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CHAPTER X. “The Treason Trials.”
    Differences of Opinion Among Counsel for the Government—A Brilliant Array of Lawyers—Selecting Twelve Men, “Good and True,” from a Large Venire—The Prisoners Arraigned and Pleas Entered.

In the so-called official report of the Castner Hanway trial, which involved the final disposition of all the treason cases, it is fitly stated by the author and editor that “the ability which marked the trial throughout, the patient attention of the judges, the eloquence and learning of the Counsel, and the full examination of every matter of fact and law in any manner involved, gave to the trial a deep and abiding importance, such as will make its perusal interesting to the general reader, and of indispensable use to the Legal Profession.” It is not to be expected, however, that a detailed report of these proceedings or a presentation of their technical aspect falls within the scope or prescribed limits of this sketch. Those desirous of perusing them can get access to Mr. Robbins’ report in many libraries; lawyers will find the case reported for their special benefit in Vol. II of Wallace’s Report of Circuit Court Cases for the Third District, pp. 134-208. The report of Attorney General Brent and the message of Governor Lowe, in the Maryland State Documents, 1852, constitute an interesting history of the facts and valuable discussion of the law; and Mr. Jackson’s reply undoubtedly corrects and modifies some of the impressions that the complaints of the Marylanders would tend to create.

Even outside of these quasi-official documents there remain signs that there was some division of counsel, if not conflict of opinion, among those engaged in the prosecution as to the most expedient course to take and the more effective remedy[Pg 62] to apply to the broken law. Whatever the private opinion of U. S. District Attorney Ashmead may have been, his presentation of the case and his entire part in the trial evinced no lack of preparation or ability and no want of sincerity in the Government’s cause. He shrank from no responsibility that his position imposed. He was, moreover, the direct representative of the Law Department of the Fillmore administration. His chief was Attorney General John J. Crittenden and Daniel Webster was the premier of that Cabinet. There was at that time no “Department of Justice” as now organized; there was simply the office of the Attorney General, and an investigation of the archives of the Department fails to disclose anything whatever with respect to the affray or the trials. There is, however, authority for the statement that the final determination to prosecute for treason was made by Webster and Crittenden, who concluded and advised “that even if a conviction were not obtained, the effect of the trial would be salutary in checking Northern opposition to the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act.”

Some question of professional etiquette arose between counsel who appeared for the State of Maryland and those who represented the United States by direct employment for the Government. Mr. Brent reports that this was “satisfactorily adjusted in a personal interview” with Mr. Ashmead. He further says:

“This gentleman, in the presence of the Hon. James Cooper, tendered to me the position of leading counsel in these trials, which I promptly declined, on the ground that I never had claimed such precedence for myself, as well as on grounds of policy and expediency for the prosecution.

“It was then agreed that the Hon. James Cooper, of Pennsylvania (the distinguished colleague associated with me for the State of Maryland), should occupy the position of leading counsel, which he did with fidelity and signal ability. I will here take occasion to remark that, however unfortunate[Pg 63] the preliminary difficulty between Mr. Ashmead and myself, and however prejudicial it may have been to the development of the evidence, by preventing that early interchange of views and information, which was necessary to a thorough preparation of these important cases, yet I received during the trial every social and professional courtesy at the hands of that gentleman, and he was at all times prompt to act upon any suggestion which might be made by either Mr. Cooper or myself.”


Whatever may have been the nature of their difficulties or the character of their settlement, there was a good deal of “girding” during the trial from the defense at the relations of the various opposing counsel; and there was some recrimination after the Government’s defeat over the responsibility for what its representatives thought was a miscarriage of justice. When the lawyers were finally lined up the record showed these appearances: J. W. Ashmead, D. A. U. S., G. L. Ashmead and J. R. Ludlow represented the United States: R. J. Brent, Attorney General of Maryland, James Cooper, a Senator of the United States for Pennsylvania, and R. M. Lee, of Philadelphia, appeared as special counsel; Mr. Brent by order of the Governor of Maryland, of which State Mr. Gorsuch was a citizen; Mr. Cooper and Lee also private counsel of Mr. Gorsuch’s relatives: For the prisoner, J. J. Lewis, of West Chester, Th. Stevens, of Lancaster, John M. Read, T. A. Cuyler and W. A. Jackson, of Philadelphia.

David Paul Brown also sat at the prisoners’ counsel table; he appeared for Joseph Scarlet, whose case, with that of others, depended on the result of Hanway’s trial.

Most of these names will be remembered by the general reader as already eminent or soon to so become. The Ashmeads were notably able lawyers; Mr. Brent had high professional position; James Cooper was then United States Senator, from Pennsylvania; Ludlow later became a member of the Philadelphia judiciary; Lewis of West Chester and Stevens[Pg 64] of Lancaster were leaders of their respective county bars. John M. Read was later to be a member of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Theo. A. Cuyler was long one of the foremost of Philadelphia’s lawyers. Mr. Jackson, junior counsel and historian of the defense, died Jan. 10, 1857, aged 29, and after less than six years his promising career ended.

The trial was held in the second story room of old Independence Hall and sentimentalists speculated as to whether the cause of Law or Liberty would prevail in a historic building consecrated to both these vital principles of organized society. It had been refitted for the occasion with new gas fixtures and special ventilating devices. The opening day did not attract the concourse that thronged the chamber and corridors as the trial progressed, but the seating capacity of the room was fully occupied.

Court opened at 11 A.M. Monday, November 24, 1851. Seventy-eight jurors answered; and Judge Grier ordered a call of the defaulters under promise of a $100 fine to those who were in default until next morning. Jurors called and some missing with one accord then began to make excuse. Before the session adjourned eighty-one answered and it appeared that nineteen had been previously excused. Arrangements were made for reporting the proceedings; there was some discussion over the impanelling of the jurors, but nobody was disposed to quash or continue; the prisoner, Castner Hanway, was arraigned and pleaded. The questions to jurors were framed upon the replies to which challenges were to be based, and the first juror, David George, was called on the second day of the trial.

Thence the selection of jurors proceeded until twelve men were secured satisfactory to both sides. This occupied the Court until Wednesday evening. Next day being Thanksgiving the trial was adjourned until Friday morning, the jury selected being accommodated and lodged at the American Hotel, opposite the old State House.

[Pg 65]An essential part of this narrative, in its political and popular interest, is the personnel of the entire venire of jurors. It is here given with brief memoranda abstracted from the official report, indicating what disposition was made of each person called. Where there are no comments the juror was not called; and the twelve finally sworn are each marked with a *.

    1. Adams, Peter, Farmer, Mohnsville P. O., Berks County.

    2. Baldwin, Matthias W., Machinist, 335 Spruce St., Philadelphia. Founder of Baldwin’s Locomotive Works. Stood aside.

    3. Barclay, Andrew C., Gentleman, 147 Arch St., Philadelphia. Challenged by defendant; had an opinion.

    4. Bazley, John T., Gentleman, Doylestown, Bucks County. Challenged by prisoner.

    5. Beck, John, Professor, Lititz, Lancaster Co. Principal of famous Boys’ School; Excused at Mr. Stevens’ instance because “the school could not get on without him;” grandfather of Hon. Jas. M. Beck.

    6. Bell, Samuel, Gentleman, Reading, Berks County. Associate (lay) judge and excused.

    7. Brady, Patrick, Merchant, 397 Arch St., Philadelphia. Challenged by prisoner for opinion.

    8. Breck, Samuel, Gentleman, Arch St., west of Broad, Philadelphia. Prominent citizen; aged 81 and deaf; Excused.

    9. Brinton, Ferree, Merchant, Belmont P. O., Lancaster Co. Later associate judge; father-in-law of Judge Wiltbank, of Philadelphia. Stood aside.

    10. Broadhead, Albert G., Farmer, Delaware P. O., Pike Co. Deficient hearing and frequent headaches; Excused.

    11. Brown, John A., Merchant, S.E. Cor. 12th and Chestnut Sts., Phila. Challenged by prisoner.

    12. Brown, Joseph D., Gentleman, 167 Arch St., Philadelphia.

    [Pg 66]13. Brush, George G., Merchant, Washington, Lancaster Co. A prominent citizen and Democrat. Challenged by prisoner.

    14. Butler, Robert, Clerk, Mauch Chunk, Carbon Co.

    15. Cadwalader, George, Gentleman, 299 Chestnut St., Philadelphia. Excused temporarily. Prominent Philadelphia Democrat. Subsequently called and challenged by prisoner.

    16. Cameron, Simon, Gentleman, Middletown, Dauphin Co. Ex U. S. Senator. Unwell and temporarily excused.

    17. Campbell, Hugh, Merchant, 33 Girard Street, Philadelphia.

    18. Clendenin, John, Gentleman, Hoagstown, Cumberland Co. Challenged by defendant.

    19. Cockley, David, Machinist, Lancaster City. Challenged by U. S. for opinion.

    20. Cook, Jonathan, Gentleman, Allentown, Lehigh Co. Challenged for opinion by defendant.

    21. Coolbaugh, Moses W., Farmer, Coolbaugh P. O., Monroe County. Challenged by prisoner.

    22. *Connelly, Thomas, Carpenter, Beaver Meadow, Carbon Co. Accepted and sworn (3).

    23. Cope, Caleb, Merchant, Walnut & Quince Sts., Philadelphia. Applied for excuse; refused as he was “not over 60.” Recalled and not answering, fined. Subsequently remitted on account of ill health.

    24. *Cowden, James, Merchant, Columbia, Lancaster Co. Stood aside at first, finally accepted (12).

    25. Culbertson, Joseph, Gentleman, Chambersburg, Franklin Co. “Excused for age, hardness of hearing and vertigo.”

    26. Darby, John, Gentleman, Fayetteville, Franklin Co. Enfeebled; deaf; excused.

    27. Davies, Edward, Gentleman, Churchtown, Lancaster Co. Stood aside.

    28. Deshong, John O., Gentleman, Chester, Delaware Co. Stood aside.

    [Pg 67]29. Diller, Solomon, Farmer, New Holland, Lancaster Co. Stood aside.

    30. Elder, Joshua, Farmer, Harrisburg, Dauphin Co. Stood aside.

    31. Dillinger, Jacob, Gentleman, Allentown, Lehigh Co. Excused because of “kidney trouble.” Conspicuous Democrat.

    32. *Elliot, Robert, Farmer, Ickesburg, Perry Co. Accepted and sworn (2).

    33. Ewing, Robert, Merchant, 446 Walnut St., Philadelphia. Challenged by defendant.

    34. *Fenton, Ephraim, Farmer, Upper Dublin P. O., Montgomery Co. Stood aside. Subsequently recalled and accepted (11).

    35. Fraley, Frederick, Gentleman, 365 Race St., Philadelphia. President of Schuylkill Navigation Company; Excused temporarily. Conspicuous citizen. Treasurer Centennial Company in 1876.

    36. George, David, Gentleman, Blockley, West Phila. P. O., Philadelphia Co. Stood aside. Recalled and challenged by U. S.

    37. Gowen, James, Gentleman, Germantown, Philadelphia Co. Father of P. & R. President F. B. Gowen. Challenged by prisoner. Democrat.

    38. Grosh, Jacob, Gentleman, Marietta, Lancaster Co. Political friend of Stevens. Associate (lay) judge, 1842-47. Stood aside.

    39. Hammer, Jacob, Merchant, Orwigsburg, Schuylkill Co. Associate (lay) judge; Excused on account of his wife’s illness.

    40. Harper, James, Gentleman, Walnut & Schuylkill Fifth Sts., Phila. Challenged by prisoner.

    41. Hazard, Erskine, Gentleman, Ninth & Chestnut Sts., Philadelphia. Father-in-law of Samuel Dickson, later one of the leaders of the Philadelphia bar. Challenged by the prisoner. Democrat; merchant; iron master.

    [Pg 68]42. Hipple, Frederick, Farmer, Bainbridge, Lancaster Co. Stood aside.

    43. Hitner, Daniel O., Farmer, Whitemarsh, Montgomery Co. Challenged by prisoner.

    44. *Hopkins, James M., Farmer, Bucks P. O., Drumore Twp., Lancaster Co. Ironmaster, Conowingo furnace. Fusion Candidate for Congress against Stevens in 1858. Accepted (7).

    45. Horn, John, Gentleman, 16 Broad St., Philadelphia. Biased in favor of defendant and challenged for cause by U. S.

    46. Hummel, Valentine, Merchant, Harrisburg, Dauphin Co.

    47. Jenks, Michael H., Gentleman, Newton, Bucks Co.

    48. *Junkin, John, Farmer, Landisburg, Perry Co. Accepted (8).

    49. Keim, William H., Merchant, Reading, Berks Co. Stood aside.

    50. Keyser, Elhanan W., Merchant, 144 North Ninth St., Philadelphia.

    51. Kichline, Jacob, Farmer, Lower Saucon P. O., Northampton Co. Challenged by prisoner.

    52. Kinnard, John H., Farmer, West Whiteland P. O., Chester Co. Stood aside.

    53. Krause, John, Clerk, Lebanon, Lebanon Co. Stood aside; had conscientious scruples against death penalty.

    54. Kuhn, Hartman, Gentleman, 314 Chestnut St., Philadelphia. Conspicuous citizen; descendant of old Lancaster family; Challenged by U. S. for opinion.

    55. Ladley, George, Farmer, Oxford P. O., Chester Co. Stood aside.

    56. Leiper, George G., Farmer, Leiperville, Delaware Co. Associate (lay) judge; excused. Prominent Democrat and intimate friend of James Buchanan, to his latest day.

    57. Lewis, Lawrence, Gentleman, 345 Chestnut St., Philadelphia.[Pg 69] President Mutual Insurance Company; very busy. Excused for a fortnight.

    58. Luther, Diller, Gentleman, Reading, Berks Co. Challenged by prisoner.

    59. Lyons, David, Farmer, Haverford P. O., Delaware Co. Challenged by prisoner.

    60. McConkey, James, Merchant, Peachbottom P. O., York Co. Deaf and deputy postmaster; excused. Of old Democratic family.

    61. McIlvaine, Abraham R., Farmer, Wallace P. O., Chester County.

    62. McKean, Thomas, Gentleman, 356 Spruce St., Philadelphia. Excused on account of illness. Leading citizen and member of distinguished family.

    63. Madeira, George A., Gentleman, Chambersburg, Franklin Co. Stood aside.

    64. Mark, George, Gentleman, Lebanon, Lebanon Co. Stood aside.

    65. *Martin, Peter, Surveyor, Ephrata P. O., Lancaster Co. Anti-Buchanan Democrat; later associate judge and prothonotary; “was under the impression offense might be treason.” Accepted (4).

    66. Massey, Charles, Merchant, 170 Arch St. Philadelphia. Excused on account of ill health.

    67. Mather, Isaac, Farmer, Jenkintown, Montgomery Co. Stood aside.

    68. Merkle, Levi, Farmer, Shiremanstown, Cumberland Co. Stood aside.

    69. Michler, Peter S., Merchant, Easton, Northampton Co.

    70. Miller, John, Gentleman, Reading, Berks Co. Challenged by the prisoner. Excused.

    71. Moore, Marmaduke, Merchant, 153 North Thirteenth St., Philadelphia. A prominent Democrat. Challenged by prisoner.

    [Pg 70]72. Morton, Sketchley, Farmer, Gibbon’s Tavern P. O., Delaware Co. Stood aside.

    73. Myers, Isaac, Merchant, Port Carbon, Schuylkill Co.

    74. Neff, John R., Merchant, 124 Spruce St., Philadelphia. Excused for absence from the State.

    75. Newcomer, Martin, Innkeeper, Chambersburg, Franklin Co. Challenged by U. S. for opinion.

    76. *Newman, Solomon, Smith, Milford, Pike Co. First juror drawn. Stood aside. Subsequently accepted (9).

    77. Palmer, Strange N., Editor, Pottsville, Schuylkill Co. Stood aside.

    78. Patterson, Robert, Merchant, S. W. cor. Thirteenth and Locust Sts. Had decided opinions. Challenged by prisoner.

    79. Penny, James, Farmer, Liberty Square P. O., Drumore Twp., Lancaster County. Stood aside. Neighbor to Quaker Abolitionists.

    80. Platt, William, Merchant, 343 Chestnut St. Philadelphia. Excused because of ill health.

    81. Preston, Paul S., Merchant, Stockport, Wayne Co. Stood aside.

    82. Reynolds, John, Gentleman, Lancaster City. Father of Gen. John F. Reynolds and Admiral Wm. Reynolds and former proprietor of a Democratic newspaper in Lancaster. Examined at length; showed disfavor to defendants and was challenged peremptorily by Stevens.

    83. Rich, Josiah, Farmer, Danboro P. O., Bucks Co. Stood aside.

    84. Richards, Matthias, Gentleman, Reading, Berks Co. Challenged by prisoner.

    85. Richardson, John, Gentleman, Spruce St., west of Broad, Philadelphia. President of Bank of North America. Excused temporarily for bronchial affection.

    86. Rogers, Evan, Gentleman, Locust St. and Washington Square. Challenged for cause by defendant.

    [Pg 71]87. Ross, Hugh, Farmer, Lower Chanceford Co., York Co. Challenged for cause by defendant. Scotch Irish, Presbyterian, Democrat.

    88. Rupp, John, Farmer, Mechanicksburg P. O., Hempden Twp., Cumberland Co. Associate judge; excused temporarily. Recalled and challenged by U. S. because he was opposed to death penalty.

    89. Rutherford, John B., Farmer, Harrisburg, Dauphin Co. Stood aside.

    90. *Saddler, William R., York Sulphur Springs P. O., Adams Co. Accepted (6).

    91. Saylor, Charles, Merchant, Saylorsburg, Monroe Co. Postmaster. Excused.

    92. Schroeder, John S., Clerk, Reading, Berks Co. Challenged by prisoner.

    93. Small, Samuel, Merchant, York, York Co. Prominent citizen and representative of notable family. Stood aside.

    94. Smith, George, Farmer, Upper Darby P. O., Delaware Co. Stood aside.

    95. Smith, John, Smith, Jenkintown, Montgomery Co. Challenged by defendant; extended discussion; challenge sustained.

    96. *Smith, Robert, Gentleman, Gettysburg, Adams Co. Accepted (5).

    97. Smyser, Philip, Gentleman, York, York Co. Challenged for cause.

    98. Starbird, Franklin, Farmer, Stroudsburg, Monroe Co. Stood aside.

    99. Stavely, William, Farmer, Lahasha P. O., Bucks Co. Challenged by prisoner.

    100. Stevens, William, Merchant, Whitehallville, Bucks Co. Challenged by prisoner.

    101. Stokes, Samuel E., Merchant, 39 Arch St., Philadelphia.

    102. Taylor, Caleb N., Farmer, Newportville, Bucks Co.[Pg 72] Suffering from what Judge Grier called “Epidemic of deafness.” Excused.

    103. Toland, George W., Gentleman, 178 Arch St., Philadelphia.

    104. Trexler, Lesher, Gentleman, Allentown, Lehigh Co. Stood aside.

    105. *Wainwright, Jonathan, Merchant, Beach, below Hanover St., Philadelphia. Stood aside. Subsequently recalled and accepted (10).

    106. Walsh, Robert F., Merchant, 5 Girard St., Philadelphia. “Thought the offense treason.” Challenged by the Court.

    107. Watmough, John G., Gentleman, Germantown, Philadelphia County. “Strongly against the whole business.” Challenged by U. S.

    108. Watson, William, Farmer, Mechanicsville, Bucks Co. Stood aside.

    109. West, David, Farmer, Kimberton, Chester Co. Stood aside.

    110. White, Thomas H., Gentleman, N. W. Cor. Ninth & Spruce Sts., Philadelphia. Challenged for opinion by U. S.

    111. Whitehall, James, Gentleman, Lancaster City. Challenged by prisoner.

    112. Witman, Andrew K., Farmer, Center Valley P. O., Lehigh Co. From neighborhood of Fries rebellion. Challenged by U. S. for opinion, after long discussion.

    113. Williamson, William, Gentleman, West Chester, Chester Co. Challenged by prisoner.

    114. *Wilson, James, Gentleman, Fairfield P. O., Adams Co. Accepted and sworn (3). From neighborhood of Stevens’ iron works.

    115. Vanzant, Franklin, Farmer, Attleboro P. O., Bucks Co. Two children sick. Excused temporarily.

    116. Yohe, Samuel, Gentleman, Easton, Northampton Co. Stood aside.

[Pg 73]As finally selected the trial jury consisted of the following persons:

    1. Robert Elliott, farmer, Ickesburg, Perry County, aged 69.

    2. James Wilson, gentleman, Fairfield postoffice, Adams County, aged 73.

    3. Thomas Connelly, carpenter, Beaver Meadow, Carbon County, aged 54.

    4. Peter Martin, surveyor, Ephrata postoffice, Lancaster County, aged 46.

    5. Robert Smith, gentleman, Gettysburg, Adams County, aged 57.

    6. William R. Saddler, farmer, York Sulphur Springs postoffice, Adams County, aged 41.

    7. James M. Hopkins, farmer, Bucks postoffice, Drumore Township, Lancaster County, aged 50.

    8. John Junkin, farmer, Landisburg, Perry County, aged 56.

    9. Solomon Newman, smith, Milford, Pike County, aged 48.

    10. Jonathan Wainwright, Merchant, Philadelphia, aged 66.

    11. Ephraim Fenton, farmer, Upper Dublin postoffice, Montgomery County, aged 52.

    12. James Cowden, merchant, Columbia, Lancaster County, aged 36.

Average age of jurors: 53.

In opening for the prosecution District Attorney Ashmead defined the act of treason, as it had been laid down in previous judicial deliverances, and he relied on the proof that there had been an armed and organized resistance to the execution of the laws of Congress, in which the prisoner not only participated, but of which he was a leader. After he had concluded, Z. Collins Lee, of Baltimore, United States District Attorney, appeared also for the prosecution. Witnesses[Pg 74] were excluded while other witnesses were testifying. Mr. G. L. Ashmead, who was a cousin of the United States Attorney, conducted the examination of the witnesses. The scene was located; Deputy Kline told his story in detail, substantially as the incident has been related; he insisted that he asked Hanway and Lewis to aid him in enforcing his writs and they refused; Hanway sat on his horse during the affray and Joshua Gorsuch, pretty badly hurt, got behind the horse for protection. Kline was the special target of severe and sarcastic cross-examination by Mr. Stevens, as he was the Atlas of the Government’s case. To break him down on the identity of those who were present at the riot, Mr. Stevens insisted on the Court allowing the presence in Court of all the prisoners; and when he accomplished this dramatic purpose he turned Kline over to Mr. Lewis for further and protracted cross-examination on the skirmishing movements of the arresting party before the riot. Mr. Read also took a hand in his cross-examination, which was not concluded until the Saturday of the first week. His last answer at this session was to the effect that he did not see Joseph Scarlet at the “action.”

Dr. Pearce testified at some length corroborating Kline; and averring very distinctly that he saw a shot fired from the window of the house at Gorsuch, the elder. He was severely cross-examined by Mr. Stevens, who intimated repeatedly that the witness had charged Kline with cowardice. Dickinson Gorsuch followed him and testified to the main facts. Neither he nor his cousin, Joshua, was subjected to any cross-examination; and both of them were less direct in their accusations against Hanway and Lewis than Kline, at the most declaring that Hanway’s arrival seemed to give the colored men inspiration and encouragement. The son established his father’s determination not to be driven or intimidated from the premises, and described the killing of him and the wounding of himself. These circumstances,[Pg 75] creditable to the valor of the Gorsuches, did not materially prejudice the case of the defendant on the trial. Dickinson recognized Scarlet as one who at first refused to help him, but subsequently got him water. Nicholas Hutchins was also examined as to the affray and corroborated the other witnesses; likewise Nathan Nelson, the other of the Maryland party. These witnesses were positive in their recognition of Noah Buley and Joshua Hammond, the elder two of the runaways.

The first week of the trial closed with Miller Knott on the stand. He was a citizen of the neighborhood, who was not charged with any complicity, but who had given aid to the wounded. He had seen a man on horseback, in his shirt sleeves—presumably Hanway—riding northward, with a band of negroes following him; and a half score or more attacking Dickinson Gorsuch, while others followed Isaiah Clarkson into the corn field. He saw Gorsuch the father lying alone not yet dead; and Joseph Scarlet, on horseback, at “the mouth of the long lane”; he subsequently returned with the colored men toward Parker’s house. From this witness it appeared that it was a mile from Hanway’s mill to Parker’s house, that Joseph Scarlet would have to travel two miles and his horse was “sweaty,” that Elijah Lewis lived from a mile and a half to two miles away. Mr. Knott was not subjected to cross-examination. His son, John, had preceded him to Parker’s by ten minutes and saw the riot from a point about thirty yards from the junction of the long lane and the house lane. He saw from fifty to sixty negroes come out from the house, shouting and shooting, disperse up the little lane and run toward the creek. He saw horses hitched on the fence in the long lane; he saw Dickinson Gorsuch bleeding and gave him water. Again the defense desisted from cross-examination of either of the Knotts. Alderman Reigart testified to an exciting conversation between Kline and Hanway and Lewis at Christiana, after their arrest, when Kline had[Pg 76] denounced them savagely and they disclaimed having incited the negroes. It was manifest the defendants would centre their attack upon Kline and Mr. Read brought out the fact that while he wore formidable whiskers and mustaches at the time of the affray, he had since shaved them off. It was shown that though he publicly denounced the prisoners as “white livered scoundrels” who had ordered the blacks to fire, his statements under oath were very much milder.

A long discussion ensued over the admission of Charles Smith’s evidence, but he was finally permitted to testify that Samuel Williams—the colored man from Philadelphia who had trailed Kline—had brought and circulated news of the intended raid for the arrest of the Gorsuch runaways. It was disclosed by Dr. Cain’s testimony that Washington and Clark, colored witnesses who had escaped from Moyamensing, had been circulating a paper on September 10th, which had the character of a warning to the Maryland refugees. Shortly after the affray Dr. Cain, at his own tenant house, treated two colored men, Henry C. Hopkins and John Long, who had been shot, one in the arm and one in the thigh. Hopkins was the doctor’s tenant. John Roberts, a colored witness, who had been detained as such, for more than ten weeks, in Moyamensing, proved that Joseph Scarlet told him “about sun up” that kidnappers were at Parker’s, and witness got a loaded gun from Jacob Townsend and went to the scene. Other witnesses of the same kind, and detained the same way, elicited little material matter, as they arrived on the scene after the battle. In support of the Government’s theory of a treasonable conspiracy, some evidence was introduced of meetings at West Chester in opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law, but the participation of the accused was not shown.

The scenes attending the trial are described by the newspapers of the day as highly interesting and sometimes sensational. Popular interest grew as it progressed, and it[Pg 77] centered upon the prisoner who was a stranger in Philadelphia. One newspaper account describes Hanway as displaying the greatest self-possession during the selection of jurors. “He is apparently about 35 years of age, tall but spare in form, and inclined to stoop a little. There is a becoming seriousness in his countenance, but nothing like alarm or trepidation is visible. When called upon to look at the juror summoned to try him, he does so with a firm and inquiring look, but never determines upon his admission or rejection until he has consulted his counsel, Thaddeus Stevens, who sits immediately by his side.”

Before the defense was formally opened its course and character had been anticipated by the cross-examination of Mr. Stevens; in this quality of a trial lawyer he was an acknowledged master. The opening speech of Mr. Cuyler referred to the division among the counsel for the prosecution; it praised the fairness of Mr. Ashmead, who, it declared, had been remanded to the background, because Maryland distrusted the justice of Pennsylvania. This was an effective appeal to the State pride of the jury. He vigorously assailed Kline, who had been the Government’s most zealous witness. He traced the course of Pennsylvania’s legislation on slavery and insisted that this Commonwealth was “ever true to her plighted constitutional good faith”; he extolled Hanway’s civic virtues, and dwelt with emphasis upon the local agitation over the “lawless and diabolical outrages” of the kidnappers; and finally ridiculed the idea of treason in the allegation that “three harmless, non-resisting Quakers, and eight-and-thirty wretched, miserable, penniless negroes, armed with corn-cutters, clubs, and a few muskets, and headed by a miller, in a felt hat, without a coat, without arms, and mounted on a sorrel nag, levied war against the United States.”

When Mr. Stevens began the production of testimony for the defense with offers to prove the recent kidnapping outrages[Pg 78] in the neighborhood of Gap, the legal storm center of the trial was at hand. The prosecution saw and feared the influence of this line of evidence as keenly as the defense recognized its force and value. Judges Grier and Kane both discerned the vital issue at once and long before the argument concluded, pointed out that as the accusation was treason—a position founded upon some previous conspiracy—the defense must be allowed the same latitude to disprove intent as had been allowed to the prosecution to establish it. This opened the way for Thomas Pennington to tell the story of what had occurred at the home of his son-in-law, William Marsh Chamberlain, the preceding January—it was the same night, by the way, that “James Ray fell dead as he entered the door of his own house.” As has been heretofore related, in the absence at Ray’s of the head of the Chamberlain household, the black man in employ was beaten and dragged out and carried off by intruders without legal process and led by local abettors of the capture.

The fact that it was not shown the man taken was a free man, or that he may have been reclaimed by the authority of his owner, made little difference in the popular feeling about the affair or in the effectiveness of the incident for trial purposes. If such ruthlessness might be technically legal it made the slave law none the less odious!

Henry Ray went further than Pennington and identified both Perry Marsh and William Bear as associates of the band who carried off Chamberlain’s man; and Mrs. Chamberlain—who saw the incident through a pipe hole from upstairs, where the affrighted family had retreated—and her brother, Miller Pennington, described it in a manner that heightened its effect. With this recital the defense made a distinct advance.

When the next witness, Elijah Lewis, was called, a question was raised as to his competency. Although not himself on trial, he was under indictment for the same offense as[Pg 79] the prisoner. Mr. Brent cited “5th Espinasse,” but the Government’s objection was not urged with much confidence and was not sustained by the Court. Interest centered in the witness as he was probably the most conspicuous of all the defendants and a recognized leader of local sentiment. He supported the case of the defendants as their counsel had outlined it; and his intelligence, direct manner and forceful expression gave added weight to his testimony. Isaiah Clarkson had summoned him to the scene by the report that Parker’s house was surrounded and had been broken into by kidnappers; he started on foot and called Hanway, who was not very well and got his horse; Kline showed them a paper which he assumed was a warrant; the negroes were excited and Hanway begged them not to shoot; witness had turned south toward the wood, Kline following and Hanway to the north when the shooting began. He contradicted Kline’s story of him or Hanway expressing defiance of the law and declared Kline was “in the woods” when the firing began; he and Hanway were not arrested; they gave themselves up. Cross-examination strengthened his statement.

Other witnesses testified to Kline’s declarations after the event to the effect that he had wanted to withdraw, but was overruled; that Dr. Pearce admitted the Gorsuches were rash and Kline timid, and that he himself owed his life to Hanway’s protection.

The defense then opened its batteries against Kline’s reputation. Hon. William D. Kelly—later a Common Pleas Judge and long time a leading member of Congress from Philadelphia—headed a long list of witnesses who testified that Kline’s reputation was bad and that he was unworthy of belief. There were nearly a score in all and many of them were most emphatic; it was also shown that in some accounts of the affray Kline had denounced “the damned Quaker abolitionists.”

To open the way for the recanting witness, Harvey Scott,[Pg 80] to recall his former stories and repudiate their statements, witnesses were called to testify that he was not at the riot at all, but was “buttoned up” in John Carr’s garret until daylight and from that time on was at the place, blowing and striking in his employer’s blacksmith shop; that when he heard of the affair he congratulated himself with the remark, “I’m a nigger out of that scrape.”

Lewis Cooper, who was a son-in-law of Elijah Lewis, had, with Joseph Scarlet’s assistance, taken Dickinson Gorsuch to the Pownall house; he had heard Dr. Pearce tell of his uncle’s rashness and that one of his own slaves, “a bright yellow negro,” shot him; and also that he had been saved by holding on to Hanway’s saddle skirt.

Many witnesses were called to prove Hanway’s character “as a peaceable, good, loyal and orderly citizen.” It was brought out that Hanway, contrary to the general popular impression, was not a member of the Society of Friends. Having been born in Delaware and lived in Chester as well as Lancaster County, and having been at one time absent from the State, the witnesses in his behalf represented different sections of the country.

The rebuttal on the part of the prosecution consisted largely of an attempt to rehabilitate Kline’s reputation; a great number of respectable citizens of Philadelphia, who had known him from his youth up, were called to testify that his character was good and that he was entitled to belief. The opening in rebuttal also covered proposed proof of alleged outrages and reprisals by the sympathizers with fugitive slaves, in that armed and organized bands of negroes paraded the streets of Lancaster “on the hunt for slave hunters and avowing the determination, if they caught them, they would kill them”; that in April, 1851, Samuel Worthington, of Maryland, went into the neighborhood of Christiana to reclaim his fugitive slave and was resisted by armed force; that bells were rung and horns blown to arouse the[Pg 81] neighborhood and the master was obliged to flee for his life. It was also promised that Harvey Scott would corroborate his former statement and disprove the alibi that had been made out for him. In the number of witnesses who were called to prove the general character of Kline for truth and veracity, the Government far exceeded his assailants. The proposed testimony as to previous occurrences in the neighborhood, showing popular feeling against the resistance to the reclaiming of fugitive slaves, was ruled out by the Court; the trial judges concurred that if it was any part of the Government’s case it should have been offered originally, and Judge Grier jocularly observed, “We may draw a figure from the game of whist—it would be renigging and keeping your trump back to the last trick.”

When the recanting witness, Harvey Scott, was called by the Government to prove that the alibi made for him was not correct, and Mr. Ashmead confidently offered him to prove that he was at the riot, Scott startled the prosecution and satisfied the defense by testifying as follows: “I gave my evidence that I was there once. I was frightened at the time I was taken up, and I said I was there, but I was not; I was proved to be there, but I was not there; they took me to Christiana, and I was frightened, and I didn’t know what to say, and I said what they told me.” He repeated this, whereupon Mr. Ashmead declared that he had been entrapped and asked that Scott might be committed to take his trial for perjury, when the following colloquy occurred:

“Judge Grier. Poor devil, it is not worth while for the United States to do it. Let him go, and if you owe him any thing, pay him, that he may not be tempted to steal.

”Mr. Stevens. The truth is, that he is not right in his mind.

“Mr. J. W. Ashmead. With that explanation I am perfectly willing he should depart.”

[Pg 82]At the resumption of the trial on the next day there was a good deal of discussion as to what should be done about the variation in the testimony of the witness Scott. The Government had manifestly suffered from his wobbling, and intimated that he had been tampered with; all of which was resented by the defense, who declared that he was only a “poor miserable negro,” shallow-minded and uncertain, and that the United States having fed and clothed him for the purpose of the trial, no one representing the defense had had any access to him and the whole effect of his testimony was a matter for the jury. After again calling Dickinson Gorsuch to prove that two of his father’s slaves—Noah Buley and Joshua Hammond—were present at the shooting, the testimony closed, and it was agreed there should be not more than three speeches on either side.

The summing up began on Friday, December 5, Mr. Ludlow opening for the prosecution and discussing at length and elaborately the law of the case, and then proceeding to consider the strength of the Government’s testimony and the improbabilities of what had been proved on the part of the defense. Being himself a member of the Philadelphia bar, he undertook the defense of Kline, and declared that no man of bad character could have produced in his behalf the array of witnesses whom the Government had called to sustain its deputy marshal. On Saturday morning, December 6, Mr. Lewis, of West Chester, commenced to sum up for the defense. He made an exceptionally able argument both on the facts and the law of the case and reviewed the history of the two leading cases of treason which had occurred in Pennsylvania arising out of the so-called Whiskey Insurrection and the Fries rebellion. He was followed by Attorney General Brent, for the prosecution, and his speech was not concluded when Court adjourned on Saturday afternoon to meet the following Monday. It was at this session of the Court the colored prisoners were brought in clad in the uniform[Pg 83] dress which had been furnished them by sympathizing friends, and the scene that was presented is thus described by a contemporary newspaper reporter:

“On Saturday morning, December 6, when Mr. Lewis was to speak first for the prisoners and was to be followed by the Attorney General of Maryland there was a great throng present at the trial. The room was overcrowded with women, and Marshal Roberts was greatly embarrassed at his inability to find or to make a place for them. The special attention of the spectators was attracted to a row of colored men, seated on the north side of the room. They were cleanly in their appearance, and their heads and faces presented strong presumptive evidence that they had just escaped from the hands of the barber. These were the colored prisoners alleged to have been engaged in the treason at Christiana, and numbered twenty-four. They were all similarly attired wearing around their necks ‘red, white and blue scarfs.’ Lucretia Mott was at their head. This, we believe, is her first appearance in court since the trials have commenced. Her dignified and benevolent countenance ever attracts attention. Under that calm exterior there glows a fire, kindled by charity, which is as universal as it is ardent and enduring. She sat knitting during the entire session of the court, apparently unconscious of what was going on around her, except when some point in the testimony seemed to bear strongly against the prisoner. Then her eyes were lifted from her work, and sparkled for a moment with admiration; but speedily relapsed into their intelligent, yet quiet and peaceful aspect. One of the colored persons, whose name is Collister Wilson, was too unwell to be brought from prison on Saturday morning. It is but just to say, that these colored men, taken together, will compare in personal appearance with an equal number of the same race taken indiscriminately from any part of the world. The two white men, Lewis and Scarlet, were also brought from prison, but occupied the rear or east end of the court[Pg 84] room. These two appeared to be between thirty and forty years of age, and judging from their garb, do not belong to the Society of Friends, as has been generally supposed. On inquiring how it happened that the colored prisoners were all dressed alike, we were informed that they had been clothed by a committee of ladies belonging to the Abolition Society, who have been very attentive to them since they have been in prison.”

Subsequent reports of the trial indicate increased attendance, especially of “ladies dressed in Quaker garb.”

Continuing his speech on the following Monday the Attorney General waxed eloquent over the glories of the union and the perils to national peace that lay in resistance to law and in the refusal of any one section to accord to another its legal rights. He read from Webster’s speeches and Washington’s farewell address and from Judge Iredell’s charge on the trial of the Fries cases. He referred to the presence in Court by Hanway’s side of his devoted and affectionate wife, who it seems had sat with him during the trial. While the gallantry of the Maryland lawyer constrained him to express his admiration and respect for “the afflicted lady of this prisoner,” he warned the jury against being controlled by “the spell of that female influence which is more potent than the eloquence of counsel,” and contrasted the situation of Mrs. Hanway with that of Gorsuch’s wife “who, as a widow, is now mourning the loss and lover of her youth and the prop of her declining years.” He played upon the color of Scarlet’s name; he denounced the coroner’s inquest, lauded the chivalrous courage of Edward Gorsuch, pictured with skillful hands the combat at the Parker house and the “diabolical malice” of those who mangled the victim of that occasion after they had killed him. He insisted that both Lewis and Hanway had been guilty of treason and that they had incited the blacks to make armed resistance to the law of the land.

[Pg 85]To Mr. Read was assigned the responsible duty of replying immediately to Brent, which he did in a speech occupying nearly three days in the delivery and, as the reporter observes, “marked throughout by eloquence and profound learning, being a thorough and complete dissertation on the law of treason, and which riveted the attention not only of the Court and jury, but of a crowded auditory.”

It was expected that Thaddeus Stevens would follow him, and the public interest which attached to his speaking was probably greater than that attending any of the other counsel; but for some reason he declined speaking in the cause, and Mr. Read was followed by Senator Cooper, who represented not only the State of Maryland, but the Gorsuch family. He expounded with the ability of a profound lawyer the constitutional definition of treason and applied it to the facts of the case, which he insisted fully, amply and distinctly proved the overt act of treason. In the cases of contradiction between Lewis and Kline he declared that Kline was supported by the testimony of all the Maryland party, while Lewis stood alone, and Lewis was an interested and therefore discredited witness. His peroration was an earnest plea for the union and against anything that would affect its stability or endanger its peace. In Websterian strain he closed as follows: “The eyes of the world are upon the constellation in its banner. Its stars are the beacons of liberty. Let us then, for our sakes, and for the sake of liberty in other lands, guard it as the Ark of the Covenant was guarded of old. Let no hand deface it. Let the day never come when it shall be rent in twain; when one cluster of its stars, separated from the other and beaming in different banners, shall be borne over adverse and conflicting hosts; but let it remain as it now is, ‘the Flag of the union,’ still waving over the heads of united freemen, obedient to the same laws—laws supported by all, sustained by all, vindicated by all, in every section of the country.”

[Pg 86]The argument of the case closed with Senator Cooper’s speech and he was immediately followed by Justice Grier’s charge to the jury. After the judge had made a general exposition of the law, he paid a high tribute to the manner in which the case had been conducted on both sides by counsel. He framed the issues to be determined by the jury as two-fold, involving first the question as to whether Hanway participated in the offenses proved to have been committed, and, secondly, if he did so, was his offence treason? In undertaking to vindicate the reputation of the people of Pennsylvania he left no doubt as to his own individual views upon the subject of the anti-slavery agitation then prevailing, and the following extracts from his charge, which were savagely resented at the time of their utterance even by those who were satisfied with his legal conclusion, are reported to have been uttered in a shrill and piping voice, which added to the intensity of their expression:

“With the exception of a few individuals of perverted intellect, some small districts or neighborhoods whose moral atmosphere has been tainted and poisoned, by male and female vagrant lecturers and conventions, no party in politics, no sect of religion, nor any respectable numbers or character can be found within our borders who have viewed with approbation or looked with any other than feelings of abhorrence upon this disgraceful tragedy.

“It is not in this Hall of Independence, that meetings of infuriated fanatics and unprincipled demagogues have been held to counsel a bloody resistance to the laws of the land. It is not in this city that conventions are held denouncing the Constitution, the laws, and the Bible. It is not here that the pulpit has been desecrated by seditious exhortations, teaching that theft is meritorious, murder excusable and treason a virtue.

“The guilt of this foul murder rests not alone on the deluded individuals who were its immediate perpetrators, but[Pg 87] the blood taints with even deeper dye the skirts of those who promulgated doctrines subversive of all morality and all government.”

He practically disposed, however, of the whole case and took its further consideration from the jury by his announced legal conclusion that the offense did not arise to that of treason. His summing up on this branch of the subject practically concluded all of the cases. It was as follows:

“Without desiring to invade the prerogatives of the jury in judging the facts of this case, the Court feel bound to say, that they do not think the transaction with which the prisoner is charged with being connected, rises to the dignity of treason or levying war. Not because the numbers or force was insufficient. But 1st, For want of any proof of previous conspiracy to make a general and public resistance to any law of the United States. 2ndly, Because there is no evidence that any person concerned in the transaction knew there were such acts of Congress, as those with which they were charged with conspiring to resist by force and arms, or had any other intention than to protect one another from what they termed kidnappers (by which slang term they probably included not only actual kidnappers, but all masters and owners seeking to recapture their slaves, and the officers and agents assisting therein).

“The testimony of the prosecution shows that notice had been given that certain fugitives were pursued; the riot, insurrection, tumult, or whatever you may call it, was but a sudden ‘conclamatio’ or running together, to prevent the capture of certain of their friends or companions, or to rescue them if arrested. Previous to this transaction, so far as we are informed, no attempt had been made to arrest fugitives in the neighborhood under the new act of Congress by a public officer. Heretofore arrests had been made by the owner in person, or his agent properly authorized, or by an officer of the law. Individuals without any authority, but[Pg 88] incited by cupidity, and the hope of obtaining the reward offered for the return of a fugitive, had heretofore undertaken to seize them by force and violence, to invade the sanctity of private dwellings at night, and insult the feelings and prejudices of the people. It is not to be wondered at that a people subject to such inroads, should consider odious the perpetrators of such deeds and denominate them kidnappers—and that the subjects of this treatment should have been encouraged in resisting such aggressions, where the rightful claimant could not be distinguished from the odious kidnapper, or the fact be ascertained whether the person seized, deported or stolen in this manner, was a free man or a slave. But the existence of such feelings is no evidence of a determination or conspiracy by the people to publicly resist any legislation of Congress, or levy war against the United States. That in consequence of such excitement, such an outrage should have been committed, is deeply to be deplored. That the persons engaged in it are guilty of aggravated riot and murder cannot be denied. But riot and murder are offences against the State Government. It would be a dangerous precedent for the Court and jury in this case to extend the crime of treason by construction to doubtful cases.”

Having thus practically disposed of the case Mr. Justice Grier praised the U. S. Attorney and the counsel for Maryland for their zeal and ability, and intimated that the duty of punishing “the perpetrators of this outrage” might be transferred to the courts of Lancaster County, where the activity and zeal of its law officers gave assurance that their duty would be performed with all fidelity.

After the Judge’s charge the jury retired to deliberate at the American House where they were lodged. They returned in fifteen minutes and rendered a verdict of “Not Guilty,” which announcement was received by the large audience present “in a becoming manner”; the propriety of[Pg 89] their conduct is ascribed to the fact that the Judge’s charge forecast the verdict.

John M. Read afterwards said some of the jurymen informed him they were ready to acquit before the defense opened.

On motion of District Attorney Ashmead, and in consideration of the ordeal through which Castner Hanway had just passed, four other bills against him for misdemeanor were non prossed and he was discharged from custody and from all further prosecution in the Federal Courts. The charge of treason against Elijah Lewis was withdrawn, and he and Samuel Williams were admitted to bail in $2,000 on four other indictments pending against them. Hanway and Lewis were brought to Lancaster on Friday afternoon, December 12th, and held by Associate Judge Vondersmith in $1,000 bail each, “to answer any charge that might be brought against them.”

There was a later proceeding in which all the other bills for treason were non prossed; and the proposed transfer of the prisoners to Lancaster County was announced by the District Attorney. Mr. Read brought to the attention of the Court the subject of the United States paying the expenses of the Hanway witnesses; for which there was a precedent in Aaron Burr’s case. The subject was fully argued December 19th; and Judge Kane filed an opinion refusing to tax these costs against the Government and dismissing Hanway’s petition.

Subsequently a petition to Congress, of which the following is a copy, was circulated and signed by the defendants, but it availed nothing:


    “The Petition of

    Citizens of the State of Penna., respectfully represents; That Whereas in the month of September 1851 a Riot occurred in the vicinity of the residence of your petitioners, generally known as the[Pg 90] ‘Christiana Riot,’ and your petitioners repairing to the scene of disturbance without any evil intentions, but to prevent violence, were arrested by persons acting for the United States, and charged with the highest crimes known to our Laws, and thrown into prison, where they were detained many months and subjected to great expense in making preparations to meet those charges, whereby their estates were wasted, their minds harassed to the verge of insanity, and their health impaired, till premature decrepitude is the consequence, after which they were discharged without a hearing, thereby tacitly admitting the charges were groundless, having incurred an expense of many thousand dollars.

    “Your petitioners therefore pray you the honorable representatives of the most magnanimous nation of the earth, to grant us some relief from our embarrassments, and we will ever pray, etc.”

Thus ended the Treason Trials of 1851.


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