The Cleveland Daily Herald
Cleveland, April 15, 1859
The Fugitive Slave Law and Judge Willson.
A series of resolutions, adopted at a meeting in this city, in October, 1850, denunciatory of the Fugitive Slave Law, and which purported to be reported to that meeting by Joel Tiffany, Reuben Hitchcock, H.V. Willson, O.H. Knapp and Geo. A. Benedict, were read on the argument of the Rescue case now on trial before the United States Court; Judge H.V. Willson, presiding.
The writer of this had quite forgotten the fact that he was on that committee, until referring to the report as published, but has endeavored to refresh his memory as to the facts, and as a matter of naked justice to Judge Willson will give his recollection of them.
The passage of that infamous law was a memorable event in the history of that glorious old Whig party to which the writer was devotedly attached, and to the fortunes of which he clung while a plank of that party floated. The passage of that sad law was used as a wedge with which to split the Whig party; that meeting was called and its purposes aided by Democrats who wished to help on the Whig party to its downfall. H.V. Willson – now Judge – as a Democrat was glad to see the Whigs rent in twain. The writer of this still adhering to the Whig party in its hour of trial, was opposed to the purposes of that meeting, because it tended to the rupture of the party, believing then – as he does now – that with all its ains of omission or commission it was a much better party than the Democratic party, and he had not then given it up as lost. Free-Soilers, Democrats and Whigs were sought to compose that committee. Judge Willson and the writer of this were placed on that committee, yet did not agree with the sentiments avowed by it, to the full extent of the resolutions, but did not take the trouble to make a minority report or protest. Therefore it is not just to either, strictly speaking, to hold them responsible for those resolutions. The writer of this thinks that neither Mr. Willson nor himself went with the committee into the meeting, or in fact acted with the committee after ascertaining the nature of the resolutions the majority was disposed to report to said meeting.
The writer of this begs to say, however, that those resolutions were not objectionable to him so much on principle as that there introduction and adoption he thought would be impolitic and injurious to the good old Whig party. Since then he had fully endorsed them, so that now he claims nor release from all the responsibility that attaches to the committee that drafted and reported them.
The statement made by Judge Belden, in Court, that Judge Willson was not present on that committee was incorrect, and the District Attorney drew his information from an incorrect source. That Judge Willson acted on that committee proves the charge made against Mr. Foot, the Chairman of that meeting, to the effect that he put Mr. Willson on that committee improperly, to be unjust.