presence of mind, having no prejudice to subserve, and no purpose to advance.
Thus you see we are not compelled to fall back upon the legal proposition, that it is not necessary that manual force be used to violate the law. We need not resort to that construction of law, which would make a man guilty without active, bodily participation. We have evidence of the highest character, which they will not attempt to impeach, or if they do, it will fail utterly, showing this man's participation. Judge Caton needs no eulogy at my hands, and he will require no defence. It is as much beyond my power to add any force to his testimony as it is beyond the power of opposite counsel to weaken or depreciate it. The character of the man, and the clearness of his statement, renders his evidence overwhelming.
Again, gentlemen, you find from the testimony of the other witnesses that Hossack was at the carriage, assisting the negro, encouraging the driver, whipping the horses, and contending personally with Mr. Myer, the only citizen who endeavored to stop the slave's flight, and aid the officer in the execution of the law.
Thus, gentlemen, you have Mr. Hossack connected with this transaction from beginning to end--ab ovo usque ad mala. You have him at the midnight caucus, at the window failure, at the actual rescue, and at the carriage. There is not a single link in the chain of evidence wanting. There is not a single episode in this entire history where Hossack's face is not seen and his voice not heard. He was the master spirit of the occasion--the only man who had the pluck to carry out the wishes of the mob. The loud-mouth cowards who attended that meeting, proclaiming their intention to rescue the negro in spite of law or judge, were, when the critical moment came, either irresolutely idle or conveniently absent. Hossack alone had the nerve to openly and defiantly incur the danger.
These are facts, gentlemen, which have been established beyond all controversy. The attempt of the defence to weaken their force by the introduction of such witnesses as Edwin Chamberlain, Claudius B. and Hervey King, proved a humiliating failure. They had not the manhood to tell the truth, nor the ingenuity to successfully pervert it. They attempted to contradict our witness, and succeeded only in contradicting each other. They are all indicted for the same offence, and were therefore more or less witnesses to their own case, which their testimony had the effect of damaging, without benefiting the Hossack's. Any criticism upon the patent perversions of their evidence would be an unnecessary cruelty. I therefore dismiss them, as utterly unworthy of credit, and scarcely worthy of contempt.
In truth, you will find, before this case is closed, that there will be very little controversy as to the facts. I do not think there will be any serious attempt made by the counsel to defend upon evidence.
The learned counsel, in his opening, presented to you quite an elaborate impeachment of the Federal judiciary and the criminal practice of the U. S. District Courts. I am not surprised at counsel's dissatisfaction. It is undoubtedly a misfortune in his opinion, that the Federal Courts are not constructed upon the same loose principles, characterized by the same feeble tenure of power, and dependent upon the same popular caprices as our State Courts. Why are not the Federal Judges limited in the term of office to an annual election? Whey are they not responsible to some political party of the nation for their decisions? Why are they not compelled to receive their opinions from the same source from which they receive their votes, and conform their construction of statute to the complexion of a nominating committee? Why, in a word, are they not subject to some political machinery, through which they might be reached by irritated attorneys and convicted criminals? How much more convenient such a condition of things would be for the violators of an obnoxious law, and the party leaders who have the honor of practising at the bar? But, thank God, the wisdom of our national legislators has spared us this last danger and disgrace, in placing the Federal Judiciary upon so proud and independent a basis--above the reach of envious rivalries, and beyond the range of popular passions. A Federal Judge is as invulnerable as Achilles. He can be wounded only in the heel, when his back is turned, by the poisoned arrow of envy and malice. He is proudly independent, and accountable for his conduct only to the "Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress." With reference to the criminal practice of the United States Court, of which counsel so bitterly complain, it is true that according to that practice it requires but one judge and one jury to try a violator of the Federal Laws. And I should suppose that was sufficient. But counsel say that they have no appeal, no right of exception, none of the "law's delay," so consoling to criminals and so profitable to attorneys. It would, doubtless, be more agreeable to the prisoner, if the Federal Judiciary would conform more to the latitude and longitude of the New York system, where a criminal trial is as endless as a chancery suit, and where it takes a decade to convict a rogue and a generation to sentence him. The beauties of this system may be seen in the statistics of crime and insolence of criminals.
In order to illustrate his opposition, the learned counsel supposed a case--not of course with a view to any practical application--of a Federal Judge, who, in the exercise of his despotic power, should corruptly so pervert the facts, so misstate the law and usurp the functions of a jury as to induce them by the weight of his authority to convict an innocent man of a heinous offence. And, having drawn this extraordinary picture of total depravity, counsel forcibly asks where is the preventive? You might as well ask for a preventive of Original Sin. Such a case would not be an exception--it would not be an accident--it would be an anomaly. If such an instance could be Shown, it would form no argument against the Federal Judiciary as a system. You might as justly urge that a steamboat explosion is an argument against the inventions of Hudson or the discoveries of John Fitch.
A great effort will also be made by the learned counsel to excite your sympathy for this man. They will lay before you, and dilate upon, the purity of his motives, and explain away the viciousness of his acts by the goodness of his intentions. This is the ordinary excuse given for the violation of this law. In my opening remarks, I showed you that this law is not so odious as it is generally considered. The odium attached to a law is generally commensurate with the punishment it imposes. The penalties inflicted by this law are not to exceed six months' imprisonment or one thousand dollars fine, it being within the discretion of the Court to make this punishment as much less as it shall deem proper. It is within the power of this Court to punish Mr. Hossack with one hour's imprisonment and one cent fine, for a violation of the Constitution of the United States, and a violation of a law adopted as one of the great compromises of this country. I certainly, considering the nature of the act, its origin, and its importance, esteem the penalty light enough, and one which should command for the law the enconium of the counsel, rather than their constant vituperation. The usual excuse given for the violation of this law, is obedience to conscience. They say they are conscientiously opposed to it, and yield obedience to the higher law.
As Daniel Webster says: "Gentlemen, the North mountain is high, the Blue Ridge higher still, the Alleghanian higher than either, and yet the higher law ranges an eagle's flight higher than the highest peak of the Alleganians."
It is conscience, and nothing but conscience; not religion, nor patriotism, nor honesty, but conscience. Not that jocund, good-conditioned conscience such as "sleeps o' nights," but that lean Cassius-like conscience, that spare, sour conspirator, so loth to yield to Caesar the things which are Caesar's. Not that good old-fashioned conscience, which bids us mind our own business, eat our own bread, and love our neighbors as ourselves--but that modern, improved conscience, magnificent and boundless, charged with the responsibility of the universe, which bids us love all mankind and not our neighbors, "the friend of every country but its own." Not that primitive conscience which inculcates obedience to the laws, and deference to authority, the obligation of an oath, and the duty of allegiance, and the subordination of all private feeling to the public weal--but that extremely independent conscience which makes any man's little head a legislature, his prejudices a constitution, and his opinion a revelation.
Mr. Hossack belongs to this old guard of Abolitionists--a class of men not indigenous to the American soil, exiles from Exeter hall, learned in the language of the tabernacles, versed in the wisdom of the Pharisees, and piously intent upon minding everybody else's business. They are a peculiar people. By their tongue you shall know them; brave talkers of dangerous words, astute meddlers in things their understand not--eloquent and empty, fluent and foolish. A chosen tribe of hypocrites, full of the virtue that transgresses, and devoted to all that doubtful sort of good which cannot be done without double the amount of evil. Philanthropy is their speciality, and is only exercised on special occasions--when it can be done in violation of the law. Their politico-moral creed, stripped of its patriarchal phrases and balmy sentimentality, is but a singular union of original sin and cultivated depravity. Their susceptible and sympathetic hearts--those chosen repositories of all the humanities of life, will be found upon inspection, as was found the Jewish temple by the Roman soldier--"nulla gurus deum effegie sedem vacuam et inania arcana"--an empty sanctuary and vacant synagogue, with no sign of God within. Theirs is a patriotism acknowledging no country, a citizenship acknowledging no allegiance. Their opinions are paramount to all law, their dogma to all duty. Agitation, no matter how impotent, is essential to their existence, and, to do them justice, they have just sense enough to perceive they gain from it an importance nature never intended them to possess. Their public life is characterized, not by a love of their country, but by a calumniation of her government; not by a fulfillment of the duties she imposes, but by an abuse of the privileges she confers.
They are wiser than their generation. They have made discoveries in morality unknown to the old or new dispensation, and invented improvement in civil liberty that would certainly surprise the less enlightened framers of the Constitution. It is to be regretted that the inflexible imperfection of our Government should conflict with such seraphic sentiments, or that these worthy gentlemen had not a more incontrovertible basis for their theories, than such unlimited confidence in their own superior intelligence. Much as we may lament, however, the carnal character of our forefathers when measured by the expansive ideas of these modern moralists, it still becomes our painful duty to administer the law as we inherit it, and vindicate the dignity of the Government as it exists. It is the good fortune of these exceptional gentlemen to have attained so lofty a plan of ethics. It is their misfortune to have been born in an era of society so unprepared for a practical revolution of its first principles. You, gentlemen, on the other hand, are supposed to occupy a much lower level of thought and action. You are fettered with certain obligations to yourselves and your country. You have not learned to consider your allegiance to this Government as incompatible with your duty to God. You still retain some remaining reverence of the laws which protect you, and some respect for the Constitution under which you prosper. You have not yet attained that refinement of sanctity which disturbs the peace of society, and makes war upon one-half the Federal States.
The learned counsel contend, however, that the act for which the prisoner is indicted is in itself a noble one, and but for the Constitution and the statute, would be so considered. If it be true that the act is intrinsically a virtue, then it follows that the Constitution, which prohibits it, is intrinsically vicious. What a position is this, gentlemen, for an American citizen, for an officer of the law--and such undoubtedly are the counsel's secret sentiments--but he lacks the hardihood to announce them. His premises are precisely those of Garrison and Wendell Phillips, but he dare not state their only logical and inevitable conclusion.
But is it true that such acts are in themselves commendable? Take the case of an apprentice or a ward. Do you see anything particularly laudable, in the absence of a statute to the contrary, in any officious meddler's aiding the escape of an idle apprentice from his master, or in forcibly rescuing him from that master's possession? Is your admiration especially excited by the story of a man seducing a ward from the control of his guardian, or inciting and persuading him to break from the inconvenient thraldom? If you do not, then you can see no very commendable merit in rescuing or seducing a slave, for the cases are precisely analogous. We have heard too much, gentlemen, about the virtue of this kind of thing, and the noble motives which actuate these men. For my own part, I confess I see no virtue in it, and for the motives I have a perfect contempt. It is not charity, for charity begins at home, and wanders not away from the poor which she has always with her. It is not mercy, for the quality of mercy is not strained--it droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven. It is simply a morbid itching for notoriety--a desire, not to assist the slave, but to violate the law, and obtain an unenviable prominence as a panderer to a leprous cant. Deprive these men of their half-witted admirers, their newspaper eulogies, their parade of counsel, and they would no sooner touch a negro than a lizzard.
So much, gentlemen, in regard to the motives which actuated this man. I have not, and I am free to confess it, that very great respect for these motives which the learned counsel profess to entertain. Much has been said about the estimable character of Mr. Hossack. It has been conceded. I believe, that in all the relations of life he is an honest and honorable man; that he would not violate any injunction of the Decalogue--except the eighth commandment, and that only in reference to the southern people, I believe him to be a good enough citizen--except when his opinions come in conflict with the law. I believe him to be a worthy Christian--except so far as he may take it upon himself to decide what he deems to be the duty of a Christian towards the powers that be. In every relation of life not connected with a disagreeable duty to society, in everything. not affected by these idiosyncracies that are imbedded in his mind, I take him to be an excellent man.
But I advise Mr. Hossack, before liberating the black slaves who wander here from the south, to liberate himself from that most abject of slavery--the slavery of cant. He cannot help doing these things while he is in his present train of thought. But is that a reason to twelve sensible men why he is to be allowed to do wrong? Is that just cause for you to allow prejudice to run away with your judgment? However you may differ in sentiment from the makers of this law, you are the proper sworn tribunal for the correction of these evils, and the proper authority for the enforcement of its remedies and penalties. Has Mr. Hossack shown any reason why you should disregard your oaths and violate your duty? To show the importance of observing this law, the magnitude of the evils that spring from the violation of its requirements, and the inflexible firmness with which a jury should sustain and vindicate it, I will cite you the opinion of the venerable Judge McLean, one of the most respected names in American jurisprudence. [Mr. Fitch here read from 5 McLean's, 104. ] I could read to you until night, ad infinitum, from the books extending through the entire judicial history of this country, sentiments to the same effect, announced by the most authoritative expounders of the law.
And yet the nature of the law, rather than the fact of the rescue, seems to be the point now at issue. If one may judge from counsel's argument, it is the framers of the Constitution and not the violators thereof, who are upon trial. The proceedings of the Continental Convention, and not proceedings before Judge Caton have been the principal topic of discussion. Our Revolutionary sires have been extensively criticised to the great neglect of their degenerate sons at Ottawa. The counsel, in this particular, reminded me of Moliere's advocate, whose subject, no matter on what occasion, was always the universe, and his latest date, the deluge. Counsel has devoted a great deal of his useful time, and an unnecessary amount of labor, in detecting and expatiating upon the defects in the law of 1850.
It is to be regretted that the result of so much time and labor should have proved simply a compilation of obsolete errors and a blissful ignorance of the truth of history. In my opening, I modestly stated that it was historically known that but for the clause in the Constitution upon which this law is based, that Constitution would never have been adopted. The assertion has been broadly denied by the learned counsel. As I have never made it my speciality to denounce the laws of my country, nor devoted much attention to searching for a pretext to violate them, you might naturally suppose I had not the same extensive information of this subject as opposite counsel.
But fortunately I am not compelled to rely upon my own ipsidixit. In the most celebrated and elaborate opinion ever delivered on this subject, it will be found that every Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States makes the same statement. My language was taken almost verbatim from Judge Story--a man as distinguished for his scholarship, and his erudite knowledge of both ancient and modern history, as for his wonderful legal lore. In this he was sustained by Wayne, Curtis, Thompson, Taney, Daniels and McLean. How unfortunate that these celebrated men--the last remaining links between the Revolution and this generation--men so long considered the ornaments of American jurisprudence; so long revered for the nobility of their intellects; men upon whom nature had stamped the great seal of her approval, should have been shown by the learned counsel to be so mistaken regarding events of which they formed a part, and so ignorant of a Constitution which they had made the study of their lives, and were appointed by the nation to expound. "To this complexion have we come at last,"--that the truth of history is perverted, and the highest authority in the Republic impeached, in order to sustain a popular cant, and gratify a morbid fanaticism. Verily, gentlemen, when we descend for our historical and legal information from such men as Story and Kent, down, down, down, to ordinary lawyers, we have "sounded the base sting of our humility."
But counsel goes further, and denies that the Supreme Court has expounded this clause of the Constitution correctly,--he denies that it was ever intended for the purposes declared in the Act of Congress, and proceeds to give what he considers the true interpretation. Truly, "a Daniel has come to judgment." A chain of decisions extended through the entire reports of the United States Supreme Court,--from 1 Cranch to 21 Howard,--are, according to counsel, one unbroken chain of errors. The impudence of this kind of talk, gentlemen, is perfectly delightful--it is a public entertainment--the sublimity of assurance. The legal ability of the Supreme Court impeached by such a man! Brigham Young might as well impeach the Christianity of St. Paul.
The learned counsel then laboriously proceeded to prove what no one ever denied, namely: that Liberty, in the abstract, was a natural right--and to disprove what no one ever asserted, namely: that a slave, in seeking his liberty, committed a crime.
These propositions were followed by a eulogy upon certain impossible virtues, and unattainable emotions--the floating fragments of a speculative theology, which have about as much to do with this prosecution as the fantastic subtilty of the Schoolmen, about how many angels could stand on the point of a needle.
The question with us is not about mankind as it might be, but about this generation as it is--not about the conduct of a slave, but the conduct of a citizen who owes allegiance to his country, a fealty to her authorities, and has sworn to sustain her Constitution.
This fugitive slave law belonged to and formed a part of the celebrated compromise or omnibus bill of Mr. Clay. It received the approbation and eloquent support of Webster, and the other great statesmen of that period. It was signed by a patriotic President; it was adopted by both the political parties then composing the people of this country. It has received the sanction of the Supreme Federal Court, and has stood the test of ten year's experience. Therefore, small as may be your consideration for Mr. Phillipps, light and trifling as may be the penalty for the violation of this act, yet when you view the case in its broad legal aspect, you will see at once the magnitude which it assumes.
Gentlemen, you will enter your jury room to decide one of the gravest questions ever presented to any court; a question not only touching the prisoner but the whole people--a question not only touching the enforcement of the statute but the existence of the law--a question not only touching a single instance of property but the staple of half these States--a question centering in itself the highest vitalities of law, sound morals, property, and preservation.
Your judgment shall calm the tumult, or it may stir up that, the end where of no man knoweth.
It is for you and you alone to determine whether we shall respect rights transmitted from sages; whether we shall abide by usages crowned with a century's sanction; whether we shall continue to dwell in that enlightened co-operation and unity that has developed in this Union miracles of political, commercial, and social success; whether we shall cling with a fondness and a fervor which no temptation can seduce and no danger can appeal, to the high unbending safeguards of the Constitution. All this your judgment shall determine. Now and here, gentlemen, abandoning all the blandishments of the hour, filled only with the divinity of truth, with the holiness of your obligations, let your decision this day be an ornament and a eulogy upon your office--an ornament and eulogy to be treasured in most that imperishable of sanctuaries, the national heart, when you shall have mouldered to your native earth.
It is a simple question of obedience to law. What is that? A submission ennobling its subject, and a respect for a power that protects us. Is this burdensome and exacting? Is it not rather a mere passive duty, rewarded by a progressive gain--life made sacred and property protected? It is an English legend that the first noble of the land is honored in bending the knee before the crown, the mere emblem of authority. How much higher and purer the honor of an American citizen, in the simple majesty of his manhood, yielding a loving and unalienable obedience to the Government, his own handiwork, and to the law, his daily shield.
Gentlemen, you have the law; you have the facts. Yours is a remarkable position, with high trusts to discharge. Upon the one side is the citizen claiming his liberty; upon the other the Government demanding its rights. A citizen rebellions to the power that protects him, is here exacting, from that power which he has insulted, honor and safety. A Government, just beyond example, beneficent without a compeer, is here asking against a citizen whom it has only noticed to cherish, whom it has only watched to exalt, the protection of principles involving its very perpetuity. Here, then, you are the arbiters of sovereign and subject--sovereign and subject supplicants to you for justice.
Then I invoke you, before this august suitor, in the solemn presence of this tribunal, by the oaths wherewith you have sealed your souls to the truth, to put far away from you all thoughts discordant with the great purposes herein, all false sentimentalities, all trammels of party, and this day declare the law as it is enacted, pure, simple and undefiled, with no thought of self, nor worldliness, nor sectionalism, more than had Moses when he stood uncovered and unshod, trembling before the living God, to receive the truth for his people.
This website is produced by Jay W. Preston to honor John Hossack, the Abolitionist of Ottawa, Illinois. The father dedicates this to his son, Yujin Jay Preston (1979-1999), daughter Elika, and daughter Yuli, great great great grandchildren of John Hossack. Permission to reprint this material is granted when this notice is included in full. © 2000 - 2010 Jay W. Preston. For information, comments or contributions of time, money, information, materials, or manpower to this site: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyrights of works cited, quoted, or excerpted remain with the respective owners, if not in public domain.