Sherman Booth - a Wisconsin Radical
Sherman Booth was an abolitionist originally from New York who moved here only a few days before Wisconsin was issued statehood. He quickly became editor of the "Milwaukee Free Democrat" and one of the first Free Soilers of Wisconsin. The Free Soil Party was created to oppose the wish of the Democrats to extend slavery to newly created territories. The Free Soilers felt that any new state should be free for anyone to inhabit and without fear of being made a slave. The Free Soilers also wished to overturn the Fugitive Slave Law, which made illegal the act of sheltering a runaway slave.
The most famous Wisconsin case of the breaking of the
Fugitive Slave Law was on the evening of March 10th, 1854. Joshua Glover,
a runaway slave from Missouri, had been living around Racine attempting
to keep a low profile. Unbeknownst to him, one of his friends had told
his master of his whereabouts, and the Missouri slave owner had come to
retrieve him. The federal marshal and deputies who captured him beat him
senseless, shackled him, and dragged him to the county jail in Milwaukee.
The citizens of Racine began to gather around the courthouse and the next
afternoon, Sherman Booth held a protest meeting. He gave an inspiring
anti-slavery speech, and the crowd broke down the door of the jail, freeing
Glover and shipping him to Canada and his freedom.
This led the federal marshals to arrest Booth, and he was indicted by a grand jury. He was let off by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, but then the United States Supreme Court overturned the state courtıs action. Sherman Booth was sentenced with a one-month jail sentence and a fine of $1,000. A suit was brought against Booth by the slave owner as well, fining him with $1,000 the cost of a slave. The resulting litigation lasted over the next thirteen years, with nineteen trials and a final cost of around $35,000.