Lesser Magistrates Are Sentinels

   In 1859, the Wisconsin Legislature defied the U. S. Supreme Court and the entire federal government by declaring the federal Fugitive Slave Act to be “null, void, and without authority” in the state of Wisconsin. This act of interposition was needed and necessary.

   The Wisconsin Supreme Court also defied the U. S. Supreme Court and the entire federal government. The federal government was charging Sherman Booth under the Fugitive Slave Act for helping a runaway slave in federal custody escape from jail. Justice Abram Smith stated in the Booth case: “The duty of the states to watch closely and resist firmly every encroachment of the federal government becomes every day more and more imperative, and the official oath of the functionaries of the states becomes more and more significant.”

   After making plain the duty of the states, Justice Smith then spoke from a more personal level. He wrote in Booth: 

   “But believing as I do, that every state officer who is required to take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States as well as of his own state, was designedly placed by the federal constitution itself as a sentinel to guard the outposts as well as the citadel of the great principles and rights which it was intended to declare, secure and perpetuate, I cannot shrink from the discharge of the duty now devolved upon me.”&n ...

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