to be slaves, were held on board a brig in Boston Harbor
, by one Turner
, the agent of a Maryland slaveholder, with the intent to carry them to that State.
On that day, a writ of habeas corpus
was granted, at the instance of some philanthropic persons.
A deputy-sheriff served the writ on the master of the vessel, and took the women into custody.
They were brought into court, and the legality of their detention was heard on August 1.
A large number of people, chiefly colored, were in attendance.
Chief Justice Shaw
, after hearing the affidavits, remarked that the captain had not sufficient authority to detain the women.
At this stage of the proceedings, before any formal order of discharge had been given, and while the claimant was preparing other papers in order to obtain a new process for their detention, the counsel of the petitioners, Samuel E. Sewall
, said to the women that they were discharged.
The colored people present at once made a rush; and, in spite of the officers, carried off the women, who were pursued as far as Framingham
, where all traces of them were lost.
They were not recovered.
The Chief Justice
was displeased with the premature announcement of the discharge and the breach of decorum.
The conduct of the sheriff, who was not present, but was at the time engaged in attendance on the Municipal Court
, was called in question by the newspaper press of the city, then much in sympathy with the enforcement of the Fugitive Act
He had previously offered the deputy in charge of the process to undertake himself the duty; but the offer being declined, he (lid not concern himself further with the matter, and went to the Municipal Court
He seems to have been in no official default, even on the theory that his duties were the same as in the custody of a party accused of crime.
He was charged with having, out of sympathy with the alleged slaves, intentionally neglected to provide an adequate force, and with expressing that sympathy to Mr. Sewall
in the remark that he wished him success in his cause.
In his published letter of vindication, he thus answers this last accusation: ‘Whether I addressed Mr. Sewall
, as it is said, I cannot tell; but I should be ashamed of myself if I did not wish that every person claimed as a slave might be proved to be a freeman, which is the purport of the words attributed to me.’
The sheriff, in consequence of the adverse expressions of opinion on his action,