The counsel for the “Traitors” carefully weighed the jurors, and when found wanting challenged them; in so doing, they managed to get rid of most all of that special class upon whom the prosecution depended for a conviction. The jury having been sworn in, the battle commenced in good earnest, and continued unabated for nearly two weeks. It is needless to say, that the examinations and arguments would fill volumes, and were of the most deeply interesting nature.
No attempt can here be made to recite the particulars of the trial other than by a mere reference. It was, doubtless, the most important trial that ever took place in this country relative to the Underground Rail Road passengers, and in its results more good was brought out of evil than can easily be estimated. The pro-slavery theories of treason were utterly demolished, and not a particle of room was left the advocates of the peculiar institution to hope, that slave-hunters in future, in quest of fugitives, would be any more safe than Gorsuch. The tide of public sentiment changed—Hanaway, and the other “traitors,” began to be looked upon as having been greatly injured, and justly entitled to public sympathy and honor, while confusion of face, disappointment and chagrin were plainly visible throughout the demoralized ranks of the enemy. Hanaway was victorious.
An effort was next made to convict Thompson, one of the colored “traitors.” To defend the colored prisoners, the old Abolition Society had retained Thaddeus Stevens, David Paul Brown, William S. Pierce, and Robert P. Kane, Esqs., (son of Judge Kane). Stevens, Brown and Pierce were well-known veterans, defenders of the slave wherever and whenever called upon so to do. In the present case, they were prepared for a gallant stand and a long siege against opposing forces. Likewise, R.P. Kane, Esq., although a young volunteer in the anti-slavery war, brought to the work great zeal, high attainments, large sympathy and true pluck, while, in view of all the circumstances, the committee of arrangements felt very much gratified to have him in their ranks.
By this time, however, the sandy foundations of “overseer” Brent and Co., (on the part of slavery), had been so completely swept away by the Hon. J.M. Read and Co., on the side of freedom, that there was but little chance left to deal heavy blows upon the defeated advocates of the Fugitive Slave Law. Thompson was pronounced “not guilty.” The other prisoners, of course, shared the same good luck. The victory was then complete, equally as much so as at Christiana. Underground Rail Road stock arose rapidly and a feeling of universal rejoicing pervaded the friends of freedom from one end of the country to the other.
Especially were slave-holders taught the wholesome lesson, that the Fugitive Slave Law was no guarantee against “red hot shot,” nor the charges of U.S. Judges and the findings of Grand Juries, together with the superior learning of counsel from slave-holding Maryland, any guarantee that “traitors” would be hung. In every respect, the Underground Rail Road made capital by the treason. Slave-holders from Maryland especially were far less disposed to hunt their runaway property than they had hitherto been. The Deputy Marshal likewise considered the business of catching slaves very unsafe.