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Correspondence of the Mercury
CINCINNATI, April 7.
MR. EDITOR: Thinking that a fugitive slave case, which has recently come off to our city, the result of which has greatly exercised the abolition gentry here (and their name is legion), might interest your readers, I give you a few of the items connected with it.
A negro slave, names Lewis, absconded from his master, a Mr. GEORGE KILGOUR, of Cabell Co., Virginia, some two years since, made tracks for Ohio, and has been domiciled during that time among some of the underground railroad between Ross county. Recently, Mr. KILGOUR, his owner received information as to his whereabouts, and made arrangements for his speedy return to Old Virginny. Accordingly he despatched [dispatched] his son, accompanied by one or two others, after Lewis' They found Lewis at work upon a farm, who immediately recognized them, was arrested and brought to this city in charge of the United States Marshal, and bought before Commissioner BROWN, from whom a warrant was issued.
The abolition gentry immediately raised their war cry, and sat about to find the ways and means of releasing the slave, by writs of haebus corpus, any quantity of oaths, and a very comfortable amount of fancy swearing. They employed JOHN JOLIFFE, the standing abolition lawyer - the same fellow who once visited Columbia, in your State, to contest a will, in which some emancipated negros were concerned.
The pretended plea set up by JOLIFFE was, that the master of Lewis had sold him to a man named SHETZER, who had brought him to Ohio and gave him his freedom. To prove this, he introduced a Mr. Robinson, of Ross County, Ohio, with who the negro had lived all the while, and for whom he was working at the time of his arrest. Mr. Robinson is an agent of the underground railroad in Ross county. He swore that when the man Lewis came to him, that he exhibited a deed, or "something" on paper, which said that he had been sold to SHETZER; was certain of that; said deed had a large seal to it, and two attesting witnesses, living in Virginia, whom he named. On his cross-examination, he could not tell anything as to the purport of the paper, whether a deed, bill of sale, or what; but remembered the big seal and the names of the witnesses. Mr. KILGOUR swore that he had never made any deed or bill of sale of the man Lewis to any one: that he ranaway from him. The two attesting witnesses were then produced, who swore that they had never witnessed any such paper, and that their names, if appended to any document of the kind, were forgeries. The deed was called for, but Mr. JOLIFFE said that it had unfortunately been burned, but he relied upon Mr. ROBINSON to prove its contents. I would here state, that while this investigation was going on before Commissioner BROWN, JOLIFFE took out a writ of haebus corpus, to have the negro brought before Judge DICKSON. The Marshal appeared, and stated by his attorney that the man was at that time before the Commissioner, under his jurisdiction, and that he could not, therefore, produce him before Judge DICKSON. JOLIFFE fought hard to have the case continued to a future day, but the Judge very properly dismissed it entirely, and now the great conflict was to be had before Commissioner BROWN. Two lawyers, JOLIFFE and CALDWELL, appeared for the abolitionists, and the claimant of the negro was represented by General POWELL, a lawyer of celebrity in his profession, who certainly managed the case with great skill and energy. The court room was crowded, having a pretty good sprinkling of woolly heads, who mingled freely among their white brethren, and, of course, who had a better right there than they. The negro sat amid a number of his black friends, quite an apparently unconcerned spectator. (He was a prime looking field hand.) The day was rainy and dark, and I assure you the atmosphere of the court room did not at all remind one of the sweets of Arabia.
JOLIFFE (or, as Gen. POWELL termed him, Brother JOLIFFE) opened the case. Fancy a huge, burly, beef-eating, round-headed and puritanical rascal, the expression of whose face reminds one of Oily Gammon, and you have some idea of him. A more fanatical looking specimen of humanity it would be hard to find. He began with pouring forth a perfect torrent of abuse upon slavery, slave-holders, and the South generally, and the clergymen of the South in particular. They were all thieves, robbers, pirates, swindlers, villains, hypocrites, both in religion and morality; and, in short, were a class of men who were on the broad road to hell, and he rather thought they would reach that spot. The clergymen of the South were apostales from religion and God, &c. He then proposed that the Commissioner had no jurisdiction, inasmuch as he should have received his appointment from the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. He then argued, if argument it could be called, that the fugitive slave law was entirely unconstitutional, and upon what grounds, do you suppose? You can never guess, I know. Why, because the Constitution of the United States guarantied the right of freedom of religious opinion to every citizen: and that as hundreds of thousands of the citizens of the country looked upon slavery as a hideous sin, which belief they incorporated into their religious faith, and it became a part and parcel of their religious worship - ergo, the execution of that law, in the remanding of a fugitive slave to his owner, was an infringement of the religious opinions and worship of a large portion of the citizens of the United States, and consequently unconstitutional. He was perfectly satisfied of that fact - he was. Here he fairly howled: he jumped, he raved, patted Lewis upon his woolly top-knot, and called him his brother, at which the aforesaid brother showed his ivory. He quoted the Bible, MOSES, and the prophets, King SOLOMON and many of the old patriarchs who have long since been resting in ABRAHAM's bosom; and finally, after beating about the bush and howling until he was exhausted, he sat down, without advancing one solitary argument relative to the resgesto before the Court
General POWELL then replied to Brother JOLIFFE, and I assure you that he made the fur fly at every lick; he cut him right and left, up and down, sideways and all sorts of ways-he fairly skinned him. He gave the underground railroad company particular fits, and as many of them were present, it must have been exceedingly pleasant. His argument upon the merits of the case was logical, eloquent and convincing: he left no ground upon which the abolitionist lawyer could stand - he demolished him completely and entirely. JOLIFFE mizzled and slunk out of the court-room, proceeding at once, amid a very heavy rain storm, to Judge LEAVITT (the District Judge), to arrange for another haebus corpus, as he feared the case would be decided against him. Judge LEAVITT, prostituting his position of Judge, in order to favor the abolitionists, came to the Court House, to be on hand, so that no time should be lost in issuing the writ after the Commissioner should have made his decision in the case. He waited in an adjoining chamber, all prepared for work, and the abolitionists and negros were in high glee. The Commissioner decided that Lewis was a fugitive slave, and that he must be surrendered to his owner. This caused much sensation among the woolly heads present. While the Commissioner was making out the necessary orders of Court for the rendition of the negro, JOLIFFE was busy with Judge LEAVITT preparing the haebus corpus. Difficulty was apprehended from the blacks present and their sympathisers, and a kind of calm ensued similar to that indicating a coming storm. It was now nearly dark and raining in torrents. Passing along the entry of the Court House, in the vicinity of the room from which haebus corpus was to issue, your correspondent met Brother JOLIFFE, attended by several persons, to whom he was talking, among them some gentlemen from Africa. He heard him (JOLIFFE) assure them that the writ would be served as soon as the Commissioner had ended his connection with the case, that all was ready; that they would keep the negro here and have another chance for him on Monday (this was Saturday), and to keep quiet; all was right. Your correspondent at once informed the owner of the negro what he had heard, and advised him to act promptly and get him over into Kentucky without any unnecessary delay. Just then the Commissioner finished his papers and handed the documents to the Marshal, who at once stepped up to Lewis and handcuffed him in the twinkling of an eye, collared him, and in an instant more was on his way out of the Court House, followed closely by another Deputy Marshal and the claimants, together with some friends, who kept a good look out behind that nothing like a rescue should be attempted; your correspondent was among the number. So quickly and promptly was the whole affair managed by the Deputy Marshal, that the negros and abolitionists were taken by surprise. They were not prepared for this, and relying upon the promised writ of haebus corpus, had not arranged any concerted action among themselves.
In passing along the entry, the Marshal with his prisoner passed JOLIFFE, who look amazed: he ran for Judge LEAVITT, who was hard at work getting out the writ in the next room. It was no go: Judge LEAVITT did not write fast enough; onward the Marshal went, down to the door, into the street (it was pouring down rain); a carriage was waiting at the door, into which the two Deputies, the negro and the claimants entered; crack went the whip and away they sped to the ferry at the foot of the street, by which they were conveyed to old Kentucky shore. Just after the carriage had left, out came the haebus corpus, but too late. The officer ran with it to the ferry, but the boat was in the middle of the river; the owner had recovered his property, and thus the abolitionists were battled. Had they succeeded in detaining the negro here, I have no doubt but there would have been much trouble, and he might have escaped. Great credit is due to the Deputy Marshal for the promptitude with which he acted, and the coolness be displayed; he was prepared, I know, for any emergency, and was determined to do his duty. He is quite a young man, but certainly manifested true grit. JOLIFFE and company looked completely chop-fallen, when they found out that they were foiled. I learn that this fellows makes the darkies here fork up pretty roundly whenever he works for them, and that this philanthropy takes care of number one first.
The municipal election has just passed over the black republican and American parties united and beat the democrats, electing all the city officers. If they contended separately, the democracy would have triumphed. The American party here may be considered as part and parcel of the black republican: and in fact, I notice that this is very generally the case, throughout all of very nearly all the free States. The weather the last four days has been very cold; ice has formed, and it is greatly to be feared from the entire fruit crop is destroyed.