my whole time; together with very ill health since the receipt of your former letter, and it would be most gratifying to my feelings now, if due regard to public duty, would enable me to furnish such a reply as would fully conform to your wishes— but my duty in reference to all demands made by Executives of other States, for the surrender of fugitives from justice, appears to be plain and simple; consisting entirely of an executive, and not a judicial character leaving me no discretion— or adjudication, as to the innocence, or guilt, of persons so demanded and charged with crime, and it is plain that the constitution and laws of the united States in reference to fugitives from justice, presumes, and contemplates, that the laws of the several States, are ample to do justice to all who may be charged with crime. And the statute of simply requires, “That when ever the Executive of any other State, or of any Territory of the , shall demand of the executive of this State any person as a fugitive from justice, and shall have complied with the requisitions of the act of congress in that case made and provided, it shall be the duty of the executive of to issue his warrant under the seal of the , to apprehend the said fugitive” &c. With the Constitution and laws before me, my duty is so plainly marked out, that it would be impossible to err, so long as I abstain from usurping the right of adjudication. I am aware that a strict enforcement of the laws by an executive,— or a rigid administration of them by a judicial tribunal, often results in hardship to those involved, and to you it doubtless appears to be peculiarly so, in the present case of Mr Smith. If however as you alledge, he is innocent of any crime, and the proceedings are illegal, it would be the more easy for him to procure an acquital. In reference to the remark you attribute to me that I “would not advise Mr Smith ever to trust himself in ” I can only say— as I have heretofore said on many occasions that I never have entertained a doubt that if Mr Smith should submit to the laws of , that the utmost latitude would be allowed him in his defence, and the fullest justice done him, and I only intended to refer (in the remark made to you when at my house) to the rabble. and not to the laws of .
Very much has been attributed to me in reference to Genl Smith that is without foundation in truth, a knowledge of which fact, enable<s> me to receive what I hear as coming from him, with great allowance. In conclusion Dear Madam I feel conscious when I assure you, that all my official acts in reference to Mr Smith have been prompted by a strict sense of duty, and in discharge of that duty have studiously pursued that course, least likely to produce excitement and alarm, both in your community, and the surrounding public, and I will here add that I much regret being called upon to act at all, and that I hope he will submit to the laws, and that justice will ultimately be done. Be pleased to present my best respects to Mrs— [Amanda Barnes] Smith & your companions when at , and accept of my highest regard for yourself, and best wishes for your prosperity & happiness—
An Act concerning Fugitives from Justice [6 Jan. 1827], Revised Code of Laws, of Illinois [1826–1827], p. 232, sec. 1. The “act of congress” that the Illinois law refers to is An Act respecting Fugitives from Justice, and Persons Escaping from the Service of Their Masters [12 Feb. 1793], Public Statutes at Large, 2nd Cong., 2nd Sess., chap. 7, pp. 302–305.
The Revised Code of Laws, of Illinois, Enacted at the Fifth General Assembly, at Their Session Held at Vandalia, Commencing on the Fourth Day of December, 1826, and Ending the Nineteenth of February, 1827. Vandalia, IL: Robert Blackwell, 1827.
The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845. . . . Edited by Richard Peters. 8 vols. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1846–1867.