Open main menu


Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

46 U.S. 215

Jones  v.  Van Zandt

THIS case came up from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Ohio, on a certificate of division in opinion between the judges thereof.

It was an action of debt, brought by Jones, a citizen of Kentucky, against Van Zandt, a citizen of Ohio, for a penalty of five hundred dollars, under the act of Congress passed on the 12th of February, 1793, for concealing and harbouring a fugitive slave belonging to the plaintiff. The act is found in 1 Statutes at Large, 302.

The 3d and 4th sections, which were the only ones involved in this case, are as follows:--

'§ 3. Be it enacted, that when a person held to labor in any of the United States, or in either of the Territories on the northwest or south of the river Ohio, under the laws thereof, shall escape into any other of the said States or Territory, the person to whom such labor or service may be due, his agent or attorney, is hereby empowered to seize or arrest such fugitive from labor, and to take him or her before any judge of the Circuit or District Courts of the United States, residing or being within the State, or before any magistrate of a county, city, or town corporate, wherein such arrest or seizure shall be made; and, upon proof to the satisfaction of such judge or magistrate, either by oral testimony or affidavit taken before and certified by a magistrate of any such State or Territory, that the person so seized or arrested doth, under the laws of the State or Territory from which he or she fled, owe service or labor to the person claiming him or her, it shall be the duty of such judge or magistrate to give a certificate thereof to such claimant, his agent or attorney, which shall be a sufficient warrant for removing the said fugitive from labor to the State or Territory from which he or she fled.

'§ 4. That any person who shall knowingly and willingly obstruct or hinder such claimant, his agent or attorney, in so seizing or arresting such fugitive from labor, or shall rescue such fugitive from such claimant, his agent or attorney, when so arrested, pursuant to the authority herein given or declared, or shall harbour or conceal such person, after notice that he or she was a fugitive from labor as aforesaid, shall, for either of the said offences, forfeit and pay the sum of five hundred dollars; which penalty may be recovered by and for the benefit of such claimant, by action of debt, in any court proper to try the same; saving, moreover, to the person claiming such labor or service his right of action for or on account of the said injuries, or either of them.'

The suit was brought in the Circuit Court of Ohio, in June, 1842. The declaration consisted of four counts, the two last of which were abandoned in the progress of the cause. As the remaining two-viz. the first and the second-are commented upon by the court, it is deemed proper to insert them. They are as follows:-- 'First Count.-Concealing.

'Wharton Jones, a citizen of, and resident in Kentucky, by Charles Fox, his attorney, complains of John Van Zandt, a citizen of, and resident in Ohio, was summoned to answer unto the plaintiff in a plea of debt; for that, whereas, a certain person, to wit, Andrew, aged about thirty years, Letta, aged about thirty years, on the 23d day of May, in the year eighteen hundred and forty-two, at Boone county, in the State of Kentucky, was the slave of, and in possession of the plaintiff, and his property, and owed service and was held to labor to the plaintiff by the laws of Kentucky, unlawfully, wrongfully, and unjustly, without the license or consent and against the will of the plaintiff, departed and went away from, and out of the service of the plaintiff, at said Boone county, and came to the defendant at Hamilton county, in the State and district of Ohio, and was there a fugitive from labor; and the defendant, well knowing that said Andrew was the slave of the plaintiff, and a fugitive from labor, yet afterwards, to wit, on the day and year aforesaid, at said district, contriving, and unlawfully and unjustly intending to injure the plaintiff, and to deprive him of said slave, and of his service, and of the profits, benefit, and advantages that might and would otherwise have arisen and accrued to him from said slave and his service, did then and there, and there knowingly and willingly, wrongfully, unjustly, and unlawfully receive the said slave of the plaintiff into his service, and knowingly and willingly harbour, detain, conceal, and keep the said slave, in consequence of which the plaintiff lost said slave, and was deprived of his services and of all benefits, profits, and advantages which might and would have arisen and accued to him from such slave and his service, contrary to the statute of the United States in such case made and provided, whereby the defendant forfeited the sum of five hundred dollars to and for the use of the plaintiff; yet the defendant, though often requested, has not paid the same, nor any part thereof.' 'Second.-Concealing.

'And also for that, whereas, on the day and year aforesaid, at said Boone county, a certain person, to wit, Andrew, aged about thirty years, was the slave of, and in the possession of the plaintiff, and his property, and owed service, and was held to labor to the plaintiff by the laws of the State of Kentucky, did unlawfully, wrongfully, and unjustly, without the license or consent and against the will of the plaintiff, depart and go away from and out of his service, to wit, at Boone county aforesaid, and came to Hamilton county in the State and district of Ohio, to the defendant; and the defendant had notice that the said Andrew was the slave of the plaintiff, and a fugitive from labor; yet afterwards, to wit, on the day and year aforesaid, at the district aforesaid, contriving, and wrongfully and unjustly intending to injure the plaintiff, and deprive him of the said slave, and of his service, then and there, on the day and year aforesaid, at the district aforesaid, knowingly and willingly, unjustly, wrongfully, and unlawfully conceal the said slave from the plaintiff, in consequence of which the plaintiff lost said slave, and was deprived of his service, and of all profits, benefits, and advantages which might and otherwise would have arisen and accrued to the plaintiff from such slave and his service, contrary to the statute of the United States in such cases made and provided, whereby the defendant forfeited the sum of five hundred dollars, to and for the use of the plaintiff. Yet, though often requested, he has not paid the same, nor any part thereof.'

The defendant pleaded the general issue, and in July, 1843, the cause came on for trial. The jury found a verdict for the plaintiff. The substance of the evidence given upon the trial was agreed upon by the counsel who argued the cause in this court, as will be seen by the following, viz.:--

'The undersigned, of counsel respectively for Jones and Van Zandt, now under submission to the court, agree that the statement of the evidence as contained in the opinion of his Honor, the circuit judge, on the trial below, shall be taken and considered by the court in the same manner as if it were a part of the record, and certified by the Circuit Court.

J. H. MOREHEAD, Of counsel for Jones.

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Of counsel for defendant Van Zandt.'

'26th February, 1847.

The evidence thus adopted by agreement was stated by Mr. Justice McLean, in the trial below, as follows. See 2 McLean's Reports, 597.

NotesEdit

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).