The Omaha Nebraskian

Omaha, Nebraska

April 30, 1859



The Oberlin Rescue Case.



      The jury having returned a verdict of guilty against Bushnell, the Cleveland Plaindealer expresses the hope that as it is the first conviction, the Judge may be moderate in the sentence.  Although the first conviction, it is not the first offence against the laws of the land.  Oberlin is celebrated for her opposition to the fugitive slave law, and the ways and means for its successful resistance have always been at command at that place.  We hope Judge Wilson will put the sentence at such fine and imprisonment as will satisfy the “higher law” gentlemen at Oberlin, that while among mortals, the statutes of the land must be obeyed.  When a class of Divines, College Professors, and other learned gentlemen, teach resistance to law as a Christian duty, we think that if any of them are convicted, they ought to be punished to the utmost extent of the law.  It will do them good.



The Omaha Nebraskian

Omaha, Nebraska

June 11, 1859



Nullification in Ohio.



      In the habeas corpus case, just determined in Columbus, Ohio, Chief Justice Swan, and Justice Scott and Peck held:

1.      That the provisions of Art. 4, Sec. 2, in the Constitution of the United States, a person held to service or labor in one state under the laws thereof, escaping into another shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due,” guarantee to the owner of an escaped slave the right to reclamation.

2.      That a citizen, who, knowingly and intentionally interferes with, for the purpose of rescue or rescues from the owner of an escaped slave, is guilty of a violation of the Constitution of the United States, whether the acts of 1798 and 1850, commonly called the fugitive slave laws, are unconstitutional or not.

3.      That the question in this case is, not whether the fugitive act of 1850 is unconstitutional in respect to the appointment and powers of commissioners, the allowance of a writ of habeas corpus, the mode of reclamation, &c., but whether Congress has any power to pass any law whatever, however just and proper, in its provisions for the reclamation of slaves, or to protect the owner of an escaped slave from interference, when duly asserting his constitutional rights of reclamation.

4.      That Congress, from the earliest period of the government, has, by legislative penalties, vindicated the constitutional right of the owner of slaves against unlawful interference.

5.      That such legislation was adopted in 1793 by the second Congress elected under the constitution, composed of many of the members of the convention who framed the constitution; has, from that day to this, been in active operation, and has been acquiesced in by all departments of the government, national and State; and the legislative power of Congress on this subject has been recognized by the general assembly of the State of Ohio in their statutes; by the Supreme court of the United States, and by the Supreme courts of Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, California, by the Supreme court of Ohio on the circuit, and, indeed, by the Supreme courts of every State in the Union where the question has been made, and has never been denied by the Supreme court of any State – the courts of Wisconsin, notwithstanding the popular impression, not forming an exception.

6.      The right to rescue escaped slaves from their owners being denied to all citizens of the United States by the constitution; Congress have prohibited it and enforced the prohibition by penalties; the Supreme Court of the United States and courts of the free States having recognized and acquiesced in such legislative prohibition and punishment, if the question is not thus put beyond the reach of the private personal views of judges, and if they possess judicial discretion or power to overrule on the authority of their individual opinions this unbroken current of decisions and this acquiescence of the States of the Union, and change the settled interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, then there is no limit, and no restraint upon judges making at any time, and under any circumstances, their own individual opinions, the arbitrary interpreters of the constitution.

7.      Whatever difference of opinion may now exist in the public mind, as to the power of Congress to punish rescuers as provided in the acts of 1793 and 1850, no such vital blow is given either to constitutional rights or State sovereignty by Congress thus enacting a law to punish a violation of the Constitution of the United States, as to demand of this court the organization of resistance.  If, after more than sixty years of acquiescence by all departments of the national and State governments, in the power of Congress to provide for the punishment of rescuers of escaped slaves, that power is not to be disregarded and all laws which may be passed by Congress on this subject from henceforth are not to be persistently resisted and nullified, the work of revolution should not be begun by the conservators of the public peace.

      We cannot but regard the above decision, coming from a court composed entirely of Republicans of the most ultra slam, as the severest blow the Black Republican party in Ohio has ever received.  It will operated as a strong check on nullifying Republicans throughout the entire country.  The Oberlin rescuers and their sympathizers had hoped much from the political predilections of the Supreme Court of Ohio.  That Court has now decided, in a case made up by Republicans for political effect, that it is the duty and pleasure of Ohio to remain in the Union, to respect the Constitution of the United States and to yield obedience to the laws.  In other words, Ohio has decided that she will not make of her domain, a free negro nest and refuge for fugitive negroes; she will discharge her federal obligations and give up runaway slaves “on claim of the party” who shall show title of ownership.

      Since the trial of the Oberlin rescuers first commences, the Republican presses have poured out the vials of their wrath upon the United States Court that was trying them. – It has been the burden of their cry that State Courts, and not Federal Courts are Supreme in that State.  We shall now see whether they were sincere in this cry or not.  No language of condemnation was too strong, no epithets of reproach too vile to bestow upon the officers of the Federal Court.  Judge Wilson was stigmatized as a second Jeffries. – We are curious to know what the howlers for freedom will now say of the Supreme Court of Ohio, one of the most intensely Republican States in the Confederacy.  Will Giddings, Chase, et al, fight the Supreme Court of their own State?  We shall see.



The Omaha Nebraskian

Omaha, Nebraska

July 16, 1859






      The famous – or rather infamous – Oberlin rescue case, has at last been brought to a termination.  Several of the rescuers were found guilty and sentenced to a fine and imprisonment, others plead guilty, while a few were obstinately awaiting trial, in the Cleveland jail.

      The Oberlin fanatics retaliated by having Messrs. Jennings, Lowe, Mitchell and Davis – the persons from whose custody the slaves were rescued – indicted by the Lorain county (Ohio) Court for kidnapping.  The case came up for trial, at Elyria, a short time since, and a nolle was entered in their case, on condition that similar proceedings should be had with reference to the Oberlin rescuers who were untried.  The prisoners on both sides were discharged.