We’ve been here before.
In 1852, a slave named Joshua Glover escaped from the household of Bennami Garland of St. Louis. He ended up in Racine Wisconsin. Unlike Huck and Jim, this slave knew the direction of freedom – the ductus of liberation, you might say. Or thought he did. In 1854, Garland got a court in St. Louis to recognize that Glover was in Racine, and that Glover had stolen Garland’s property – Glover. Given the power encoded by the Fugitive Slave Act, Garland informed the U.S. Marshals, who descended on a shack Glover was staying in – while he worked for a local businessman at a sawmill – and they captured him.
What happened next was real resistance, not a hashtag. The bells rang in Racine to warn the populace about the invasion of free territory by the slavers. Racine, at that time, was a strongly anti-slavery town. A meeting was held, and resolutions were passed decrying the kidnapping of Glover. A writ of habaeus corpus for Glover was submitted to the court, which would decide whether Glover could be sent back to Missouri. Glover had been removed under cover of night to Milwaukee by the slave catchers, due to fear that Racine’s enraged citizens would rescue the man. But in Milwaukee the slavers were not safe: a meeting was called in front of the courthouse, and thousands attended. At this time in America, the idea that the feudal remnant called the judiciary could arbitrarily slice and dice the inherent rights of human beings – which we now accept gladly, watching millions process through our jail system – was not so passively accepted. An abolitionist and the editor of a local newspaper, Sherman M. Booth, incited the crowd to do a wondrous work of freedom by crashing the jail in which Glover was held. Eight men volunteered. The jailhouse was merrily cracked open, Glover was taken out of it, hidden in a cart, and taken to Canada.
This is resistance.
Booth was arrested. He was tried. The judge in the case, one A.D. Smith, covered himself with glory by freeing Smith and overturning the Fugitive Slave act on a state’s rights plea.
One should remember that the Southern states were very willing, at this point, to override state’s rights if it involved supporting slavery, before they decided to invoke state’s rights – again, to support slavery – because Southern states identified themselves with slaveholding.
This is from Smith’s opinion:
“But they (the States) never will consent that a slave owner, his agent or an office of the United States, armed with process to arrest a fugitive slave from service, is clothed with entire immunity from state authority, to commit whatever crime or outrage against the laws of the state; that their own high prerogative write of habeas corpus shall be annulled, their authority denied, and their officers resisted, the process of their own courts condemned; their territory invaded by federal forces, the houses of their citizens searched, the sanctuary of their homes invaded, their streets and public places made the scene of tumultuous and armed violence; and state sovereignty succumb, paralyzed and aghast, before the process of an officer unknown to the Constitution and irresponsible to its sanctions. At least such will not become the degradation of Wisconsin…”
Change the words slightly to ICE and this is as pertinent now as ever. ICE, which, lets remember, was started under George Bush. Like almost everything that the Trump administration is doing – from overturning its predecessor’s edicts to tax cutting to war mongering to polluting – the beginning is there in the horrid administration of that world class ignoramus, George Bush. This too.