The short-sighted framers of the Fugitive Slave Law
had good reasons for not anticipating the revolt which it actually caused among the clergy, limited and partial as this was.1
For instance, the chances were that the Unitarian Convention
at Springfield, Mass.
, in the fall of2
1850, would reject resolutions denouncing the law. In fact, John Pierpont
having presented such, Dr. Parkman3
gave as chairman a casting vote to lay them on the table, though avowing his willingness to harbor fugitives.
deprecated discussion and all action, as being4
liable to be misunderstood.
Nevertheless, the resolutions were called up and passed, and other religious conventions5
took a similar stand, and the new phase of the old moral issue began again the work of dividing the denominations and plunging the pulpit into ‘politics.’
If an Orville Dewey
stood up in the lyceum to urge the duty of6
obeying the Fugitive Slave Law
, a Peter Lesley
in his sermons set Deuteronomy 23 over against Romans
13; a Theodore7 Parker
discoursed on “The Function and Place of Conscience
in relation to the Laws of Men.”
On the eve of the November elections, into which the Fugitive Slave Law
imported a new criterion and unwonted intensity of feeling; on the eve, too, of a fresh8
outbreak of Union-saving meetings, George Thompson
revisited the country which had expelled him in 1835.9
He landed in Boston
, the port of his covert and hasty Departure—the scene of the mob evoked against him10
only to fall upon the devoted head of his friend the11
editor of the Liberator—
; the scene of the antecedent Union-saving meeting in Faneuil Hall, at which he was publicly held up as a foreign emissary, hurling firebrands,12
arrows, and death.
The first Liberator
he opened declared the whole country in commotion on the subject of slavery,13
and every page bore witness to the truth of the assertion.
was encouraging the ‘commercial interests of14
the great metropolis of the country [to] speak with united ’