There were some saucy notices from “John Smith,” editor of The Great West, a large literary sheet published in Cincinnati. After John and I had pelted each other with paragraphs, a private letter told me that she, who had then won a large reputation as John Smith, was Celia, who afterwards became my very dear friend until the end of her lovely life, and who died the widow of another dear friend, Wm. H. Burleigh.
In the second number of the Visiter, James H. McClelland, as secretary of the county convention, published its report and contributed an able article, thus recognizing it as the much needed county organ of the Liberty Party.
MY CROOKED TELESCOPE.
In the autumn of 1847, Dr. Robert Mitchell, of Indiana, Pa., was tried in Pittsburg, in the United States Court, before Judge Grier, for the crime of harboring fugitive slaves. In an old cabin ten miles from Indiana, on one of the doctor’s farms, some colored men had taken refuge and worked as harvest hands in the neighborhood. To it came the sheriff at midnight with a posse, and after as desperate a resistance as unarmed men could make, two were captured. On one of these was found a note:
“Kill a sheep
and give Jerry the half.
The name of the man who had the note was Jerry. It was addressed to a farmer who kept sheep for the doctor, so it was conclusive evidence of the act charged, and the only defense possible was want of knowledge. There was no proof that Dr. Mitchell knew Jerry to be a slave, none, surely, that he knew him to be the property of plaintiff, who was bound to give notice of ownership before he could be entitled to damages from defendant.
This defense Judge Grier overruled, by deciding that no notice was required, the law presumed a guilty knowledge on the part of defendant.
Under this ruling Dr. Mitchell was fined $5,000 and the costs, which were $5,000 additional. His homestead and a magnificent tract of pine land lying on the northern slope of the Alleghenies, were sold by the sheriff of Indiana county to pay the penalty of this act of Christian charity; but the Dr. said earnestly, “I’ll do it again, if they take every dollar I have.”
This ruling was alarming, for under it, it was unsafe either to sell or give food or lodging to a stranger. The alarm was general, and even pro-slavery men regretted that this necessary act of justice should fall so heavily on so good and gentle a man. There was much unfavorable comment, but all in private, for the Pittsburg press quailed before Judge Grier, and libel laws were the weapon with which he most loved to defend the dignity of the bench. One editor he had kept in jail three months and ruined his business. Col. Hiram Kane was a brilliant writer, a poet and pungent paragraphist, and had at one time criticised some of Judge Grier’s decisions, when by a libel suit the Judge had broken up his business and kept him in jail eighteen months. Public sentiment was on Kane’s side, and he had an ovation on his release, when he became city editor of the Journal.