Unconstitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Act

SLAVERY   |   Roger B TANEY   |      |   Sherman BOOTH   |   John RYCRAFT   |   Joshua GLOVER

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(SLAVERY) (BOOTH, Sherman) (RYCRAFT, John) (TANEY, Roger B.). Unconstitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Act. Decisions of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin in the Cases of Booth and Rycraft. Milwaukee: Rufus King, 1856. Octavo, original printed tan self-wrappers, original stitching as issued; pp. 218. Housed in a custom clamshell box.

First edition of the signal 1856 work documenting the controversial court decisions triggered by the arrests of fugitive slave Joshua Glover and abolitionists Booth and Rycraft, prompting the "dramatic start of a long jurisdictional confrontation between state and federal authority" that led to Chief Justice Taney's highly consequential ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court cases of Ableman v. Booth and United States v. Booth (1859), with this work containing the complete reports of the pivotal court cases, In re Booth, Ex Parte Booth, and In re Booth and Rycraft.

In 1854 B.S. Garland, a Missouri slave owner, invoked the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act to obtain a warrant for the arrest of Joshua Glover, claimed as his runaway slave. Glover was seized and arrested at his home in Racine and taken to the Milwaukee County jail. As news spread, a crowd of hundreds assembled at the jail while abolitionist and editor Simon Booth "obtained a writ of habeas corpus for Glover from a local county judge. The federal marshal and the county sheriff refused to produce the prisoner on the theory that he was properly in federal custody and could not be released through a state court habeas proceeding. However a crowd broke into the jail and rescued Glover, who was never recaptured. Soon thereafter, Booth and others were indicted and convicted… This was the dramatic start of a long jurisdictional confrontation between state and federal authority" (Hall, ed., Oxford Companion, 2). "Controversy surrounding the arrest and trial of Sherman Booth led to more litigation than any other fugitive slave case" (Finkelman, Slavery in the Courtroom, 119).

Booth's arrest, under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, "was not made under any warrant signed by a judge and in the case In re Booth the Wisconsin Supreme Court released Booth on a writ of habeas corpus. Booth was then rearrested under a warrant from U.S. District Judge Miller. When Booth applied for a second writ of habeas corpus, the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to release him, on the grounds that he should stand trial if properly indicted by a federal court. Thus, in Ex parte Booth, the plaintiff remained in prison. Booth was convicted in an unreported case, and Rycraft was convicted in United States v. Rycraft. Both men appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court for still another writ of habeas corpus. In this case, In re Booth and Rycraft, the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 unconstitutional and freed both Booth and Rycraft. The case was ultimately taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Taney, speaking for a unanimous Court, ruled that the federal laws were the supreme laws of the land and that the federal courts could not be overruled by the state courts" (Finkelman, 120). "Taney's unanimous opinion in the companion cases of Ableman v. Booth and United States v. Booth (1859)… echoed the broad nationalism of famous decisions of John Marshall's era, such as McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)… Taney condemned the Wisconsin Supreme Court's stance, arguing it 'would subvert the very foundations of this government'… The Wisconsin legislature condemned Taney's decision as 'despotism' and called for 'positive defiance' by the states. Only the Civil War settled the issue" (Hall, 2). This "contains the complete reports of In re Booth, Ex Parte Booth, and In re Booth and Rycraft, as they appeared in volume 3 of the Wisconsin Reports… with the exception of a two-page preface [herein] there is no difference between the material in this pamphlet and that found in the official report [1855]" (Finkelman, 121). In their preface, the publishers state that these issues address the "right, duty and power of the States to protect their own citizens against the exercise of unconstitutional power, the inviolability of the Habeas Corpus, the independence of the states in the exercise of their reserved powers…. Every citizen must take part in their final termination." Sabin 26130. Cohen 13712. Campbell, Slave Catchers, 157-161.

Text with foxing mainly in preliminaries, lightly scattered throughout, small corner loss to front wrapper not affecting text, trimmed blank rear wrapper with closed tear, expert restoration to spine. A very good copy, rare with original stitching in fragile original wrappers.

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