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Bayard Marin is growing muttonchops. Harvey B. Rubenstein is going for a full beard. Even former Delaware Governor Pierre S. du Pont has plans for sideburns. If this sounds so 19th century, it is. These three Wilmington, Del., lawyers, along with other members of the bar and a couple of retired judges, have been recruited for a courtroom scene in “Whispers of Angels”, a documentary in the works about Thomas Garrett, the famous Delaware abolitionist who helped nearly 3,000 slaves escape before the Civil War. Garrett is being played by actor Ed Asner, who has a passing resemblance to him, but the extras are strictly local. Lawyers or not, they have been given little or nothing to say. Nor are they even being paid. They’re just supposed to sit there and look antebellum. The shooting is sometime next month at the Old New Castle Courthouse, which really was the site where Garrett was sued in 1848 in federal court by two Maryland slaveholders for helping an African-American family flee to freedom. He lost. The documentary is a project jointly conceived by the Quaker Hill Historic Preservation Foundation, located in Garrett’s old Wilmington stamping grounds, and Teleduction, a Wilmington-based independent production studio run by Sharon Kelly Baker. It will be distributed to schools and colleges with perhaps a more general circulation, as well. This will be a fine promotion piece for Delaware and the Underground Railroad, said Marin, owner of the sprouting muttonchops. In addition to being a sole practitioner, Marin heads the Quaker Hill preservation group. The documentary is being recorded both as a film and videotape. It helps to be a sponsor. Marin gets to portray the only good guy in the courtroom sequence other than Garrett himself and John Hunn, a fellow defendant and abolitionist from Middletown, Del. Marin will be John Wales, the lawyer who represented them. “I always get the good part,” Marin quipped. CHIEF JUSTICE AT TRIAL The trial was held before a two-judge panel of Willard Hall, the U.S. District judge in Delaware, and Roger B. Taney, the chief justice then on circuit duty and later to be linked forever to the Dred Scott case, upholding the rights of slaveholders even on free soil. Vincent A. Bifferato Sr. and William T. Quillen, a couple of recently retired Superior Court judges, have been asked to act the parts of the federal jurists. No word on who plays whom. History will be followed as closely as possible by the lawyer portraying the plaintiffs’ attorney. Back in 1848 it was James Bayard. Next month it will be his descendant, James A. Bayard Jr. of the Public Defenders Office. The Bayards have been lawyers and politicians in Delaware since the dawning of the Republic, with an early ancestor serving in the Continental Congress. The rest of the lawyers in the documentary will be jurors or alternates. Pete du Pont is the foreman, bringing along so many other partners from Richards Layton & Finger that they are clearly stacking this jury. Also from the Wilmington firm are Richard G. Elliott Jr., Wendell Fenton, Daniel M. Kristol and John A. Parkins Jr. The jury also includes Victor F. Battaglia Sr. of Biggs & Battaglia, John A. Herdeg of Herdeg du Pont & Dalle Pazza, Michael S. Purzycki of the Riverfront Development Corp., sole practitioners Walter S. Rowland and Harvey Rubenstein, U.S. Attorney Carl Schnee, Robert B. Young of Young & Young, and Stuart B. Young of Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor. All are from Wilmington except Robert Young, who practices in Dover, Del. Garrett lived from 1789 to 1871, long enough not only to champion the abolition of slavery but also women’s suffrage, according to historian John A. Munroe in “The History of Delaware.” Born in Pennsylvania, he was an iron merchant who moved to Wilmington, Del., in 1822 and lived on Shipley Street. WORKED WITH TUBMAN Like many antislavery leaders of his day, Garrett was a Quaker. He worshipped at the Friends Meeting House at Fourth and West streets in Wilmington’s Quaker Hill neighborhood and was buried there. One of the famous abolitionists with whom he worked on the Underground Railroad was Harriet Tubman, which is the reason there is a park named for the two of them at Wilmington’s riverfront. The trial of Thomas Garrett and John Hunn was an example of Delaware’s ambivalent attitude toward slavery, a reflection of the state’s ambiguous geography as the only state located east of the Mason-Dixon Line. There were abolitionists and slaveholders here, and although Delaware never seceded, the electorate voted against Abraham Lincoln. Twice. The trial began on May 24, 1848, and lasted for five days, according to an account in “Federal Justice in the First State” by historian Carol Hoffecker. Maryland slaveholders Charles W. Glanding and Elizabeth N. Turner demanded damages from the defendants, charging them with helping in the escape of the family of Samuel Hawkins, a freeman whose wife and children were slaves in their households. The jury found for the plaintiffs. Hunn was ordered to pay $2,500 and Garrett $5,400, enough to force him to sell his business. Nevertheless, Garrett told Chief Justice Taney, “Thou hast not left me a dollar, but I … say to thee and to all in this courtroom, that if anyone knows of a fugitive who wants shelter … send him to Thomas Garrett, and he will befriend him.” The documentary already has acquired one critic. It is former Delaware first lady Elise R.W. du Pont. She protested that while John Hunn is a lateral ancestor of hers, it was Pete du Pont who was recruited to be the jury foreman. Even though women were excluded from juries in those days, Elise du Pont still felt overlooked in favor of her husband. “He gets all the glory,” she said.

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