DescriptionFugitive Slave Law: Joseph Hornblower Autograph Letter Signed "Jos. C. Hornblower". Four pages, 5" x 8", June 13, 1854, Newark, New Jersey, to "Wm. Ropes Esq". Former New Jersey Chief Justice Hornblower writes this letter during the disquieting pre-Civil War years of the 1850s. In it, he refers extensively to his previous opinion on slavery and his disagreement with Senator Daniel Webster (this letter was written two years after the death of Webster). The letter contains later penciled annotations at the top of page one and the bottom of page four. Near fine.
In part: "The accompanying opinion was written & pronounced by me as long ago as Feby. 1836, and therefore not under the influences of any such excitement on the subject, as now agitates the public mind. At any rate, my dear Sir, it was a gratifying event to me, & made me quite proud, to find my humble opinion, written in 1836, incidentally endorsed and sustained by Mr. Webster, in 1850" When this letter was originally sent, Hornblower had "appended to it" a note [not included] "in which is quoted Mr. Websters' own words, in his speech in the Senate of the U.S. on the 7th March, 1850, that he had always theretofore entertained the opinion, that the delivery up of persons escaping from bondage, was a subject of State, and not of Congressional legislation; and that though he bowed to the then recent decision of the Sup. Court of the U.S. to the contrary, yet, that 'his judgment remained unchanged. Unfortunately for me however, and perhaps for the country, it would seem . . . that his 'judgment' had undergone an important change upon the subject. At any rate, my dear Sir, it was a gratifying event to me, & made me quite proud, to find my humble opinion, written in 1836, incidentally, endorsed and sustained by Mr. Webster, in 1850. . . . I am placed in a position, not only antagonistic to him, but in the same category with those 'whose opinions are not worth regarding'-and again, according to his speech in Albany in May 1851 . . . such a one [referring to a "poor lawyer"] would not stake his professional reputation upon the opinion adverse to the constitutionality of the fugitive slave law." Hornblower (1777-1864) was named chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1832. At the time of this letter, he was a professor at Princeton Law School.
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