The case of Shadrach was one of four which, preeminently, in the year 1851, revealed to the North the real meaning of the Fugitive Slave Law as a precursor of disunion and civil war.3 The war—or, more properly, then as in 1861, the pro-slavery invasion—in fact began with the execution of the law, as was first made clear when, on February4 15, 1851, pending a postponement of Shadrach's case before Commissioner George T. Curtis, in Boston, the prisoner was lost to view in the crowd of his own color that filled the court-room. This simple incident, which would scarcely have furnished the press with a police item had a pickpocket been thus spirited away, created a prodigious uproar at Washington. ‘The head and front of the offending,’ in this instance— what is it? 5 asked Mr. Garrison a week later.
A sudden rush of a score or two of unarmed friends of equal liberty—an uninjurious deliverance of the oppressed out of the hands of the oppressor—the quiet transportation of a slave out of this slavery ruled land to the free soil of Upper Canada! Nobody injured, nobody wronged, but simply a chattel transformed into a man, and conducted to a spot whereon he can glorify God in his body and spirit, which are his!