Henry Garnet (Garnett)

Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 18, 1850

Fugitive Slave Case.—Yesterday afternoon, a colored man, named Henry Garnet, was taken before Judge Grier, of the United States Court, at the instance and upon the oath of Thomas Price Jones, of Cecil county, Md., who, as executor of the last will and testament of Benedict Jones, claimed Henry as a slave.

The right of the claimant was traced through several wills, and the identity of the respondent was about to be inquired into, when W. S. Peirce, Esq., asked that his Honor would postpone his determination in the matter until the respondent could have time and opportunity to make his defense.  The Judge fixed this morning for a further hearing of the case.  Henry is about 26 or 28 years of age, has a family in Burd’s Court, and followed the occupation of hod-carrier.  He was arrested while on his way to work in the neighborhood of Poplar Street and the Ridge Road.  It is stated by the claimant that Henry has been a fugitive for eight years past.

Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, October 18, 1850

The First Fugitive Slave Case in Philadelphia.—Yesterday afternoon, a negro named Henry Garnett, a hod carrier, was arrested as the slave of Thomas P. Jones, of Cecil county, Md.  He was brought before Judge Grier, of the U S, Circuit Court, when after some remarks from the judge about his determination to execute the law as he finds it, the hearing of the case was postponed until this morning.

This morning the Court assembled, Justice Grier presiding.  The slave Henry was brought into Court, attended by his counsel, David P. Brown, Chas. Gibbons, Robert. P. Hare, and Wm. J. Pierce, Esqrs.  Henry was kept in the Marshal’s office all night, under the immediate eye of Marshal A. E. Roberts, where all his wants were kindly attended to.  He was permitted to have such intercourse with his friends as was considered proper, up to a late hour at night.  His counsel were also with him until 10 o’clock.  No attempt at disorder or violence was attempted through the night; and probably owing to the hour of the hearing not having been announced in the morning papers, the crowd of colored persons was not so great as might have been expected; but still the concourse was great.  The slave was attended yesterday afternoon and again this morning, by a committee of the old Pennsylvania Society for promoting the Abolition of slavery.   This committee, on behalf of the Society, disclaimed any intention of producing excitement or tumult in reference to the new Slave law.  They stated to the court, that the Society had already held meetings for the purpose of allaying the excitement among the colored population growing out of the passage of the law, and that the Society had prepared an address to the friends of abolition, as well as to the colored race, urging them not to be led into acts of armed hostility to the law.  The Judge highly commended this course, and said it was just such an act as he would have expected from the worthy gentleman connected with the old Pennsylvania Society, many of whom it was his pleasure to be acquainted with.  High W. Tener, appeared for the claimant, and the Judge acted as the Commissioner himself, as this is the first case under the law.

At the opening of the Court, the Judge stated that the slave was charged with having absconded from his master, to whom he was held to labor for a term of years, to be free at thirty, according to the will of Margaret Sanders, his former owner.

Hugh Tener, Esq., arose and said, that he would adduce proof of the slave’s identity without argument, and if it did not appear to the Court satisfactorily that Henry was the property of the late Benedict Jones, of Maryland, and now belonged to Thos P Jones, the present claimant and executor of the last will and testament of Benedict Jones, he would ask that the slave be discharged.  The wills of Margaret Sanders and Benedict Jones, were then offered and objected to by Mr. Gibbons, as not being properly certified under the act of Congress.  The act of Congress of 1790 was then read by Mr. Gibbons, and as the wills offered were merely attested by the register of wills in Maryland, he contended that it was not such an attestation as the law of 1790 contemplated.  The Judge said that this Court was bound to know the laws of all the States, and no one State could be treated as a foreign State.  The 6th section of the fugitive slave Bill was then read by Mr. Gibbons.

Judge Grier said, that he was compelled to know and recognize the seals of every State in the Union.

Mr. Gibbons argued that the seal appended to the will was one that had been in use in the State of Maryland before the passage of the Fugitive Slave Bill, and was therefore, not such an on as could be recognized under the act of Congress of 1790.

Mr. Tener said that he did not offer the will to prove that the claimant was the executor of Benedict Jones, but that he is the residuary legatee.

Judge Grier said, the party had not taken the course prescribed by the fugitive act.  He might have taken his witnesses before a magistrate, and established his claim ex parte, which would have been conclusive upon the courts.  But as he now relied upon other proof to prove property and identity, he must be regulated by the ordinary rules of evidence.  The law had pointed out a plain and open track, and as the pltff had not pursued it, the Court could not go into all the circumstances.  The paper appeared originally to have something like a seal attached to it, but what it had been could not now be told.  The wills must therefore be rejected for the present.  Affidavits should have been taken that there was such a person as the slave Henry, and that he was the property of Mr. Jones.

D P Brown said, as this was a case of first impression, the whole matter of proceeding should be clearly laid down.

Mr. Tener offered a certificate to prove that the magistrate who signed the affidavit is a magistrate of Maryland.  The Judge said that this could be admitted for all it could prove.

Mr. Tener offered to examine a witness to prove that Henry was a slave of Benedict Jones, and that he escaped from him in 1842 and that T P Jones is the executor of his estate.  Affidavits describing the slave if B. Jones were read, but appeared to be very indefinite in their description.

Richard Semans, sworn—I live in Philadelphia: formerly lived in Cecil co, Md.: have lived in Philadelphia since last Feb. a year.  [Mr. Gibbons here interposed, and said that the law required the Judge who hear the case, to take down the evidence himself, that it may be certified to by him; which view was also sustained by D. P. Brown.]  I know the negro boy Henry in Cecil co. Md ; It was said he was a slave; he was in the employ of Messrs. B & T P Jones; they claimed him as their slave; I knew him 8 years ago, at the time he left.  I was born in Kent co., and removed to Cecil co.  I became acquainted with this boy in 1838; he was then in Mr. Jones’s employ; whether he was then in the Sanders estate I cannot tell; I can’t say how long he continued in Mr. Jones’ employ; he left Mr. Jones’ employ in 1842; he was know and recognized in the neighborhood as belonging to the estate of Benedict Jones; when he escaped he was in the employ of B Jones, and was said to be his slave and I believe him to have been so; I have seen the prisoner who has been arrested; he is the same Henry; I have no doubt at all; B. Jones died since I have been in Philad’a; it was said Henry was a slave for a term of year ; can’t say how long, but I heard he was to be free in time.  Mr. Jones said he was about 17 years old, he was so reputed; his time had not expired when he left Mr. Jones; he was not set free by Mr. Jones.

Cross-examined by Mr. Brown—I am 20 years old the 25th of next January; my first knowledge of the boy was twelve years ago; I was no then 8 years old, I lived on the adjoining farm; I moved into Cecil county in 1837; I am not related or connected with Mr. Jones, the claimant; we were neighbors and friends ; I cant say I had known Henry as residing with any body else previous or subsequent to 1838, as a slave; I was informed by Mr. B. Jones that he was held as a slave for a term of year, and not as a slave for life ; can’t tell when Mr. Jones so informed me; as near as I can recollect about 1840; in speaking to my father, I having hold of his hand, I got the information; I can’t say that I have heard him speak of it since; it was at the house of B. Jones that I heard it; he was asked the question by my father, if the boy Henry belonged to himself; Mr. Jones said for a term of years, I have no recollection that any thing was said of the time; don’t know if my father asked him; can’t tell why my father asked the question; I did not enquire; as near as I can recollect it was in 1840; the election of Gen. Harrison fixes the time; it was after the election; but can’t say whether it was before the inauguration; I last saw Henry in 1842, at Mr. B. Jones’; I was not in company with my father; I was at work with Henry on the farm; I had no conversation in particular as to his being a slave previous to 1842; I recollect no conversation definitely previous to 1840; that was the grounds upon which I speak, and hearing it from the family of Mr. Jones; I never at that time heard for what term of years; but have since; I continued living in Cecil county, Md., until next February will be ten years ; I have not seen Henry since 1842, until yesterday; he bears a mark on his right cheek by which I can identify him, and by his countenance; I recognize him as being the man; I spoke of the mark on his face before I saw him yesterday, and directed my attention to it in Messrs Jones and Sims.

Re-examined by Mr. Tener.—I had been in the habit of working occasionally with Henry, some three years, I had every opportunity of becoming familiar with his person.

By Mr. Brown—Mr Jones had two sons, Thomas Price Jones, John Ward Jones, and three daughters.  The Mr. Jones’ present, are his sons.

John Ward Jones, sworn—Mr. Brown objected to the introduction of this witness.  That it was alleged that the prisoner was the slave of Benedict Jones, deceased, and that the witness being a son of Benedict Jones, was a party in interest.

Mr Tener argued that he was competent—that he had no interest under the will of Benedict Jones.

The Judge suggested that the will was not in evidence.

Mr. Brown rejoined—Stopped by the Court.

Judge Grier said : This is a summary proceeding, but it must be governed by the same rules of law as other cases.  Henry had been shown, prima facia, to be the property of B. Jones.

Mr. Tener asked for a continuance until to-morrow, for the purpose of further making out his case.

Judge Grier reiterated the views he delivered yesterday in relation to an attempted rescue and further said, that he would, for the purpose of carrying out the requirements of the law, even send to the President of the United States for a thousand troops, if necessary, and if armed resistance should be offered, he would execute the law even if he should be compelled to walk through the blood of every colored person in this city.  He said that 8 years’ delay had already been had in reclaiming the slave and the Marshal was under great responsibility, and he did not feel disposed to add to his responsibility, if he could avoid it.  He was disposed to give justice to the master as to the slave; but the master must prove his case to the very letter—he should have his pound of flesh but no more.

D P Brown strongly contended against a further postponement.  He urged that the claimant should have come prepared to make out his case, and if he has failed to do so he should not be permitted to mend his mistakes and hunt up other evidence, to enable him to whisk off the prisoner.

Mr. Tener rejoined, by saying that the claimants had rights here, and as the prisoner had had a postponement at his request yesterday, he should be indulged also with a postponement.

Judge Kane said that a difficulty occurred to his mind as to granting a postponement, as the claimant had as much time since the adjournment yesterday to complete his proof as he now asked for, and had failed to do so.  The crowd of negroes in the yard having heard that the prisoner was discharged, commenced cheering vociferously.

John E. Ferguson, sworn—I live in Cecil county, Md., about 6 miles from Thos P Hones’ residence; I have lived there about twenty-two years; I know T P Jones’ father; he died, I think, in June, 1849—[parole testimony as to who is the executor objected to, and the objection sustained]—I can’t say that I knew the boy Henry; I know nothing about him.

Edward Semans, sworn—I live in Philadelphia; have lived in Cecil co Md; left there about 5 years ago in Jan 1846; we moved there in the winter of 1887—[The Judge here said, that unless the hiatus in the will could be filled up, it was scarcely worth while to take up time.]

Judge Grier said, the law was plain, and the claimant had choice of his own time, and had failed to make out even an ex parte case.  He thought that he would therefore have to refuse a further postponement of the case, as the laws of Pennsylvania forbid the use of jails within the State for the purpose of securing slaves.

Mr. Gibbons, who was a member of the Legislature of Pennsylvania that passed the law referred to, asked to explain the circumstances that induced its passage.  He then gave its history, and said that the law passed both houses of Legislature unanimously—the yeas and nays not having been called.

The judge said, that as the claimant had failed to make out his case, the prisoner had a right to his discharge, and should be accordingly discharged.

The prisoner was received outside of the building by his colored friends, who were most extravagant in their shouts of exultation.  They bore him away in their arms, shouting at the top of their voices.

About noon, a vast assemblage of blacks, male and female, had collected, and much excitement of a suppressed nature was manifested.  The police regulations adopted by the Court, however, kept the best order, both inside and out of the Court building.  There must have been from one to two thousand colored persons present.  No positive disorder or outbreak occurred, that we heard of, but considerable altercation took place between the blacks and the police.  The blacks were not permitted to choke up the passage way to the Court room.

Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 19, 1850

The Fugitive Slave Case.The hearing in the case of Henry Garnet, colored, who was arrested on Thursday as a fugitive from labor, from Cecil county, Maryland, was resumed yesterday morning before Judges Grier and Kane, in the United States Circuit Court.  The prisoner, during Thursday night, was kept in the custody of the United Sates Marshal, and as no provision has been made in this State for such prisoners, he was not removed from the court house.

Mr. Hugh W. Tener appeared on the part of the claimant, and Messrs. Robert P Kane, David Paul Brown, Charles Gibbons and Wm. S. Pierce in behalf of Garnet.

Judge Grier explained to the respondent’s counsel that the prisoner was charged with being a fugitive from labor for a term of years, which was to cease upon his affirming the age of 30 years, under a will of Margaret Sanders, the alleged former owner of the respondent.

Mr. Tener opened the case.  He said that he was desirous to submit the facts to the Court without comment, and that if they were not satisfactory to the Court he would not object to the discharge of the prisoner.  He then offered in evidence the will of Margaret Sanders, bearing date December 9th, 1838, and devising the alleged property to Benedict Jones, and the will of Benedict Jones to Thomas Price Jones, the legatee and executor under the same, and who now makes the claim before the Court.

Mr. Gibbons objected to this evidence, on the ground that the papers were not so certified under the acts of Congress as to admit of their admission, and cited the authorities which sustained his objection.

The Judge decided against admitting the papers, and clearly pointed out the course which the claimant ought to have pursued in prosecuting his claim under the late act of Congress.  He said the party should have gone before a Judge or Magistrate and had his papers properly certified.  The case ought to be made out at home, and then nothing would be necessary but to prove the identity of the prisoner as the individual, so shown to have been a fugitive from labor.

Mr. Tener then proceeded to show that Henry Garnet is a slave, and the circumstances of the case, by verbal evidence.

Richard Semans, sworn—I live in Philadelphia; I have live in Cecil county, Maryland; left there a year ago last September, I knew a colored boy in Cecil co ; it is said that he was a slave; he was in the employ of Benedict Jones and Price Jones, who claimed him as their slave; I knew him 12 years ago, at the time he left; I was born in Kent  county, and removed to Cecil; I first became acquainted with the boy in 1838’ he was then in Mr. Benedict Jones’ employ, whose slave it was said he was; I can’t say how long he continued in Mr. Jones’ employ ; he left Mr. Jones’ employ in 1842; he was recognized in the neighborhood as a slave; when he escaped he was in Mr. Benedict Jones’ employ, and said to be his slave; I believe him to be his slave; I have seen the prisoner at the bar ; he is the same person; I have no doubt at all; Benedict Jones died since I have been in this city; it was said this man was a slave for a term of years; how long I can’t say; I heard he was to be free in time; he was reported to be 17 years old when he left; when he ran away his time had not expired; he was not set free by Mr. Jones.

Cross examined by Mr. Brown—I am 20 years old on the 26th of next January; I was not eight years old when I knew the prisoner; I was on the adjoining farm when I knew him; I moved into Cecil county in 1837; I am not related or connected in any way with Mr. Jones, the claimant; we were neighbors of Mr. Jones; I can’t say that I knew him to have lived with any one but Mr. Jones before or after 1838; I was informed by Mr. Benedict Jones that he was held for a tern of years; I can’t say when Mr. Benedict Jones so informed me; it was in 1840, near as I can judge; I was then ten years of age; he gave me the information while speaking of my father; I can’t say that he ever spoke of that information before or since; the conversation was at Mr. Jones’ own house; my father asked Jones if the boy Henry belonged to himself; don’t recollect if anything was said as to the duration of the term, or if my father asked him; I can’t tell why my father asked Jones if the boy belonged to him; I can fix the time of the conversation by the circumstance of the election of Gen. Harrison; it was after that event I last saw Henry, in 1842, at Mr. Benedict Jones’; I was at work at the farm with him; the ground upon which I knew the prisoner was a slave, for a tern of years, of Mr. Jones, was hearing it form the members of the family; I have never seen the man since ’42 until yesterday; he bears a mark on his right cheek by which I recognize him, no other marks except his familiar face; I remembered the mark on his face since 1842, and spoke of it yesterday before I had seen him; I directed attention to it yesterday, in company with the two Mr. Jones’ present, and Mr. Sims; there was a doubt upon my mind upon entering the room that Henry was the same man who escaped; I expressed that doubt to Mr. Thomas Price Jones; I said that I couldn’t say that it was him until he was brought to the light; he was brought to the light; I did not say at first that I didn’t think it was the man; no one spoke to me before I saw the scar; this was before the claim was made on the man; it was the night before last, about 8 o’clock, at the Red Lion Hotel; the man then was not taken; I went to the Hotel to see my friends; I don’t live there; they called for me at my place of business; no papers were exhibited to me; I remarked to them that there was a scar upon his face by which I could recognize him; the scar is on his right cheek, between the cheek bone and the nose; the gentlemen told me they were in pursuit of him; Mr. Jones said he knew where he was; I did not ask him where; I can’t tell how many colored people were in the employ of Mr. Jones; I don’t remember any scars particularly on the person of them, except on who had a cut foot, which left considerable scar; don’t know what cause the mark Henry’s face; don’t know the circumstances of his receiving it; recollect seeing the scar in ’42 and before that time; I have been down twice a year to Cecil county; have had no conversations with persons in relation to Henry.

By Mr. Tener—I had been in the habit of walking occasionally, for some three years, with Henry before ’42, in Mr. Jones’ field, and had every opportunity of knowing him.

Two other witnesses were examined, but no material facts were disclosed.

John W. Jones was called as a witness, but objected to by Mr. Brown; on the ground of his being a party in interest—he being a son of the late Benedict Jones.

Mr. Tener asked the courts to allow the claimant until this morning for the purposes of having his documents properly attested, and the case brought before the court in accordance with the rules laid down in the law.

Mr. Brown stringently opposed this notion, contending that as the law was a stringent one, the giving of every advantage to the claimant could be a monstrous perversion of justice. The party had had ample time to prepare his case, and having began erroneously, the prisoner ought not to be kept in custody until Mr. Jones can make up the deficiency of his case.  The precedent would be a bad one,, and followed by all in subordinate positions who set for the Court; besides, one side was just as much entitled to a postponement as the other, and in the mean time the prisoner would be deprived of the most estimable of all things—his liberty.

The Court decided against any farther extension of time.  Even an exparte case had not been made out, and as the Legislature of the State has forbidden the use of jails in the Commonwealth for securing fugitive slaves, the prisoner was ordered to be discharged.

In the course of the hearing, Judge Grier stated that he had preferred that the case should come before the Court instead of a United States Commissioner, so that the practice should be established, and the proceedings in future cases should be conducted regularly.  He deprecated that unlawful means had been proposed at meetings of the professed friends of the colored people and in various newspaper articles, to resist the enforcing of the Law of Congress.  He expressed his determination to put down such a spirit upon the first outbreak and sustain the law, even if it became necessary for the employment of a large armed force.  The requirements of the law would be carried into effect at all events, and if the exigency of the case demanded it, he would even send to the President of the United Sates for a thousand troops.

The entire proceedings before the Court were conducted with great propriety.  Proper police regulations had been made at the insistence of the presiding Judge.  The crowd of colored persons that had been attracted to the place were prevented from entering the Courtroom, and the officers outside busied themselves in keeping the street and avenues of the buildings clear.  The excitement among the crowd was intense, but it exhibited itself in no act of indecorum, until the discharge of Garnet was announced, when the most boisterous cheering followed.  He was received by his friends with the most extravagant tokens of joy, and was borne off the ground with incredible speed.  So ended the first case brought in this city under the new Fugitive Slave Law of the United States.


Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 19, 1850

Charge of Inciting to a Riot.—Yesterday, James Perry and John Foreman, colored, were held to bail by Mayor Gilpin, in  $1000 each, on the charge of committing assaults and batteries upon officers Wood and Keller of the City Police, and inciting to a riot.  This affair occurred in Sixth Street, near Walnut, immediately after the release of Garnet , the alleged fugitive slave.  As soon as he was discharged, his friends, who were around and about the courthouse in great numbers, in the most excited manner, surrounded him, evidently intending to bear him off in triumph.  In the excitement the liberated fellow took to his heels and ran across Independence Square, flowed by hundreds, shouting and halloing at the top of their voices, some under the impression that an escape and rescue was attempted, and others stimulating Garnet to make the best of his way home.  Amid the confusion of the scene, Garnet pursued his course and leaped over the railing into the street.  Here he was met by Wood, who believing he was making his escape, arrested him, when Garnet struck him a blow, which was instantly followed by a rush on the part of the colored people and the assault of Perry and Foreman upon the officers.  During the melee, Wood had one of his fingers nearly bitten off, and was otherwise severely handled.  The whole difficulty, it appears, arose from the misapprehension of the officers with regard to Garnet’s flight across the Square and over the railing.

Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 28, 1850

JUDGE GRIER’S VIEWS OF THE FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW.—We publish in another column of the Ledger a letter from Judge Grier to Charles Gibbons, Esq., upon the construction and operation of the fugitive slave law, which has caused so much excitement since its passage, and which has been denounced in so many quarters without its provisions having been clearly understood, or its operations fully considered.  Judge Grier, though questioned in relation to a particular point, takes occasion to give his views upon the construction and operation of the law generally, and shows very conclusively that a great amount of unnecessary excitement has been created in reference to it.  The two great objections to the law are that it deprives the alleged fugitive of the right to a trial by jury, and that it suspends the habeas corpus act.  Judge Grier shows that the law not only gives a “trial” before a legal tribunal before the claimant can be authorized to carry the alleged fugitive out of the State, but that it takes no right from him which he enjoyed before this act of Congress was passed.  Fugitives from other States, whether white or black, have no right to a trial by jury in Pennsylvania.  The government to which they belong it is presumed will do justice to them.  The only question for our Courts in such cases is to decide that of identity, and in deciding this question the alleged fugitive cannot be a witness in his own case, according to an established principle of the common law, but he may show by other and disinterested witnesses that he is not the person demanded.  In regard to the writ of habeas corpus, it is a remedy for illegal imprisonment; but a person held as a fugitive under the certificate of a judge or magistrate, as the recent act provides, is legally imprisoned under a process from a Court, or magistrate having jurisdiction, and cannot be released by any other court or magistrate on a writ of habeas corpus or homine replegiando.  The views of Judge Grier are clear, and his language plain, direct and unequivocal, and we have no doubt that the letter will tend to make the operation of the law better understood, as well as induce compliance with its obligations by every citizen who respects the institutions of his country, at least until the lawful authority, a majority of the representatives of the nation, modify or repeal it.

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  1. […] of Lind’s debut in Philadelphia, African Americans gathered at Independence Hall to demand the release of Henry Garnet, a man who had made the city his home for years, and was now defending himself against Fugitive […]

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