New York Herald, “The Late Abolition Revolutionary Proceedings in Ohio,” May 31, 1857

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    "The Late Abolition Revolutionary Proceedings in Ohio. - What Next?," New York Herald, May 31, 1857, p. 4: 2.
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    New York Herald
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    The Late Abolition Revolutionary Proceedings in Ohio.-What Next?
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    Zak Rosenberg, Dickinson College
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    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print.  Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.


    According to our telegraphic advices, on Tuesda last the Deputy United States Marshal and eleven assistants left Cincinnati to arrest four persons in Mechanicsburg, Champaign county, up in the interior of the State of Ohio, charged with harboring fugitive slaves nine months ago. The accused parties were arrested on Wednesday, when a writ of habeas corpus was sued out on their behalf; but before it could be served, the United States officers en route to Cincinnati, were beyond the bounds of the county. They were, however, pursued through the next county, which is Clark, and were overhauled in the next, which is Green, where another writ was taken out and served by the Sheriff, assisted by a sort of posse commitatus, in the form of a volunteer mob. A collision ensued. Several shots were exchanged between the conflicting parties; the United States officers were overpowered, and as prisoners were taken back to , Springfield, in Clark county, for trial for resisting the Sheriff in the discharge of his duty.

    Now, conceding that in this case the Sheriff and his posse believed they were right; conceding that under the State laws and authorities they will be sustained, as having done their duty, this whole proceeding becomes a revolutionary proceeding on the part of the State of Ohio against the supreme laws of all the land, which are, first, the federal constitution, and, secondly, the laws carrying out the provisions of the constitution and the decisions of the Supreme Court defining and affirming them.

    The federal constitution provides that in the event of the escape of a fugitive slave from his master into a free State, he shall not be smuggled off to Canada, but shall be secured and returned to his master. In pursuance of this provision the Fugitive Slave law of 1850 was passed, imposing certain pains and penalties for the offence of resistance to the federal officers engaged in the duty of recapturing and returning a runaway slave to his master. These underground railroad agents of Chio, were charged with having laid themselves subject to these pains and penalties; and, as in duty bound, the deputy United States Marshal and his assistants proceeded to arrest the offenders and bring them before the proper court for trial. While proceeding to his destination with his prisoners, this deputy marshal is overtaken by a local Sheriff and his posse were guilty of a higher crime against the laws and against the good order and harmony of the country than those skulking underground railroad fugitive slave agents which the Sheriff came to rescue.

    In the case of Slocum vs. Mayberry et al, (2 Wheaton, 1, 9,) the Supreme Court of the United States has decreed that "the courts of the United States have supreme jurisdiction of aH seizures made on land and water for a breach of the laws of the United States, and any intervention of a State authority, which, by taking the thing seized out of the hands of a United States officer, might obstruct the exercise of this jurisdiction, and was intended to obstruct and to nullify the laws and supreme authority of the United States. This view of the entire jurisdiction of this case is sustained by the late opinion of Judge Kane, of Philadelphia, upon the habeas corpus case of Passmore Williamson.

    The spirit and substance of the constitutional provision respecting fugitive slaves are lost if the offenders against this supreme compact, and against the laws passed to enforce it, may be spirited away or forcibly rescued and shielded from punishment by a mob, or by nullifying State laws. Under such a violent conflict of authorities, federal and state-the latter nullifying the binding supremacy of the former-the harmony of our whole federal system is invaded, the integrity fo the Union is endangered, and the constitution becomes a mere thing of shreds and patches.

    The present State government and State authorities, and the popular sympathies of Ohio, are intensely black republican. The Kansas-Nebraska bill, the border ruffian doings in Kansas, and the Dred Scott decision, have furnished the party capital requisite to keep alive and in active effervescence this condition of things among the predominant New England population of Ohio. But in his case their nullification proceedings must be met by the strong hand, after the fashion of General Jackson's treatment of the South Carolina nullifiers of 1832-'3. We believe that Mr. Buchanan possesses the necessary decision of character, and the necessary discretion, to maintain the constitution and to enforce the laws in this case without bloodshed, and to bring the offending parties to trial and judgement without the aid of troops. But should troops be required to enforce the supreme law, they should be called out; for we have no guaranty of law or order, or security in this Union, if the observance of the constitution is surrendered to the spirit of faction and fanaticism.

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