Chapter 15: the Personal Liberty Law.—1855.Massachusetts, at the instigation of the abolitionists, makes its Personal Liberty Law more stringent in obstruction of the Fugitive Slave Law. Celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the mobbing of Garrison in Boston by “ men of property and standing.”
By midsummer of 1855, out of eleven United States1 Senators elected by the legislatures of eight Northern States since the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, not one was tolerant of that measure. New Hampshire itself, the stronghold of the Pierce Administration, having been carried by the Know-Nothings, returned John P.2 Hale to the Senate. And, fresh from this act of defiance, its Legislature opened, on June 22, the Hall of the House3 of Representatives to an abolition convention in session at the capital, and listened without disfavor to disunion addresses from Garrison and Phillips. The year closed with an ominous struggle in the Federal House of4 Representatives over the speakership; the Free-State candidate being Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts, who had lately, in a speech made in Maine, expressed his willingness to ‘let the Union “slide” ’ in the event of the5 Government falling completely into the hands of the Slave Power. It was reserved for Massachusetts to furnish the most signal examples of resistance to that Power, and to take, logically and in the eyes of the South, a disunion attitude. The first was the address of its Legislature to the6 Governor, praying for the removal of Edward Greely Loring from his office of Judge of Probate for having, as United States Commissioner, sent Anthony Burns back into bondage. This action was in response to petitions7 actively circulated by the abolitionists, and to arguments8 at special hearings, in which Wendell Phillips distinguished  himself. Though overruled by Governor9 Gardner, it had the moral effect intended. When, on April 27, the Senate came to vote upon it, Mr. Garrison was taken10 from the throng of spectators and given a chair beside the President. Simultaneously with this advertisement, that the State washed its official hands of all complicity in the execution of the Fugitive Slave Law, came the passage of “An Act to protect the rights and liberties of the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” Lib. 25.71, 79; Acts and Resolves of Mass., p. 924. This, too, was in response to petitions and arguments from the abolitionists, with Wendell Phillips again at the front. It was an extension11 of the Personal Liberty Act of March 24, 1843, to the12 Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Habeas corpus was secured to13 the alleged fugitive; no confessions of his were admissible, but the burden of proof was to be upon the claimant, and no ex-parte affidavit should be received. For a State office-holder to issue a warrant under the law was tantamount to resignation; for an attorney to assist the claimant was to forfeit his right to practise in the courts; for a judge to do either was to make himself liable to impeachment or removal by address. No United States Commissioner under the Fugitive Slave Law should hold any State office. Any State judge (like Loring), continuing to be United States Commissioner after the passage of the act, would invite the consequences of misbehavior. No sheriff, jailer, or policeman could help arrest a fugitive, no jail receive him. The militia could not be called out on the claimant's behalf. The Governor should appoint county commissioners to help defend fugitives and secure them a fair trial. Regarded as a safeguard against kidnapping, this statute will never seem more than the simple duty of the State. As an impediment to the Federal execution of the Fugitive Slave Law, the discussion of its constitutionality may be left to those who think it profitable. The South14 treated it—as it did any diminution, not of the constitutional compromise, but of the letter of the law of 1850—as  an act of disunion, that demanded extraordinary measures of retaliation, even to the exclusion of the State's representatives in Congress. Governor Gardner viewed it in the same light when he vetoed it, but the Legislature stood15 firm, and passed the act again over his veto. It was the high-water mark of Northern manhood. In Kansas, on the other hand, the Slave Power was in the ascendant. Hordes of degraded beings, such as only slavery and whiskey could produce, crossed in arms at the16 spring elections from Missouri into the Territory, took possession of the polling-places, terrorized and maltreated judges of election and free-State voters, stuffed the boxes with ballots in wild excess of the census-voting population, and elected a legislature which purged itself of17 every free-State delegate, removed the capital nearer the18 Missouri border, adopted the slave code of that State, and19 in other ways completed what Governor Reeder himself rightly called the subjugation of Kansas. Powerless to20 rectify the doings of this bogus body, for what he did do21 honestly the Governor was removed by President Pierce22 and succeeded by Wilson Shannon, who acknowledged the23 legality of the Legislature, and put himself openly at the24 head of the invaders, assuring them of the firm support of the Administration at Washington. Every difference growing out of the unsettled state of society in a new country—and disputes over titles to the land were inevitable— was liable to array free-State men against slave-State, and to end in bloodshed. The first homicide of this25 character occurred before Governor Reeder's dismissal, and nearly led to a pitched battle. Arms were sent to the26 Territory by the friends of the Emigrant Aid Association to prevent the extermination of the Northern settlers. Gerrit Smith and his little knot of Simon Pure Liberty Party men, now styling themselves Radical Political Abolitionists and met in convention at Syracuse June 27, 28, took up a collection in response to an appeal from ‘a Mr. John Brown, who had five sons in Kansas, and who27 was desirous to join them. They had written for arms  and means of defence, and declared in their letters that fighting suasion was the most important institution in the new Territory.’28 In November, another homicide led to the siege of29 Lawrence by the Border-Ruffian army under Atchison and Stringfellow, and the so-called ‘Wakarusa war.’30 Governor Shannon summoned out the ‘militia’ (i. e., the Missourians), and made demand on the President for31 Federal troops. It would be a grave error to look upon the Kansas struggle—any more than upon the civil war of which it was the prelude—as one between abolitionists and pro-slavery men. Mr. Garrison had been careful to say nothing to32 discourage emigration to the Territory, but he had ‘never had any faith in it as a breakwater against the inundation of the dark waters of oppression.’ He knew that the emigrants represented only the average sentiment of the North on the subject of slavery. As Charles Stearns wrote to the Liberator from Lawrence on December 24, 1854:
Multitudes of those who are such flaming abolitionists here,33 as they call themselves, are a sui generis kind of abolitionist—a mongrel character, like Aunt Ophelia in “Uncle Tom's Cabin.” They are desperately opposed to slavery entering here—and why? Because they “don't want the niggers about them.” . . . Now I feel quite certain that the very people who will vote against the introduction of slavery will also vote for a “Black Law.” 34 . . . I can find but few who dare to say that  they are in favor of allowing the colored man to come here and buy land on an equality with the white man. The common cry is, “We want no slavery and no niggers.” . . . I am much disappointed in the character of the New England emigrants. They come here, as men go to California, mainly after money.The siege of Lawrence, and the sight of a free-State man wantonly murdered in this exciting period, caused Mr.35 Stearns formally to renounce his non-resistance views, and to shoulder his Sharp's rifle against wild beasts (not men). Mr. Garrison still held to the faith. He presided on March 24, 25, at a New England Non-Resistance Convention held36 in Worcester,37 and drew up a long array of resolutions, from which we single out one for its freshness in this connection:
17. Resolved, That the plan of supporting governments by tariffs, and other indirect taxes, is a cunning contrivance of tyrants to enable them to attain their ambitious and bloody aims without exciting the alarm of the people by a direct appeal to their pockets; therefore, one most potent way to put an end to war and tyranny is to abolish all tariffs and indirect taxes, and to substitute free trade and direct taxation as the means of sustaining political institutions. Lib. 25.50.Mr. Garrison's anti-slavery labors for the year were, barring illness both at the beginning and close, as extensive and incessant as usual. On March 1, as a private venture, he lectured in Tremont Temple, Boston, in reply38 to Senator Sam Houston of Texas, who, the week before, in a nominally anti-slavery course of lectures conducted by Dr. S. G. Howe and others, had made “a stolid defence of slavery.” Lib. 25.35, 36. The experiment was a success, the audience being large. One feature of the review was the exhibition39 to the audience of eleven yards of Southern and slaveholding atrocities clipped from the columns of the Lib-  erator. As landmarks, we will cite resolutions which he introduced at the annual New York meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society in May:40
Resolved, That Liberty and Slavery are in their nature41 antagonisms, which no power in the universe can reconcile; and that any effort to make peace, or to effect a compromise, between them is an insult to God, a crime against nature, and an outrage upon man. Resolved, That a Church or Government which accords the same rights and privileges to Slavery as to Liberty, is a house divided against itself, which cannot stand—is an attempt to pay equal honor to Belial and to Christ—is inherently corrupt and tyrannical, and deserving of universal execration.These resolutions were originally drafted for an42 antislavery convention at Dover, N. H., on April 25. The sentiment they contain is anything but new from Mr.43 Garrison's lips, but the phraseology arrests attention. The expression, ‘a house divided against itself,’ may be said to have made the fortune of Lincoln as a statesman when uttered three years later.44 Now, it fell on deaf ears. Worthy of mention is the speech which accompanied the45 above resolutions—logical and orderly, and fortified at every step with documentary evidence. On August 1, near Jamaica, Long Island, Mr. Garrison spoke again, at the celebration of the day by the New York City 46 AntiSlavery Society. A most competent judge shall testify to the weight of his remarks on this occasion, in the following letter (a translation by the hand of the recipient):  Mr. Garrison was the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the50 Boston mob in the very hall from which the Female Anti-Slavery Society had been expelled in 1835. Nothing it lacked, of solemnity or historic picturesqueness, but the presence of Mrs. Chapman, who was on the eve of embarking for America after a seven years residence abroad. But beside Francis Jackson, who of right was called to preside, sat Mrs. Thankful Southwick, one of the former vice-presidents of the Society, supported by51 Miss Henrietta Sargent, a fellow-member. The Rev.52 Samuel May, Jr., read fitting extracts from the Psalms. Prayer was offered by the Rev. James Freeman Clarke. Mr. Garrison then read, and the audience sang tenderly, those thrilling lines of Whittier's ‘Paean’ which, though composed in 1848, seemed designed for the present occasion:
Now, joy and thanks for evermore!Where indeed were they? Otis, as Wendell Phillips53 remarked, was gone. The editor who stirred up ‘the54 Atlas mob,’ was gone. Mayor Lyman was in his grave; so was the judge before whom Garrison was arraigned as55 a rioter; so was the sheriff who had committed him to jail on that charge. And in the broader field of contest, what haughty leaders of the pro-slavery phalanx had passed away! Filled with this retrospect, and naturally assuming the historical-biographical part of the appointed exercises, no wonder that Mr. Garrison spoke with good cheer of the contrast between 1835 and 1855, and found ‘all the signs of the times encouraging,’ though admitting56 that ‘more than a million slaves are to be delivered who were not in existence twenty years ago.’ We shall seek in vain in his speech any prescience or intimation of the impending Civil War. As little will it be found in those  of Wendell Phillips and Theodore Parker. Henry C.57 Wright grazed it in these passages:
The dreary night has well-nigh passed,
The slumbers of the North are o'er,—
The Giant stands erect at last!
 More than we hoped in that dark time
When, faint with watching, few and worn,
We saw no welcome day-star climb
The cold gray pathway of the morn!
O weary hours! O night of years!
What storms our darkling pathway swept,
Where, beating back our thronging fears,
By Faith alone our march we kept.
How jeered the scoffing crowd behind,
How mocked before the tyrant train,
As, one by one, the true and kind
Fell fainting in our path of pain!
They died,—their brave hearts breaking slow,—
But, self-forgetful to the last,
In words of cheer and bugle blow
Their breath upon the darkness passed.
A mighty host, on either hand,
Stood waiting for the dawn of day
To crush like reeds our feeble band;
The morn has come,—and where are they?
Now, Mr. Chairman, the question we have to decide is,58 What shall we do? Some of us, many of us, I believe, have put on the armor for death or victory; and now, what have we to do? We have got a terrible fact to deal with in this country, and we cannot stop to discuss the technical meaning of words, whether in the Bible or in the Constitution. We have to deal with a fact that manifests itself in the religion, in the government, in the literature, in the domestic and social life of the country—the Slave Power. What shall we do? Shall we go on trying to compromise, to keep the peace between Liberty and Slavery? I say, No! Sir, there is but one way to meet that Power, and that is, on the field where “Death or victory” is to be the motto. . . . We have got to come to this, and let us meet it. Let the people of Massachusetts take their stand, and proclaim that no minion of the Slave Power shall be allowed to exercise any of the functions of his office on the soil of this Commonwealth. I wish that you would do towards the Slave Commissioners what your ancestors did towards the Stamp Commissioners. What did they do? Go and read the history of your Revolutionary struggle. In 1764 or ‘65, when a certain59 Mr. Andrew Oliver undertook to act as Commissioner in Boston to enforce the odious Stamp Act of the British Parliament, your fathers took him and bore him to the old Liberty Tree, and there, under its spreading branches, they made him solemnly swear never to exercise his office in this country. Now, go call your United States Commissioners, your Curtises and Lorings, and make them swear never to exercise their infamous office in your midst. . . . I go, Sir, for revolution! Mr. Chairman, while I have been sitting here this afternoon, I have noticed quite a number of young men in this assembly, and I have asked myself, What course will they take? Here are three sitting near me—neither of them, twenty years ago, had any existence; two of them, the sons of the man who was dragged through the streets of Boston, and one, your own grandson.60 I ask, What course will these young men, now in the bloom of early manhood, pursue? Will they take hold and help us in this cause, or will they go on in supporting and strengthening that Power which has so long ruled the nation?  Will the young men take their stand, and throw off this incubus? I say, Mr. Chairman, let us strike for revolution. Let us drive slavery from our soil, and never allow a man to be put on trial on the question whether he is a man or a beast. How long shall this last? I hope to live to see the hour of triumph; and as I mark the spirit that pervades this assembly, I can hardly help crying out, Hallelujah!A comparatively new-comer in the anti-slavery ranks, the Rev. T. W. Higginson, who followed Mr. Wright, saw and expressed the tendency of current events with a distinctness close akin to prophecy:
It is good for us to have been here, Sir. I have felt it almost61 every moment of the afternoon; and when I have looked around this hall, and seen alternately the smiles upon the lips of noble women, and the tears in the eyes of brave men,—seen them as well as I could for the closer tears that dimmed my own,—I have felt the same hope with the last speaker, that the younger among us, especially those who cannot speak from personal memory of the “inside ” or the “ outside ” of this hall, on the day we celebrate—that these young persons, from this Anniversary, may at least rekindle the enthusiasm of their self-devotion. Mr. Chairman, one sentence spoken by Mr. Garrison sunk deep into my heart this afternoon: “Things are so changed around us,” he said. It is not for me here and now to question one word of his; but my heart asked my intellect, Are things so changed, after all? Is the Massachusetts of 1855 so transformed from the Massachusetts of 1835? Is State Street so utterly changed now from what it was when it poured forth its base-hearted myriads then? Is it true that all the hard work is done, no great duties left, and no great demands made upon us—us, whose misfortune it is, not our fault, that we could not bear the yoke of twenty years ago? He did not mean it—I know he did not mean it; for it is not true, and therefore he did not mean it. What is that great change in which we exult? The abolitionists of Massachusetts have labored for twenty years, and what have they conquered? What have they conquered? The right of free speech! They have conquered the right to meet in Stacy Hall and call their souls their own! But what else? . . . If this is the result of those magnificent labors and sacrifices of twenty years, how long, do you think, are the labors and  sacrifices of the future to continue before the work is done? If all that has passed has only come to this, what is the future to be? God knows; I do not know. We never know what new openings God may have in store for putting an end to the long controversies of men, and letting the weary, saddened spirit of humanity out from its perplexity by some new door it did not know until it opened. Upon a single thread of flax, perhaps, at this moment, the destinies of this continent may hang. We cannot allow for future revelations and possibilities. We have got to take the present as it is, and work in it; and that present, even in Massachusetts, is dead against the life of freedom, the purposes of freedom, and the hope of freedom; and if you see it differently, it is because you do not know Massachusetts— do not see how far off we are from realizing that great, determined uprising of the people in behalf of freedom about which we dream. . . . My friends, even in the greatest self-devotion, there is something more to be learned, and we have got it to learn. Passmore Williamson is in his prison, and Massachusetts men are quiet, and go about their daily business; and if he were in prison in Boston, it would be very nearly the same thing.62 In Kansas, the liberty of white men is struck down, and held at the point of the bayonet, and here in Massachusetts we sympathize —in the abstract! But when a brave man comes here to raise money to arm with Sharp's rifles his company of a hundred Kansas farmers, does he find a “material aid” at all commensurate with his expectations?63 Alas, no! I have a sad letter which tells the contrary, but I will not read it, “lest the  daughters of the Philistines rejoice.” But you cannot wonder if members of Congress, statesmen, refuse to sacrifice their places for freedom, when we will not sacrifice our purses. . . . Mr. Phillips told us, that on this day, twenty years ago, the military could not protect the meeting, because “ the guns were outside in the mob—or the men who should have carried them.” There has been a time since when the men were on the outside, and the guns too; and as surely as this earth turns on its axis, that time will come again! And it is for you, men who hear me, to think what you will do when that time comes; and it is for you, women who hear me, to think what you will do, and what you are willing—I will not say, to consent that those you love should do, but what you are willing to urge them to do, and to send them from your homes, knowing that they will do it, whether they live or die. I am speaking of realities now; of real dangers and duties here in Boston, that appeal to all,—to non-resistants as much as any other; and in speaking of these, I have said enough. But, I say, in closing, if there is any young man here who is not prepared to devote himself to the doing of such duties, he had better meet the issue now, for this night the duty may be required of him.The mob anniversary was a sort of family gathering, a Thanksgiving festival, of the Boston circle of abolitionists, with joy for those who had survived, and a feeling remembrance for those who had dropped by the way. Among the latter and more recent were John Bishop64 Estlin of Bristol, England, one of the half-dozen indispensable coadjutors of the American Anti-Slavery Society65 across the water;66 and William H. Ashurst, belonging to the same group. Ashurst had been an honored guest, was in Dix Place, near Hollis Street, whither the72 Garrison family had removed in 1853 from Concord Street, on Boston Neck—their residence for a year after quitting Shawmut Avenue. In the heart of the city, and very73 accessible, it drew upon the anti-slavery leader and his wife a great deal of company, to entertain which was no small tax on their slender resources.74 Hitherto, Francis  Jackson had been their landlord as well as near neighbor and generous friend. Now, in the year under review, the fund which had been accumulated to this end principally,75 was augmented sufficiently to purchase the house of Mr.76 Jackson, at its original cost. Mr. Hovey, already a liberal contributor to the fund, notified the Garrisons that, in addition, he proposed to pay them annually a sum equal to the interest on a contemplated legacy. This aid was gratefully accepted by Mr. Garrison, on condition that it77 should be freely revoked at any time, for any reason, and saving his own independence of thought and action.78 Close upon the heels of the mob anniversary, both Francis Jackson and Mr. Garrison fell ill—the former dangerously, so that his life was despaired of. Neither could visit the other, though but a short distance apart.