LEMMON V. PEOPLE, 20 N.Y. 562 (1860), has the proud distinction of making the strongest statement against slavery by a high court of any pre-Civil War state, in the shadow of the infamous Dred Scott decision of the U. S. Supreme Court (1857). It was argued before a full 8-judge bench on January 24, 1860. A young antislavery attorney appeared as a special counsel for the State Chester A. Arthur, future President of the United States. In a 5-3 decision, Hiram Denio (1799-1871; Court of Appeals 1853-1865, Chief Judge 1856-1857, 1862- 1865), writing one of the two affirming decisions, stated:
. . . I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing in the National Constitution or the laws of Congress to preclude the State judicial authorities from declaring these slaves thus introduced into the territory of this State, free, and setting them at liberty. . .
And William B. Wright (1806-1868; Court of Appeals 1862-1868, Ex Officio 1847-48, 1856, 1860; Chief Judge 1868), affirmed with these stirring words:
Men are not the subject of property by such law, nor by any law, except that of the State in which the status exists; not even by the Federal Constitution, which is supposed by some to have been made only to guard and protect the rights of a particular race; for in that human beings, without regard to color or country, are treated as persons and not as property.
Portrait of Hon. Hiriam Denio, Albert M. Rosenblatt (editor), The Judges of the New York Court of Appeals, 46 (2007)
Portrait of Hon. William B. Wright, Id. at 78
N.Y. Court of Appeals Report of the Lemmon Slave Case, Horace Greely & Co. (1860), Courtesy of Millersville University & Dickinson College