The Liberator

Boston, December 17, 1858

(From the Cleveland [Democratic] Plaindealer, Dec. 7th.)


Thirty Seven Oberlinites Indicted by the U. S. Grand Jury for Rescuing a Fugitive Slave. – Prof. Peck, Eleven Negroes, Five Fugitives and Twenty-Five White Men Indicted.

      The Grand Jury of the U.S. District Court has been in session for several weeks in this city, examining witnesses in the Oberlin Rescue Case, and last night brought their labors to a close by finding true bills against thirty-seven of the ring-leaders in this affair, including the Rev. Henry Peck, Professor in Oberlin College, the Rev. Jas. M. Fitch, formerly Missionary to Jamaica, several Theological Students, five Fugitive Slaves, and thirty other citizens of all colors,

“From snowy white to sooty.”

      These indictments were kept a profound secret until this morning, when the Marshal started for his game before they could be flushed by the news. What his luck may be in arresting these Higher Law dignitaries, their dusky mates and theological satellites, remains to be seen. If Oberlin, the head-quarters and hot-bed of negro fanaticism in the North, yields obedience to the Fugitive Slave Law, it is all over but shouting with the friends of “law and order.” It is here the Revolutionary Generals of the great “Liberty” party reside. It was here that Prof. Peck, one of the indicted, erected his famous Filibuster Platform during the last Presidential campaign, on which muskets as well as men were to stand. We shall see.

      The slave “Little John” was arrested in Oberlin by U.S. Deputy Marshal Lowe, of Columbus, by virtue of a warrant issued by U.S. Commissioner Crittenden, of the S.C. of Ohio – at the instance of Anderson D. Jennings, the deputed agent of the owner, John G. Bacon, both residents of Mason county, Kentucky. On the same day, (to wit, the 13th of September, 1858,) the slave was rescued by a mob at Wellington. How many of these rescuers will peaceably come into court, enter into recognizance, and stand trial at the next term, which will be in March, will soon be know. Prof. Peck may, after all his boasting, come to the conclusion that “discretion is the better part of valor.” He may shut-up his college for a few days, and not only come into court himself, but bring his students and his shades with him.

      As he is in the habit of taking his rifle with him, or as in the late rescue, “sending it along by his hired man,” he can come armed and equipped according to the requirements of the Higher Law and plead to his indictment with arms presented.

      But there is a portion of these Oberlin citizens, which we fear will be diffident about making their appearance in open Court. There are among them five fugitive slaves, who will probably “cut for Canada” as the shortest cut for liberty, rather than give bail for their appearance at a United States District Court, on a fixed day. Such citizens we opine will leave, and will not be at the polls to vote the Republican ticket at the next elections.

FAn Oberlin correspondent of the New York Tribune gives the following additional particulars of this arrest: -

      At 10:42 this forenoon, fifteen of the twenty-one residents of Oberlin for whom warrants were issued left the Oberlin station, amid the shouts and huzzas of a large crowd of ladies and gentlemen who had assembled to see them off. A considerable number of the most prominent me of the village, including Major Beecher, volunteered to accompany the prisoners, and see them comfortably quartered or safely returned. Marshal Johnson was in waiting as they left the cars, and pointing the prisoners to omnibuses bound for the Bennett House, directed them to take good care of themselves, and be ready for a call at 2 o’clock. After dinner, the Hon. R.P. Spaulding, the Hon. A.G. Riddle, and S.O. Griswold, Esq., who had volunteered their services for the defence, free of charge, were called in for consultation. Soon after 2 o’clock, the parties proceeded to the courtroom.

      The Marshal read the names of the persons upon whom he had served processes at Oberlin, with the number of the bills in which their names severally stood. Judge Spaulding, acting for the defence, entered a plea of Not Guilty, in behalf of all.

      Those who responded were as follows:

                        Name.                          Charge.                           Plea.

John H. Scott.                   Rescuing.                          Not Guilty.

Henry E. Peck.                  Aiding & Abetting.                 Not Guilty.

John Watson.                    Rescuing.                          Not Guilty.

William Watson                 Rescuing.                          Not Guilty.

Henry Evans.                    Rescuing.                          Not Guilty.

Wilson Evans.                   Rescuing.                          Not Guilty.

David Watson.                  Rescuing.                          Not Guilty.

Ansel W. Lyman.              Rescuing.                          Not Guilty.

James M. Fitch.                 Aiding & Abetting.                 Not Guilty.

Simeon Bushnell.              Rescuing.                          Not Guilty.

James R. Shepard.             Rescuing.                          Not Guilty.

Oliver S. B. Wall.              Rescuing.                          Not Guilty.

Wm. E. Scrimmager.         Rescuing.                          Not Guilty.

James Bartlett.                   Rescuing.                          Not Guilty.

      Pleas of abatement were entered for misnomers in the cases of the persons arrested as James R. Shepard, Oliber S. B. Wall, and William E. Scrimmager. James Bartlett was in town, but not present in the Court room when his name was called. Ralph Plumb was allowed a few days to complete business engagements, pledging his parole to appear with as little delay as possible. The representatives from Wellington are expected to-morrow.

      Judge Spaulding gave notice that the accursed were ready for, and requested trial immediately. The District Attorney begged continuance for time to send to Kentucky for witnesses. Should need at least two weeks.

      Judge Spaulding thought that citizens of Ohio think two weeks some time to lie in jail for the convenience of the citizens of Kentucky.

      The Court remarked that it was not necessary for them to lie in jail. They could be liberated on bail.

      Judge Spaulding was not sure of that, by any means. He was not authorized to believe that all of them could furnish bail, and it was that very question which he wished settled. He wished to know if bail would be required.

      The District Attorney said it would.

      The Court thought all might find bail in $500 cash, which would be very moderate.

      Mr. Griswold informed the Court that only a portion of his clients could find bail in any amount.

      Judge Spaulding received permission to retire with his clients, and returning, informed the Court that no bail would be given. The accused were ready for, and demanded immediate trial. The United States had summoned them to appear for trial, and it was the business of the United States to be ready to proceed with the trial without any delay. If a continuance was ordered, they were willing to enter into a recognizance to appear when called, but would do nothing further.

      The Court conferred with the District Attorney.

      The Court announced that individual recognizances in the sum of $1,000 would be sufficient.

      These recognizances were accordingly made, and the trial thus adjourned until the first Tuesday in March, 1859.