The Cleveland Daily Herald

Cleveland, May 7, 1859

The Rescue Case – Trial of Langston.


      District Attorney Belden continued his argument, and made the following proposition which he claimed to be law, to wit: That if a party interfere with a Federal officer, who is discharging his duty, by arresting him under legal process issued by State authority, the interference is as unlawful as the interposition of violence would have been, and the fact that interference was made under cover of legal process can be plead not in justification of the act, but merely for mitigation of sentence after conviction. The proposition was sustained by a citation from a newspaper, (whether one “blackened with lie,” the District Attorney did not say) of a recent decision in the U.S. Supreme Court in the Booth case. This decision was pronounced by Chief Justice Taney, and the point referred to is as follows.

“And although, as we have said, it is the duty of the Marshal or other person holding him to make known by a proper return the authority under which he detains him, it is at the same time imperatively his duty to obey the process of the United States; to hold the prisoner in custody under it, and to refuse obedience to the mandate or process of any other government. And consequently it is his duty not to take the prisoner, nor suffer him to be taken, before a State Judge or Court upon a habeas corpus issued under State authority. No State Judge or Court, after they are judicially informed that the party is imprisoned under the authority of the United States, has any right to interfere with him, or to require him to be brought before them. And if the authority of a State, in the form of judicial process or other wise, should attempt to control the Marshal or other authorized agent of the United States in any respect, in the custody of his prisoner, it would be his duty to resist it, and to call to his aid any force that may be necessary to maintain the authority of the law against illegal interference. No judicial process, whatever form it may assume, can have any lawful authority outside of the limits of the jurisdiction of the court of Judge by whom it is issued; and an attempt to enforce it beyond these boundaries is nothing less than lawless violence.”

      [If the above is good law, our State Courts have no right to inquire into the validity of any process purporting to issue from the United States Courts. Even if all the papers were totally irregular, the fact they were issued by a Federal official is sufficient, and the State Court has no authority to interfere. That places the United States Commissioner above the Supreme Court of Ohio; under the warrant of the former, even if he entirely transcends the plain letter of the Fugitive Law, and sends his warrant out of his own District, even, the State Court cannot interfere. According to this doctrine, Lowe could – had he seen fit – have held John under a warrant admitted to be void, and the State writ of Habeas Corpus would be powerless. The doctrine is as monstrous as that of the Dred Scott decision.]

      The argument of the government this morning was only upon legal points involved in the case.

      The District Attorney claimed that the rescue was made from Jennings, the agent of the owner of the slave, aided and assisted by Lowe, the Marshal.

      Mr. Griswold opened for the defence. – Counsel introduced his argument with very appropriate remarks upon jury trial; he very happily commented upon the impropriety of impaneling political juries, he contrasted the present jury trial with that of England, in days gone by, when one half of the jury must be of the nativity of the defendant. On this point Mr. Griswold mad a very forcible appeal, as showing that this defendant, under our Federal Court, has no rights as a citizen, except the right of having dealt out to him the pains and penalties of the Fugitive Slave Law.

      Mr. Griswold argued that the power of Attorney is not a legal and valid power. He also argued that the marshal having once taken the slave, continued to hold him in custody, and could not divest himself of such possession, by delivering him over to the agent, and that if there was a rescue, it was from the Marshal and not from the agent.

      Mr. Griswold commented upon Lowe’s statement that he delivered over John to Jennings and claimed that such testimony is entirely unsustained, and is absolutely contradicted by a large number of witnesses.

      Mr. Griswold went into a very thorough analysis of the testimony of the case.

      The defence took the ground that it is not enough to show merely the presence of the defendant at Wellington to charge him with guilt but actual participation in the doings there must be shown, either overt acts or as advising and counseling resistance.

      Mr. G. then took up the testimony relative to Langston’s connection with the rescue, arguing that there was no proof showing that defendant was there for the purpose of effecting a rescue, but rather for the purpose of preserving the peace and observing the law.

      Counsel combated the doctrine as monstrous, and more atrocious than any doctrine of the darkest age of British tyranny, that a man, who supposed a fellow being was illegally held and therefore sought by writ of Habeas Corpus or otherwise, to have the matter legally investigated, was himself criminally guilty of violating law. The assumption of the District Attorney that those who were there with intention of violent rescue of John and those who were endeavoring to procure legal investigation of the matter, were equally guilty of a rescue, is a doctrine not for a moment to be admitted as correct.