This 1959 letter to Virginia Governor Wise from John Randolph Tucker, Virginia’s Attorney-General at the time.
Gov. Henry A. Wise
It outlines Virginia’s legal assertion that it had the right to censor the mail and prosecute those importing Abolitionist literature into the state of Virginia. It details the process of destroying material by fire in the presence of a judge.
Tucker skirts the First Amendment issues and focuses on the Postal Service’s role as a delivery system as opposed to a role akin to a publisher.
Tucker (1823–1897) was from a distinguished slaveholding family, he was elected Virginia’s attorney general in 1857 and after re-election served during the American Civil War. After a pardon and Congressional Reconstruction, Tucker was elected as U.S. Congressman (1875-1887), and later served as the first dean of the Washington and Lee University Law School.
The letter opens Willam Lloyd Garrison’s book, The new “reign of terror” in the slaveholding states, for 1859-60, published in New York in 1860.
Authorised Violation of the Mail
RICHMOND, Nov. 26th, 1859.
John Randolph Tucker
SIR, -The question is submitted to me for an Opinion as to the effect of the law of Virginia upon the distribution of mail matter when it is of an incendiary character. A newspaper, printed in the State of Ohio, propagating abolition doctrines, is sent to a person through a post ofiice in Virginia.
What is the duty of the Postmaster in the premises?
The law of Virginia (Code of Va., chap. 198, sec. 24) provides that:
“If a Postmaster or Deputy Postmaster know that any such book or writing (referring to such as advise or incite negroes to rebel or make insurrection, or inculcate resistance to the right of property of masters in their slaves) has been received at his office in the mail, he shall give notice thereof to some Justice, who shall inquire into the circumstances, and have such book or writing burned in his presence if it appear to him that the person to whom it was directed subscribed therefor, knowing its character, or agreed to receive it for circulation to aid the purposes of abolitionists, the Justice shall commit such person to jail. If any Postmaster or Deputy Postmaster violate this section, he shall be fined not exceeding two hundred dollars.”
This ran in Chicago’s Day Book on January 17, 1916. Fine work there officers!
DAILY NEWS AD LEADS TO POLICE RAID
Police Official Suspicious of “Position for Woman” Ad.
Another proof that (Chicago) Daily News want ads are fine tools in crooked hands is contained in a story that broke in the morals court today.
Captain Meagher looked through the Daily News ads one day last week as he sat in his station at 2138 N. California av. He noticed one that didn’t look quite right to him. This ad called for a housekeeper. An easy job was open with good wages, it said. Applicants could call “Albany4336.”
Meagher told Policewoman Anna Schumann to call the number and answer the ad and she did. She was told to come to 3876 W. Grand Avenue for work.
At this address was a saloon, and Miss Schumann applied to the flat above. She was given such an enthusiastic welcome that she grew suspicious of the place from the start. She chatted with the men and women in the flat and answered their questions readily.
After sometime she says, the purpose of the want ad appeared. She was offered a chance to solicit men in the saloon below, she says. Her board and room would be furnished her and she could have half of what she managed to “get from the men. She could take the men from the saloon to her room upstairs, she says she was told.
Miss Schumann acted as though she thought the proposition a good one and told them she had a friend who would like to come to the place under the same terms. Then she left. Straight to Cap’t Meagher she went with the story and he sent her back, this time with Policewoman Mary Hoover by her side and a squad of detectives following her.
No sooner did the policewomen gain entrance than a squad of detectives knocked at the door of the flat. They were admitted by the women sleuths and the place was raided. Eight men and women were arrested, including the owner of the saloon, Mrs. Mary Becker, and her bar tender, Ulysses Smith. They were sent to the morals court on charge of being inmates of a disorderly house.
Cap’t Meagher is glad he watched the News ads so carefully that night “Just suppose,” he said today, “that a young, innocent girl had seen the ad and had gone there to get work as housekeeper. What would have become of her? If we hadn’t noticed the phone number and decided to investigate there is no way of telling how many women might have been taken into the place on promise of a job.”
Source: The Day Book., January 17, 1916
The Day Book was an experimental, advertising-free daily newspaper published in Chicago from 1911 to 1917. It was owned by E. W. Scripps as part of the Scripps-McRae League of Newspapers (later Scripps-Howard Newspapers).
With the Day Book, Scripps sought to eliminate the often adversarial relationship between his editorial staffs and the advertisers that sustained them. To his disappointment, pressure from the business community had at times forced the Cincinnati Post to temper its firebrand campaigns against bossism and cronyism. The Day Book began publishing on September 28, 1911. Like his other penny presses, the Day Book championed labor rights while delivering a mix of politics and lowbrow, sensational content.
Youth Held in Jail Without Booking Since Last Friday
Judge in Boys’ Court Calls the Case Outrageous
Advises Boy to Sue Police
Police Hide Boy for Three Days
Just how rotten a stunt the police can pull on a young fellow, or on anybody was queried in the boys ‘court this morning when Judge Fisher balled some coppers out and turned Walter Allan, 5345 Blackstone Ave., out in the open air after three days in the lock-up.
Allan was grabbed Dec. 3 that’s way last Friday by Officers, McGuire, Higgins, Tapscott, as they were signed on the booking sheet, because he happened to look like one of the boys who were throwing stones in the neighborhood of 1505 B. 63rd St. way last October.
The boy was taken to jail and not booked until this morning. He was held three days, under no booking, but just because he happened to look like one of the stone throwers. This morning he was booked for breaking a window and brought into the boys’ court
And then Judge Fisher took a hand. He celebrated his first day on the boy’s court bench by taking a
good hard, and direct, wallop at the methods of the police.
“If such a case as this comes into this court again while I am here I will send for the officers and the captain of the district -to explain things,” Fisher said.
“The whole affair is an outrage. It’s rank police methods. The idea of holding a boy, or anybody else, in jail for three days without even booking him!”
Fisher then advised the boy to sue the city and the officers and turned him loose.
B. Simon, store owner, who had complained of the stone throwing, absolutely failed to identify Allan as one of the boys.
Source: The Day Book, December 06, 1915
A few weeks later The Day Book provided this update to Judge Fisher’s activity on the bench.