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Hofstra Law Review


Mr. Haley is one of the most memorable villains in all of American fiction. A “coarse” slave-trader whose “swaggering air of pretension” enrages readers of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin from his appearance in the opening scene, Haley does his part to fulfill the novel’s purpose of strengthening the abolitionist cause. He is also not entirely fictional, and his creation is part of the constitutional history of the United States.

The real Haley was John Caphart, a slave-catcher hired by John DeBree of Norfolk, Virginia to capture Shadrach Minkins—an enslaved man who in 1851 fled from Virginia to Boston. Minkins was arrested and held at a Boston courthouse. Hundreds of antislavery activists crowded the courthouse, calling for his release. He was rescued by about twenty people who broke through the doors and shepherded him through the streets; abolitionists then helped him escape to Canada. The rescue of Shadrach led to the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; Caphart served as a witness in the trial of Robert Morris, the second Black lawyer admitted to practice in Massachusetts.

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College of Law



Suggested Citation

Evan D. Bernick, Fourtheenth Amendment Confrontation, 51 Hofstra L. Rev. 1 (2022).



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