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History of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) online

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family have l)een disregarded and turned out as vagabonds by due
course of law. If anything on the face of the eartii needs civilizing, it

83 ConTention Debates of Michigan, 1850, p. 240.
ti« Convention nehatps of Mii-hiran. ]s.")i), p. 4L'.s.


is legislation. The spirit of aggressive capital is aggressive. It has no
limit, no boundaries controlling the legislation of the world, it has been
-resistless in sway. It never tires, it never sleeps, soulless, remorseless,
merciless, conscienceless, it presses forward regardless of the dying and
the dead. Legislation is beginning to relax its iron grasp and is already
in the process of civilization. So man is above money. In all the
exigencies of business, the changes of fortune are over-turning the affairs
of life. It is just that man and family should not bear the entire burden
of misfortune, and mone.y and capital which are less than man. wholly
escape. Let wealth bear the burden and humanity be spared. The home-
stead should be free, inviolable. No man, no woman, no child, no family
should be driven from the home because the hand of adversity presses
them. The state is bound to protect, not to crush. Free religion, free
schools, free trade and free homes are essential elements of liberty. The
home must he inviolate, or liberty is but a name, and freedom a mockery.
Man without a liome is an outcast. lie has been robbed of his birth-
right l)y tlie strong arm of government under the control of wealth.
Man has a natural right to the free use of the air, it is essential to
his existence. So is water, he cannot exist without it. The same is true
of light. Man would droop and die without it. But the right
to these essential elements is no more clear, no more certain than the
right of man to a place on this earth. This right is clearly inalienable.
To deprive any man ni' any family of a home and turn tliem out as
vagabonds under any jin-tcnse whatever is t\Tanny. It is tyramiy of
the most atrocious rliai-ncter. A man without a home, what is he?
Robbed of his birthrigiit, he becomes an outcast, and is made so by
law. If society, il' the state has a right to do this, it has a rij.'ht to put
him out of the way, he with his family have no liusiiiess to lixc '" '•'-• These
extracts show the character of the speech. Seldom if e\er has so forci-
ble, able and convincing an argument been made in supijort of any
measure in the legislative history of the state. Tlie ma.iorit>- report of
the committee was annihilated, and as a result, on the second of August
the minority report was aihipled liy an (i\-er\\lieliiiiim' iiKi.joi'ity in the
convention, and the llonies1e;i(l ivxciuiitioii Law as diawii 1)\- .\li-. Pierce
became Section XXI of our stale eonstitulion. The priiu-ipU' was adopt-
ed for all time. Thus by means of the humane foresight, masterly effort
and progressive statesmanship of John D. Pierce, the sanctity and
security of evei\v home in Michigan was guaranteed by constitutional
enactment. During this historical debate, the honor of being the father
of the Homestead Exemption Act and of the policy in IMichigan was
repeatedly conceded to Mr. Pierce."''

In this great effort, Jlr. Pierce was aided and supported not only
by the vote and counsel of his great associate in the educational fields,
Isaac E. Crary, but also by his neighbors. Nathan Pierce and Milo Soule,
of Marengo, and William V. Morrison, of Albion, his colleagues from the
county in the convention.

The ITomestead exemption policy was adopted by the legislature

«5 Convention Debates of Michigan, 1850, pp. 656-66],
«» Convention Debates of Michigan, 1850, pp. 6.57-660.


March 'i'ltli. 1S4S. and it was inserted in tlie new i-onstitulion, Au^nist
2nd, 1850. Jlieliigan was tlie first free state to adopt the measure, and
practically was the pioneer in that hmnane legislation. But other
states, perceiving the wisdom and benefits of this i)rogressive measure,
have copied our statute and constitution in rapid succession, xintil now,
the home and the family are protected from misfortune and improvi-
dence by this policy in almost every state. Pennsylvania and Vermont
adopted this policy 1849; ^Maine, New York, and Ohio in 18r)0; New
Hampshire, ilassachusetts, Illinois and Iowa in 1851 ; Indiana and
Louisiana in 1852 ; and the federal government in 1862. Many other
states have exempted homesteads by legislative enactments from sale on
execution for payment of debts; and to-day, in over forty states in the
Union, the home and family are protected by the humane measure, so
thoughtfully evolved and formulated, so progressively presented and so
earnestly and ably advocated by John D. Pierce sixty yeai'S ago.''"

John 1). Picrcr was without question, the aullioi' and fathrr of tlie
homestead exeuiptiou laws of Michigan, and tlie ilicliigan policy was
copied in substance by nearly all the other states. But history does
not sustain the claim that he was the originator of the policy. The
principle upon which homestead exemption laws rest is claimed to be
the dictate of enlightened public policy. "The system is an evolution
from Christian impulses, patriotic devotion and wise statesmanship."
Mr. Pierce in his effort was inspired by these motives and not by prece-
dent. It will be remembered that in 1820, Thomas Benton opposed the
practice of selling public lauds for money and advocated the policy of
distributing them to actual settlers. Said he in the Senate : ' ' The free-
holder is the natural supporter of a free government. Tenantry is
unfavorable to freedom. The tenant has in fact, no country, no hearth,
no domestic altar, no household gods. It should be the policy of re-
publics to nuiltiply their free-holders." This was the policy of that
great statesman in 1820.''* John D. Pierce perfected Benton's concep-
tion and policy of statesmanship by making the home of the free-holder
inalienable for the payment of debts, and the Benton policy as perfected
by the Pierce safeguard, was adopted as the free homestead laws of the
United States in 1862, and is now the law of the land, and the "free-
holder hearths, domestic altar and household gods," thanks to the
statesmanship of Benton and Pierce, are safe and beyond the reach of
misfortune and improvidence.

The Republic of Texas in 1839, adopted the first homestead exemi)-
tion law on this continent."^ This short-lived republic has therefore

6T American Law RegLster (It. S.), Vol. I, pp. 641-765, Vol. X, p. 156; 2 Cyclo-
psedia of Political Science, Political Economy and United States History, p. 462;
Thompson on Homesteads and Exemptions, note 2 of reference; 51 New Hamp-
shire Reports, pp. 252-261, Barney vs. Lamb.

08 Benton's Thirty Years in tiie Senate, Vol. I. pp. 103, 104; 2 Cyclopa'dia of Po-
litical Economy and tjnited States History, p. 463.

09 2 Cyclopsdia of Political Science and Political Economy and United States
History, p. 465; 14 Texas Report, p. 599, Cook vs. Coleman.


contributed at least one measure of progressive statesmanship of lasting
benefit to mankind. It was drawn by some master legal mind, possessing
that comprehensive foresight and sagacity which can only be acquired
by long experience and careful study. It is a model, so far as it goes,
that has not yet been excelled. As the first Homestead exemption law of
the land, and as the contribution of a former American republic to
human progress, it is entitled to a place in this paper. The following is
the complete statute:

An Act, entitled "An act to exempt certain property therein named
from execution. " Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of
Representatives of the Republic of Texas in Congress assembled : That
from and after the passage of this act, there shall be reserved to every
citizen or head of a family to this republic free and independent of the
power of a writ of Scire Facias or other execution issuing from any
court of competent jurisdiction whatever, fifty acres of land or one town
lot including his or her homestead and improvements not exceeding five
hundred dollars in value, all household and kitchen furniture (provided
that they do not exceed in value two hundred dollars), all implements
of husbandry (providing that they do not exceed fifty dollars in value)
all tools, appurtenances and books belonging to the trade or profession
of anj^ citizen, five milch cows, one yoke of work oxen or one horse,
twenty hogs and one year's provisions; and that all laws and parts of
laws contravening or opposing the provisions of this act, be, and the
same are hereby repealed. Provided, The passage of this, act shall not
interfere with contracts with parties heretofore made.

John M. Hansford,
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
David G. Burnet,
President of the Senate.
Approved Jan. 29, 1837. Jlirabeau B. Lamar.'o

The state of Mississippi adopted a homestead exemption law January
22, 1841, and Georgia adopted such an act December 11th, 1841."!
"While these acts antedate the ]\Iichigan law, a comparison shows that the
latter was not copied from the former. Mr. Pierce seems to have grasped
the principle and to have formulated the law as an evolution from his
own heart and brain. The homestead exemption law is of recent origin
and one of the numerous modifications of the severity of the common
law that has been adopted during the existence of our State. These laws
had no place in our law reports until 1851. And they had no name or
place on the law digests until 1856.''2 Tj^g homestead exemption laws in
the various states vary in amount, quantity and value. Some attach as

'0 Mirabeau B. Lamar, brother of Lucius Quintus Cinciunatus Lamar, the jurist,
was born in Louisville, Georgia, Aug. 16, 1798, and died in Richmond, Texas, Dec.
19, 1859. In 1835 he emigrated to Texas and was active in its movements for
independence. He filled many military and political offices and in 1838 was chosen
president, serving until 1841. During his presidency Texas became a recognized
republic. Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography.

"11 American Law Register (M. S.), 645.

72 1 American Law Register (M. S.), 642.


a vested right. Others vest upon ehiiniiiig- such rights. Some are
secured by legislative euactment and others by constitutional provision,
but all are based upon the same plan and arc intended to presel•^'e the
home and to protect the family as a rule of public policy, and such
measures have the approval of enlightened civilization.

How few realize what blessings they have received and under what
lasting obligations the}' are to this pioneer citizen of Marshall. Today,
nearlj' three millions of people of ]\Iichigau live in their homes, as their
fathers for sixty years have lived, secure under the protection conceived,
formulated, and obtained for them by the genius and statesmanship of
John D. Pierce. Today nearly eighty million American citizens live in
tranquil and secure homes as a result of the measure of JMarshall's
pioneer benefactor. How many who have passed away, how many who
are residents of foreign provinces adopting his system, and how many
generations to come, are and will be his beneficiaries! He rescued the
home, that pound of fiesh nearest the heart, from the power of the .soul-
less, heartless, exacting creditor. This homestead exemption policy has
developed more resources, added more production, accumulated more
wealth, secured more patriotic free-holders and at the same time has
caused more tranquility, avoided more anxiety and produced more
happiness in our country than any other measure. Time would be too
short to enumerate all its blessings. John Howard Paine embalmed the
home sentiment in song, "Home, Sweet Home," which has immortalized
the author. John D. Pierce enshrined the home itself with all its senti-
ments, with all its shrines and witli all its household gods in protecting
statutes and in shielding constitutional enactments, wliich together with
his achievements for education, should immortalize his name as the guar-
dian statesman of the home, the family and the school.


Small causes soimtimes produce great results, and local events often
project forcis that destroy institutions and revolutionize nations. Such
an event occ-uriid in Alarshall, January 26, 1847. An attempt will be
made to glance at that event, state the issue therein joined, mention
some of the parties, designate some of the fields of contest, and trace
it to its final results. It will be remembered that African slavery then
existed under the law of fifteen^ states of the Union, recognized by the
Federal Constitution as it then existed, and was protected by the Fugitive
Slave Law of 1793. The ilexican war, brought on and prosecuted to
extend slave territory, was in progress, and that Wilmot Proviso, a
measure to limit slave territory, was then pending and being debated in
Congress. The federal government was in control of the slave power.
Lewis Cass was seeking the nomination for President from tlie Demo-
cratic party and was endeavoring to win the support of the slave states.
The underground railroad extending from ^lason and Dixon's line to
Canada, under the management of slave-hating Quakers and liberty
loving Puritans, was in active operation; transportation for fugitive
slaves was free. Such were the conditions when the drama herein out-
lined was enacted.


Adam Crosswhite, his wife and four children born in Kentucky, and
one child born in ilichigan, had for some time been living in a little
cottage on East Mansion street in Marshall near the outskirts of the
village. The parents and the four older children were fugitive slaves
and under the laws of Kentucky, were the property of one Francis Gilt-
ner of Carroll County, that State, while the youngest child born in
Marshall was free under the laws of Michigan. Crosswhite was a
mulatto, his mother a slave and his father, his first master. He was
tall, a man of marked physique, intelligent, industrious and a good
citizen. He had purchased his home and was paying for it by install-
ments. If not the original George Harris of Uncle Tom's Cabin, he
)>elonged to the same type of manhood and he had made many friends
in the little hamlet. About forty colored people, some slave and some
free-horn then lived in the village. Rumors had been atloat and fears
had been entertained that this family would be kidnapped or captured
and returned to bondage, which resulted in an understanding l)etween
;\Ir. Crosswhite and his friends that sliould such an attempt be made,
he should fire a gun as an alarm and that all should be on the alert.

In Deceml)er, 1846, a young mau hy the name of Francis Troutman
came to Marshall as a stranger and claimed to be a lawyer looking for
a desirable location. He remained in town some time, and a suspicion
was aroused that he was a slave-hunter on the track of fugitive slaves
from labor. These apprehensions disturbed the tranquility of the little
Puritan village, and developments were awaited in feveri.sh solicitude.

On the 26tli of January, 1847, about four o'clock in the morning,
Francis Troutman. David Giltner, Franklin Ford, and John S. Lee of
Kentucky, heavily armed, and Harvey M. Dixon, of ilarshall, a deputy
sheriff went to the Crosswhite home to seize the family under the
Fu-ilivc Sl.iNc l>ii\v (if 171)3 and return tlinu 1o bdiuhmv. ' It was long
licfoiv 111,' liulit (.f d;iy. but Adam Ci-,iss\\iiit.' was

Online LibraryWashington GardnerHistory of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 74)