May 27, [1848.]
I recd. yesterday yr. favor of the 20th inst, advising me that the Committee on the case of the Washington Prisoners have selected me as one of their counsel. Please say to the Committee that my services are cordially, at their disposal: but I can recieve no fee in a case of this kind. The prisoners at Washington are hardly more interested than are their fellow citizens at large in the great question which must govern the determination of their case. I have for some years, entertained a clear opinion that slavery in the district of Columbia is unconstitutional — a manifest violation of the letter & spirit of that instrument — No man can hold another as his slave in District, with any better warrant of law, than in Massachusetts. Other considerations make this case one of peculiar interest to me. My first anti-slavery impressions were received in the District of Columbia. It happened to me to be concerned, though then a youth, in drawing up the celebrated petition for District Emancipation presented to Congress in 1828. I was first admitted to the bar, in the very Court in which the Prisoners are to be tried, & by the venerable Judge who now presides there. Thus the principles involved, the nature of the case, the place of trial, the court — all concur in persuading me to accept, as I do, your invitation to render what aid I may — not more to the prisoner than to the sacred cause of Constitutional Liberty, in conjunction with the distinguished gentlemen, with whom your choice associates me
With great respect & regard,
[SALMON P. CHASE.]
* From letter-book 6, pp. 139. Samuel E. Sewall, 1799-1888, a lawyer in Boston; was one of the founders of the New England Anti-Slavery Society and a generous supporter of "The Liberator" in its early days.
SOURCE: Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 133-4