History, 1838–1856, volume D-1 [1 August 1842–1 July 1843]

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction
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<​October 20​> which they “fled”— there must have been a “flight” in fact and in deed from the State where the offence was committed, or the Governor has no jurisdiction to “deliver up.” If the charge of having “fled” is made, and the Governor acting in is attempting to deliver up upon that charge, the person attempted to be made the victim has a clear undoubted constitutional right, by means of a writ of , to test its truth before a judicial tribunal of the , and if the charge is proven to be false, the Governor is ousted of his jurisdiction over the person of the prisoner, and he is restored to his liberty before he has undergone the penalty of the transportation to a foreign country, upon the mere charge of an interested or partial witness. The power of the Executive of a State to—— surrender up a citizen to be transported to a foreign State for trial; is a most tremendous power which might be greatly abused, were it not limited by—— Constitutional checks, and the Citizen secured against its despotic exercise by the writ of Habeas Corpus. In the case of Williams, the of , in his reply to the Governor of Alabama, says, “What occurs daily in the ordinary course of criminal proceedings, may take place in regard to persons transported to a distant jurisdiction for trial. It may happen that an innocent man will be accused, and, if demanded, he must be delivered [HC 5:176] up, should your exposition of the Constitution be sanctioned. Under these circumstances his condition would be perilous indeed; dragged from his home, far removed from friends; born down by the weight of imputed guilt, and unable, probably to obtain the evidence by which he might vindicate his innocence; if appearances were against him he could scarcely hope to escape unmerited condemnation.”
The American Colonists regarded the exercise of this power, as an act of revolting tyranny, and assigned it in the declaration of—— Independence, as one of the prominent causes that impelled them to a—— separation from the British Empire. A power which may <​be​> thus oppressively used should be resorted to with the greatest caution. When its exercise is invoked, it is not sufficient that the case may apparently come within the letter of the Constitution; it is the duty of the Executive, before yielding a blind obedience to the letter of the law, to see that the case comes within the spirit and meaning of the Constitution. It may be pleasing as well as instructive to look into the proceedings of the Executive of our Sister , and witness, that by faithfully administering the law in relation to the delivery up of fugitives from justice, according to its spirit and meaning they have saved at least two of the Citizens of from becoming victims to its abuse. In the year 1839 the Governor of the State of was presented with the copy of an indictment by a grand jury in the against John and Nathan Aldritch, for fraud in obtaining goods by false pretences, and was requested to make a—— requisition upon the Governor of , to surrender them up as fugitives from justice. Now here was a case which came exactly within the letter of the Law of Congress in relation to fugitives from justice. An Indictment had been found charging them with having committed a crime. But did the Governor of make the “requisition?” No; he referred the application to the Hon: John C. Spencer, now Secretary of War, and one of the most enlightened lawyers of the age. [p. 1411]
October 20 which they “fled”— there must have been a “flight” in fact and in deed from the State where the offence was committed, or the Governor has no jurisdiction to “deliver up.” If the charge of having “fled” is made, and the Governor acting in is attempting to deliver up upon that charge, the person attempted to be made the victim has a clear undoubted constitutional right, by means of a writ of , to test its truth before a judicial tribunal of the , and if the charge is proven to be false, the Governor is ousted of his jurisdiction over the person of the prisoner, and he is restored to his liberty before he has undergone the penalty of the transportation to a foreign country, upon the mere charge of an interested or partial witness. The power of the Executive of a State to—— surrender up a citizen to be transported to a foreign State for trial; is a most tremendous power which might be greatly abused, were it not limited by—— Constitutional checks, and the Citizen secured against its despotic exercise by the writ of Habeas Corpus. In the case of Williams, the of , in his reply to the Governor of Alabama, says, “What occurs daily in the ordinary course of criminal proceedings, may take place in regard to persons transported to a distant jurisdiction for trial. It may happen that an innocent man will be accused, and, if demanded, he must be delivered [HC 5:176] up, should your exposition of the Constitution be sanctioned. Under these circumstances his condition would be perilous indeed; dragged from his home, far removed from friends; born down by the weight of imputed guilt, and unable, probably to obtain the evidence by which he might vindicate his innocence; if appearances were against him he could scarcely hope to escape unmerited condemnation.”
The American Colonists regarded the exercise of this power, as an act of revolting tyranny, and assigned it in the declaration of—— Independence, as one of the prominent causes that impelled them to a—— separation from the British Empire. A power which may be thus oppressively used should be resorted to with the greatest caution. When its exercise is invoked, it is not sufficient that the case may apparently come within the letter of the Constitution; it is the duty of the Executive, before yielding a blind obedience to the letter of the law, to see that the case comes within the spirit and meaning of the Constitution. It may be pleasing as well as instructive to look into the proceedings of the Executive of our Sister , and witness, that by faithfully administering the law in relation to the delivery up of fugitives from justice, according to its spirit and meaning they have saved at least two of the Citizens of from becoming victims to its abuse. In the year 1839 the Governor of the State of was presented with the copy of an indictment by a grand jury in the against John and Nathan Aldritch, for fraud in obtaining goods by false pretences, and was requested to make a—— requisition upon the Governor of , to surrender them up as fugitives from justice. Now here was a case which came exactly within the letter of the Law of Congress in relation to fugitives from justice. An Indictment had been found charging them with having committed a crime. But did the Governor of make the “requisition?” No; he referred the application to the Hon: John C. Spencer, now Secretary of War, and one of the most enlightened lawyers of the age. [p. 1411]
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