"Treason!," Memphis (TN) Appeal, October 10, 1851, p. 2.
Memphis (TN) Appeal
The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
The great judicial farce of enforcing the fugitive slave law, by the punishment of the Christiana rioters and murders, has fairly begun.—A few whites and free negroes have been committed by JUSTICE REIGART, charged with the crime of treason against the United States. For the violation of the laws of Pennsylvania, riot and murder, no prosecution has been begun by the officers of the State. Charges of which they might by convicted are passed over, and this case is made to rest solely on the law of treason. We presume, even f it were certain that impartial juries could be obtained, that no lawyer would hazard his reputation so far as to advance the opinion that these men have been guilty of treason. On such a charge, even on the clearest evidence and with an honest jury, their acquittal is morally certain. The proceedings will simply be a solemn farce, and the South is to be satisfied with the form of a fruitless trial on a charge which cannot be made out; while the State authorities fail in their duty and pass over the real crimes, riot and murder, as in this case the latter is merged in the former higher crimes; and since the lives of the criminals cannot be twice jeopardized for the same offence, they will be released altogether.
By such a course the faithlessness of the officials concerned is evident. They pay no attention to crimes of which these men might be convicted; but commit them of a charge which will inevitably release them all.
A celebrated French political writer has said that one of the great triumphs of the American Constitution is that it defines, with exactness, the crime of treason. Despotic, arbitrary governments have in nothing more powerfully strengthened themselves than by the ambiguity with which this crime was surrounded and the ease with which almost every offence could be made to appear treason. Our Constitution says that treason shall consist in “levying war against the United States,” and in “giving aid and comfort to their enemies.” It is the highest crime of which a man can be guilty. It is clear that our Constitution recognizes it only in the two cases of an attempt by American citizens to overthrow the government by arms, and to betray the State to a foreign power. In no other case can it exist under our Constitution and laws. The attempt, then, to make it appear that these rioters were “levying war against the United States,” attempting to overthrow the government by arms, would seem ridiculous, were it not an evidence of the faithlessness of Northern courts when the rights of slaveholders are concerned.
What are the State authorities of Pennsylvania doing, that they thus transfer the whole matter to the Federal courts? Is there no law there punishing riot and murder? It would, indeed, seem not, if we may judge on the action of her officers—at least when a southerner is mobbed and murdered when armed with the authority of the Constitution, and is in pursuit of his property.
The telegraph announces another dark deed on the already black catalogue of Northern incendiarism. Another slave has been rescued by a mob in the populous city of Syracuse, and the claimant arrested and put on trial on a charge of kidnapping. Oh, how prompt these same authorities are, when a Southerner is to be punished for violating a law! But the other day, and the air was vocal with the shouts of men boasting of superior and peculiar devotion to the Union, and glorying in their triumph over their fellow citizens at home whose crime was a more intelligent appreciation of the dangers of Northern fanaticism and a more manly policy of counteracting it. Scarcely was the news of their triumph borne to the North than the stern answer was speeded back by the united voices of the entire whig party and a large portion of the democratic party in New York, refusing to receive the tender of submission and pledge themselves to support the Compromise as a “final settlement.” The bloody tragedy of Christiana followed close upon these events; and now, another mob and rescue proclaim, “the fugitive slave law shall not be enforced!” “resistance to tyrants is obedience to God!” The HIGHER-LAW riots in [illegible] triumph, and waits only for an answering chorus of Southern submission to peal out its notes in thunder tones that shall make the stately edifices of this Union tremble to its base. Shall we still be told that the Compromise has give us peace—freedom from agitation—our constitutional rights? Palsied be the arm and withered the tongue which shall attempt to palliate these outrages or continue to delude the Southern people with songs of fatal peace and unconditional submission.