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To Joseph Hopkinson

     I hasten, my dear Sir, to answer your favor of the 20th recd. yesterday.

     My opinion has always been, that the evidence required by the 3d Sect. of the fugitive Act was not intended to be restrained by the strict rules which govern in ordinary cases where personal rights form the subject of a trial. I have supposed that the fugitive being first proved to be a slave by evidence satisfactory to the Judge, as for example that the reputed female parent had been held in slavery, or that the fugitive was so at the time of his elopement, the evidence that the fugitives does, owe service or labor to the person claiming himis sufficient, if it conform literally to the requirements of this section.

     Your opinion respecting notice corresponds precisely with mine, and for the reason you assign, which applies I think, to all the other technical rules of evidence. The language of the Sect. seems to me to be imperative on the Judge, that the fact of service due to the claimant being proved by affidavit or oral testimony, the certificate shall be given. The enquiry before the Judge is of course summary, and the sole object of it is to decide the question of removal. His Judgment, or order, decides no right, either of the fugitive or of third persons claiming title to him. my opinion of course is, that ex parte affadavits were intended by the law, and that the ownership of the claimant may be proved by them, or by oral testimony, without producing the written evidences of title. Believe me to be, my dear Sir, most truly yr Affect. friend

Bush. Washington

Source Note

ALS, PHi: Hopkinson Family Papers.