1845 Autograph Letter Signed by Jurist John Kintzing Kane, presiding Judge of the Fugitive Slave Law Trial of Passmore Williamson.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs. the Delaware Coal Company


Jurist John Kintzing Kane (1795–1858) was the father of noted Arctic explorer Elisha Kent Kane. Judge Kane was best known for his pro-slavery decision, ten years after the publication of this letter in 1855, in the case of abolitionist Passmore Williamson who challenged the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

This 1845 letter is written by Kane as Pennsylvania Attorney General to Pennsylvania State Treasurer, the Honorable J.R. Snowden. Kane asks Snowden “...the means of assessing the damages in the case” of Dechert vs. Porter which was then provisionally settled in court, though not yet finally decided.

Kane further discusses “...the case of the Comm[onweal]th. vs. the Delaware Coal Company” adding that he has “...instituted proceedings to have the amount definitely fixed and the money collected.” Kane goes on to refer to some trouble with the Treasurer’s office:

If there are in your office any letters from my predecessor on the subject of this suit, I shall be pleased to examine them; as I apprehend that there has heretofore been some misapprehension as to the sum due to the Treasury.

Interestingly, Kane’s predecessor as attorney general, Ovid F. Johnson, was himself involved with a fugitive slave case, Prigg vs. Pennsylvania. Johnson’s case was partly based on the earlier Fugitive Slave Act of 1793.


Description: 1845 Autograph Letter Signed by Jurist John Kintzing Kane, presiding Judge of the Fugitive Slave Law Trial of Passmore Williamson.

Philadelphia. August 19, 1845. Quarto, [1]p., bifolium, docketed, on pale blue paper. Transmittal folds, several with small splits; very good.

[3726191]

Price: $125.00

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