George Henry Williams, Slavery (American National Biography)

Leonard Schlup, "Williams, George Henry," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
In 1853, upon the recommendation of Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, President [Franklin] Pierce appointed Williams chief justice of the territorial courts of Oregon, where Williams remained until 1857. One of his controversial decisions involved a free African American, Robin Holmes, who had sued his former owner, Nathaniel Ford, to obtain legal custody of his children. Williams, who opposed the extension of slavery into Oregon, ruled in favor of Holmes.

Although reappointed chief justice of the territory of Oregon by President James Buchanan, Williams resigned in 1857 to practice law in Portland, Oregon. While building his practice, he, in partnerships, formed a woolen manufacturing company, acquired the Oregon Statesman, and established the Oregon Printing and Publishing Company…. In 1857 Williams published his "Free State Letter" in the Oregon Statesman, contending that, from a practical standpoint, slavery in Oregon should be prohibited. This letter antagonized many of his proslavery Democratic friends. That same year he participated in the Oregon constitutional convention, and because of his judicial background, he was selected to chair the committee dealing with the judicial branch of government. Oregon entered the Union in 1859.
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