Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Swan, Joseph Rockwell

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SWAN, Joseph Rockwell, jurist, b. in Westernville, Oneida co., N.Y., 28 Dec., 1802; d. in Columbus, Ohio, 18 Dec., 1884. He was educated in Aurora, N.Y., and in 1824 removed to Columbus, Ohio, where he studied law in the office of his uncle, Judge Gustavus Swan, was admitted to the bar, and practised in Franklin and the adjoining counties. In 1830 he was made prosecuting attorney, and in 1834 he was elected judge of the court of common pleas, but he resigned this post in 1845, and practised his profession until 1854. In that year he was elected judge of the supreme court, serving until 1859, when his most important decision was delivered. The supreme court of the state, under a writ of habeas corpus, sought to override the judgment of the U.S. district court in Ohio in attempting to discharge from jail a prisoner that had been sentenced by the court for a violation of the fugitive-slave law. Judge Swan decided that the state could not interfere with the action of the U.S. courts, and the discharge of the prisoner was refused. At the same time he said that if he were appealed to personally he would protect any slave from his pursuers. He was the author of important statutes that were passed by the legislature, and a delegate to the Constitutional convention of Ohio in 1850. In 1860 he became president of the Columbus and Xenia railroad, and from that time till 1876 he acted as solicitor for several railroads. He published “Treatise on Justices of the Peace and Constables in Ohio” (Columbus, 1836; 12th ed., 1885); “Statutes of Ohio” (1841); “Manual for Executors and Administrators” (1843); “Practice in Civil Actions and Proceedings at Law in Ohio and Precedents and Practice” (2 vols., 1845); “Swan's Pleading and Practice” (2 vols., 1851); “Commentaries on Pleadings under the Ohio Code” (Cincinnati, 1860); and “Supplement to the Revised Statutes of Ohio, etc., in Force August, 1868,” with notes by Milton Sayler (1869).