George W. Morton






James Tasker Case (1852) – 1 returned

Horace Preston Case (1852) – 1 returned

  • A New York City police officer, James Martin, seized Horace Preston on false charges before bringing him before U.S. Commissioner George W. Morton, and then informed Baltimore slaveholder William Reese of the arrest. Afterwards, attorney Richard Busteed made out an affidavit on behalf of his friend, claimant William Reese, attesting that Horace Preston was a fugitive from labor, and accordingly Commissioner George W. Morton issued a warrant of arrest. Anti-slavery attorneys E.D. Culver and John Jay II attempted to dismiss the proceedings, insisting that Busteed’s affidavit (on which the hearing had been instigated) was “defective,” as it was “made, as appeared from the testimony of Mr. Busteed, without any personal knowledge of the facts sworn to.” Moreover, they asserted, the affidavit did not prove “that Horace was held to bondage by virtue of the laws of the State of Maryland.” The questionable affidavit also rendered the warrant of arrest “defective,” argued Culver, who warned that he “would hold responsible all that were engaged in it.” [1852-04-02 New York Tribune; 1852-04-05 New York Tribune]
  • Commissioner Morton did not allow testimony from the accused, but did admit a statement (over the objection of anti-slavery attorney E.D. Culver) that Preston reportedly made at the Second Ward police station, in which he recognized Reese’s son, William D. Reese, and admitted to having escaped from Maryland.  [1852-04-02 New York Tribune]
  • Morton remanded Preston to slavery on Saturday, April 3, 1852. Culver and Jay immediately authored a fiery letter published in the New York Evening Post, condemning “the conduct of the Commissioner” for “admitting all evidence offered of the claimant, of whatever character, including an affidavit made without knowledge, and confessions of the defendant while in duress.” [1852-04-05 New York Tribune]
  • Later, Morton responded in the New York Herald, alleging that his decision “was based solely on the testimony of Wm. D. Reese,” the claimant’s son, and “the affidavits of the attorney and all confessions of the fugitive were wholly excluded and disregarded.” Inciting considerable controversy, Morton went on to explain that he hastened the case to a conclusion on April 3, because he was able to “infer” from Culver and Jay’s actions that their objections were “a mere pretext for vexatious delay.” The Tribune thundered a reply, demanding “what right had he to decide upon such an inference, without assessing if they might not have some testimony” that could prove Preston’s freedom. [1852-04-06 New York Tribune]

Pembroke Case (1854) – 3 returned