Ableman v. Booth
(This page was developed by a Berea College student
as part of a course on Chesnutt)
Chief Justice Robert B. Taney
About the case:
An abolitionist, Sherman M. Booth was indicted on March 11, 1854 for helping
a fugitive slave escape custody of a federal official in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Booth was arrested by U.S. Marshall Stephen Ableman. Booth requested that
he be released (he argued that the Fugitive Slave Act was unconstitutional;
Booth was arrested because Ableman claimed he had violated the Fugitive
Slave Act), and Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice A.D. Smith agreed and
Booth was released. Ableman appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court where
the Justice Smith's decision was upheld. Ableman then contested that no
state court could make a judgement such as this so he appealed to the
United States Supreme Court.
From the case:
...Sherman M. Booth charged before Winfield Smith, with having on March
11, 1854, aided and abetted, at Milwaukee, the escape of fugitive slave
from deputy marshall, who had him in custody under a warrant issued by
the district judge of the United States under [Fugitive Slave Act] of
September 18, 1850. ...Booth made application...to A.D. Smith, one of
the justices of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, for a write of habeas
corpus [order bringing a person before the court] saying that he was restrained
of his liberty by Stephen V.R. Ableman, marshal of the United States for
that district, under the warrant of commitmet here in before mentioned;
and alleging that his imprisonment was illegal, because the [Fugitive
Slave Act] was unconstitutional and void. ...The case was argued before
the Supreme Court of the State, which on the 19th of July pronounced judgement,
affirming the decision of associate justice discharging Booth from imprisonment.
...[I]n the judgment of this court, the act of congress commonly called
the fugitive slave law is, in all of its provisions, fully authorized
by the Constitution of the United States; that the commisioner had lawful
authority to issue the warrent and commit the party, and that his proceedings
were regular and comfortable to the law... ...The judgment of the Supreme
Court of Wisconsin must therefore be reversed.
On March 7, 1859 Chief Justice Roger Taney announced the
9-0 decision of the Court.
The Fugitive Slave Acts were repealed on June 28, 1864
by the United States Congress. The repeal states: "Be it enacted by the
Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America
in Congress assembled, That sections three and four of an act entitled
'An Act respecting fugitives from justice and persons escaping from the
service of their masters,' passed February, seventeen hundred and ninety-three
and an act to amend and supplementary to the act entitled 'An Act respecting
fugitives from justice and persons escaping from the service of their
masters', passed February, seventeen hundred and ninety-three, passed
September, eighteen hundred and fifty, and the same are hereby repealed."
Reference: All information on this page was
found in the book: Civil Rights Decisions of the United States Supreme
Court: The 19th Century.
Editors: Maureen Harrison & Steve Gilbert
Excellent Books. San Diego, CA. 1994