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A LANDMARK LEGAL CASE (SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) [ADAMS, CHARLES FRANCIS.] LATIMER, GEORGE. The Joint Special Committee on the petition of George Latimer and more than sixty-five thousand citizens of Massachusetts. 37 pages. Tall 8vo, original self-wrappers, as issued; some foxing throughout. [Boston, 1843]
rare "report" by charles francis adams following a petition of 65,000 citizens of massachusetts asking to make it unlawful for the judges, or justices of the courts of the state, to aid and abet slave-owners and slave-catchers in their efforts to return runaway slaves to bondage. This was the result of a complex case that had come before the Massachusetts courts. George Latimer, a runaway slave living in Boston was arrested on a charge of larceny, a pretext for taking him in. A crowd of free blacks gathered and made an unsuccessful attempt to rescue him before any hearing could take place. Abolitionists then petitioned Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw of the Massachusetts Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus. Shaw granted the writ, but after it became clear that Latimer was a fugitive, and acting under the precedent of Prigg v Pennsylvania (1842), Shaw turned around and declared that he could not interfere with the return of Latimer to his owner, James Gray of Norfolk. While all the legal arguments were being made for and against him, Latimer was being held in a Boston jail with no formal charge against him--the jailer was paid by Latimer's owner in Virginia. The Bostonians declared this to be an illegal use of the jail and political pressure was soon put on the jailer, and the court. After Gray realized he could not hold Latimer "privately," in a public jail, a deal was struck and a group of Boston's citizens purchased Latimer from Gray for $400.00. For a detailed account of this important case, see Finkelman Slavery in the Courtroom, pages 64-68.
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