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Chapter 16: the Underground railroad

The prescribed penalties for assisting in the escape of fugitive slaves were severe. By the terms of the Fugitive Slave Act, as it was called, any one convicted of that offense, besides a liability for one thousand dollars damages recoverable in a civil action, was subject to a five-hundred-dollars fine and imprisonment in a penitentiary for one year. As the writer has not “done time” for participation in certain transactions dating back to his earlier days, in which the legal rights of slave-owners were indifferently respected, he thinks it advisable to be somewhat reserved in his recital of personal experiences when taking the public into his confidence. The Fugitive Slave Law-and for that fact we should give “most hearty thanks” --is about as dead as any statute can be, but as in the case of a snake that has been killed, it may be the wiser course not to trifle with its fangs. Therefore, instead of telling my own story in the first person singular, I offer as a substitute the confession of one John Smith, whose existence no one will presume to dispute. Here is his statement:

There was an old barn on my father's farm. It was almost a ruin. One end of the roof had fallen

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