Stephen Bennett (Bill Baker)

Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 25, 1851

A Fugitive Slave Case.On Thursday afternoon Officer Connor of Lancaster, Penn., arrested in a street of Columbia, Penn., a colored man, called in Columbia “Bill Baker,” but alleged to be Stephen Bennett, slaved of Captain Edward B. Gallup, of Baltimore, Md.  The fugitive was engaged in sawing wood at the time of his arrest.  It is alleged that he absconded from his master in July, 1847.  The prisoner has a wife and child.  The warrant under which the arrest was made, was issued by Commissioner Ingraham on the 23rd instant, and the person who made the arrest was specially deputed to that service by Mr. Ingraham.  The alleged fugitive was to be brought to this city and placed in the custody of the United States Marshal for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Mr. Ingraham fixed ten o’clock yesterday morning for the hearing of the case.  Before the investigation commenced, the counsel for the  fugitive presented a petition on his behalf to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, praying a habeas corpus.  The Court granted the prayer of the petition, and awarded a writ, returnable this morning at ten o’clock.  In the meantime, proceedings before the Commissioner were in a state for further progress.  The counsel for Bennett, Messrs. W . S. Pierce and Elwood Evans, asked for time to send for David Paul Brown, to set as counsel for the slave.  This request was granted, and the proceedings delayed.  About 11 o’clock, the counsel for the alleged slave procured a habeas corpus from the Hon. J. K. Kane, Judge of the United States District Court, which was granted, returnable forthwith.  It was served upon the Marshal, who returned that he had the body of Stephen Bennett in custody.  R. C. McMurtrie, Esq., on behalf of the claimant, objected that the case had already been commenced before the United States Commissioner, who had entered upon the hearing.  The Judge said that he was inclined to the belief that under the habeas corpus he was constituted by the Act of Congress a superior officer to the commissioner, and was bound to hear the case de nove, as if it never had been before the Commissioner—at all events, he would now hear the case on both sides, unless relieved by consent of both parties.

At 12 o’clock it was announced to the court by Mr. Pierce, that David Paul Brown, Esq., could not take part in the case.  Mr. Pierce asked for delay, to give the prisoner an opportunity to confer with his counsel, alleging that he had no chance to have any prolonged conversation with him.  This was granted.  After a conference, the case commenced, the marshal returning more formally than at first, that Stephen Bennett was held by virtue of a warrant from U. S. Commissioner Ingraham.

Mr. Pierce objected to this return; that Mr. Ingraham was not appointed a commissioner under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, but under the act of Congress of 1812.  The latter act provides for the appointment of commissioners to take bail and affidavits.  Mr. Pierce contended that the act did not give the commissioner a right to issue warrants for the arrest of fugitives.

Judge Kane said that the act of 1850 gave to the Commissioners, under the act of 1812, authority to act under the Fugitive Slave Law.  Those appointments under the first act acquired power to act under the last ; by virtue of the act of Congress they have the powers of a Justice of the Peace to issue warrants of arrest.

Mr. Pierce said that the authority of the Commissioners only extended to the city and county of Philadelphia, and that the fugitive had been arrested in Columbia, Pa.

The Judge said that the warrant of the Commissioner extended over the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Mr. McMurtrie, before commencing the investigation of the case, referred to  the fact; that by the law of the land, a negro slave is a matter of property, the right to which is established by the possession of chattel, and said that he expected to establish his right by the evidence necessary to prove ownership of personal property.

The witnesses for the claimant were then called as follows:

Wm. P. C. Whittaker, sworn on his voir dire.—Examined by Mr. Pierce—I claim no property in this man before the court; I have no interest in him; I reside in Philadelphia; I have not been promised any reward for my testimony in this case; I expect none.

Sworn in chief.—Examined by Mr. McMurtrie.—I am in the iron business; I have a brother in the firm of Reeves, Buck & Co.; I have resided in Maryland some 15 or 20 years; I don’t think I can be mistaken about knowing this man, (Bennett)  I knew him in Maryland; he was hired to work in out furnace; the hiring having been made by Mr. Gallup, who is here in court; he was there in 1845, and I think in 1846; more or less in both years; Mr. Gallup hired him to me as his owner; I mean that he claimed ownership of him.

Cross-examined.—I lived at Havre-de-Grace at the time he was employed at our furnace ; I lived there from 1844 till last fall ; a considerable part of 1849 and 1850 I was here; he was in my employment in 1845 and 1846, I last saw him in Maryland in 1847l that is my impression; I think in 1847; I hired no other person than Bennett from Mr. Gallup; I hired other men from other person; I do not confound them, and do not recollect that Mr. Gallup told me that Bennett was to work for him till he was twenty-five years of age, and then he (Bennett) was to be free; I saw Gallup a day or two since; he told me he was about to make arrangements to arrest him; he asked me if I thought I would know him, and asked me to appear as a witness; I told him if he summoned me I must appear; I would rather not, it was an unpleasant thing to me.  The Deputy Marshal came after me ; I asked if I was summoned by authority; he said yes.  I have an impression that when Stephen disappeared he was employed on Captain Gallup’s vessel; I think the vessel generally went from Havre-de-Grace to Baltimore; I think this vessel may have occasionally come to Philadelphia through the canal; I don’t know whether Stephen was on board at those times.  A portion of the time when Stephen worked for us I think he lived at Havre de Grace, and not in the adjacent country; during the time he was with us his wages were fixed at so much per month; when he did extra work we paid him for over-work; I am under the impression that a small sum, perhaps a dollar per month, was allowed him by Capt. Gallup, (the claimant;) at that time Capt. Gallup brought us ore in his vessel from the vicinity of Baltimore; we got ore from up the Tide Water Canal, some from Pennsylvania and some from Maryland; I don’t think that Stephen was employed in bringing ore from Pennsylvania; when we seat our own boat we made from three to four trips a month to get ore from Pennsylvania.

The Judge here inquired the materiality of his evidence.  Mr. Pierce said he would try to show that Bennett was brought into Pennsylvania and never returned.

The witness resumed—I don’t think Stephen was employed in bringing ore from Pennsylvania; I understood from Captain Gallup that he escaped from him in some other person’s boat.  This man with us went by the name of Stephen; I think I have heard that his other name was Bennett; in Maryland they are not in the habit of calling negroes by their last names.

Henry Hel[…..], sworn on voir dire.—I have no interest in the case; I came to point out Stephen to those that arrested him; have been promised no reward; have paid my own expenses so far; I came with Mr. Snyder; I reside in Baltimore.

Sworn in chief.—I know this man; have known him for 18 years; his name is Stephen Bennet; I knew him first on S[…] Island, Harford County, Md.; he was, when I first knew him, slave of Thos. Gallup; the administrator of Thos. Gallup bought him in at the sale for Edward B. Gallup, the present claimant.

Mr. Pierce objected that letters of administration were not produced.

The Judge decided that the authority of the administrator and the title must be produced.

Mr. McMurtrie said that the fugitive was to be treated as personal property.  If it was shown that the personal property was sold at public sale, possession and sale would be sufficient to establish the title of personal property, and give the purchaser sufficient claim.

The Judge said that the question was one of property, and while the claimant could not show possession by claim of title through an administrator, without producing the letters of administration,  he might show possession of the property in a claimant.

Witness resumed—I have known Edw. Gallup to hold Stephen as a slave; there was never any doubt he was a slave; since he was sold, seventeen years ago, [………….], he was a boy when he was sold.

Cross-examined—I suppose Bennett is 27 or 29 years old now; I was in Gallup’s employ; I never came into Pennsylvania in that vessel with Stephen and Gallup; I don’t know that Capt. Gallup brought Stephen into Pennsylvania; I have known Captain Gallup to buy clothing for Stephen, and pay for it; I have heard him order Stephen to get his clothes washed, and have seen Capt. G. pay for the washing.

Mr. McMurtrie proposed to ask the witness as to statements made by Stephen on Friday evening.

Objected by Mr. Pierce, that it was under duress.

On examination, the witness stated that the statements were made after the arrest.  He was not m[……..] or [….]ting under threats or promises at the time of the conversation; he told me that the reason he run away was because he was afraid his master would sell him; he had treated him well enough, but he was afraid he was about to sell him; I know that Mr. Whittaker hired Stephen from Capt. Gallup; I also hired him once of Capt. Gallup to go to Baltimore.  After he left Mr. Whittaker, he was sailing with Capt. Gallup in his vessel.  The prisoner was handcuffed at Columbia, when put in the cars; they were taken off on the arrival in this city.

John Connor—Sworn on voir dire—Lives at Lancaster.  has not been promised anything to testify.  Came at the request of the officers.  They assist me when at Baltimore, and I feel bound to do what I can to assist them when here.  I am a police officer, and made this arrest at the request of officer S[…..] of Baltimore.

Sworn in chief:–I have seen this man, Stephen Bennett, in Columbia.  On the way down from there, I asked him “would you know your master when you see him?” He said, “yes”  When we came to this city, Mr. Gallup, the claimant, came to, and Stephen walked up to him and said, “Master, how are you?”  He said he liked his master, and had been well treated; but that his master’s brother had often quarreled with him, and wanted him to send him (Stephen) to Georgia and sell him—dreading this, he run a way, west to Wrightsville, and from there to Columbia.  I heard Capt. Gallup say, that if Stephen had behaved himself and not run away, he would have given him free in two or three years.

Patrick Morris, sworn on voir dire.  Lives at Columbia; has no interest in this case.

Sworn in chief.  Knows Stephen.  In the cars some gentleman asked if money could not be raised in Columbia to buy him from his master; I said I thought there could be, and that one gentleman was willing to put down his price before he was removed from town.  I then went to where Stephen was in the cats and asked him if he was a slave; he said “yes,” that his master was Captain Gallup, that his master treated him well, but that his older brother was quarrelling all the time, and was afraid that the influence of the brother would persuade the Captain to sell him and send him to Georgia.  On his being introduced to Captain Gallup, Stephen said “How do you do, master?”  The latter said “I think it very hard of you for running off, you know I promised to give you your freedom in three or four years.” Bennett then said his master had treated him well, but he was afraid that his brother would persuade him to send him to Georgia.

This man, when in Columbia, was called “Bill Baker.” He worked about; was honest, sober, and industrious.  He has property worth about three hundred dollars. The fugitive detailed to the witness the manner in which he effected his escape.  He walked up to the footpath one Saturday afternoon, to Wrightsville,  and went from there to Columbia in a c[….] boat

Mr. McMurtrie here offered the affidavit of the master, made before the U. S. District Court in Maryland.

The case of the claimant here closed.

Mr. Pierce asked for time to shoe that the slave had been voluntarily brought to this city in his master’s vessel.  This could be established by witnesses at Columbia and in this city, if there was time allowed to ask for them.

The Judge said that at the time when the writ was issued he supposed that the petitioner for it was prepared to go into the hearing and examination.  I suppose that the object of calling witnesses from Columbia is to show that by the statute of Pennsylvania this person ceased to be a slave by the act of the master.  If it can be shown that the law of Maryland recognizes the act of Pennsylvania as the proper authority to establish the relation between the master and servant, then the evidence proposed would be admissible.  The Constitution, under which the Fugitive Slave law has become the law of the land, provides that a person held to labor in any State, according to the laws thereof, and escaping into another State, shall not be discharged from such labor by reason of any law or regulation of the State into which he has escaped.  The plain meaning of this provision is, that  by the law of Pennsylvania no person shall be discharged from service or labor to which he was held under the laws of Maryland.  It is, therefore, not pertinent to inquire whether, according to the laws of Pennsylvania, this person would be discharged from custody.  I am held to a recognition of the law of Maryland concerning slaves.

Mr. Pierce said that he offered to show that there was no escape, that Bennett was brought into this State, and thus made free; if there was no escape, he was free by the common law.

Judge Kane—I cannot grant the application ; we have proof by witnesses of declarations by the prisoner, directly in conflict with those now to be proved.  The next is a fact which may be interesting as a point of practice.  The application for postponement is not made at the proper time.  I distinguish these questions under the act of Congress into two clauses.  Where the master comes into this State after the slave, and finds him, would not be disposed to allow him time to procure evidence which he might have brought with him.  But if he is occasionally here, and not prepared for the case, fins his slave, and suddenly arrests him, I would allow him time to perfect his proof.

On the other hand, where the alleged fugitive on the hearing, finds facts important for him to rebut, I would, if satisfied that the application was not made for delay, give him time to prove his case.  But where the evidence was such as was always in the knowledge of the alleged fugitive, I would give him time to procure it if made at the earliest time.  Here, taking the offer as made, the fugitive knew from the first that he was brought here by his master; he should have applied at once for time to produce that evidence.  We have gone through the preparatory evidence; the time which is now asked for, is not purposes of rebuttal, but to prove facts of which the party had notice and knowledge from the beginning of the case.  He should have made the application at once.

Upon further interrogation, Mr. Pierce said that he did not expect to prove that Bennett had left his master when brought her, or that he was emancipated here.

Mr. Pierce then argued the case at length, taking a wide view of the facts and their application to the present case.

The Judge then reviewed the evidence, which he considered sufficient to establish the claim of the master and the identity of the slave.  It was his duty, under the law, to award a certificate to the master,  to authorize the removal of the slave to Maryland.

The marshal was then furnished with the necessary papers for the removal of Bennett.  There were several members of the Society of Friends in the court room and an attendance of colored people.  There was no excitement manifested , or any disposition to interfere with the execution of the law.


Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 27, 1851

End of the Fugitive Slave Case—The Captive Freed.—The fugitive slave case of Stephen Bennett; which we reported on Saturday, ended in a manner satisfactory to all concerned.  After the decision of Judge Kane, ordering the return of Bennett to Edw. B. Gallup, his master, the slave remained in the custody of the U. S. Marshal.  A telegraphic dispatch was received from Columbia, stating money had been raised there sufficient to buy his freedom, if his master would sell him.  The latter assented, and on Saturday afternoon the business was finished in the United States Marshal’s office, Mr. Gallup receiving seven hundred dollars, and making out a formal deed of manumission.  The bondman thence went free, and returned to his wife and family at Columbia.  The master and slave both appeared on good terms; the former said Stephen had been faithful until he absconded; the latter said his master had always been kind to him, but he feared that the advice of an elder brother would stimulate him to sending him to Georgia.  We may add, that the habeas corpus sued out from the Supreme Court, was abandoned by the subsequent prayer of a writ from the United States District Court.  It was dismissed.

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