Thursday, May 19, 2011

Peraza reviews Lubet, "Fugitive Justice"

Back in February, Mary noted Steven Lubet's article on the Oberlin slave rescue. We now have a review, courtesy of H-Law, of the book from which Lubet adapted the article: Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010).

Steve Peraza (University at Buffalo (SUNY)) 
offers the following summary:
That the fugitive slave law overcame social, political, and legal challenges is one of the lessons of Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial, a well-researched and elegantly written monograph by Williams Memorial Professor of Law Steven Lubet. But the purpose of the study is not to measure the effectiveness of the law. Rather, Fugitive Justice explains how federal enforcement and prosecution of the law pushed abolitionist lawyers to advance radical legal theories in defense of the runaways and rescuers they represented. To do so, the monograph retells the stories of three high-profile fugitive slave trials in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Ohio, respectively, focusing acutely on the legal arguments delivered for and against the fugitive slave law during each case. In this way readers experience both the palpable drama of antebellum trials in the United States as well as the ideological and rhetorical battles among prosecutors, defense attorneys, U.S. commissioners, and federal judges.
The full review, which gives close attention to Lubet's sources and arguments, is here.