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´╗┐Title: The Duty of Disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act - Anti-Slavery Tracts No. 9, An Appeal To The Legislators Of Massachusetts
Author: Child, Lydia Maria Francis, 1802-1880
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  "Thou shalt _not_ deliver unto his master the servant which is
   escaped from his master unto thee."--DEUT. 23:15.





I feel there is no need of apologizing to the Legislature of
Massachusetts because a woman addresses them. Sir Walter Scott says:
"The truth of Heaven was never committed to a tongue, however
feeble, but it gave a right to that tongue to announce mercy, while
it declared judgment." And in view of all that women have done, and
are doing, intellectually and morally, for the advancement of the
world, I presume no enlightened legislator will be disposed to deny
that the "truth of Heaven" _is_ often committed to them, and that
they sometimes utter it with a degree of power that greatly
influences the age in which they live.

I therefore offer no excuses on that score. But I do feel as if it
required some apology to attempt to convince men of ordinary
humanity and common sense that the Fugitive Slave Bill is utterly
wicked, and consequently ought never to be obeyed. Yet Massachusetts
consents to that law! Some shadow of justice she grants, inasmuch as
her Legislature have passed what is called a Personal Liberty Bill,
securing trial by jury to those claimed as slaves. Certainly it is
_something_ gained, especially for those who may get brown by
working in the sunshine, to prevent our Southern masters from taking
any of us, at a moment's notice, and dragging us off into perpetual
bondage. It is _something_ gained to require legal proof that a man
is a slave, before he is given up to arbitrary torture and
unrecompensed toil. But is _that_ the measure of justice becoming
the character of a free Commonwealth? "_Prove_ that the man is
property, according _your_ laws, and I will drive him into your
cattle-pen with sword and bayonet," is what Massachusetts
practically says to Southern tyrants. "Show me a Bill of Sale from
the Almighty!" is what she _ought_ to say. No other proof should be
considered valid in a Christian country.

One thousand five hundred years ago, Gregory, a Bishop in Asia
Minor, preached a sermon in which he rebuked the sin of
slaveholding. Indignantly he asked, "Who can be the possessor of
human beings save God? Those men that you say belong to you, did not
God create them free? Command the brute creation; that is well. Bend
the beasts of the field beneath your yoke. But are your fellow-men
to be bought and sold, like herds of cattle? Who can pay the value
of a being created in the image of God? The whole world itself bears
no proportion to the value of a soul, on which the Most High has set
the seal his likeness. This world will perish, but the soul of man
is immortal. Show me, then, your titles of possession. Tell me
whence you derive this strange claim. Is not your own nature the
same with that of those you call your slaves? Have they not the same
origin with yourselves? Are they not born to the same immortal

Thus spake a good old Bishop, in the early years of Christianity.
Since then, thousands and thousands of noble souls have given their
bodies to the gibbet and the stake, to help onward the slow progress
of truth and freedom; a great unknown continent has been opened as a
new, free starting point for the human race; printing has been
invented, and the command, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do
unto you, do ye even so unto them," has been sent abroad in all the
languages of the earth. And here, in the noon-day light the
nineteenth century, in a nation claiming to be the freest and most
enlightened on the face of the globe, a portion the population of
fifteen States have thus agreed among themselves: "Other men shall
work for us, without wages while we smoke, and drink, and gamble,
and race horses, and fight. We will have their wives and daughters
for concubines, and sell their children in the market with horses
and pigs. If they make any objection to this arrangement, we will
break them into subjection with the cow-hide and the bucking-paddle.
They shall not be permitted to read or write, because that would be
likely to 'produce dissatisfaction in their minds.' If they attempt
to run away from us, our blood-hounds shall tear the flesh from
their bones, and any man who sees them may shoot them down like mad
dogs. If they succeed in getting beyond our frontier, into States
where it is the custom to pay men for their work, and to protect
their wives and children from outrage, we will compel the people of
those States to drive them back into the jaws of our blood-hounds."

And what do the people of the other eighteen States of that
enlightened country answer to this monstrous demand? What says
Massachusetts, with the free blood of the Puritans coursing in her
veins, and with the sword uplifted in her right hand, to procure
"peaceful repose under liberty"? Massachusetts answers: "O yes. We
will be your blood-hounds, and pay our own expenses. Only prove to
our satisfaction that the stranger who has taken refuge among us is
one of the men you have agreed among yourselves to whip into working
without wages, and we will hunt him back for you. Only prove to us
that this woman, who has run away from your harem, was bought for a
concubine, that you might get more drinking-money by the sale of the
children she bears you, and our soldiers will hunt her back with

Shame on my native State! Everlasting shame! Blot out the escutcheon
of the brave old Commonwealth! Instead of the sword uplifted to
protect liberty, let the slave-driver's whip be suspended over a
blood-hound, and take for your motto, Obedience to tyrants is the
highest law.

Legislators of Massachusetts, can it be that you really understand
what Slavery _is_, and yet consent that a fugitive slave, who seeks
protection here, shall be driven back to that dismal house of
bondage? For sweet charity's sake, I must suppose that you have been
too busy with your farms and your merchandise ever to have imagined
yourself in the situation of a slave. Let me suppose a case for you;
one of a class of cases occurring by hundreds every year. Suppose
your father was Governor of Carolina and your mother was a slave.
The Governor's wife hates your mother, and is ingenious in inventing
occasions to have you whipped. _You_ don't know the reason why,
poor child! but your mother knows full well. If they would only
allow her to go away and work for wages, she would gladly toil and
earn money to buy you. But that your father will not allow. His laws
have settled it that she is his property, "for all purposes
whatsoever," and he will keep her as long as suits his convenience.
The mistress continually insists upon her being sold far away South;
and after a while, she has her will. Your poor mother clings to you
convulsively; but the slave-driver gives you both a cut of his whip,
and tells you to stop your squalling. They drive her off with the
gang, and you never hear of her again; but, for a long time
afterward, it makes you very sad to remember the farewell look of
those large, loving eyes. Your poor mother had handsome eyes; and
that was one reason her mistress hated her.

You also are your father's property; and when he dies, you will be
the property of your whiter brother. You black his shoes, tend upon
him at table, and sleep on the floor in his room, to give him water
if he is thirsty in the night. You see him learning to read, and you
hear your father read wonderful things from the newspapers. Very
naturally, you want to read, too. You ask your brother to teach you
the letters. He gives you a kick, calls you a "damned nig," and
informs his father, who orders you to be flogged for insolence.
Alone on the hard floor at night, still smarting from your blows,
you ponder over the great mystery of knowledge and wonder why it
would do _you_ any more harm than it does your brother. Henceforth,
all scraps of newspapers you can find are carefully laid by.
Helplessly you pore over them, at stolen moments, as if you expected
some miracle would reveal the meaning of those printed signs.
Cunning comes to your aid. It is the only weapon of the weak against
the strong. When you see white boys playing in the street, you trace
a letter in the sand, and say, "My young master calls that B." "That
ain't B, you dammed nigger. That's A"! they shout. Now you know what
shape is A; and diligently you hunt it out wherever it is to be
found on your scraps of newspaper. By slow degrees you toil on, in
similar ways, through all the alphabet. No student of Greek or
Hebrew ever deserved so much praise for ingenuity and diligence. But
the years pass on, and still you cannot read. Your master-brother
now and then gives you a copper. You hoard them, and buy a primer;
screening yourself from suspicion, by telling the bookseller that
your master wants it for his sister's little boy. You find the
picture of a cat, with three letters by its side; and now you know
how cat is spelt. Elated with your wonderful discovery, you are
eager to catch a minute to study your primer. Too eager, alas! for
your mistress catches you absorbed in it, and your little book is
promptly burned. You are sent to be flogged, and your lacerated back
is washed with brine to make it heal quickly. But in spite of all
their efforts, your intelligent mind is too cunning for them. Before
twenty years have passed, you have stumbled along into the Bible;
alone in the dark, over a rugged road of vowels and consonants. You
keep the precious volume concealed under a board in the floor, and
read it at snatches, by the light of a pine knot. You read that God
has created of one blood all the nations of the earth; and that his
commandment is, to do unto others as we would that they should do
unto us. You think of your weeping mother, torn from your tender
arms by the cruel slave-trader; of the interdicted light of
knowledge; of the Bible kept as a sealed book from all whose skins
have a tinge of black, or brown, or yellow; of how those brown and
yellow complexions came to be so common; of yourself, the son of the
Governor, yet obliged to read the Bible by stealth, under the
penalty of a bleeding back washed with brine. These and many other
things revolve in your active mind, and your unwritten inferences
are worth whole folios of theological commentaries.

As youth ripens into manhood, life bears for you, as it does for
others, its brightest, sweetest flower. You love young Amy, with
rippling black hair, and large dark eyes, with long, silky fringes.
You inherit from your father, the Governor, a taste for beauty
warmly-tinted, like Cleopatra's. You and Amy are of rank to make a
suitable match; for you are the son of a Southern Governor, and she
is the daughter of a United States Senator, from the North, who
often shared her master's hospitality; her handsome mother being a
portion of that hospitality, and he being large-minded enough to
"conquer prejudices." You have good sympathy in other respects also,
for your mothers were both slaves; and as it is conveniently and
profitably arranged for the masters that "the child shall follow the
condition of the _mother_," you are consequently both of you slaves.
But there are some compensations for your hard lot. Amy's simple
admiration flatters your vanity. She considers you a prodigy of
learning because you can read the Bible, and she has not the
faintest idea how such skill can be acquired. She gives you her
whole heart, full of the blind confidence of a first love. The
divine spark, which kindles aspirations for freedom in the human
soul, has been glowing more and more brightly since you have emerged
from boyhood, and now her glances kindle it into a flame. For her
dear sake, you long to be a free man, with power to protect her from
the degrading incidents of a slave-girl's life. Wages acquire new
value in your eyes, from a wish to supply her with comforts, and
enhance her beauty by becoming dress. For her sake, you are
ambitious to acquire skill in the carpenter's trade, to which your,
master-brother has applied you as the best investment of his human
capital. It is true, he takes all your wages; but then, by acquiring
uncommon facility, you hope to accomplish your daily tasks in
shorter time, and thus obtain some extra hours to do jobs for
yourself. These you can eke out by working late into the night, and
rising when the day dawns. Thus you calculate to be able in time to
buy the use of your own limbs. Poor fellow! Your intelligence and
industry prove a misfortune. They charge twice as much for the
machine of your body on account of the soul-power which moves it.
Your master-brother tells you that you would bring eighteen hundred
dollars in the market. It is a large sum. Almost hopeless seems the
prospect of earning it, at such odd hours as you can catch when the
hard day's task is done. But you look at Amy, and are inspired with
faith to remove mountains. Your master-brother graciously consents
to receive payment by instalments. These prove a convenient addition
to the whole of your wages. They will enable him to buy a new race
horse, and increase his stock of choice wines. While he sleeps off
drunkenness, you are toiling for him, with the blessed prospect of
freedom far ahead, but burning brightly in the distance, like a
Drummond Light, guiding the watchful mariner over a midnight sea.

When you have paid five hundred dollars of the required sum, your
lonely heart so longs for the comforts of a home, that you can wait
no longer. You marry Amy, with the resolution of buying her also,
and removing to those Free States, about which you have often talked
together, as invalids discourse of heaven. Amy is a member of the
church, and it is a great point with her to be married by a
minister. Her master and mistress make no objection, knowing that
after the ceremony, she will remain an article of property, the same
as ever. Now come happy months, during which you almost forget that
you are a slave, and that it must be a weary long while before you
can earn enough to buy yourself and your dear one, in addition to
supporting your dissipated master. But you toil bravely on, and soon
pay another hundred dollars toward your ransom. The Drummond Light
of Freedom burns brighter in the diminished distance.

Alas! in an unlucky hour, your tipsy master-brother sees your gentle
Amy, and becomes enamored of her large dark eyes, and the rich
golden tint of her complexion. Your earnings and your ransom-money
make him flush of cash. In spite of all your efforts to prevent it,
she becomes his property. He threatens to cowhide you, if you ever
speak to her again. You remind him that she is your wife; that you
were married by a minister. "Married, you damned nigger!" he
exclaims; "what does a slave's marriage amount to? If you give me
any more of your insolence, you'll get a taste of the cowhide."

Anxious days and desolate nights pass. There is such a heavy pain at
your heart, it is a mystery to yourself that you do not die. At
last, Amy contrives to meet you, pale and wretched as yourself. She
has a mournful story to tell of degrading propositions, and terrible
threats. She promises to love you always, and be faithful to you
till death, come what may. Poor Amy! When she said that, she did not
realize how powerless is the slave, in the hands of an unprincipled
master. Your interview was watched, and while you were sobbing in
each other's arms, you were seized and ordered to receive a hundred
lashes. While you are lying in jail, stiff with your wounds, your
master-brother comes to tell you he has sold you to a trader from
Arkansas. You remind him of the receipt he has given you for six
hundred dollars, and ask him to return the money. He laughs in your
face, and tells you his receipt is worth no more than so much brown
paper; that no contracts with a slave are binding. He coolly adds,
"Besides, it has taken all my spare money to buy Amy." Perhaps you
would have killed him in that moment of desperation, even with the
certainty of being burnt to cinders for the deed, but you are too
horribly wounded by the lash to be able to spring upon him. In that
helpless condition, you are manacled and carried off by the
slave-trader. Never again will Amy's gentle eyes look into yours.
What she suffers you will never know. She is suddenly wrenched from
your youth, as your mother was from your childhood. The pall of
silence falls over all her future. She cannot read or write; and the
post-office was not instituted for slaves.

Looking back on that dark period of desolation and despair, you
marvel how you lived through it. But the nature of youth is elastic.
You have learned that law offers colored men nothing but its
_penalties_; that white men engross all its _protection_; still you
are tempted to make another bargain for your freedom. Your new
master seems easy and good-natured, and you trust he will prove more
honorable than your brother has been. Perhaps he would; but
unfortunately, he is fond of cards; and when you have paid him two
hundred dollars, he stakes them, and you also, at the gaming-table,
and loses. The winner is a hard man, noted for severity to his
slaves. Now you resolve to take the risk of running away, with all
its horrible chances. You hide in a neighboring swamp, where you are
bitten by a venomous snake, and your swollen limb becomes almost
incapable of motion. In great anguish, you drag it along, through
the midnight darkness, to the hut of a poor plantation-slave, who
binds on a poultice of ashes, but dares not, for fear of his life,
shelter you after day has dawned. He helps you to a deep gully, and
there you remain till evening, half-famished for food. A man in the
neighborhood keeps blood-hounds, well trained to hunt runaways. They
get on your track, and tear flesh from the leg which the snake had
spared. To escape them, you leap into the river. The sharp ring of
rifles meets your ear. You plunge under water. When you come up to
take breath, a rifle ball lodges in your shoulder and you plunge
again. Suddenly, thick clouds throw their friendly veil over the
moon. You swim for your life, with balls whizzing round you. Thanks
to the darkness and the water, you baffle the hounds, both animal
and human. Weary and wounded, you travel through the forests, your
eye fixed hopefully on the North Star, which seems ever beckoning
you onward to freedom, with its bright glances through the foliage.
In the day-time, you lie in the deep holes of swamps, concealed by
rank weeds and tangled vines, taking such rest as can be obtained
among swarms of mosquitoes and snakes. Through incredible perils and
fatigues, footsore and emaciated, you arrive at last in the States
called Free. You allow yourself little time to rest, so eager are
you to press on further North. You have heard the masters swear with
peculiar violence about Massachusetts, and you draw the inference
that it is a refuge for the oppressed. Within the borders of that
old Commonwealth, you breathe more freely than you have ever done.
You resolve to rest awhile, at least, before you go to Canada. You
find friends, and begin to hope that you may be allowed to remain
and work, if you prove yourself industrious and well behaved.
Suddenly, you find yourself arrested and chained. Soldiers escort
you through the streets of Boston, and put you on board a Southern
ship, to be sent back to your master. When you arrive, he orders you
to be flogged so unmercifully, that the doctor says you will die if
they strike another blow. The philanthropic city of Boston hears the
bloody tidings, and one of her men in authority says to the public:
"Fugitive slaves are a class of foreigners, with whose rights
Massachusetts has nothing to do. It is enough for _us_, that they
have no right to be _here_."[1] And the merchants of Boston cry,

[Footnote 1: Said by the U.S. Commissioner, George Ticknor Curtis,
at a Union Meeting, in the Old Cradle of Liberty.]

Legislators of Massachusetts! if _you_ had been thus continually
robbed of your rights by the hand of violence, what would _you_
think of the compact between North and South to perpetuate your
wrongs, and transmit them to your posterity? Would you not regard it
as a league between highwaymen, who had "no rights that you were
bound to respect"? I put the question plainly and directly to your
consciences and your common sense, and they will not allow you to
answer, No. Are you, then, doing right to sustain the validity of a
law for _others_, which you would vehemently reject for _yourselves_
in the name of outraged justice and humanity?

The incidents I have supposed might happen to yourselves if you were
slaves, are not an imaginary accumulation of horrors. The things I
have described are happening in this country every day. I have
talked with many "fugitives from injustice," and I could not, within
the limits of these pages, even hint at a tithe of the sufferings
and wrongs they have described. I have also talked with several
slaveholders, who had emancipated themselves from the hateful
system. Being at a safe distance from lynching neighbors, they could
venture to tell the truth; and their statements fully confirm all
that I have heard from the lips of slaves. If you read Southern
Laws, you will need very small knowledge of human nature to be
convinced that the practical results must inevitably be utter
barbarism. In view of those _laws_, I have always wondered how
sensible people could be so slow in believing the actual state of
things in slaveholding communities.

There are no incidents in history, or romance, more thrilling than
the sufferings, perils, and hair-breadth escapes of American slaves.
No Puritan pilgrim, or hero of '76, has manifested more courage and
perseverance in the cause of freedom, than has been evinced, in
thousands of instances, by this persecuted race. In future ages,
popular ballads will be sung to commemorate their heroic
achievements, and children more enlightened than ours will marvel at
the tyranny of their white ancestors.

All of you have doubtless read some accounts of what these unhappy
men and women have dared and endured. Did you never put yourselves
in their stead, and imagine how _you_ would feel, under similar
circumstances? Not long ago, a young man escaped from slavery by
clinging night and day to the under part of a steamboat, drenched by
water, and suffering for food. He was discovered and sent back. If
the Constitution of the United States sanctioned such an outrage
upon _you_, what would _you_ think of those who answered your
entreaties and remonstrances by saying, "Our fathers made an
agreement with the man who robs you of your wages and your freedom.
It is law; and it is your duty to submit to [Transcriber's note:
word cut off] patiently"? I think you would _then_ perceive the
necessity of having the Constitution forthwith amended; and if it
were not done very promptly, I apprehend you would appeal
vociferously to a higher law.

A respectable lady, who removed with her family from Virginia to New
York, some years ago, had occasion to visit the cook's cabin, to
prepare suitable nourishment for a sick child, during the voyage.
This is the story she tells: "The steward kindly assisted me in
making the toast, and added a cracker and a cup of tea. With these
on a small waiter, I was returning to the cabin, when, in passing
the freight, which consisted of boxes, bags, &c., a little tawny,
famished-looking hand was thrust out between the packages. The
skeleton fingers, agitated by a convulsive movement, were evidently
reached forth to obtain the food. Shocked, but not alarmed by the
apparition, I laid the cracker on the hand, which was immediately
withdrawn. No one observed the transaction, and I went swiftly to
the cabin. In the afternoon, I went to the steward again, in behalf
of the little invalid. Finding he was a father, I gave him presents
for his children, and so ingratiated myself into his favor, that I
had free access to the larder. Whatever I could procure, I divided
with the famished hand, which had become to me a precious charge. As
all was tranquil on board, it was evident that I alone was aware of
the presence of the fugitive. I humbly returned thanks to God for
the privilege of ministering to the wants of this his outcast,
despised and persecuted image. That the unfortunate being was a
slave, I doubted not. I knew the laws and usages in such cases. I
knew the poor creature had nothing to expect from the captain or
crew; and again and again I asked myself the agonizing question
whether there would be any way of escape. I hoped we should arrive
in the night, that the fugitive might go on shore unseen, under
favor of the darkness. I determined to watch and assist the creature
thus providentially committed to my charge. We had a long passage.
On the sixth day, I found that the goods were being moved to come at
something which was wanted. My heart seemed to die within me; for
the safety of the sufferer had become dear to me. When we sat down
to dinner, the dishes swam before my eyes. The tumbling of the
freight had not ceased. I felt that a discovery must take place. At
length, I heard sudden, Hallo! Presently, the steward came and
whispered the captain, who laid down his knife and fork, and went on
deck. One of the passengers followed him, but soon returned In a
laughing manner, he told us that a small mulatto boy; who said he
belonged to Mr. ----, of Norfolk, had been found among the freight.
He had been concealed among the lumber on wharves for two weeks, and
had secreted himself in the schooner the night before we sailed. He
was going to New York, to find his father, who had escaped two years
before. 'He is starved to a skeleton,' said he, 'and is hardly worth
taking back.' Many jokes were passed as to the manner of his being
renovated, when he should fall into the hands of his master.

"The unfortunate child was brought on deck, and we all left the
cabin to look at him. I stood some time in the companion-way before
I could gain strength to move forward. As soon as he discovered me,
a bright gleam passed over his countenance, and he instantly held
out to me that famished hand. My feelings could no longer be
controlled. There stood before me a child, not more than eleven or
twelve years of age, of yellow complexion, and a sad countenance. He
was nearly naked; his back was _seared with scars_, and his flesh
was wasted to the bone. I burst into tears, and the jeers of others
were for a moment changed into sympathies. It began, however, to be
suspected that I had brought the boy away; and in that case, the
vessel must put back, in order to give me up also. But I related the
circumstances, and all seemed satisfied with the truth of my

"I asked to be allowed to feed the boy, and the request was granted.
He ate voraciously, and, as I stood beside him, he looked into my
face at every mouthful. There was something confiding in his look.
When he had finished his meal, as I took the plate, he rubbed his
fingers softly on my hand, and leaned his head toward me, like a
weary child. O that I could have offered him a place of rest! that I
could have comforted and protected him! a helpless _child_! a
feeble, emaciated, suffering, innocent _child_, reserved for bondage
and torture!

"The captain informed us that the vessel had been forbidden to enter
the port with a fugitive slave on board. He must discharge her
cargo where she lay, and return, with all possible dispatch, to
Norfolk. Accordingly, we came to anchor below the city, and the
passengers were sent up in a boat, I said to the captain, 'There is
a great ado about a poor helpless child.' He replied, 'The laws must
be obeyed.' I could not help exclaiming, 'Is this the land of
boasted freedom?' Here was an innocent child treated like a felon;
manacled, and sent back to slavery and the lash; deprived of the
fostering care which even the brute is allowed to exercise toward
its young. The slender boy was seeking the protection of a father.
Did humanity aid him? No. Humanity was prevented by the law, which
consigns one portion of the people to the control and brutality of
the other. Humanity can only look on and weep. 'The laws must be

Legislators of Massachusetts! suppose for one moment that poor
abused boy was your own little Johnny or Charley, what would you say
of the law _then_? Truly, if we have no feeling for the children of
_others_, we deserve to have our own children reserved for such a
fate; and I sometimes think it is the only lesson that will teach
the North to respect justice and humanity.

It is not long ago, since a free colored man in Baltimore was
betrothed to a young slave of eighteen, nearly white, and very
beautiful. If they married, their children would be slaves, and he
would have no power to protect his handsome wife from any outrages
an unprincipled master, or his sons, might choose to perpetrate.
Therefore, he wisely resolved to marry in a land of freedom. He
placed her in a box, with a few holes in it, small enough not to
attract attention. With tender care, he packed hay around her, that
she might not be bruised when thrown from the cars with other
luggage. The anxiety of the lover was dreadful. Still more terrible
was it, when waiting for her in Philadelphia, he found that the
precious box had not arrived. They had happened to have an unusual
quantity of freight, and the baggage-master, after turning the box
over, in rough, railroad fashion had concluded to leave it till the
next train. The poor girl was thrown into a most uneasy position,
without the power of changing it. She was nearly suffocated for want
of air; the hay-seed fell into her eyes and nostrils, and it
required almost superhuman efforts to refrain from sneezing or
choking. Added to this was terror lest her absence be discovered,
and the heavy box examined. In that state of mind and body, she
remained more than two hours, in the hot sun on the railroad
platform. At last, the box arrived in Philadelphia, and the lover
and his friends conveyed it to a place of safety as speedily as
possible. Those who were present at the opening, say it was the most
impressive scene they ever witnessed. Silently, almost breathlessly,
they drew out the nails, expecting to find a corpse. When the cover
was lifted, she smiled faintly in the anxious face of her lover. "O
God, she is alive!" he exclaimed, and broke down in a paroxysm of
sobs. She had a terrible brain fever, and when she recovered from
it, her glossy hair was sprinkled with gray, and the weight of ten
years was added to her youthful face. Thanks to the vigilance and
secrecy of friends, the hounds of the United States, who use the
Constitution for their kennel, did not get a chance to lap the blood
of this poor trembling hare.

Legislators of Massachusetts! suppose this innocent girl had been
your own Mary or Emma, would you not straightway demand amendment of
the Constitution, in no very measured terms? And if it could not be
obtained right speedily, would you not ride over the Constitution
roughshod? If you would not, you do not deserve to have such
blessings as lovely and innocent daughters.

You have all heard of Margaret Garner, who escaped from Kentucky to
Ohio, with her father and mother, her husband and four children. The
Cincinnati papers described her as "a dark mulatto, twenty-three
years of age, of an interesting appearance, considerable
intelligence, and a good address." Her husband was described as
"about twenty-two years old, of a very lithe, active form, and
rather a mild, pleasant countenance." These fugitives were sheltered
by a colored friend in Ohio. There the hounds in pay of the United
States, to which "price of blood" you and I and all of us
contribute, ferreted them out, and commanded them to surrender. When
they refused to do so, they burst open the door, and assailed the
inmates of the house with cudgels and pistols. They defended
themselves bravely, but were overpowered by numbers and disarmed.
When Margaret perceived that there was no help for her and her
little ones, she seized a knife and cut the throat of her most
beautiful child. She was about to do the same by the others, when
her arm was arrested. The child killed was nearly white, and
exceedingly pretty. The others were mulattoes, and pretty also. What
history lay behind this difference of complexion, the world will
probably never know. But I have talked confidentially with too many
fugitive women not to know that very sad histories do lie behind
such facts. Margaret Garner knew very well what fate awaited her
handsome little daughter, and that nerved her arm to strike the
death-blow. It was an act that deserves to take its place in history
by the side of the Roman Virginius.

The man who claimed this unfortunate family as chattels acknowledged
that they had always been faithful servants. On their part, they
complained of cruel treatment from their master, as the cause of
their attempt to escape. They were carried to the United States
Court, under a strong guard, and there was not manhood enough in
Cincinnati to rescue them. What was called law decided that they
were property, and they were sent back to the dark dungeon of
interminable bondage. The mother could not be induced to express any
regret for the death of her child,--her "pretty bird," as she called
her. With tears streaming from her eyes, she told of her own toils
and sufferings, and said, "It was better they should be killed at
once, and end their misery, than to be taken back to slavery, to be
murdered by inches." To a preacher, who asked her, "Why did you not
trust in God? Why didn't you wait and hope?" she answered, "We did
wait; and when there seemed to be no hope for us, we run away. God
did not appear to help us, and I did the best I could."

These poor wretches were escorted through the streets by a National
Guard, the chivalry of the United States. There was not manhood
enough in the Queen City of the West to attempt a rescue; though
they are very fond of quoting for _themselves_, "Give me Liberty, or
give me Death!" Men satisfied themselves by saying it was all done
according to _law_. A powerful plea, truly, for a people who boast
so much of making their own laws!

These slaves were soon after sent down the Mississippi to be sold in
Arkansas. The boat came in collision with another boat, and many
were drowned. The shock threw Margaret overboard, with a baby in her
arms. She was too valuable a piece of property to lose, and they
drew her out of the water; but the baby was gone. She evinced no
emotion but joy, still saying it was better for her children to die
than to be slaves.

The man who could not afford to let this heroic woman own her little
ones, was very liberal in supporting the Gospel, and his wife was a
member of the church. Do you think that mother had a murderer's
heart? Nay, verily. Exceeding love for her children impelled her to
the dreadful deed. The murder was committed by those human hounds,
who drove her to that fearful extremity, where she was compelled to
choose between Slavery or Death for her innocent offspring.

Again I ask, what would be your judgment of this law, if your _own_
daughter and infant grand-daughter had been its victims? You know
very well, that had it been your _own_ case, such despotism, calling
itself law, would be swept away in a whirlwind of indignation, and
men who strove to enforce it would be obliged to flee the country.

                              ----"They are slaves most base,
  Whose love of right is for _themselves_, and not for all the race."

I was lately talking with Friend Whittier, whose poetry so stirs the
hearts of the people in favor of freedom and humanity. He told me he
thought the greatest pain he ever suffered was in witnessing the
arrest of a fugitive slave in Philadelphia. The man had lived there
many years; he bore a good character, and was thriving by his
industry. He had married a Pennsylvania woman, and they had a fine
family of children. In the midst of his prosperity and happiness,
the blood-hounds of the United States tracked him out. He was seized
and hurried into court. Friend Whittier was present, and heard the
agonized entreaties of his wife and children. He saw them clinging
to the half frantic husband and father, when the minions of a wicked
law tore him away from them for ever. That intelligent, worthy,
industrious man was ruthlessly plunged into the deep, dark grave of
slavery, where tens of thousands perish yearly, and leave no record
of their wrongs. "A German emigrant, who witnessed the scene, poured
out such a tornado of curses as I never before heard," said
Whittier; "and I could not blame the man. He came here supposing
America to be a free country, and he was bitterly disappointed. Pity
for that poor slave and his bereaved family agonized my heart; and
my cheeks burned with shame that my country deserved the red-hot
curses of that honest German; but stronger than either of those
feelings was overpowering indignation that people of the Free States
were compelled by law to witness such barbarities."

Many of you have heard of William and Ellen Crafts, a pious and
intelligent couple, who escaped from bondage some years ago. She
disguised herself in male attire, and passed for a white gentleman,
taking her darker colored husband with her as a servant. When the
Fugitive Slave Act went into operation, they received warning that
the hounds were on their track. They sought temporary refuge in the
house of my noble-hearted friend, Ellis Gray Loring, who then
resided in the vicinity of Boston. He and his family were absent for
some days; but a lady in the house invited Mr. Crafts to come in and
stay till they returned. "No, I thank you," he replied. "There is a
heavy fine for sheltering fugitives; and it would not be right to
subject Mr. Loring to it without his consent." "But you know he is a
true friend to the slaves," urged the lady. "If he were at home, I
am sure he would not hesitate to incur the penalty." "Because he is
such a good friend to my oppressed race, there is all the more
reason why I should not implicate him in my affairs, without his
knowledge," replied this nobleman of nature. His wife had slept but
little the previous night, having been frightened by dreams of
Daniel Webster chasing her husband, pistol in hand. The evening was
stormy, and she asked him if they could not remain there till
morning. "It would not be right, Ellen," he replied; and with tears
in her eyes, they went forth into the darkness and rain. Was _that_
a man to be treated like a chattel? How many white gentlemen are
there, who, in circumstances as perilous, would have manifested such
nicety of moral perception, such genuine delicacy of feeling?
England has kindly received that worthy and persecuted couple. All
who set foot on _her_ soil are free. Would to God it were so in

It is well known that Southerners have repeatedly declared they do
not demand fugitives merely to recover articles of property, or for
the sake of making an example of them, to inspire terror in other
runaways; that they have a still stronger motive, which is, to
humiliate the North; to make them feel that no latitude limits their
mastership. Have we no honest pride, that we so tamely submit to
this? What lethargic disease has fallen on Northern souls, that they
dare not be as bold for Freedom as tyrants are for Slavery? It was
not thus with our fathers, whose sepulchres we whiten. If old Ben
Franklin had stood as near Boston Court House as his statue does, do
you believe _he_ would have remained passive, while Sims, the
intelligent mechanic, was manacled and driven through the streets,
guiltless of any crime, save that of wishing to be free? _My_ belief
is that the brave old printer of '76 would have drawn down the
lightning out of heaven upon that procession, with a vengeance.

What satisfactory reasons can be alleged for submitting to this
degradation? What good excuse can be offered? Shall we resort to the
Old Testament argument, that anodyne for the consciences of
"South-Side" divines? Suppose the descendants of Ham were ordained
to be slaves to the end of time, for an offence committed thousands
of years ago, by a progenitor they never heard of. Still, the
greatest amount of theological research leaves it very uncertain who
the descendants of Ham are, and where they are. I presume you would
not consider the title even to one acre of land satisfactorily
settled by evidence of such extremely dubious character; how much
less, then, a man's ownership of himself! Then, again, if we admit
that Africans are descendants of Ham, what is to be said of
thousands of slaves, advertised in Southern newspapers as "passing
themselves for white men, or white women"? Runaways with "blue eyes,
light hair, and rosy complexions"? Are these sons and daughters of
our Presidents, our Governors, our Senators, our Generals, and our
Commodores, descendants of Ham? Are _they_ Africans?

If you turn to the favorite New Testament argument, you will find
that Paul requested Philemon to receive Onesimus, "no longer as a
servant, but as a brother beloved." Is _that_ the way Southern
masters receive the "fugitives from injustice" whom we drive back to
them? Is it the way we _expect_ they will be received? In 1851, the
intelligent young mechanic, named Thomas Sims, escaped from a hard
master, who gave him many blows and no wages. By his own courage and
energy, he succeeded in reaching our Commonwealth, where mechanics
are not compelled by law to work without wages. But the authorities
of Boston decreed that this man was "bound to such service or
labor." So they ordered out their troops and sent him back to his
master, who caused him to be tied up and flogged, till the doctor
said, "If you strike another blow, you will kill him." "Let him
die," replied the master. He did nearly die in prison, but recovered
to be sold farther South. Was _this_ being received as "a brother
beloved"? Before we send back any more Onesimuses, it is necessary
to have a different set of Philemons to deal with. The Scripture is
clearly not obeyed, under present circumstances.

If you resort to the alleged legal obligation to return fugitives,
it has more plausibility, but has it in reality any firm foundation?
Americans boast of making their own laws, and of amending them
whenever circumstances render it necessary. How, then, can they
excuse themselves, or expect the civilized world to excuse them, for
making, or sustaining, unjust and cruel laws? The Fugitive Slave Act
has none of the attributes of law. If two highwaymen agreed between
themselves to stand by each other in robbing helpless men, women
and children, should we not find it hard work to "conquer our
prejudices" so far as to dignify their bargain with the name of
_law_? That is the light in which the compact between North and
South presents itself to the minds of intelligent slaves, and we
should view it in the same way, if we were in their position. Law
was established to maintain justice between man and man; and this
Act clearly maintains injustice. Law was instituted to protect the
weak from the strong; this Act delivers the weak completely into the
arbitrary power of the strong, "Law is a rule of conduct, prescribed
by the supreme power, commanding what is right, and forbidding what
is wrong." This is the commonly received definition of law, and
obviously, none more correct could be substituted for it. The
application of it would at once annul the Fugitive Slave Act, and
abolish slavery. That Act reverses the maxim. It commands what is
wrong, and forbids what is right. It commands us to trample on the
weak and defenceless, to persecute the oppressed, to be accomplices
in defrauding honest laborers of their wages. It forbids us to
shelter the homeless, to protect abused innocence, to feed the
hungry, to "hide the outcast." Let theological casuists argue as
they will, Christian hearts _will_ shrink from thinking of Jesus as
surrendering a fugitive slave; or of any of his apostles, unless it
be Judas. Political casuists may exercise their skill in making the
worse appear the better reason, still all honest minds have an
intuitive perception that no human enactment which violates God's
laws is worthy of respect. By what law of God can we justify the
treatment of Margaret Garner? the surrender of Sims and Burns? the
pitiless persecution of that poor little "famished hand"?

There is another consideration, which ought alone to have sufficient
weight with us to deter us from attempting to carry out this
tyrannical enactment. All history, and all experience, show it to be
an immutable law of God, that whosoever injures another, injures
himself in the process. These frequent scuffles between despotism
and freedom, with despotism shielded by law, cannot otherwise than
demoralize our people. They unsettle the popular mind concerning
eternal principles of justice. They harden the heart by familiarity
with violence. They accustom people to the idea that it is right for
Capital to own Labor; and thus the reverence for Liberty, which we
inherited from our fathers, will gradually die out in the souls of
our children. We are compelled to disobey our own consciences, and
repress all our humane feelings, or else to disobey the law. It is
a grievous wrong done to the people to place them between these
alternatives. The inevitable result is to destroy the sanctity of
law. The doctrine that "might makes right," which our rulers consent
to teach the people, in order to pacify slaveholders, will come out
in unexpected forms to disturb our own peace and safety. There is
"even-handed justice" in the fact that men cannot aid in enslaving
others, and themselves remain free; that they cannot assist in
robbing others, without endangering their own security.

Moreover, there is wrong done, even to the humblest individual, when
he is compelled to be ashamed of his country. When the judge passed
under chains into Boston Court House, and when Anthony Burns was
sent back into slavery, I wept for my native State, as a daughter
weeps for the crimes of a beloved mother. It seemed to me that I
would gladly have died to have saved Massachusetts from that sin and
that shame. The tears of a secluded woman, who has no vote to give,
may appear to you of little consequence. But assuredly it is not
well with any Commonwealth, when her daughters weep over her
degeneracy and disgrace.

In the name of oppressed humanity, of violated religion, of
desecrated law, of tarnished honor, of our own freedom endangered,
of the moral sense of our people degraded by these evil influences,
I respectfully, but most urgently, entreat you to annul this
infamous enactment, so far as the jurisdiction of Massachusetts
extends. Our old Commonwealth has been first and foremost in many
good works; let her lead in this also. And deem it not presumptuous,
if I ask it likewise for my own sake. I am a humble member of the
community; but I am deeply interested in the welfare and reputation
of my native State, and that gives me some claim to be heard. I am
growing old; and on this great question of equal rights I have
toiled for years, sometimes with a heart sickened by "hope
deferred." I beseech you to let me die on Free Soil! Grant me the
satisfaction of saying, ere I go hence--

    "Slaves cannot breathe among us. If their lungs
     Receive _our_ air, that moment they are free!
     They touch _our_ country, and their shackles fall!"

If you cannot be induced to reform this great wickedness, for the
sake of outraged justice and humanity, then do it for the honor of
the State, for the political welfare of our own people, for the
moral character of our posterity. For, as sure as there is a
Righteous Ruler in the heavens, if you continue to be accomplices
in violence and fraud, God will _not_ "save the Commonwealth of



The Hon. Robert Rantoul, Hon. Horace Mann, Hon. Charles Sumner, and
other able men, have argued against the Constitutionality of the
Fugitive Slave Bill, proving it to be not only contrary to the
_spirit_ and _meaning_ of the Constitution, but also to be
unauthorized by the _letter_ of that document. That this nefarious
Bill is contrary to the _spirit_ and _intention_ of the Constitution
is shown by the published opinions of those who framed it; by the
debates at the time of its adoption; and by its Preamble, which sets
forth that it was ordained to "establish _justice_, ensure domestic
_tranquillity_, promote the _general welfare_, and secure the
blessings of _liberty_." The arguments adduced to prove that this
bill is unauthorized by the _letter_ of the Constitution, I will
endeavor to compress into a few words.

Article 10 of the Amendments to the Constitution expressly provides

     "_Powers not delegated to the United States by the
     Constitution_, nor prohibited by it to the States, _are
     reserved to the States respectively, or to the people_."

Article 4 of the Constitution contains four compacts. The first is:

     "Full faith and credit shall be given in each of the States
     to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of
     every other State. And the _Congress may, by general laws,
     prescribe the manner in which such acts, records and
     proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof_."

Here, _power is expressly delegated by the Constitution to the
United States_.

The second compact is:

     "The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all
     privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States."

Under this provision, an attempt was made to obtain some action of
Congress for the protection of colored seamen in slaveholding ports;
but it was decided that Congress had no power to act on the subject,
because _the Constitution had not delegated any power to the United
States_ in the clause referred to. Slaveholders are very strict in
adherence to the Constitution, whenever any question of _protection_
to colored people is involved in their decisions; but for purposes
of _oppression_, they have no scruples. They reverse the principle
of Common Law, that "in any question under the Constitution, _every
word is to be construed in favor of liberty_."

The third compact is:

     "A person charged in any State with treason, felony, or other
     crime, who shall flee from justice, or be found in another
     State, shall, on demand of the Executive authority of the
     State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to
     the State having jurisdiction of the crime."

It has never been pretended that Congress has any power to act in
such cases. There is no clause _delegating any power to the United
States_; consequently, all proceedings on the subject have been left
to the several States.

The fourth compact is:

     "No person held to service or labor in one State, under the
     laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of
     any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such
     service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the
     party to whom such service or labor may be due."

If the framers of the Constitution had meant that Congress should
have power to pass a law for delivering up fugitives "held to
service or labor," they would have inserted a clause _delegating
such power_, as they did in the compact concerning "public acts and
records." The Constitution does _not_ delegate any such power to the
United States. Consequently, Congress had no constitutional right to
pass the Fugitive Slave Bill, and the States are under no
constitutional obligation to obey it.

The Hon. Horace Mann, one of Massachusetts' most honored sons, in
his able speech on this subject in Congress, 1851, said:--"In view
of the great principles of civil liberty, out of which the
Constitution grew, and which it was designed to secure, my own
opinion is that this law cannot be fairly and legitimately supported
on constitutional grounds. Having formed this opinion with careful
deliberation, I am bound to speak from it and to act from it. I have
read every argument and every article in defence of the law, from
whatever source emanating. Nay, I have been more anxious to read the
arguments made in its favor, than the arguments against it; and I
think I have seen a sound legal answer to all the former." * * *
"It is a law that might be held constitutional by a bench of
slaveholders, whose _pecuniary interests_ connect them directly with
slavery; or by those who have surrendered themselves to a
pro-slavery policy from _political hopes_. But if we gather the
opinions of unbiassed and disinterested men, of those who have no
_money_ to make, and no _office_ to hope for, through the triumph of
this law, then I think the preponderance of opinion is decidedly
against its constitutionality. It is a fact universally known, that
gentlemen who have occupied and adorned the highest judicial
stations in their respective States, together with many of the
ablest lawyers in the whole country, have expressed opinions against
the constitutionality of this law." * * * "When I am called upon to
support such a law as this, while it lasts, or to desist from
opposing it in all constitutional ways, my response is, Repeal the
law! that I may no longer be called upon to support it. I demand it,
because it is a law which conflicts with the Constitution of the
country, and with all the judicial interpretations of that
Constitution, wherever they have been applied to the white race.
Because it is a law abhorrent to the moral and religious sentiments
of a vast majority of the community called upon to enforce it.
Because it is a law which, if executed in the Free States, divests
them of the character of Free States, and makes them voluntary
participators in the guilt of slaveholding. Because it is a law
Which disgraces our country in the eyes of the whole civilized
world, and gives plausible occasion to the votaries of despotic
power to decry republican institutions. Because it is a law which
forbids us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and
which makes it a crime to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and
to visit and succor the sick and imprisoned. Because it is a law
which renders the precepts of the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus
Christ seditious; and were the Savior and his band of disciples now
on earth, there is but one of them who would escape its penalties by
pretending to 'conquer his prejudices.'" * * * "Suppose the whole
body of the white population should be as much endangered by this
law, as the colored people now are, would the existence of the law
be tolerated for an hour? Would there not be a simultaneous and
universal uprising of the people against it, and such a yell of
execration as never before burst from mortal lips?"

The Hon. Charles Sumner, always true to the right, as the needle
to the pole, in his learned and able speech in Congress, 1852,
said:--"The true principles of our political system, the history
of the National Convention, the natural interpretation of the
Constitution, all teach that this Act is a usurpation by Congress of
powers that do not belong to it, and an infraction of rights secured
to the States. It is a sword, whose handle is at the National
Capital, and whose point is every where in the States. A weapon so
terrible to personal liberty the nation has no power to grasp."
* * * "In the name of the Constitution, which it violates; of my
country, which it dishonors; of humanity, which it degrades; of
Christianity, which it offends, I arraign this enactment, and now
hold it up to the judgment of the Senate and the world." * * * *

"The Slave Act violates the Constitution, and shocks the public
conscience. With modesty, and yet with firmness, let me add, it
offends against the Divine Law. No such enactment can be entitled to
support. As the throne of God is above every earthly throne, so are
his laws and statutes above all the laws and statutes of man. To
question these, is to question God himself. But to assume that human
laws are above question, is to claim for their fallible authors
infallibility. To assume that they are always in conformity with
those of God, is presumptuously and impiously to exalt man to an
equality with God. Clearly, human laws are _not_ always in such
conformity; nor can they ever be beyond question from each
individual. Where the conflict is open, as if Congress should demand
the perpetration of murder, the office of conscience, as final
arbiter, is undisputed. But in every conflict, the same queenly
office is hers. By no earthly power can she be dethroned. Each
person, after anxious examination, without haste, without passion,
solemnly for himself must decide this great controversy. Any other
rule attributes infallibility to human laws, places them beyond
question, and degrades all men to an unthinking, passive obedience.
The mandates of an earthly power are to be discussed; those of
Heaven must at once be performed; nor can any agreement constrain us
against God. Such is the rule of morals. And now the rule is
commended to us. The good citizen, as he thinks of the shivering
fugitive, guilty of no crime, pursued, hunted down like a beast,
while praying for Christian help and deliverance, and as he reads
the requirements of this Act, is filled with horror. Here is a
despotic mandate, 'to aid and assist in the prompt and efficient
execution of this law.' Let me speak frankly. Not rashly would I set
myself against any provision of law. This grave responsibility I
would not lightly assume. But here the path of duty is clear. By the
Supreme Law, which commands me to do no injustice; by the
comprehensive Christian Law of Brotherhood; by the Constitution,
which I have sworn to support, I am bound to disobey this Act.
Never, in any capacity, can I render voluntary aid in its execution.
Pains and penalties I will endure; but this great wrong I will not
do." * * * "For the sake of peace and tranquillity, cease to shock
the public conscience! For the sake of the Constitution, cease to
exercise a power which is nowhere granted, and which violates
inviolable rights expressly secured. Repeal this enactment! Let its
terrors no longer rage through the land. Mindful of the lowly, whom
it pursues; mindful of the good men perplexed by its requirements;
in the name of charity, in the name of the Constitution, repeal this
enactment, totally, and without delay! Be admonished by these words
of Oriental piety: 'Beware of the groans of the wounded souls.
Oppress not to the utmost a single heart; for a solitary sigh has
power to overset a whole world.'"

Robert Rantoul, Jr., whose large heart was so true to Democratic
_principles_, that the _party_ wanted to expel him from their ranks,
(as parties are prone to do with honest men,) opposed the Fugitive
Slave Bill with all the power of his strong intellect. In a speech
delivered in 1851, he said: "I am as devotedly attached as any other
man to the Union of these States, and the Constitution of our
government; but I admire and love them for that which they secure to
us. The Constitution is good, and great, and valuable, and to be
held for ever sacred, because it secures to us what was the _object_
of the Constitution. I love the Union and the Constitution, not for
_themselves_, but for the great _end_ for which they were
created--to secure and perpetuate _liberty_; not the liberty of a
_class_, superimposed upon the thraldom of groaning multitudes: not
the liberty of a _ruling race_, cemented by the tears and blood of
subject races, but _human_ liberty, _perfect_ liberty, common to the
whole people of the United States and to their posterity. It is
because I believe all this, that I love the Union and the
Constitution. If it were not for that, the Union would be valueless,
and the Constitution not worth the parchment on which it is written.
God-given Liberty is above the Union, and above the Constitution,
and above all the works of man."

       *       *       *       *       *


The Hon. Josiah Quincy, senior, whose integrity, noble intellect,
and long experience in public life, give great weight to his
opinions, made a speech at a Whig Convention in Boston, 1854, from
which I extract the following:--"The circumstances in which the
people of Massachusetts are placed are undeniably insupportable.
What has been seen, what has been felt, by every man, woman and
child in this metropolis, and in this community? and virtually by
every man, woman and child in Massachusetts? We have seen our Court
House in chains, two battalions of dragoons, eight regiments of
artillery, twelve companies of infantry, the whole constabulary
force of the city police, the entire disposable marine of the United
States, with its artillery loaded for action, all marching in
support of a Praetorian Band, consisting of one hundred and twenty
friends and associates of the U.S. Marshal, with loaded pistols and
drawn swords, and in military costume and array; and for what
purpose? _To escort and conduct a poor trembling slave from a Boston
Court House to the fetters and lash of his master!_

"This scene, thus awful, thus detestable, every inhabitant of this
metropolis, nay, every inhabitant of this Commonwealth, may be
compelled again to witness, at any time, and every day in the year,
at the will or the whim of the meanest and basest slaveholder of the
South. Is there a man in Massachusetts with a spirit so low, so
debased, so corrupted by his fears, or his fortune, that he is
prepared to say this is a condition of things to be endured in
perpetuity by us? and that this is an inheritance to be transmitted
by us to our children, for all generations? For so long as the
fugitive-slave clause remains in the Constitution, unobliterated, it
is an obligation perpetual upon them, as well as upon us.

"The obligation incumbent upon the Free States _must be obliterated
from the Constitution, at every hazard_. I believe that, in the
nature of things, by the law of God, and the laws of man, _that
clause is at this moment abrogated, so far as respects common
obligation_. In 1789, the Free States agreed to be field-drivers and
pound-keepers for the Slaveholding States, within the limits, and
according to the fences, of the old United States. But between that
year and this A.D. 1854, the slaveholders have broken down the old
boundaries, and opened new fields, of an unknown and indefinite
extent.[1] They have multiplied their slaves by millions, and are
every day increasing their numbers, and extending their field into
the wilderness. Under these circumstances, are we bound to be their
field-drivers and pound-keepers any longer? Answer me, people of
Massachusetts! Are you the sons of the men of 1776? Or do you 'lack
gall, to make oppression bitter?'

[Footnote 1: The Hon. Josiah Quincy, while in Congress, always
opposed the annexation of foreign territory to the United States, on
the ground of its unconstitutionality.]

"I have pointed out your burden. I have shown you that it is
insupportable. I shall be asked how we are to get rid of it. It is
not for a private individual to point the path which a State is to
pursue, to cast off an insupportable burden; it belongs to the
constituted authorities of that State. But this I will say, that if
the people of Massachusetts solemnly adopt, as one man, in the
spirit of their fathers, the resolve that they will no longer submit
to this burden, and will call upon the Free States to concur in this
resolution, and carry it into effect, the burden will be cast off;
the fugitive-slave clause will be obliterated, not only without the
dissolution of the Union, but with a newly-acquired strength to the

In the spring of 1860, there was a debate on this subject in the
Legislature of New York. In the course of it, Mr. Smith, of
Chatauqua, said:--"How _came_ slavery in this country? It came here
without law; in violation of all law. It came here by force and
violence; by the force of might over right; and it remains here
to-day by no better title. And now we are called upon, by the ruling
power at Washington, not merely to tolerate it, but to legalize it
all over the United States! By the Fugitive Slave Bill, we are
forbidden to shelter or assist the forlornest stranger who ever
appealed for sympathy or aid. We are required by absolute law to
shut out every feeling of compassion for suffering humanity. Fines
and imprisonment impend over us, for exercising one of the holiest
charities of our religion. Virtue and humanity are legislated into
crime. Let us meet the issue like men! Let us assert our utter
abhorrence of all human laws, that compel us to violate the common
law of humanity and justice; and by so acting assert the broad
principles of the Declaration of American Independence, and the
letter and spirit of the Constitution. If the North was as devoted
to the cause of Freedom as the South is to Slavery, our national
troubles would vanish like darkness before the sun. Our country
would then become what it _should_ be,--free, happy, prosperous, and
respected by all the world. Then we could say, truthfully, that she
is the home of the free, the land of the brave, the asylum of the

In the same debate, Mr. Maxson, of Allegheny, said:--"All laws,
whether Constitutions or statutes, that invade human rights, are
null. A community has no more power to strike down the rights of man
by Constitutions, than by any other means. Do those who give us
awfully solemn lessons about the inviolability of compacts, mean
that one man is bound to rob another because he has _agreed_ to? In
this age of schools, of churches and of Bibles, do they mean to
teach us that an agreement to rob men of their rights, in whatever
solemn form that agreement may be written out, is binding? Has the
morality of the nineteenth century culminated in _this_, that a mere
compact can convert vice into virtue? These advocates of the
rightfulness of robbery, because it has been _agreed_, to, and that
agreement has been _written down_, have come too late upon the
stage, by more than two hundred years. Where does the proud Empire
State wish to be recorded in that great history, which is being so
rapidly filled out with the records of this "irrepressible
conflict"? For myself, a humble citizen of the State, I ask no
prouder record for her than that, in the year 1860, she enacted that
_the moment a man sets foot on her soil, he is free, against the

Wendell Phillips, one of earth's bravest and best, made a speech at
Worcester, 1851, from which I make the following extract:--"Mr.
Mann, Mr. Giddings, and other leaders of the Free Soil party, are
ready to go to the death against the Fugitive Slave Law. It never
should be enforced, they say. It robs men of the jury trial, it robs
them of _habeas corpus_, and forty other things. This is a very good
position. But how much comfort would it have been to Ellen Crafts,
if she had been sent back to Macon, to know that it had been done
with a scrupulous observance of all the forms of _habeas corpus_ and
jury trial? When she got back, some excellent friend might have said
to her, 'My dear Ellen, you had the blessed privilege of _habeas
corpus_ and jury trial. What are you grieving about? You were sent
back according to law and the Constitution. What could you want
more?' From the statements of our Free Soil friends, you would
suppose that the _habeas corpus_ was the great safeguard of a
slave's freedom; that it covered him as with an angel's wing. But
suppose _habeas corpus_ and jury trial granted, what then? Is any
man to be even _so_ surrendered, with our consent? No slave shall be
sent back--except by _habeas corpus_. Stop half short of that! No
slave shall be sent back!"

Rev. A.D. Mayo, of Albany, is one of those clergymen who believe
that a religious teacher has something to do with questions
affecting public morality; and his preaching is eloquent, because he
is fearlessly obedient to his own convictions. In a Sermon on the
Fugitive Slave Bill, he said:--"Remember that despotism has no
natural rights on earth that any man is bound to respect. I know
there is no political party, no Christian sect, no Northern State,
as a whole, yet fully up to this. But the Christian sentiment of the
country will finally bring us all to the same conclusion."


  What asks the Old Dominion? If now her sons have proved
  False to their fathers' memory, false to the faith they loved;
  If _she_ can scoff at Freedom, and its Great Charter spurn,
  Must _we_ of Massachusetts from truth and duty turn?

  _We_ hunt your bondmen, flying from Slavery's hateful hell?
  _Our_ voices, at your bidding, take up the blood-hound's yell?
  _We_ gather, at your summons, above our fathers' graves,
  From Freedom's holy altar-horns to tear your wretched slaves?

  Thank God! not yet so vilely can Massachusetts bow,
  The spirit of her early time is with her even now.
  Dream not, because her Pilgrim blood moves slow, and calm, and cool,
  She thus can stoop her chainless neck, a sister's slave and tool!

  For ourselves and for our children, the vow which we have given
  For Freedom and Humanity, is registered in Heaven.
  No slave-hunt in _our_ borders! No pirate on _our_ strand!
  No fetters in the Bay State! No slave upon _our_ land!



  Man was not made for forms, but forms for man;
  And there are times when Law itself must bend
  To that clear spirit, that hath still outran
  The speed of human justice. In the end,
  Potentates, not Humanity, must fall.
  Water will find its level; fire will burn;
  The winds must blow around this earthly ball;
  This earthly ball by day and night must turn.
  Freedom is typed in every element.
  Man _must_ be free! If not _through_ law, why then
  _Above_ the law! until its force be spent,
  And justice brings a better. When, O, when,
  Father of Light! shall the great reckoning come,
  To lift the weak, and strike the oppressor dumb?



  Look on who will in apathy, and stifle, they who _can_,
  The sympathies, the hopes, the words, that make man truly man;
  Let those whose hearts are dungeoned up, with interest or with ease,
  Consent to hear, with quiet pulse, of loathsome deeds like these.
  I first drew in New England's air, and from her hardy breast
  Sucked in the tyrant-hating milk, that will not let me rest;
  And if my words seem treason to the dullard and the tame,
  'Tis but my Bay State dialect--our fathers spake the same.

  Shame on the costly mockery of piling stone on stone
  To those who won _our_ liberty! the heroes dead and gone!
  While we look coldly on and see law-shielded ruffians slay
  The men who fain would win their _own_! the heroes of _to-day_!
  Are we pledged to craven silence? O, fling it to the wind,
  The parchment wall that bars us from the least of human kind!
  That makes us cringe, and temporize, and dumbly stand at rest,
  While Pity's burning flood of words is red-hot in the breast!

  We owe allegiance to the State; but deeper, truer, more,
  To the sympathies that God hath set within our spirit's core.
  Our country claims our fealty; we grant it so; but then
  Before Man made us _citizens_, great Nature made us _men_!

  Though we break our fathers' promise, we have nobler duties first,
  The traitor to _Humanity_ is the traitor most accurst.
  _Man_ is more than _Constitutions_. Better rot beneath the sod,
  Than be true to _Church_ and _State_, while we are doubly false to God!



  Shall tongues be mute, when deeds are wrought
    Which well might shame extremest hell?
  Shall freemen lock the indignant thought?
    Shall Pity's bosom cease to swell?
  Shall Honor bleed? Shall Truth succumb?
  Shall pen, and press, and soul be dumb?

  What! shall we guard our neighbor still.
    While woman shrieks beneath his rod,
  And while he tramples down, at will,
    The image of a common God?
  Shall watch and ward be round him set
  Of Northern nerve and bayonet?

  And shall we know, and share with him,
    The danger and the growing shame?
  And see our Freedom's light grow dim,
    Which should have filled the world with flame?
  And, writhing, feel, where'er we turn,
  A world's reproach around us burn?

  No! By each spot of haunted ground,
    Where Freedom weeps her children's fall;
  By Plymouth's rock, and Bunker's mound;
    By Griswold's stained and shattered wall;
  By Warren's ghost; by Langdon's shade;
  By all the memories of our dead;

  By their enlarging souls, which burst
    The bands and fetters round them set;
  By the free Pilgrim spirit, nursed
    Within our bosoms yet;
  By all above, around, below,
  Be ours the indignant answer--NO!




_It is hereby enacted, &c.:_

Sec. 1. No person within this State shall be considered as property,
or subject, as such, to sale, purchase, or delivery; nor shall any
person, within the limits of this State, at this time, be deprived
of liberty or property without due process of law.

Sec. 2. Due process of law, mentioned in the preceding section of
this Act shall, in all cases, be defined to mean the usual process
and forms in force by the laws of this State, and issued by the
courts thereof; and under such process, such person shall be
entitled to a trial by jury.

Sec. 3. Whenever any person in this State shall be deprived of
liberty, arrested, or detained, on the ground that such person owes
service or labor to another person, not an inhabitant of this State,
either party may claim a trial by jury; and, in such case,
challenges shall be allowed to the defendant agreeably to sections
four and five of chapter one hundred and eleven of the compiled

Sec. 4. Every person who shall deprive or attempt to deprive any
other person of his or her liberty, contrary to the preceding
sections of this Act, shall, on conviction thereof, forfeit and pay
a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars nor less than five hundred
dollars, or be punished by imprisonment in the State Prison for a
term not exceeding ten years: _Provided_, that nothing in said
preceding sections shall apply to, or affect the right to arrest or
imprison under existing laws for contempt of court.

Sec. 5. Neither descent near or remote from an African, whether such
African is or may have been a slave or not, nor color of skin or
complexion, shall disqualify any person from being, or prevent any
person from becoming, a citizen of this State, nor deprive such
person of the rights and privileges thereof.

Sec. 6. Every person who may have been held as a slave, who shall
come, or be brought, or be in this State, with or without the
consent of his or her master or mistress, or who shall come, or be
brought, or be, involuntarily or in any way in this State, shall be

Sec. 7. Every person who shall hold, or attempt to hold, in this
State, in slavery, or as a slave, any person mentioned as a slave in
the sixth section of this act, or any free person, in any form, or
for any time, however short, under pretence that such person is or
has been a slave, shall, on conviction thereof, be imprisoned in the
State Prison for a term not less than one year, nor more than
fifteen years, and be fined not exceeding two thousand dollars.

Sec. 8. All Acts and parts of Acts inconsistent with the provisions
of this Act are hereby repealed.

Sec. 9. This Act shall take effect from its passage.

Approved November 25, 1858.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Duty of Disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act - Anti-Slavery Tracts No. 9, An Appeal To The Legislators Of Massachusetts" ***

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