« PreviousContinue »
made to Richard Peters, judge of the district court of Pennsylvania, for an execution against the persons and effects of Mrs. Sergeant and Mrs. Waters; or that rather, as it is an admiralty proceeding, an attachment against their persons will be the compulsatory process adopted on the occasion.
"By the act of the 2d April, 1803, Mrs. Sergeant and Mrs. Waters are directed to pay a sum of money, arising out of the sale of the British sloop Active, captured during the revolutionary war, into the treasury. With the requisitions of that law, the said executrixes have complied. It now becomes my duty, agreeable to the provision of that act, to protect the persons and property of the said executrixes, against the said process."
"Painful as the duty is, I am compelled, and am now making arrangements, to call out a portion of the militia for that service; that being the only means in the power of the executive. As the execution of this law may produce some serious difficulties, as it respects the relation between the state government and that of the United States, I have thought it proper to make the communication; on which the legislature can act as in their wisdom they shall think expedient.
“The honourable James Engle, esq.
speaker of the house of repre
"Lancaster, Eebruary 27, 1809."
That on the
eight hundred and nine, the said Michael Bright received from the governor of the said commonwealth, an order in the following words, to wit:,
SIR, By an act of the general assembly of this commonwealth, passed the 2d day of April, A. D. 1803, Elizabeth Serjeant and Esther Waters, surviving executrices of David Rittenhouse, deceased, were required to pay into the treasury of this commonwealth, a sum of money arising out of the sale of the sloop Active, captured in the late revolutionary war (which money had been paid to the said David Rit tenhouse in his life time as the treasurer of this commonwealth, in pursuance of a decree of George Ross, esquire, judge of the Court of Admiralty of this state), which requisition the said Elizabeth Sergeant and Esther Waters
have complied with, in opposition to a decree made by Ri chard Peters, esquire, as United States' judge of the District Court of this state, which decree, by the act of assembly before recited, is declared "to be founded in usurpation, "and in contradiction to the just rights of this common"wealth, and in manifest opposition to, and in violation of "the last amendment to the constitution of the United "States."
And, by the said act of the general assembly, the governor of this commonwealth is required to protect the just
rights of the state in respect of the premises, by any fur“ther means and measures that he may deem necessary for "the purpose, and also to protect the persons and properties "of the said Elizabeth Sergeant and Esther Waters from any process whatsoever, issued out of any federal court in "consequence of their obedience to the requisition afore"said."
Having been informed that a peremptory mandamus had been issued out of the Supreme Court of the United States, commanding the said Richard Peters to issue process for enforcing the decree of the said District Court against the said Elizabeth Sergeant and Esther Waters, it becomes my duty, in obedience to the injunction of the aforesaid act of the general assembly, and in virtue of the powers vested in me by the constitution and laws of this commonwealth, I, Simon Snyder, governor of the same, reposing special trust. and confidence in you, Michael Bright, commander of the first brigade of the first division of Pennsylvania militia, do hereby authorize and require you immediately to have in readiness such a portion of the militia under your command, as may be necessary to execute this order; and to employ them to protect and defend the persons and the properties of the said Elizabeth Sergeant and Esther Waters, from and against any process founded on the decree of the said Richard Peters, judge of the District Court of the United States aforesaid; and, in virtue of which, any officer under the direction of any court of the United States, may attempt to attach the persons or the property of the said Elizabeth Sergeant or Esther Waters.
In the execution of these orders, not less painful for me to issue than you to execute, it is my express orders not to injure any person attempting to serve such process as aforesaid, unless imperious necessity compels you to do it in exe cution of the orders it has become my duty to issue.
You are therefore directed to make out correct muster and pay rolls of such militia as you may find necessary to call into service, in the performance of the duty enjoined upon you, and transmit the same to the executive department of this state.
To Gen. Michael Bright.
Lancaster, Feb. 27, 1809.
That the said Michael Bright, James Atkinson, and others, at the time of the supposed obstructing unlawfully, resisting, opposing, and assaulting the said John Smith as charged in the said indictment, were acting in obedience to the order so aforesaid given by the governor of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and this they are ready to verify, wherefore the said Michael Bright and the others, pray judgment of the said circuit court of the United States in, and for the district of Pennsylvania, that they will not further proceed upon the indictment aforesaid, against them, and that they may be dismissed from the court hereof, and upon the premises, &c.
Mr. Dallas, for the United States. The indictment, which has been read to the jury, is founded on the 22d section of an act of congress, approved by the President, on the 30th of April, 1790; and the words are these:"That if any person or persons shall knowingly and wilfully obstruct, resist, or oppose, any officer of the United States, in serving, or attempting to serve or execute any mesne process or warrant, or any rule or order of any of the courts of the United States, or any other legal or judicial writ or process whatsoever, or shall assault, beat, or wound any officer, or other person duly authorized in serving or executing any writ, rule, order, process, or warrant aforesaid, every person so knowingly and wilfully offending in the premises, shall, on conviction thereof, be imprisoned not exceeding twelve. months, and fined not exceeding three hundred dollars."
In every criminal prosecution, unpleasant sensations are naturally excited, by the exposition of guilt, and the infliction of punishment. But, in the whole course of my official practice and professional experience, the painful sensations of the present moment have been unequalled. From the origin of the transaction, which has produced the prosecution of the defendants, to the day of trial, we are involved in such collisions of opinion, in such conflicts of jurisdic
tion, and in occurrences of such dreadful aspect, as cannot fail to awaken, in the mind of every reflecting man, emotions of grief, mortification, and alarm. When the grand jury found this indictinent a true bill, what was the spectacle exhibited in the streets of Philadelphia; what were the consequences that menaced the peace of the city; and what were the feelings that agitated every patriotic heart! An armed force raised under the orders of the governor of the state, to resist and defeat the judicial authority of the union: a marshal officially compelled to summon a part of his fellowcitizens, to oppose, with force, another part: and the authority of the United States in action, leading to the result of arraying the whole power of the confederation, if necessary, in arins, against the whole power of one of its members! Not only the inhabitants of Philadelphia, but every citizen of every state; nay, every friend of republican liberty throughout the world, must be appalled in contemplating so momentous a crisis. It was not simply a question of property, a question of jurisdiction, or a question of state sovereignty, that was involved; but the great questions, which are so interesting to mankind, seemed to be at issue,-whether a free government, established and administered by the people themselves, can possess sufficient energy for its own preservation;-whether the republican representative system is constructed of materials fitted for stability and duration, and whether Liberty, driven from the regions of Europe, Asia, and Africa, shall find a dwelling place on the face of the terraqueous globe.
But however distressing this retrospect may be, let us derive some consolation from the reflection, that these things have passed away; and that we enter upon the trial of the defendants, not under a solicitude for the issue of the conflict, not under the terror of military orders, nor with vindictive passions to gratify; but, rejoicing in the restoration of order and tranquillity, with a solemn purpose, to set an example of good faith to the union; to evince the capacity of the government to resist every shock, domestic or foreign; and to rescue the people of Pennsylvania, by the ver dicts of her juries, from all participation in the reproach, that has unhappily fallen upon her. If such shall be the effects of this day's trial, we have nothing to apprehend for the constitution, that monument of worth and talents; but if the opportunity to produce these effects should be lost, or perverted, the foundations of republicanism (after the short lapse of twenty years) will be rent, and all the boasted super
structures of federal and of state governments, dissolving "like the baseless fabric of a vision, will leave not a wreck behind."
In the manage nent of the prosecution, I shall not step aside to arraign the policy of the state of Pennsylvania, nor to derogate from the character of her magistrates. To assert the authority and jurisdiction of the United States, it may be necessary to question the constitutionality of the course, that has been pursued by Pennsylvania, and to demonstrate the errors, that have been committed by her public functionaries; but it can never be necessary to ascribe an improper motive to human actions, when the fallibility of hu. man judgment will fairly account for whatever is, or seems to be, wrong; and it is in the capacity of a private citizen, not in the office of a public prosecutor, that I permit myself to deplore, and to deprecate, the policy of the state government, Even under the opinion that Pennsylvania has erred, I shall speak of her with reverence and attachment. My remarks will be confined to the evidence, the law, and the principles, of the case. And, I confidently hope, that the event of the discussion, so far from disgracing Pennsylvania, will be the instrument of her vindication, restoring her to the high and merited rank, which she has hitherto enjoyed among the sis
The offence charged against the defendants, is of a nature, as serious as any, that can be charged against the citizens of a free governinent: I do not except treason, as it operates against the government, nor murder, as it respects an indivi dual. In its first aspect, indeed, it differs from those crimes; but it gradually assumes the front of treason, and murder naturally follows in its train Even, however, this tendency to accumulate guilt, is not the great evil and dan. ger of the offence t which I now advert. The open, bold, and ostensible, movements of treason; for instance, the levying of war to subvert the government, or to sever the terri tory of the union, by the range of the Alleghenny, or the western waters; will always present an object, which the vigilance of our administration may readily detect, and the pow er of the nation will certainly defeat: but if a resistance to the regular operation of the laws, administered through the medium of the courts of justice, shall pass with impunity, till the offence becomes habitual among the people; the disease will not be perceived, till it is incurable; the foundations of the government will be undermined, before the approach of danger is suspected; and the fabric of civil liberty,