Henry Tiffney Slave Case

Source citation
Ripley, C. Peter, ed. The Black Abolitionist Papers: The United States, 1847-1858. Vol. 4. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1911, p. 358-361.
Author (from)
William Still
Date Certainty
Transcription date

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Slave Case!
Since penning the above, the Slave Hunters have been in our mids[t], and a promising looking young man of 25 years of age has been thrust back to bondage!
On the 15th inst., while walking along one of our streets, obviously unconscious of Kidnappers of or Slave Catchers, Henry Tiffney who had been known here for the Several years, was arrested as he states, on the charge of stealing, and was hurried before a United States Commissioner, where a different offence was alledged. John Graham, of Baltimore, Agent for the Claiment, James Crossen, John Jenkins and a man by the name of Stewart, Deputy United States Marshalls, are intitled to the “bad pre-eminence” of doing the business of blood hounds, in this Case.
The scheme of the Slave Catchers, now being fully revealed and the ill fated victim wholly in the power of the Commissioner & the atrocious Claiment, no time was to be lost in proving Henry Tiffney to be the property of Wm. H. Gatchell, Sr., of Baltimore, Md., which was done with marked alacrity by Wm. H. Gatchell, Jr., and the Said John Graham.
Anxious to witness the Commissioners mode of operation, and to show my sympathy for the unfortunate man, I resolved to be an eye witness throughout the entire hearing. Before the hearing Commenced however, by the request of Wm. S. Peirce, Esq. his counsel for the prisoner, I availed myself of the privilege of a brief interview with him. But being surrounded by his captors of course, I could glen but little—indeed he was positively forbidden by one of the Deputy Marshalls to have no interview with any person whatever, except his counsel. Horror stricken as he was however he told me distinctly that he “had rather die than go back!”
The hearing lasted for two whole days, closing this evening at 8 oclock.
It is needless to say that the Hunters, and their counsel, Daniel Dougherty, Esq. & Mr. Commissioner Brown were a whit behind the notorious Edward D. Engraham, Judge Kane, & Geo. F. Alberti, & Co., in carrying out the Fugitive Slave Law to the “fullest extent!”
The 2nd day, Colored people were generally excluded from the Court Room. Mr. Peirce very ably denounced this proceedure, and argued that the doors should be thrown open to all, and that no “Star Chambers proceedings” should be tolerated, &c. Whereupon the Marshall arose & stated that he had ordered the doors closed, because he threats of a Rescuse had been made the day before, which he had heard himself. The Commissioner asked him if he would “make an affidavit of that fact”—“No!” he replied indignantly.
To avoid delay probably, at this instant, the head Slave Catcher, Graham, volunteered to make the called for oath, which of course was readily admitted and the doors kept closed as before.
Thus the reader may easily judge how utterly unfairly the hearing was conducted; what a slim chance there really must have been for the prisoner; and indeed how perfectly easy it the most inhuman monsters can be accommodated, even in Philadelphia.
Some half Dozen Colored witnesses testified positively that they had known him well for years, for at least one year before it was alleged that he escaped, but it all availed nothing.
The Commissioner “owed a solem duty to the Constitution & the Union!” hence made out the “warrent” and delivedred him into the hands of his tormentors, to be carried back to hopeless bondage.
The alledged Fugitive, was very faithfully and ably defended by Wm. Mr. Pierce, who to his honor be it said never fails to be found on the side of the weak & oppressed—whoever may oppose.
Now, in the Conclusion shall it be told that this Commissioner is the son of David Paul Brown, who has been the eloquent & able champion of and advocate for the oppressed for so many years; whose scathing denounciations of Slave holders, menstealers, Slave Catchers and their infamous tools on the Bench or at the Bar, have caused them so frequently to tremble and turn pale with same! Yes with deep regret and feelings of mortification & Shame it must be acknowledged that this same Commissioner who issued the warrant for the arrest of Henry Tiffney, and also signed the same which doomed him for ever to bondage is one his son. Hence forth therefore this atrocious act with will be an everthe everlasting disgrace in the estimation of all good people to both the son & sire.


Philadelphia, [Pennsylvania]
January 17, 1857

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