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[375] rendition was ‘Anniversary Week,’ when the people of New England, especially their spiritual leaders, were assembled in Boston to advance by prayer, conference, and appeal great causes of religion and humanity. The Antislavery Society, always attracting a large audience, was holding its annual session, and a Free Soil convention was meeting under a call issued some weeks before for considering the political situation. Poor creature as Batchelder was, and no baser than the rest, his death gave a sort of dignity to a fruitless outbreak, which was not without its melodramatic points. The citizens in this hour seemed to have a new birth. A petition calling for the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act, placed in the Merchants' Exchange, received nearly three thousand names, largely of merchants hitherto swift to support compromise and slave rendition. Such was the change of feeling in this class, that, though they would not have personally assisted in a rescue, they would have rejoiced to see it accomplished by others. It is worthy of note, as showing the revolution in public sentiment, that among the signers was Pearson, who had before cordially supplied vessels for the transportation of fugitive slaves when recovered by their masters.1

The hearing of the Burns case, with the popular resistance and the death of Batchelder, produced an excitement in Washington not less than that in Boston. The sensation was prodigious; and the first thought among pro-slavery men was to attribute the homicide to some antislavery leader holding a public position. By an anachronism it was ascribed to Sumner's midnight speech, which was not known in Boston till the day after the affair at the court house, and particularly to his prediction, ‘You scatter from this dark midnight hour no seeds of harmony and good-will, but broadcast through the land dragons' teeth, which haply may not spring up in direful crops of armed men, yet I am assured, sir, will fructify in civil strife and feud.’ The language was prophetic of future mischief, though in no respect an exhortation to violence. But there was no disposition to observe points of time or weigh words; and the excited slaveholders in Washington undertook to hold Sumner personally responsible for what was called the assassination of an officer of the government in the discharge of his

1 Ante, pp. 130, 193. Pearson in his letter (Boston Courier, November 13), while stating that he had signed the petition, justified his former action.

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