A colored man, named Moses Johnson , was arrested on the third instant, in Chicago, as a fugitive slave, and brought before Commissioner Meecker. Mr. Peck appeared on behalf of the claimant, a person residing in Missouri; Messrs. Manene and Larned appeared for the defendant. The case produced great excitement throughout the city, and was under trial for two days.

At 2 o’clock, on the 6th, the Commissioner delivered his opinion, occupying more than an hour, and decided the following material points:

  1. That the record was invalid, because the testimony of the witnesses was not set out therein; the Commissioner stating that in his opinion, it was the intention of Congress to authorize the Judges of the State Courts merely to make a record in the nature of a deposition, and not in the nature of a judicial proceeding.
  2. That it was bad, because it did not show on its face that, at the time it was made, the negro man therein described owed service and labor; that, although it was stated that he escaped on the 4th of July, 1850, yet non constat but that he might have returned before the making of the record, and, meanwhile been brought by his master to this State. In the Commissioner’s opinion, the record should absolutely negative any possibility of such construction.
  3. That the negro in court did not answer to the one described in the record and writ, the first being a black man five feet five inches high, and the description in the record being that of a copper-colored man, five feet eight inches high. If a certificate were to be granted by him, the description would have to correspond with the one in the record; and in the Commissioner’s opinion, if the prisoner were to be taken on habeas corpus before a judge, he would be discharged, on view, as not being the same person.

When the final decision was announced, says a Chicago paper, the pent-up feelings of the multitude found utterance in shout after shout of exultant applause; the law had been vindicated, and the sacred domain of Liberty was to be infringed upon no longer. Johnson was taken by his friends, passed out of the court-room, and down the steps to his friends below, who hurried off rapidly with him up Lake street to Wells, and down Wells to a place of safety, in case an attempt should be made to arrest him again.


"An Attempt to Kidnap Defeated," Washington (DC) National Era, June 19, 1851

Related Escape / Stampede
Coverage Type
Contains Stampede Term