J. Cooke Longstreth






Daniel Webster Case  (1859) – 1 released

  • After Philadelphia commissioner J. Cooke Longstreth issued a warrant for Webster’s arrest, U.S. Marshal John Jenkins journeyed to Harrisburg to seize the accused. The arrest occurred in broad daylight at the market in downtown Harrisburg, quickly triggering outrage. Residents there demanded that Jenkins “show us his authority for the arrest,” and the marshal reluctantly produced a warrant of arrest “signed by Cooke Longstreth, calling for the arrest of one Daniel Dangerfield.” [1859-04-04 Harrisburg, PA Daily Telegraph]
  • In his decision to release Webster, Longstreth revealed that the claimants’ initial power of attorney (under Section 6 of the law) had contained errors. Longstreth had allowed the documents to be “amended” before issuing a warrant for Daniel Webster’s arrest. The case ultimately hinged on the accused’s identity, and whether the claimants could definitely prove that Webster was the fugitive described in the claimants’ documents. Yet Longstreth explained that the testimony of William M. Jones, an African American anti-slavery activist from Harrisburg, “had given him anxious thought.” Jones testified that Webster could not possibly have escaped when the claimants claimed, as Webster had helped dig a cellar for a Harrisburg property Jones purchased in 1853. Longstreth tied his decision to Jones’s testimony, noting “it would be unjust… to send this man back to Virginia” when Longstreth’s “mind was not perfectly satisfied as to his being the Daniel Dangerfield described in the record, and claimed as being a fugitive from labor.” [1859-04-07 Philadelphia Press]