Genealogytrails Harrison County, Missouri
Politcal  News and Tid-Bits

A Methodist Clergyman Imprisoned for Speaking against Slavery

Source: St. Cloud Democrat, April 5, 1860
Transcribed by: M.Beery

We have to-day to add another to the already long catalogue of outrageous on the liberty of speech, committed in behalf of slavery.
Rev. Mr. Howe, a Methodist clergyman in Harrison County, Missouri, was challenged by a Kentuckian neighbor to debate the slavery question.  He accepted the challenge in good faith, and the debate took place, with no unusual circumstances, about six miles from Bethany, the county seat.  Immediately afterwards Mr. Howe was arrested.  A man owning $3,000.00 worth of slaves had made affidavit that he was an "abolitionist", and demanded his incarceration in the Penitentiary.  A prosecution so evidently malicious and absurd, did not alarm Mr. Howe until after his return to town, when he found that all the lawyers with one exception, had combined to refuse to defend him.  Out of this combination were selected W.G. Lewis, Circuit Attorney, and J.W. Wyatt to conduct the prosecution.  The one exception was O.L. Abbott, Esq. a native of this State and a graduate of the Albany Law School.  He undertook Mr. Howe's defense but was allowed no time for preparation.  Notwithstanding he offered in behalf of the prisoner, any amount of bail, and asked that the examination might be postponed; he was compelled to go on immediately, without having had an hour's time to ascertain the nature of the case, to obtain evidence, and that too in regard to an offence hitherto unknown in the records of crime!

During the examination the court sustained every objection made by the prosecuting attorneys to question which were all important to the interests of the defence.  The defenant was required to produce all the testimoney in his behalf in court at midnight.  At one o'clock however, the Judge, for his own convenance, having other business coming on in the morning, consented to postpone it for two days.  In the meantime all the influences that could be extended to embarass the defense were resorted to.

When the trial was resumed, the town was filled with people from all parts of the country.  The large court room was densely crowded.  The evidence closed late in the afternoon.  Mr. Abbott summed up his case, assisted, since no lawyer would assist him, by Rev. John S. Allen, who though a slaveholder himself, was not willing to see his town disgraced by such tyranny against free speech.  Judge Lewis followed in a fanatical, pro-slavery tirade against the prisoner, his counsel, "incendiaries" and "abolitionists" in general, and the case was submitted for decision.

That decision will be looked for with interest, even at this distance from the scene.  The crime with which Mr. Howe is charged is defined as "uttering words, the tendency of which is to excite any slave to insolence and insubordiantion," [Missouri R.S., vol.1, page 536.]  although it was shown on evidence that there was not a negro bond or free, within two miles of the place of debate!  The penalty for this offence is five years' imprisonment at hard labor in the penitentiary.

During and since the trial, threats have been freely made to  "tar and feathers" against the prisoners counsel, and various attempts made to intimidate and drive him from the place- Albany Journal

Back to Index

Copyright © Genealogy Trails All Rights Reserved with Full Rights Reserved for Original Contributor