The Duty of Disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act by Lydia Maria Francis Child


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Page 1

One thousand five hundred years ago, Gregory, a Bishop in Asia
Minor, preached a sermon in which he rebuked the sin of
slaveholding. Indignantly he asked, "Who can be the possessor of
human beings save God? Those men that you say belong to you, did not
God create them free? Command the brute creation; that is well. Bend
the beasts of the field beneath your yoke. But are your fellow-men
to be bought and sold, like herds of cattle? Who can pay the value
of a being created in the image of God? The whole world itself bears
no proportion to the value of a soul, on which the Most High has set
the seal his likeness. This world will perish, but the soul of man
is immortal. Show me, then, your titles of possession. Tell me
whence you derive this strange claim. Is not your own nature the
same with that of those you call your slaves? Have they not the same
origin with yourselves? Are they not born to the same immortal

Thus spake a good old Bishop, in the early years of Christianity.
Since then, thousands and thousands of noble souls have given their
bodies to the gibbet and the stake, to help onward the slow progress
of truth and freedom; a great unknown continent has been opened as a
new, free starting point for the human race; printing has been
invented, and the command, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do
unto you, do ye even so unto them," has been sent abroad in all the
languages of the earth. And here, in the noon-day light the
nineteenth century, in a nation claiming to be the freest and most
enlightened on the face of the globe, a portion the population of
fifteen States have thus agreed among themselves: "Other men shall
work for us, without wages while we smoke, and drink, and gamble,
and race horses, and fight. We will have their wives and daughters
for concubines, and sell their children in the market with horses
and pigs. If they make any objection to this arrangement, we will
break them into subjection with the cow-hide and the bucking-paddle.
They shall not be permitted to read or write, because that would be
likely to 'produce dissatisfaction in their minds.' If they attempt
to run away from us, our blood-hounds shall tear the flesh from
their bones, and any man who sees them may shoot them down like mad
dogs. If they succeed in getting beyond our frontier, into States
where it is the custom to pay men for their work, and to protect
their wives and children from outrage, we will compel the people of
those States to drive them back into the jaws of our blood-hounds."

And what do the people of the other eighteen States of that
enlightened country answer to this monstrous demand? What says
Massachusetts, with the free blood of the Puritans coursing in her
veins, and with the sword uplifted in her right hand, to procure
"peaceful repose under liberty"? Massachusetts answers: "O yes. We
will be your blood-hounds, and pay our own expenses. Only prove to
our satisfaction that the stranger who has taken refuge among us is
one of the men you have agreed among yourselves to whip into working
without wages, and we will hunt him back for you. Only prove to us
that this woman, who has run away from your harem, was bought for a
concubine, that you might get more drinking-money by the sale of the
children she bears you, and our soldiers will hunt her back with

Shame on my native State! Everlasting shame! Blot out the escutcheon
of the brave old Commonwealth! Instead of the sword uplifted to
protect liberty, let the slave-driver's whip be suspended over a
blood-hound, and take for your motto, Obedience to tyrants is the
highest law.

Legislators of Massachusetts, can it be that you really understand
what Slavery _is_, and yet consent that a fugitive slave, who seeks
protection here, shall be driven back to that dismal house of
bondage? For sweet charity's sake, I must suppose that you have been
too busy with your farms and your merchandise ever to have imagined
yourself in the situation of a slave. Let me suppose a case for you;
one of a class of cases occurring by hundreds every year. Suppose
your father was Governor of Carolina and your mother was a slave.
The Governor's wife hates your mother, and is ingenious in inventing
occasions to have you whipped. _You_ don't know the reason why,
poor child! but your mother knows full well. If they would only
allow her to go away and work for wages, she would gladly toil and
earn money to buy you. But that your father will not allow. His laws
have settled it that she is his property, "for all purposes
whatsoever," and he will keep her as long as suits his convenience.
The mistress continually insists upon her being sold far away South;
and after a while, she has her will. Your poor mother clings to you
convulsively; but the slave-driver gives you both a cut of his whip,
and tells you to stop your squalling. They drive her off with the
gang, and you never hear of her again; but, for a long time
afterward, it makes you very sad to remember the farewell look of
those large, loving eyes. Your poor mother had handsome eyes; and
that was one reason her mistress hated her.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Tue 25th Feb 2020, 6:09