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Abner H. Francis to Frederick Douglass and Martin R. Delany, February 23, 1848


BUFFALO, Feb. 23, 1848.

MESSRS. DOUGLASS & DELANY:—Gentlemen—I feel that a few moments cannot be better occupied than to give you a sketch of the doings of the present session of the Court of Common Pleas in this city. You probably recollect, on the 30th day of September last, of an unsuccessful attempt on the part of two bloodhounds from Covington, Kentucky, named Wolf and Perry, the former I think very appropriate in this connection, to take away a young man from our city by the name of Webb, who has long been a resident here, the defeat of which depended solely on the energetic action of some of our citizens. On the evening succeeding the arrest, a mass meeting was called, and a series of spirited resolutions passed, and a fund created to meet whatever emergency the nature of the case demanded. After a full investigation of the subject, and the known violation of the law by two officers who assisted in making the arrest of the alleged fugitive, a suit was instituted against one of the officers by Webb, and upon his own responsibility, which I think displayed a considerable degree of manly courage in bringing it to a final issue. The case came off at this term. After nearly two days of increasing interest, it was brought to a close at 7 o’clock last evening. A large number of witnesses were examined on both sides. On the part of the defendants, there was nothing wanting, so far as tact and cunning, united with pro-slavery trickery and false swearing, were concerned; but it failed to take root in the mind of the court or jury. The plaintiff’s counsel, Messrs. Cook & Abrams, managed the case with much ability, portraying in glaring colors the unwarrantable position of their opponents. In justice to Eli Cook, Esq., I would say, that his able defence I shall never forget. After commenting upon the law of 1840, the duties there enjoined, and the liability of officers to severe and rigid punishment for acting as in this case, aside from it, his appeal to the jury, of the dangerous precedent of suffering such violation of law to go unpunished, leaving the hunted fugitive alone to defend himself, and justifiable in such a case to strike the fatal blow, if necessary, to defend his personal liberty, and the scorn and derision, which this government would justly incur in the eyes of any of the inhabitants of monarchial kingdoms of the old world, was truly an unanswerable defence, and more than my pen can describe. The verdict of the jury was $90, damages, and all costs, of course, which swells the expense to nearly two hundred dollars, a well merited rebuke for a slaveholding fee of some ten or twenty dollars. The facts in the case, brought out by the trial of the guilty culprit, Jacob Emerick, has so implicated the other officer, J. T. Hathaway, that a suit has, or is about to be instituted against him, thus far terminating these acts of villainy, and, I think, will settle it forever, so far as our city is concerned, in this branch of legal investigation, and one more conclusive proof of the onward progress of the cause.

Yours for the oppressed,
A. H. F.

We are very thankful to our ever-watchful and devoted correspondent for the foregoing letter. Its contents will cheer the hearts of the flying fugitives, and appal the blood-
thirsty kidnappers who howl on his track.—Editor.


Francis, Abner Hunt (1813-1872)




Abner H. Francis to Frederick Douglass and Martin R. Delany. PLIr: NS, 3 March 1848. Summarizes court case of attempted capture of former slave.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


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