State Rights In Wisconsin
John Fox Potter of Wisconsin
John Henninger Reagan of Texas
United States House of Representatives, January 4 1860

Mr. REAGAN. I said I have been informed that the supreme court of Wisconsin liberated a fugitive slave; that an appeal was taken by the owner to the Federal court; that the judgment was reversed by that court, and a mandate sent to the State court commanding it to execute the decree of the United States court, and that that court failed and refused to execute the mandate of he Federal court to return the slave.


Mr POTTER. The supreme court of Wisconsin needs no defense, nor is this the proper tribunal in which to defend that court. I was not sent here to defend the action of the supreme court of Wisconsin. The action of that court is before the country, and the decisions of that court are recorded. They have decided that the fugitive slave law is unconstitutional, and the People of that State - I speak without reference to party - agree to that decision.

Mr. REAGAN. Am I correct in saying that they refused to obey the mandate of the Federal court?

Mr. POTTER. The Federal court never had jurisdiction of that case; it was decided by the supreme court of Wisconsin. And even if the supreme court of Wisconsin had denied the right of the Federal court to arevise a decisio of the supreme court of Wisconsin, that court has a precedent for taking that course.

Mr. REAGAN. I desire to be informed as to a matter of fact. Do I understand the gentleman to take a distinction between the right to jurisdiction in the Federal court and the exercise of jurisdiction by that court? Did the Federal court exercise jurisdiction either rightfully or otherwise in revising and reversing the decision of the court of Wisconsin?

Mr. POTTER. No, sir; the Federal court never had the case at all. They never got possession of it. It never was certified up from the supreme court of the State of Wisconsin to the United States court. The supreme court of Wisconsin refused to certify the case up.

Mr. REAGAN. Then I am to understand that they refused to obey the mandate of the Supreme Court of the United States directing them to certify the case up?

Mr. POTTER. Yes, sir; they did.


The Congressional Globe, The Official Proceedings of Congress, Published by John C. Rives, Washington, D. C.
Thirty-Sixth Congress, 1st Session,
New Series...No. 21, Thursday, January 5, 1860, page 333.