From Andy Craig for Congress, Libertarian (WI-4):
On March 10, 1854, an angry mob descended on the federal jail and courthouse in downtown Milwaukee. Local newspaper editor Sherman Booth, founder of the anti-slavery Liberty Party rallied over 5,000 residents of the city, riding through the streets proclaiming “Freemen, to the rescue!”
Joshua Glover was an escaped slave, and under the laws of Wisconsin he was a free man. The day prior, federal agents had kidnapped Glover from his home in Racine, and were holding him in the Milwaukee jail to be returned to his supposed owner in Missouri. Under the Fugitive Slave Act, Glover had no presumption of innocence, no due process of law, and wasn’t even allowed to speak on his own behalf at the perfunctory hearing where a federal judge rubber-stamped his extradition.
Wisconsin was founded as a free state, and its citizens were determined to keep it that way. Responding to Booth’s call, they rushed the jail, smashed down the door with a log, freed Glover from his cell, and successfully smuggled him via a series of safe-houses to Canada, where he lived the rest of his life a free man.
That incident would be worth remembering on its own, as the day the Milwaukee united to free a single victim of injustice. However the story does not end there. Sherman Booth was prosecuted for violating the Fugitive Slave Act. When a federal jury in Madison convicted him, he appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus. Our state’s highest court found that the Fugitive Slave Act was not only unconstitutional, but it was so repugnant and abhorrent as to be null and void in Wisconsin, and ordered Booth’s release.
The slaveholder-dominated US Supreme Court attempted to hear an appeal to overturn the order freeing Booth. Wisconsin refused to send the transcripts of their decision to Washington, preventing the US Supreme Court from hearing the case for four years.
By then, the case was moot, because Sherman Booth’s anti-slavery party, re-branded as the new Republican Party, had risen from sweeping statewide elections in Wisconsin, to electing a new President of the United States, prompting a civil war that would culminate in the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. The road to the abolition of slavery in the United States began on the streets of Milwaukee, and the men who stormed the jail that day in 1854.
Today, unfortunately, Milwaukee is a city that incarcerates more of its African-American citizens than the Jim Crow South. Failed economic policies, a disastrously inadequate education bureaucracy, and a pattern of petty harassment and racial bias in the criminal justice system, leads our city to being described in national headlines as “The Worst City to Be Black in America.”
Libertarians seek to rekindle the ideas of liberty, unity, and resistance that motivated the heroic rescue of Joshua Glover. In that spirit, Libertarians including Congressional candidate Andy Craig (WI-4) will be gathering at the historical marker in Cathedral Square Park on March 10 at 4:00 pm, to mark the 161st anniversary of the storming of the jail that once stood on that spot. Members of the public are invited to attend this informal commemoration, in the hope that Milwaukee and Wisconsin can once again forge a new way forward in the fight for liberty and justice for all.