On the other hand, in the principal cities, vigilance1
committees were formed to give timely notice of the coming of kidnappers and to thwart their purpose.
Prominent clergymen and laymen publicly announced2
their readiness, in contempt of the law, to shelter the fugitive.
Henry Ward Beecher
in the Independent
,3 Theodore Parker
from the pulpit, invited the penalty of obedience to the higher law of humanity.
proclaimed himself a ‘Nullifier’ to that extent.
venerable Josiah Quincy
, shaming his successor in the5
presidency of Harvard College, headed a call for a6
meeting in Faneuil Hall on October 14, 1850, to consider the condition of fugitive slaves and other colored persons under the new law. In a letter read in his absence, he impugned the constitutionality both of the law of 1850 and of that of 1793 which it amended, alleging that Massachusetts
accepted the compromise clause in the Federal Constitution
concerning runaways on the understanding that the claim ‘should be enforced in conformity to and in coincidence with the known and established principles’ of her own Constitution.
Charles Francis Adams
, who presided, and Richard H. Dana, Jr.
, who offered the resolutions, called for the instant repeal, at the next session of Congress, of a measure both unconstitutional and repugnant to the moral sense, and promised to help defend the colored people, whom they advised to remain.
Ten days before, at Belknap-Street Church, this7
class of citizens had resolved to arm, and to resist the kidnapper to the death.
admonishing them that fugitives ‘would be more indebted to the moral power of public sentiment than to any display of physical resistance,’ yet bade them be ‘consistent with their own principles.’
And since they had invoked the religious sentiment in their behalf, he drew up for them an address to the clergy of Massachusetts