ReRelations with Other States
Petitions of the General Assembly
Starting in 1817 and increasing with frequency thereafter, the Maryland
Assembly recognized a growing threat to the institution of slavery from the
outside. In particular, its neighbor to the north (Pennsylvania) became a
hotbed of abolitionist sentiment as the Freinds (Quakers) became more
anti-slavery and willing to set up a network of liberation commonly called
the "Underground Railroad." The draft of the 1817 Resolution read:

"Whereas the encouragement given to negroes running away from their
owners in this state, and the harboring the same by sundry persons in the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of Delaware, has long been a
serious inconvenience to the owners of slaves, and is a growing evil,
injurious in its consequences even to slaves themselves; Therefore,

Be it resolved by the General Assembly of Maryland, That the governor be
authorized and required to open a correspondence immediately with the
executives of Pennsylvania and Delaware, stating at large the grievances
under with the citizens of these state labor, in consequence of the protection
given in those states to runaway negro slaves, and the difficulty which the
owners experience in recovering them even after they are discovered, and
requesting the said executives to use their influence with their respective
legislatures, by recommending such laws as shall have a tendency to remedy
the grievances complained of, and to report the result of the said
correspondence to the next general assembly of Maryland." 13

By 1831 the Assembly was asking the National government to assist in the
removal of free persons of color. If Congress did not feel that it had the
authority for this amendment, Maryland empowered its representatives to
propose an amendment to the Constitution.

Prigg v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
The 1837 Assembly thought that the Federal courts should be consulted
immediately in all cases regarding runaway slaves in which there was an
issue between two states. This arose from a case in which four Maryland
citizens: Nathan S. Bemis, Jacob Forwood, Edward Prigg, and Stephen Lewis
were being held in Pennsylvania for attempting to catch runaway slaves.
Mary Morgan, a fugitive slave from Maryland, had been seized by these men
in Pennsylvania. (Unfortunately Mary Morgan and her children were taken
back into slavery and sold - one child had been born in Pennsylvania.)
Abolitionists had them arrested under Pennsylvania law for kidnapping
because the slave catchers hadn't gotten a warrant for her arrest.

This case was finally brought to the Supreme Court in 1841. The Court rulled
against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania citing their state law as
unconstitutional and the Marylanders were not guilty of any crime.
However, while the Court ruled that an owner need not be concerned with
state laws, states do not need to help recover slaves. The Court ruled to the
effect that it was the duty of the Federal government to recover slaves and
that the Constitution could not require states to do the work of the national
government. This ruling affected the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 not because
it reversed it, but because the Federal government at the time of the ruling
did not have the ability to enforce the law using its own personnel.
Story gave the opinion of the court. (Justice Joseph Story would also later
give the Court's opinion in the
Amistad Case in 1841.) Chief Justice Taney
concured but pointed out that the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act would be
compromised because there were not enough Federal judges to inforce it
which was later corrected in the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.)

The Assembly was further enraged by a New York-Virginia case in which the
State of New York refused to recognize Virginia's right to recapture runaways
because New York had no law for slavery on the books  (
See 1840
Assembly). The Assembly resolved that a slave is property to be demanded
by the owner from any state and that it is the duty of any state to surrender
that person.

New York and Pennsylvania
On January 11, 1850 the Governor sent to the legislature information on two
cases one from New York and one from Pennsylvania. Joseph Pelt was a
fugitive slave that was arrested in New York. Pelt was released because the
document containing the laws of Maryland in regard to slavery did not bear
the state seal and was not under the governor's certificate.

The second case involved Jacob Tenley an escaped slave who was captured
by his owner. The owner was then put into jail for kidnapping.

Gorsuch Treason Trials (see The Christiana Riot and the Treason
Trials of 1851 an Historical Sketch by W. U. Hensel)   "I will have my
property or go to hell." Edward Gorsuch

In 1851, an incident between Maryland and Pennsylvania created extreme
tension. A group of blacks and whites stopped a Maryland slave owner from
returning to Maryland with a futitive slave by killing the Marylander.

A large force of police and military were sent into the neighborhood to arrest
everyone black and white, who may have participated in the murder. William
Parker (another runaway slave who lived in the area), the organizer of the
defense, and some of the others who participated in the defense of the
runaway slaves, escaped to Canada. (
William Parker was personally assisted
Frederick Douglass as Parker went through Rochester, NY.)

This case became part of a weekly display in the Upper Marboro's
. Starting on September 17, 1851 the paper furnished a drumbeat
for the story of how abolitionists caused this problem:

"Report of the death of two Baltimore citizens who attempted to retrieve
their runaway slaves from Chester County, Pa.

Mr. Edward Gorsuch shot dead by former slave and also shot his son Mr.
Dickinson Gorsuch.

80 negroes attacked because abolitionsts had told them to hold their ground.
Over 37 people were arrested mostly colored. Joseph Searlet, a white man,
and William Brown colored committed on charge of high treason. 5 others
charged all colored except Searlet."

The paper also reported on abolitionists encouraging four men from Virginia
who attacked their pursuer. The paper recommended that the abolitionist be
arrested and hung without trial.

By October 8 the paper reported that Elijah Lewis, Caspar Hanway, Joseph
Scarlet, and James Jackson, white men were indited for treason with 27
negroes. The case was set to trial with the
Attorney General of Maryland
Robert J. Brent being appointed by Maryland Governor E Louis Lowe as one
of the prosecuting attorneys. One of the defense attorneys was

Attorney General Brent had his complaints about the trial:  "I brought to the
attention of the court, the fact stated in the `
Pennsylvania Freeman,' that
Marshal (Mr. Roberts) had actually dined with the prisoners, or some of
them, during the trial, on Thanksgiving day, and when I was about to read
the article from the paper I was stopped by his Honor, Judge Grier, who in
behalf of the Marshal, denied the truth of the statement that he had so
dined; but unfortunately for the Judge's interposition, the Marshal
immediately afterwards made his own explanation, and admitted that he had
not only assisted at the dinner, `but had set down and partaken sparingly' of
the Thanksgiving dinner, with the white prisoners. I cannot but consider
such conduct as highly unbecoming that officer from whom, next to the
Judge, we had a right to expect impartiality and a due regard for decorum."
(from "
The Christina Riots and Treason Trials" see above)

Philadelphia Freeman of December 4, 1851 said: "It affords us great
pleasure to state, that the Christiana prisoners were not wholly forgotten on
Thursday last in the distribution of the good things pertaining to
Thanksgiving. Thomas L. Kane, Esq. (son of the Judge), sent to the prison
for their use six superior turkeys, two of them extra size, together with a
pound cake, weighing 16 pounds. The turkeys were cooked with appropriate
fixings, by order of Mr. Freed, the Superintendent, in the prison kitchen, by
a female prisoner detached for the purpose. The dinner for the white
prisoners, Messrs. Hanway, Lewis and Scarlet, was served in appropriate
style in the room of Mr. Morrison, one of the
keepers. The U. S. Marshal, A. E. Roberts, Esq., several of the keepers and
Mr. Hawes, one of the prison officers, dined with the prisoners as their
guests. Mayor Gilpin coming in, accepted an invitation to test the quality of
the pound cake, Mrs. Martha Hanway who has the honor to be the wife of
the `traitor' of that name, and who has spent most of her time with her
husband since his incarceration, served each of the
27 colored `traitors' with a plate of turkey, potatoes, pound cake, &c., and
the supply not being exhausted, all the prisoners on the same corridor were
similarly supplied. "Who will stand best with posterity--the father who
prostit utes his powers as a judge to procure the conviction of peaceable
citizens as traitors for refusing to aid in the capture of fugitive slaves, or the
son who ministered to the wants of those
citizens while incarcerated in a loathsome prison? Need we answer the

Marshall Anthony Roberts was a known abolitionists. Two of the prisoners
escaped before the trial. They had been identified as fugitive slaves by their
owners. The Marshall was blamed but denied he had helped. However
twenty-one years later William Still, head of the Philadelphia Underground
Railroad said that it was Roberts who helped in the escape.

Attorney General Brent also blamed Roberts for the selection of the jury pool
stating: "a large majority of the potential jurors" called by Roberts were  
"unfavorable to a conviction."

The trial was held on the second floor of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
It took a pool of 116 jurors to find an acceptable jury. Treason was not proved
and the defendants were set free.

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Christiana Riot Monument - Christiana, PA
Photo by Geoff Marsh, Laurel MD
Caspar Hanway, Elijah Lewis, and Joseph
Gorsuch Treason Trial
frontpiece of 1911 commemoration book
Chief Justice Roger B. Taney
Library of Congress
Thaddeus Stevens
Chicago Historical Society
Marshall Anthony Roberts
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Table of Contents
Maryland Law
Relations with Other
U. S. Fugitive Slave Law
U. S. Fugitive Slave Law
Federal Laws Regarding
Slavery in Prince
George's County
Maryland Abolition of
Free People of Colour
Before the End of Slavery
Dred Scott Decision
Organizations against
Dr. Bronson Main Page
Assorted Documents of
Prince Georges County
Prince Georges 1861
Author's Introduction