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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

1 Lib. 25.106.

2 Lib. 25.43, 51, 99.

3 Lib. 25.102.

4 Lib. 25.203.

5 Lib. 25.181; 26.2.

6 Lib. 25.75.

7 Lib. 25.23.

8 Lib. 25.30, 33, 35, 59.

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