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Welcome to
CRAWFORD COUNTY,  OHIO
History & Genealogy

Source: 
History of Crawford County
and representative citizens
Chicago, Ill - Richmond-Arnold Pub. Co.
1912

CHAPTER XXXI

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

The Ordinance of 1787 and Its Provision s in Regard to Slavery - Popular Feeling in the North - The Fugitive Slave Act - The Underground Road - Escape of Slaves Through Crawford County - The Penalty - Interesting Anecdotes - Underground Stations in Crawford County and those Connected with Them - How the Aspect of the Civil War Might Have Been Changed.

O, goodly and grand is our hunting to see,
In this "land of the brae and this home of the free."
Priest, warrior, and statesman, from George to Maine,
All mounting the saddle, all grasping the rein -
Right merrily hunting the black man, whose sin
Is the curl of this hair and the hue of his skin.
                       - John G. Wittier

     The ordinance of 1787 prohibited slavery in the Northwest territory, but added further: "Any persons escaping into the same from whom any labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original states, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service aforesaid."  On Feb. 12, 1793, (Lincoln's birthday to be 15 years later) the first fugitive slave act was passed, which was that when a fugitive slave had crossed the Ohio river the owner of the slave can produce oral testimony or make affidavit before any magistrate that he is the owner and the fugitive shall be given to him.  Any person obstructing or hindering the owner or secreting the fugitive was subject to a fine of five hundred dollars.
     Later, the feeling of the North had become so pronounced against slavery that the question was beginning to take form as a party issue, and through the influence of the South, Congress was forced into the passage of laws in the interest of the slave-holders.  On Sept. 18, 1850, Congress passed the notorious "Fugitive Slave Act," which allowed the owner to go before any magistrate, swear to his ownership of the slave, and take possession of him.  The officer who failed to arrest the man on this affidavit was liable to a fine of $1,000, and if he failed to prevent the escape of the slave after his arrest, the officer's bondsmen were liable to the slave-owner for the value of the slave.  Further, any officer with a writ, had the right to call on any citizen to assist him in the capture of the slave.  The slave could not testify in his own behalf, neither was he allowed trial by jury.  Any person rescuing or secreting an escaping slave was liable to a fine of $1,000 and six months' imprisonment, and civil damages to the owner for the value of the slave.
     Of this law, Joshua R. Gidings, a member of Congress at the time, truly said, "The freemen of Ohio will never turn out to chase the panting fugitive.  They will never be metamorphosed into bloodhounds to track him to his hiding-place and seize and drag him out, and deliver him to his tormentors.  Rely upon it, they will die first.  Let no man tell me there is no higher law than this fugitive bill.  We feel there is a law of right, of justice, of freedom, implanted in the breast of every intelligent human being, that bids him look with scorn upon this libel on all that is called law."
     From earliest time the general sentiment of the people of Ohio was against slavery, and there was great anxiety among the early settlers as to whether the constitution of 1802, which followed the Ordinance of 1787, would make Ohio a state where slavery would never exist.  Col. Kilbourne, who laid out the town of Bucyrus in 1821, had in 1802 organized a company and selected the land where Worthington now stands, north of Columbus, with the intention of bringing mechanics and farmers to that section from Connecticut.  All arrangements had been made.  Then he returned home and patiently waited to see whether Congress would accept the Constitution of Ohio and admit it into the Union as a free state.
     The Constitution was drawn up and submitted to Congress, was accepted, and slavery was forever barred in the state of Ohio.  As is known, south on the Ohio river where the slave states: north of Ohio was Canada where slavery did not exist, and as time ran on, the state of Ohio became traversed by routes over which slaves sought freedom in Canada after escaping from their masters south of the Ohio river.  At the start the few who escaped where not sufficient to cause any special worry to the slave owners.  The United States had passed a law giving the slave owners the right to come into Ohio and seize their property wherever found.  The people in this State did not favor so radical an action, and the result was laws were passed if not annulling at least crippling the rights of the slave owners.
     The first case of an escaping slave in which this county is in any way interested, was in 1812 in which Col. Kilbourne, who laid out Bucyrus, cut a prominent figure.  The town of Worthington was about half-way between Delaware and Columbus, the latter being then known as Franklinton.  An alleged runaway slave had been seized by the owner at Delaware and had started south with his property.  The Delaware citizens sent a rider ahead to notify the people at Worthington of the arrest, well knowing they were from Connecticut and were opposed to the return of any slave.  As soon as word reached Worthington, Col. Kilbourne took prompt measures for the release of the slave.  He was at that time justice of the peace.  The slave owner arrived on horse-back, and the negro was on foot, a strong rope being around him which was attached to the pummel of the saddle and the tired wretch was compelled to keep up as best he could.  When they reached Worthington the villagers surrounded the horse and rider and in the confusion, the rope was cut and the negro released, but Col. Kilbourne was a law-abiding citizen and when the slave owner appealed to him for redress, the justice coincided with him and the negro and his owner were both taken before Squire Kilbourne.  The owner claimed the slave was his property, but the justice had grave doubts as to whether his affidavit was sufficient proof of ownership and released the slave to await further proof, to the great delight of the citizens of Worthington.  The owner of the slave went to Franklinton, the next nearest justice where he secured legal papers, and two days later he returned, and Mr. Kilbourne promptly gave him another hearing, and decided the slave was his.  But when they came to look for the slave, he was not to be found and although nearly everyone in the village was examined, no one appeared to know what had become of him until after the disgusted owner had left.  The facts are that the day after the slave had been released, Col. Kilbourne had himself placed him in charge of the driver of a wagon train that was carrying supplies to Gen. Harrison at Ft. Feree, now Upper Sandusky.
     By 1825 the escape of the slaves through Ohio was becoming so serious a matter to the slave owners that the secretary of state wrote the British Government that it was a growing evil and might endanger the peaceful relations existing between the United States and the British Government, and suggested that something be done so that owners might secure their property in Canada.  England steadfastly refused, on the ground that the British Government "could not with respect to the British possessions where slavery is not admitted, depart from the principal recognized by the British laws, that every man is free who reaches British ground."  The next year, in 1826, the United States endeavored to make an extradition treaty with England for the return of the fugitive slaves.  The English Government again refused,  holding a fugitive slave was not subject to extradition, on account of the English principle that when any man sat his foot on British soil, he was free.  So Canada at all times, remained the haven of refuge to the escaping slaves, and for thirty years Fourth of July orators were rewarded with thunders of applause as they boasted of the freedom of America and denounced the despotism of England.
     The Quakers, the Free Presbyterians and the Wesleyan Methodists had among them many members who looked upon slavery as a crime, and these gave assistance to slaves who were making their escape through Ohio to freedom in Canada; they later sent emissaries into the Southern States to induce slaves to flee from their masters, all information as to their route through Ohio being given them before they started.  From the Ohio river to the lake, Ohio had become honeycombed with routes taken by these fugitives, and they became known as Underground Roads.  When an owner started in pursuit of his slave, it was easy following him to the Ohio river, but once across the river all trace appeared to vanish, and one slave owner after losing track of his property when he had reached Ohio, made the remark that he must have gotten away by some "underground road", and that remark gave these routes their name.
     It should be remembered that the aiding of a fugitive slave to escape, or the giving of succor or support to him was an offense punishable by fine and imprisonment.  Therefore it was seldom that any record was kept by the men who ran the underground stations, from which any absolute and definite information could be obtained, and yet, any number of these stations existed in Crawford county.   There were two principal routes through this county, one of the pike road which goes through Bucyrus, and the other the old Portland road which passes through Galion, Leesville, and West Liberty.  Professor Wm. H. Seibert in his work, the "Underground Railroad," gives two towns that were stations in Crawford county,  Leesville and Tiro; in the list of those connected with the underground road he gives but two names, Fisher Quaintance and Joseph Roe.  No trace can be found of Tiro being a station, nor is there any trace of Joseph Roe.
     In 1839 a slave case occurred at Marion, in which a negro known as Black Bill was seized by his owner.  Black Bill had been a resident of Marion for about a year when one day a man named McClanahan came to Marion and claimed the slave.  Public opinion was against the slave being spirited out of the community, so the owner returned to Virginia, secured what he thought was the necessary papers and came on to Marion, where with half a dozen of his marshals, the slave was seized and the case came on for the hearing before Judge Ozias Bowen and his three associate justices, one of them being Thomas K. Anderson.  At the trial, the court found the owner's case had not been proven and the negro was released.  No sooner had the judgment of the court been pronounced than the marshals, who were assisting the owner, promptly seized the slave, and notwithstanding the opposition of the court officials and some of the citizens, the negro was hustled and dragged from the court room and taken before a justice of the peace, where the owner made the usual oath that the slave was his.  Naturally Judge Bowen and his associates were indignant at the outrageous act of the slave owner in seizing in the court room a man whom they had declared to be free.  Judge Anderson went to the squire's office, where he secured an entrance, and opening the back door of the building he told the negro to make his escape, and before the friends of the owner realized what was going on, Black Bill was out the back door, fleeing down the street.  His pursuers followed and there was shooting and stone throwing on both sides.  Generally the friends of freedom contented themselves with getting in the road of the pursuing party, and sometimes tripping them up.  Fear lent the negro wings, and as it was evening and darkness coming on, he eluded his pursuers.  That night, he slept in a swamp north of Marion.
     While in Crawford county there were probably 20 to 30 people at that time who were more or less engaged in assisting slaves to escape, there were many others who took no hand in the matter but favored the escaping slave.  But it was also probable that while there were a number who would gladly have assisted in capturing an escaped slave, to secure the reward, yet the large majority at the start treated the matter with indifference and in the thirty years from 1830 to 1860 no record can be found of any slave that was ever captured in this county and returned to his master.  And yet, it is safe to say that in those same years at least 500 men found their way to freedom through Crawford county.  Nothing is known of the exact route of Black Bill after he left his hiding place in the swamp near Marion.  He may have gone north at night over the Sandusky pike, and found refuge during the day at Benjamin Warner's, who kept a tavern four miles south of Bucyrus.  He was a Quaker, and this sect were the strongest in the state on the side of the fleeing negroes.  He may have reached New Winchester, where at that time Peter Wert had a mill just north of the town which was a station on the Underground Road,.  At any rate, McClanahan, his master, never saw him again.  In October, 1839, the Bucyrus Democrat published a full account of trial and escape of Black Bill.
    
The escaping slaves entered this count in the eastern part from Iberia where there was a prominent underground station, this little village being filled with sympathizers of the fleeing fugitives.  It was this town which furnished almost the last incident in regard to punishment of men for assisting slaves in making their escape.  A professor in the college at Iberia had been arrested for assisting and escaping slave and had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment and one of the first acts of President Lincoln was the pardon of this man.  The most prominent man in this county connected with the Underground Road was perhaps Peter Wert, first of Leesville and later of New Winchester.  He was known as Black Pete, not on account of his friendship for the slaves, but on account of his complexion, as he was very dark.  He was a man of strong determination.  He had a wheel shop at Leesville, and here the slaves came to him after night.  They generally arrived just before daylight, a signal was given by them which was recognized by him and they were brought into the house, given food and a place of shelter during the next day, and when night again came, they were given explicit directions to their next stopping-place which was probably the Robinson mill on the Sandusky river, near the old Luke tavern.  Near the mill was the residence of James Robinson, and just back of the house was a small building known as the "mill house."  The building had only one door, and was originally but one room.  A partition was built across one end, the only entrance to this closet being a low door, which was concealed by piling sacks of grain and meal in front of it.  In case pursuing masters were in the neighborhood the escaping slaves were hidden in this closet until all danger was over.
     George Dean who still lives in Bucyrus and is today an old man, states that in his boyhood days (1840 to 1850) he has gone over to the mill which was owned by his uncles, James and William Robinson, and has seen negroes in the yard, men, women and children and a few days afterward they were gone.  Of course,  the neighbors knew of this, and while they would not assist an escaping negro, they were not so bitter at that time as to prevent anyone else from doing so.  About three miles north of the Robinson Mill was Henry Kaler's residence in Sandusky township.  He was a shoemaker and to his house the negroes were piloted.  Occasionally when the people showed symptoms of objection to this violation of the law,  Robinson himself took the men to the next station.  He had a spring wagon used for hauling grain, and on this he had a covered top so that nobody could see the contents of the wagon, but it was generally known that when this wagon went north after night, there were escaping slaves inside.  This wagon was mostly used when there were women and children in the party.  The men generally walked.  The wagon held from six to eight people.  Kaler, the shoemaker, in the early days traveled over the country making shoes for the settlers.  He was not well to do and made his rounds from house to house on foot, and knew every hiding place in that section.  For while, as previously stated, no slaves were ever know to be recaptured in this county, yet there were frequently men watching all roads to the north to capture an escaping slave in order to secure the reward.  It was therefore necessary for the slave to be hurriedly hid, sometimes in a well, sometimes in an old hollow tree, or in some abandoned outbuildings or barn.  Frequently they were placed in some barn with hay loosely sprinkled over them, and here they remained two or three days, fed by the keeper of the station until all danger of pursuit had shifted to some other locality.  North of Kaler, was the celebrated Bear marsh, which was an excellent hiding place, and near this lived John McIntyre another station on the Underground Road.  He was an old Scotch Presbyterian.  From here it is difficult to trace the route.  Seibert in his book states that Tiro was an important station on the Underground Road.  It no doubt was, as the settlers there were New Englanders and such men as Rudolphus Morse, Resolved White, Samuel Hanna, and others were the men who would be strongly in sympathy with the underground movement, but no record can be found of anyone in Auburn township who kept a station on the road and it is absolutely certain there were a dozen.  The objective point was Sandusky on the lake.  Five or six routes passing through the state converged at that point, and, as stated, two of these were through Crawford county.
     Near the Portland road, running north and south through Vernon township, were several houses where the fugitives were cared for.  The house of John McCaskey was supposed to be one.  The road was traveled by dark men on dark nights, and many a happy African who reached Canada, remembered with gratitude until the day of his death the hospitality and humanity of several citizens of Vernon.  David and Samuel Anderson often entertained ebony runaways aiming for the north star.  These were guided to the dwellings under cover of the night, and if brought there near morning, were kept concealed, and fed during the day and then conveyed to some station near Canada and freedom.  Concealment was necessary, because in harboring runaway slaves, the law was violated, and after 1850 there were many whose sympathies were with the slaveholder, and they would not have scrupled to reveal the name of the law-breaker.  This resulted in concealment and the nocturnal pilgrimages of the runaways.
     William Robinson who still lives in Crestline lived with his father when a boy at North Robinson (1840 to 1850), and remembers times when colored people after night stopped at their door and asked to be cared for.  Robinson's place was not an underground station but like most others in the county at that time he would not interfere with any one else assisting them, and the fugitive was directed to the proper Robinson at the mill several miles north.  Both Peter Wert and William and James Robinson were Scotch Presbyterians, in fact Covenanters, and these with the Quakers were the most open opponents of human slavery.
     Along the Sandusky pike four miles south of Bucyrus, was the tavern of Benjamin Warner, one of those worthy men who was raised in the society of Friends and like that taciturn and sagacious sect, kept  his own counsel, but his neighbors were certain that his hospitable home was one of the stations on the Underground Road.  In keeping his tavern, all people were welcome, and the poorer settlers coming into the country looking for land were entertained over night, given their breakfast in the morning and sent on their way rejoicing.  And if they were very poor, never charged for their accommodation.  To the oppressed and fleeing slave, seeking a haven of freedom in Canada his lines were cast in pleasant places when he reached the tavern of that good old Quaker, Benjamin Warner.  North of Bucyrus was the Quaker settlement and it is astonishing the number of visits that Warner made to his friends living there.  And it is certain many of his friends must have been aware when he drove through the streets of Bucyrus with a large wagon drawn by two horses and containing nothing but loose straw, that many a trembling slave was concealed beneath the straw, and yet he made these trips in broad daylight.  Here is an extract from his obituary notice, published after his death which occurred May 8, 1870.  After speaking of his generosity to poor travelers, it said: "Nor is this all.  The worthy man was raised as one of the Society of Friends, and like that sagacious sect kept his own counsel, and it was more than surmised that his hospitable home was one of the safest stations for those oppressed victims who were seeking the north star; and many a time has he on pretense of visiting his brethren north of Bucyrus, hauled trembling chattels, concealed in his wagon, boldly and bravely in open daylight through Bucyrus."
     On the Tiffin road Fisher Quaintance settled about 1829 and his home was a station on the Underground Road.  Here the escaping slave sometimes worked about the farm, and in case anyone was seen coming along the road he was hidden in some secret place until all danger was passed.  Joseph Quaintance, still living, remembers that at one time one of the slaves who stopped at the farm ahd learned the carpenter business, and while hiding on his father's place built a cradle for the cutting of grain.  Mr. Quaintance remembered the incident, although he was a boy, from the fact that they had a very savage dog who became very friendly with the colored man and when he left, the dog followed him, much to the satisfaction of the family.  Just west of the Tiffin road was a family by the name of Jackson, a father and several sons, Stephen, Isaac and Abraham.  This house was back in the woods and a slave once reaching there was safe.  The slaves were always brought to Jackson's cabin during the night, usually after 10 o'clock.  The Columbus and Sandusky pike was extensively traveled by slaves without guides, as the road was so plain that no mistake could be made.  But the traveling was usually done between ten o'clock at night and daylight the next morning. Isaac Jackson and his son Stephen have been seen to carry sled-loads of them north into Seneca county.  At one time, about 1853, they were seen to have six or eight negro women and children in a sled, which was driven rapidly north, while five or six negro men, unable to get into the sled, ran at the side or behind, and the smoothness of the snow-covered road enabled him to get them far on their way before daylight to some station much nearer Canada and freedom under the British flag.  The night was bitterly cold, though the moon shone brightly on the scene, revealing the runaways to the people along the road, who were willing to jump from their beds in the cold, and look from the window or door.
     Almost every citizen who lived on the Columbus and Sandusky pike half a century ago could remember of seeing many a dusky runaway skulking along the road under the cover of the night, or being driven rapidly north by some assisting friend.  It occasionally happened that pursuing masters traveled over the road; but none of these residents remembered that any runaway slave was ever captured by his master while escaping through the county.  It was not customary for slaves to stop at houses directly on the road, even though the owner was a known friend.  As morning approached they left the road, and stopped at dwellings several miles from its course.  It thus occurred that Quaintance on the Tiffin road and the Jacksons were used as hiding places, and several citizens in and near the village of Lykens were known to harbor the black man, and to convey him farther on his way to Canada and freedom.  On one occasion one of the citizens was seen with a wagon load of dusky women and children, heading for the house of some friend in southern Seneca county.  And, at another time, a half dozen or more of half starved, half clothed negro men were seen in a barn in Lykens township.
     Another station was that of Eli Odell.  He was a cabinet maker and at one time a miller.  Odell's Corners four miles east of Bucyrus.  He was very pronounced in his views on slavery and held that it was a moral duty of every man to assist the runaway slaves, and that he would pay to attention to any iniquitous law which required a citizen to assist in capturing the slave and returning him to his owner;  that now law could give to one man the right to own another human being, and therefore it was no crime to break any law which in itself was against the law of God.  Slaves were brought to him by Peter Wert and from his place they were either piloted across to Kaler or McIntyre in Sandusky township, or some station at or around Sulphur Springs, although no trace can be found of one there.  The fact is, the danger that some neighbor, through vindictiveness or for the greed of grain, might give evidence against them made them cautious, and many of these places that were underground stations can never be known; and toward the last, after 1850, this county became more bitter against those assisting escaping slaves, and the greatest caution was necessary, slaves being transferred from station to station after night, without being seen by anyone except those belonging to the underground road.
     No record can be found of those in Bucyrus who kept stations on the Underground Road with the exception of Capt. John Wert.  That Rev. John Pettitt kept a station there is no doubt, but there is no proof.  Neither do older inhabitants who knew him remember of any word he ever let drop to indicate that his house was a haven of refuge for the fleeing slaves.  He lived for a while on what is now the Magee farm south of Oakwood cemetery.  He was always opposed to slavery and said so at any and all times.  Yet there is no proof that he was connected with the Underground Road.  Neither is there any proof that John Anderson kept a station on the road.  Yet he kept the American house, and in the upstairs room was where an abolition speech was made and an anti-abolition demonstration occurred in Bucyrus in 1839.  The meeting was being held on the second floor southeast room, the corner room fronting on Western and Sandusky.  It was addressed by the Rev. Mr. Streater a Protestant Methodist minister, and it became known that he would deliver an abolition address.  During the evening a crowd collected in front of the hotel and for a time contented itself with hooting and jeering, but later stones and brick bats were thrown and the windows broken in, and a rush was made inside the building, the crowd demanding the speaker, but he was secretly removed from the house, and made his escape.  Daniel Fralic of Brokensword was present at the time and said that for a while things were pretty lively.  He crowded himself into a corner until the storm was over and then quietly left the building.  After the mob reached the room stones and brick bats were still freely thrown and some of the furniture broken.
     After Anderson had quit the hotel business he had a frame building just north where he ran a tin shop, and here the anti-slavery men held frequent meetings, but as far as can be learned they were never disturbed.  In the rear room of the tin shop one night some 15 persons gathered to hear a colored slave give an account of his flight to freedom.  The slave was a carpenter and lived in one of the Gulf states.  By some means he had learned to read and write.  He made his escape to New Orleans, where he forged his master's name to a pass and secured a job on a steamboat as a carpenter and thus worked his passage up the Mississippi and the Ohio, and on reaching Cincinnati he had been piloted over the underground road and had now reached Bucyrus.  A collection was taken up and he was cared for that night and the next day, and after dark the next  evening he was directed to the farm of Jesse Quaintance in Holmes township.  The meeting was very quiet and orderly, and although he was in the town 24 hours, no attempt was made to prevent his escape.
     About this same time Capt. John Wert lived near the southeast corner of Mansfield and Spring Streets.  He had a wheel-wright shop on the same lot and did work at this and carpentering.  He had several sons and all were strong abolitionists.  One night a slave owner came to Bucyrus with two of his followers, having been given private information that his slave would be found secreted at the house of Capt. Wert.  He had closely followed him from the Ohio river, and he went immediately to the house of Captain Wert and demanded the slave.  Being refused the threatened to enter the place by force and make a search.  Mr. Wert seized a gun and stated that house house could not be searched without the proper papers.  The sons also had their guns, and the man with his two slave-catchers came back up town to secure the necessary papers.   The news soon spread, and in half an hour when the slave owners returned there was quite an excited crowd with them.  The captain still warned them off with his gun and parlied with the officials.  Stones were thrown and brick bats, some of the windows were broken, but the grim old man, gun in hand, stood firmly by his position, but after half an hour he yielded and the house was searched but no slave found.  it was freely stated by some in the crowd that a negro had been seen there early in the evening.  He may or may not have been seen, but whether he had or not, two of the sons were missing when the house was searched, and later it was learned that while the man had gone up street to secure his papers the sons had taken the slave to a safer abiding place farther north, and the parley of the old man had been simply a pretense to gain time.
     After the C. C. & C. road was built through Galion, it was sometimes used to send slaves north to Cleveland.  On one occasion an escaping slave who was on the train, happened to look out of the window and saw his mater get on the rear car.  He sat with fear and trembling until the conductor came by; he had been told beforehand that in case of emergency the conductor would do what he could to protect him, for only those trains were generally used where the conductor was in sympathy with the movement.  The conductor, hearing his story, pulled the bell cord and the train slackened speed, and the negro jumped off, and the signal was given to go ahead.  The master was also looking out of the window, and saw his property in full flight across the field.  He appealed to the conductor, but he refused to slacken the speed of the train, and the man was compelled to stay on board until Galion was reached.  The negro got in touch with the underground road, was piloted through Crawford county, and found freedom in Canada.
     Bucyrus, through Judge Scott, was connected with one of the important slave cases which made history.  Two slave-owners with a United States Marshal and his deputy, on Sept. 13, 1858, seized John Price a fugitive slave, at Oberlin, and drove across the country eight miles to Wellington, to take the train south.  A crowd from Oberlin followed and joined by Wellington people, the negro was rescued.  The United States Court indicted 37 of the rescuers, and they were mostly given small fines and a day in jail.  Two from Oberlin, Simon Busnell and Charles H. Langston, were given 60 days and 20 days' imprisonment.  Writs of habeas corpus were gotten out and the case same before the Supreme Court of Ohio.  On the bench where Joseph R. Swan, chief justice; Josiah Scott, William V. Peck, Jacob Brinkerhoff, Milton Sutliff.  The majority of the people of Ohio believed the fugitive slave act was so utterly at variance with the law of God as to be unconstitutional, and the true doctrine was the British one that Ohio being a free State, a slave once setting his foot on Ohio soil was free.  This was the view of Gov. Chase and every other member of the court.  But the question at issue was: "Shall a United States law be enforced when contrary to the views of the people and laws of the state?"  On this question Joseph R. Swan, Josiah Scot, and William V. Peck held the United States law was superior to the State and refused the writ of habeas corpus, Brinkerhoff and Sutliff dissenting.  Justice Swan was a candidate for renomination for judge of the Supreme Court, but he was defeated on account of his decision.  In his "Swan's Treatise," compiled by him, he states that it is idle to speculate upon the possible results of a single judge had held a different opinion.  Salmon P. Chase was governor at that time and it was well understood that he would sustain a decision releasing the prisoners by all the power at his command; and the United States government was as fully committed to the execution of the fugitive slave law.  This would have placed Ohio in conflict with the General Government in defense of state rights, and if the party of freedom throughout the north had rallied, as seemed probable, the war might have come in 1850, instead of 1861, with a secession of the northern instead of the southern states.  A single vote apparently turned the scale, and after a little delay the party of freedom took possession of the government, an the party of slavery became the seceders.

 

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