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‘ [493] the highest degree.’ ‘We owe,’ he said, ‘an obligation to the laws, but a higher one to the communities in which we live; if the former be perverted to destroy the latter, it is patriotism to disregard them.’1 ‘I cannot,’ he continued, ‘sanction, and will not condemn, the step you have taken. Your justification must be looked for in the character of the papers detained, and the circumstances by which you are surrounded.’

Even more frankly, when the postmaster in New York,2 Jackson-like, ‘took the responsibility’ of refusing to3 despatch the papers of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Kendall wrote him that he could not sanction his action, but would do the same thing if he were in his place. Postmasters had a right to inspect all news matter, and if this tended to beget the commission of the most aggravated crimes, it was their duty to retain it, or even hand it over to the civil authorities,—with the risk, to be sure, of suffering for improper detention. Anti-slavery publications tended directly to produce the horrors of slave insurrection at the South, being calculated to fill every family with assassins. Southern demonstrations against them, as ‘power which is exerted in palpable selfdefence,’ were not lawless. Abolitionists might have a right to circulate their documents in New York, where it was lawful, but not in Louisiana or Georgia. The State laws against such circulation were not voidable in the case of Federal officials, nor could postmasters and mail-carriers be protected against the penalties of State laws. ‘Was it to give impunity to crime that ’

1 This pro-slavery ‘higher-law’ doctrine was identical with that on which the right of secession and the falsity of Federal officers to their oaths were afterwards based.

2 Samuel L. Gouverneur, son-in-law of ex-President Monroe. The New York Evening Post, edited by the intrepid William Leggett, alone of the party press of that city, protested against the postmaster's action (Lib. 5: 152; Evening Post, Aug. 29, 1835). On August 19, Henry Benson wrote to his brother that the Liberators for Philadelphia had apparently been detained by postmasters and boat captains (Ms.) All delays or failures of the mail naturally came to be attributed to the same cause by the abolitionists (Lib. 5.137).

3 Lib. 5.135.

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