A Political Show Trial in the Northern District: The Oberlin-Wellington Fugitive Slave Case

Justice and Legal Change on the Shores of Lake Erie: A History of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Paul Finkelman and Roberta Sue Alexander, eds., Ohio University Press, 2012

Albany Law School Research Paper No. 19 for 2012-2013

23 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2012 Last revised: 10 Dec 2012

Paul Finkelman

University of Pittsburgh, School of Law; Albany Law School - Government Law Center

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

This chapter appears in the recently published Justice and Legal Change on the Shores of Lake Erie: A History of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio (ed. Paul Finkelman and Roberta Sue Alexander) (Ohio Univ. Press, 2012). This chapter is the first scholarly work to examine the legal history of the indictments and trials of abolitionists after the famous Oberlin-Wellington Fugitive Slave Rescue. The article argues that Judge Hiram Willson, the first judge in the new Northern District of Ohio was biased in favor of the prosecution and openly hostile and unfair to the defendants. At the same time, the chapter argues that the abolitionist defendants happily politicized the trials and remained in jail during the trials when they could have easily arranged to be released without actually positing bail. The chapter concludes that in the end the trials were an enormous embarrassment to the Buchanan administration and were mostly helpful to antislavery Republicans.

Suggested Citation

Finkelman, Paul, A Political Show Trial in the Northern District: The Oberlin-Wellington Fugitive Slave Case (2012). Justice and Legal Change on the Shores of Lake Erie: A History of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Paul Finkelman and Roberta Sue Alexander, eds., Ohio University Press, 2012; Albany Law School Research Paper No. 19 for 2012-2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2171944

Paul Finkelman (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh, School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-2079 (Phone)

Albany Law School - Government Law Center ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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