The Fugitive Slave Rescue Trial of Robert Morris
Gordan, John D., III. The Fugitive Slave Rescue Trial of Robert Morris: Benjamin Robbins Curtis on the Road to Dred Scott. xix, 120 pp. 19 illustrations. Clark, New Jersey: Talbot Publishing, 2013. ISBN-13: 9781616194055. ISBN-10: 1616194057. Paperback. New. $29.95 * Relying on extensive surviving original records, this book analyzes the November 1851 trial in the federal circuit court of Robert Morris, the second black admitted to practice in Massachusetts, for rescuing a fugitive slave from the custody of the U.S. marshal in the federal courtroom in Boston. It demonstrates that Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis, a supporter of Daniel Webster and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 presiding under a recess appointment, made two critical rulings against Morris that were at odds with existing precedents. Finally, the book contextualizes Morris's trial among the other trials for this rescue, the prosecutions for the attempt to rescue Anthony Burns, another fugitive slave, in 1854, and the Supreme Court's decision in Dred Scott in 1857. "This "small" book packs a large wallop. Gordan navigates the complexities of trial advocacy and trial procedure with unexcelled mastery. His analysis of the complex legal issues, including the power of the jury to rule on questions of law as well as fact, is persuasive. Gordan also throws a revisionist light on some of the major players - like John P. Hale who emerges from the wings as the real leader of the abolitionist bar; and Benjamin R. Curtis, whose manipulation of the law in the Morris trial illuminates his famous dissent in Dred Scott v. Sandford. A gem of a book." -- R. KENT NEWMYER, University of Connecticut School of Law. "A wonderfully detailed exposition of the fugitive slave rescue trial of Robert Morris, John Gordan's work unearths a wealth of material about the events, the people, and the legal acumen of the lawyers and judges involved. It will enable scholars to evaluate a question central to our judicial system: What is the proper division of authority between judge and jury? The information contained in Gordan's book provides a much-needed historically accurate basis from which to answer that question." -- MAEVA MARCUS, The George Washington University Law School.
Book number 61803