Inevitably, the fugitive slave debate reached Wisconsin, and its lawmakers rejected the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. They argued that comity did not require a free state to participate in the capture and removal of runaway slaves. In a series of legislative reports the assembly issued a strong condemnation against the fugitive slave law. The state supreme court joined the debate, ruling that the federal Fugitive Slave Act was unconstitutional. The supreme court of Wisconsin was only court to take this action. The supreme court of the United State reversed this option in Ableman v. Booth ( 1858)
REPORT: The judiciary committee have had under consideration a resolution instructing your committee to enquire into the expediency of passing a law to prohibit the use of jails and prisons in this state for the imprisonment of persons convicted under a law of the United States, known as "the fugitive slave act," and a majority of your committee instruct me to report a bill for that purpose. March 14, 1855, House Journal.
Your committee render the following reasons for the conclusion to which they have arrived:
The privilege granted by this state to the government of the United States, to use the prisons and jails of this state for the purpose of confining or imprisoning persons convicted under the laws of the United States, is a mere act of comity, and the right to exercise that privilege is dependant altogether upon the laws of this state. The United States government has no power or authority whatever to use any jail or prison within this state, for any purpose
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Publication information: Book title: The Black Laws in the Old Northwest:A Documentary History. Contributors: Stephen Middleton - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1993. Page number: 391.
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