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THE THOMAS SIMS CASE In the Super Supreme Court of Massachusetts, 1854

The defendant, having been arrested and imprisoned under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, was denied his petition for a writ of habeas corpus and ordered returned to the State of Georgia into the custody of his owner, James Potter. He brings a petition of error before this Court and prays for issue of the writ, that he may have the lawfulness of his imprisonment tried upon his discharge. The facts sufficiently appear in the opinion of the Chief Justice.

TRUEPENNY, C.J. The defendant is a colored person living in Boston, Massachusetts. Upon complaint of John B. Bacon of Savannah, Georgia, acting as agent and attorney of James Potter of Chatham, Georgia, the defendant was arrested pursuant to a warrant issued by George T. Curtis, Commissioner of the Circuit Court of the United States for the Massachusetts District, charging the defendant with being a fugitive from labor, and

with having escaped from Georgia whilst owing service or labor to said Potter. U.S. Marshal Charles Deven and U.S. Deputy Marshal Frederick D. Byrnes, acting under direction of the warrant, arrested and imprisoned the defendant on the 4th of April, 1851. The defendant claims via petition, both signed and sworn to by him, that he was free, and not a slave. The defendant prayed for a writ of habeas corpus so that he may be discharged from his imprisonment and brought before a court to have his case heard. Counsel for the defendant asked the court to consider, first, whether Congress has authority to pass any law on the subject of fugitive slaves and, second, if it does, the constitutionality of the law it passed. Specifically, counsel for the defendant asked the court to consider the constitutionality of the portion of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that vests authority in a commissioner to determine summarily,…...

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