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Free Soil party, we conceive to be this : — The first recognize no right of the master to his Slave anywhere, either on the plantation or after he has escaped to the North, and consequently deny the validity of any Constitution, or law under it, securing either his original property in the Slave, or his right of recovering him, after escape. The latter does not deny the Constitutional obligations to protect the master in his Slave-property and to provide for its restoration, if it have flown away; but insists that it shall be done decently and in order and with such prudent care as shall guard against any mistake. The Free Soilers have never affirmed, that we know of, that the Slavehunters should not have their pound of flesh, provided it was carved out exactly, nor less nor more, according to law. The Abolitionists deny the validity of the law ab initio, and maintain that no circumstances can be imagined in which it would be less a crime than now. The quarrel of the Free Soilers with the Fugitive Law is not, we take it, with its principle, but with its details. We suppose that a law could be devised, had they the framing of it, which they would be willing should be enforced. If they do not mean this, we do not understand what they mean by their professed intention of sticking “to the Law, the Constitution, and the Union.” It is not their avowed ground, that a law is not to be passed and obeyed, which shall provide for the restoration of fugitive Slaves; but that this specific law is vicious because it endangers those who are not fugitive Slaves, — that there is not sufficient care taken to protect the really free. Now we think it no worse to enslave a free man, whether white or black, than to hold a negro Slave originally, and no worse to make a mistake, real or pretended, in the identity of the man claimed, than it is to send him back upon the most irrefragable evidence of his former condition. Their objection to the Law is that it may make a Free Man a Slave ; ours is that it makes a Man a Slave, and it is all the stronger in the case of one who has rescued himself from that horrible pit.
For our own part, we have no particular desire to see the present law repealed or modified. If Slaves are to be recaptured and carried back, the worse the law is that regulates it the better we like it. What we preach is, not Repeal, not Modification, but Disobedience. We are content with the existing law, provided we can persuade the people not to suffer it to be executed. We think it much better than one which should avoid the common objections to it. If the liberty of any man is to be endangered by Constitutional legislation, in God's name let it be the free and not the Slave! The free man has had at least a portion
of his good things in this life, and his chance of deliverance or of escape is comparatively good. But what hope is there for the flying wretch who is seized and delivered again to his tormentors? We had as lief see the richest merchant in New York, (especially if he signed the Slavecatching Call,) or the most devout Doctor in Divinity, (especially if he had baptised and blessed the Bill of Abominations,) we had as lief see either of them made Slaves of as the humblest negro that has escaped from his prison-house. His former condition is no reason whatever for his being returned to it, against his will, but the strongest possible why he should not be. If we are to have a Slavecatching law, it cannot be too bad a one. The worse it is the better the hope that its execution will be evaded. God save us and the fugitive Slave from a law which will content the North! That will be indeed the invention of the devil, whether he take the shape of Free Soil or of Slavery. Give us a law so flagrant in its wickedness that no mental sight can be so dull as not to perceive it! So imperfect in its details as to make every man tremble for his own safety and that of his children! Our hope in the Free Soil party, is, that its action will always be better than its professions,—that its heart will be truer than its logic.
But to return to the doings of the Legislature. We have already stated that the excellent laws proposed by Mr. ROBINSON, in consequence of the Sims outrages, came to nothing. The same fate attended an admirable Bill, introduced by as admirable a Report, proposed by the Hon. Josepu T. BUCKINGHAM, for the further protection of personal liberty. This bill forbade the volunteer militia taking any part in the arrest or detention of a fugitive Slave; made it the duty of the District Attorney of any district in which an arrest was made, to act as the counsel of the person arrested ; provided for the punishment of any person assisting in the removal of any person, not a Slave, or coming into the State for that purpose, by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and imprisonment in the State Prison for not more than ten years ; it made it the legal presumption that no person dwelling within the Commonwealth was a Slave, and threw the burden of proof on the claimant or his agent; it enlarged the range of the present law of Habeas Corpus, authorizing any Judge or Justice of the Peace to issue the warrant returnable before any Judge of the Supreme Court or the Common
it authorized any constable of a town to serve the writ; it required the Judge before whom the writ was returnable, to grant a jury trial to the party accused of being a Slave, if he did not discharge him on the hearing, upon his recognizance, with sureties, in a sum not ex
ceeding a thousand dollars, to prosecute the same, – the verdict of the jury to be conclusive as to the points at issue ; and, finally, it provided that all expenses whatsoever, incurred by any person obtaining his Habeas Corpus under this law, should be paid by the Commonwealth.
It was disgraceful to the Legislature that it should have suffered this admirably contrived lay to fall to the ground. But this it did. And the relief which it was hoped a Legislature claiming a Reforming character would have extended to the colored children of. Boston, now, many of them, virtually denied the blessings of education, or allowed to enjoy them under great disadvantages, through the unchristian and inhuman prejudice of the School Committee, adjudicated into law by the Supreme Court of the State, also was denied. As the present Legislature is composed of the same elements, each boasting of a progressive and reforming tendency, and each vieing with the other in their professions of love of equal rights and impartial liberty, and as it is undistracted with the disturbing force of Senator-making, we most earnestly trust that it will not suffer another year to pass without providing this necessary safeguard to Personal Liberty, and freeing the State from the last vestige of legalized prejudice of color within its borders. As to the first, we fervently hope that the action of our legislators will place Massachusetts in as creditable an attitude as is consistent with the recognition of Slavecatching under any circumstances, as a political duty. If they must needs acknowledge that they are bound to pay a tribute of the flesh nearest other men's hearts to the Southern Shylock, let them at least see to it that he gets no more than his just pound, as allowed by the law and awarded by the Court,
The last year will be a memorable one to all interested in the AntiSlavery Movement, whether as friends or foes, as being marked by the labors of this indefatigable and eloquent friend of the Slave. For more than four months after the last Anniversary of this Society, Mr. THOMPSON was incessant and most effective in his Anti-Slavery labors. Besides many Meetings which he held, or attended, in this State, he addressed great audiences in Maine, Rhode Island, New York, and Pennsylvania. In all these cases, with a single exception, he was received respectfully and heard gladly. The exception was in the
town of Springfield in this State. A Convention had been appointed to be held in that place on the evening of February 17th, to continue through the next day. But Springfield being a stronghold of Webster Whiggery, it was thought to be a suitable place for a patriotic demonstration. Accordingly, for some days previously, the proper machinery was set at work to excite the rabble to an assault upon Mr. THOMPSON. The respectable papers and people, to be sure, did it under the disguise of disapproving of any such demonstration ; but with pregnant intimations that it was no more than was to be expected, not to say deserved. On Sunday, the day previous, effigies of Mr. THOMPSON and his venerable relative, Mr. John Bull, were hung from trees in the Court Square for the edification of the citizens on their way
to public worship. During the night handbills of the most ferocious and bloody description were posted over the town, containing most atrocious appeals to the worst passions of the Americans, and, especially of the Irish, calling upon them, of all men in the world, to come out and put down Mr. Thompson as an enemy of their race! Upon his arrival in town a Committee, consisting of Messrs. HOMER Foot, CHARLES STEARNS, and a Mr. SMITH, Editor of a Democratic paper, waited upon him, not with assurances of protection in his rights and the maintenance of the hospitality of their town on the part of the well-disposed portion of the inhabitants, but to entreat him to depart from their borders and save them from the molestation of a mob to suppress
him. This courteous invitation Mr. THOMPSON thought fit to decline. In consequence of the excitement, the proprietors of Hampden Hall, the place fixed upon for the Meeting, refused to permit it to be used, so no session could he held on Monday evening. During the evening there was a riotous assemblage about the Hotel where Mr. THOMPSON and his friends lodged, but their demonstrations were chiefly confined to vociferous denunciations of him and John Bull. The next morning a small hall was procured, which was immediately crowded to overflowing. The meeting was organized by the election of Mr. ELMER as Chairman, and opened with prayer by the Rev. Dr. Osgood. Speeches were made by Mr. THOMPSON, Mr. PHILLIPS, Mr. QUINCY, and Judge MORRIS. Mr. THOMPSON was received in the most enthuthiastic manner and tumultuously cheered throughout. In the afternoon the proprietors of the Free Church opened their doors to the Convention, and the spacious room was filled at once and entirely. Mr. Quincy spoke first at some length and was followed by Mr. PullLIPS, who made a speech of great power and effect. When Mr.
THOMPSON entered, which was not until the meeting had proceeded for some time, he was received with long continued cheering, which frequently interrupted the splendid philippic which he proceeded to pour forth. As a specimen of crushing sarcasm, biting satire and overwhelming invective, we doubt whether its equal was ever heard in this country. The manner in which he dealt with the Selectmen of Springfield, the Lynch Committee, and especially the Republican, the Webstero-Ashmuno-Whig paper, which had been busy in creating the disturbance, filling itself with lies about him, and then writing him, in the interval of the meeting, an impertinent letter of inquiry about something he had said in his morning's speech, was transcendantly masterly. He carried his audience along with him in a surprising manner, and the meeting closed most triumphantly. So the result of all the machinations of Webster Whigdom that he should not speak in Springfield was, that the town was stirred up as it never was before, and heard an amount of truth about itself and the nation that it would have escaped had the meeting gone off as it was supposed it would, when it was arranged.
In the evening the noisy demonstrations of the night before were renewed. The mob paraded with drums beating and fifes playing, and burnt in effigy either Mr. THOMPSON, or his parent, Mr. Bull, under the windows of his private parlor ; the walls of the house, also, pelted with eggs and mud, and three or four stones of respectable dimensions thrown through his windows. These, properly labelled, together with a copy of the infamous handbill, Mr. Thompson placed among his treasures as curiosities illustrative of American Institutions. During this evening, as well as previously, he was visited by many Abolitionists from distant towns, and by many of the citizens of the town, who expressed a strong sense of the discredit their doings had brought upon them. A very little effort on the part of the magistrates or well-disposed citizens would have been sufficient to have suppressed the disturbance and punished the ringleaders. But the leading influences of the town were on the side of the rioters, and in such a case it is seldom that anything effectual is attempted. In speaking of the Selectmen, we should except Mr. BANNON, the son of an old United Irishman, of the school of 1798, who protested against the inaction of the majority. At a late hour the rioters dispersed, without doing any very serious damage, except to themselves and to the character of the town. The next day Mr. THOMPSON proceeded to the State of New