As every act by which Northern freemen were protected in their liberties was regarded by the South as an infringement of the Constitution, the progress of disunion was considerable in the year 1843. Massachusetts passed, in2 answer to the Latimer petition, a Personal Liberty Act forbidding judges and justices to take part in the capture3 of fugitive slaves, and sheriffs, jailors, and constables to detain them. The Governor of Vermont recommended a4 similar measure. Maine rejected it, as being tantamount5 to disunion; but imitated Massachusetts in appointing an agent to protect the State's colored seamen in Southern6 ports.7 In his admirable report recommending a Personal Liberty Act, Charles Francis Adams said: “It is the slave representation which . . . is effecting, by slow but sure degrees, the overthrow of all the noble principles that were embodied in the Federal Constitution.” Lib. 13.35. Joint resolves were accordingly passed by the Massachusetts Legislature, praying that the clause of the Constitution
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7 A memorial of Boston shipowners to Congress on this subject elicited a report from the Committee on Commerce (Robert C. Winthrop of Massachusetts, chairman), affirming the unconstitutionality of the Southern laws by which colored seamen were arrested and kept in jail while their vessels lay in port, and sold as slaves if charges were not paid. But the House refused leave to print it (Lib. 13: 24, 26, 30; 15: 7).
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