In Re Susan, 23 Federal Cases 444 ( 2 Wheeler Cr. Cas 594) ( 1818) A federal district court upheld the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, which provided for the return of runaway slaves. The court considered the act superior to any remedy provided by state law.
State v. Lasalle, 1 Indiana 60 ( 1820) A slave holder named Lasalle claimed Polly, a "woman of color," whom he brought into Indiana. State law, however, prohibited slavery, and when Polly asserted her freedom, a lower court ruled in the master's favor. Polly then carried the dispute to the state supreme court. Lasalle claimed that he had purchased Polly prior to adoption of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which had abolished slavery, but the court rejected his argument and freed Polly under the laws of Indiana, which had prohibited slavery.
Vaughan v. Williams, 28 Federal Cases 1115 ( 3 McLean 530) ( 1845) By 1840, most Northern states had adopted the automatic emancipation rule, the notion that a slave became free the moment he entered a free jurisdiction. The Vaughan case involved this question, and a dispute arose when alleged slaves entered Indiana with the consent of their master. Abolitionists encouraged them to sue for freedom, and the litigants focused on whether the slaves had been taken into the state. The supreme court ruled that there "can be no doubt that the slaves were, thereby entitled to their freedom." Once free, they could not be forced back into slavery.
Ray. v. Donnell, 20 Federal Cases 325 ( 4 McLean 504) ( 1849) An enslaved woman named Caroline escaped from Kentucky with four children. They reached Indiana in 1847. Woodson Clark, an Indiana resident,