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Trial By Jury: Legislature Of Michigan

Trial By Jury: Legislature Of Michigan image
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In Senate. - March 4. - Petitions. - Of Nathan Power and others of Oakland County relative to trial by jury of fugitive slaves. Mr. Fuller moved its reference to the committee on State Prison. Mr. Adam thought the matter involved a constitutional question, and moved its reference to a judiciary committee. Mr. Barry concurred in the views expressed by Mr. Adam. He said that our southern friends contend that the Legislatures of the free States had no right to pass laws interfering with their rights by granting to slaves who are fugitives from justice a trial by jury. The other states had not passed any such law as is contemplated by the petitioners. When a demand was made for such fugitive, the southern owner had the right to take back to the state from which the fugitive escaped, his properly. Under the circumstances he was of the opinion that the judiciary committee was the appropriate committee for the petition to be referred. And it was so referred. We believe that this was the first, if not the only petition to secure the right of trial by jury to persons claimed as fugitive slaves, which has been presented during the session. The assertion of Mr. Barry that other states had not passed any such law as was contemplated by the petitioners, is incorrect. Such laws have been passed and are now in full operation in the States of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, and New York. There ought to be such a law in Michigan, and there will be before many years elapse. Mr. Fuller proposed to refer this petition to the committee on the state prison. This motion was evidently made for the purpose of insulting the petitioners, and, through them, all the abolitionists of the State. We cannot regard it in any other light. It also displays an utter contempt of the sacred right of trial by jury for which the petitioners asked. In addition to this it was a premeditated insult. It was not the hasty ebulition of animated debate. It was a piece of Legislative wit, intended to show forth his indifference to the rights of man, and his contempt of the advocates of those rights. It answers the intended purpose: it develops most clearly his real opinions. The votes of a considerable number of abolitionists helped materially to swell the majoriry that gave to Mr. Fuller, his seat in the Legislature. Mr. Fuller, previous to the election, professed a high respect for the abolitionists of the state. Every one of them is decidedly in favor of such a law as was asked for by the petitioners. We would respectfully ask those abolitionists who voted the Whig Ticket, whether they are not bound, by their own feelings of self-respect, (if by nothing more,) to withdraw entirely from the support of a party whose most prominent leaders thus use their official influence for the purpose of subverting, in the minds of the community, the principles of liberty, and holding up a very respectable portion of their own constituents and political friends to ignominy and scorn. Since the above was prepared for publication, we have had an interview with Mr. Fuller, who explained to us the reason why he moved that that petition be referred to the committee on state prison, by stating that he was the chairman of that committee, and if the petition should come into his hands, he would have an opportunity to do justice to the petitioners, and the object of the petition, as he was friendly to the passage of such a law as was petitioned for. Mr. Fuller also stated in addition, that although he was in favor of granting a jury trial to fugitives from slavery, he was opposed to extending to the colored citizens of Michigan the privilege of the elective franchise.