him as her slave.
Before the act was a month old, there had been several arrests under it, at Harrisburg
and near Bedford, Pa.
, in Philadelphia
, at Detroit
, and in other places.
Within the first year of its existence, more persons, probably, were seized as fugitive slaves than during the preceding sixty years. Many of these seizures were made under circumstances of great aggravation.
Thus, in Philadelphia
, Euphemia Williams
, who had lived in Pennsylvania
in freedom all her life, as she affirmed, and had there become the mother of six living children, of whom the oldest was seventeen, was arrested in 1851 as the slave of a Marylander named Purnell
, from whom she was charged with escaping twenty-two years before.
Her six children were claimed, of course, as also the property of her alleged master.
Upon a full hearing, Judge Kane
decided that she was not the person claimed by Burnell
as his slave Mahala.
But there were several instances in which persons who had lived in unchallenged freedom from fifteen to twenty-five years were seized, surrendered, and carried away into life-long Slavery.
The needless brutality with which these seizures were often made, tended to intensify the popular repugnance which they occasioned.
In repeated instances, the first notice the alleged fugitive had of his peril was given him by a blow on the head, sometimes with a heavy club or stick of wood; and, being thus knocked down, he was carried, bleeding and insensible, before the facile commissioner, who made short work of identifying him, and earning his ten dollars, by remanding him into Slavery.
In Columbia, Pa.
, March, 1852, a negro, named William Smith
, was seized as a fugitive by a Baltimore police officer, while working in a lumber-yard, and, attempting to escape, the officer drew a pistol and shot him dead.
In Wilkes-barre, Pa.
, a deputy marshal and three or four Virginians
suddenly came upon a nearly white mulatto waiter at a hotel, and, falling upon him from behind with a club, partially shackled him. He fought them off with the hand-cuff which they had secured to his right wrist, and, covered with blood, rushed from the house and plunged into the Susque-hanna, exclaiming: “I will be drowned rather than taken alive!”
He was pursued to the river-bank, and thence fired upon repeatedly, at a very short distance, as he stood in the water, up to his neck, until a ball entered his head, instantly covering his face with blood.
The by-standers, who had by this time collected, were disgusted and indignant, and the hunters, fearing their interposition, retired for consultation.
He thereupon came out of the water, apparently dying, and lay down on the shore.
One of his pursuers remarked that “dead niggers were not worth taking South.”
His clothes having been torn off in the scuffle, some one brought a pair of pantaloons, and put them on him, and he was helped to his feet by a negro named Rex
; on seeing which, the hunters returned and presented their revolvers, driving him again into the river, where he remained more than an hour, with only his head above the water.
His claimants dared not come within his powerful grasp, as he afterward said, “he would have ”