Caption: “You call it the dirty work of the Democratic Party to catch fugitive slaves for the Southern people. We are willing to perform that dirty work.” John A. Logan, in the Illinois State Legislature, Dec. 9th, 1859.
Image Details: Illustration from Puck Magazine
Boston, Mass., March 4, 1851.
To the Editor of the National Era:
I frequently hear it asserted that the law of 1850, for the recovery of fugitive slaves, does not materially differ from that of 1793, and that neither enactment requires anything more of the North than the performance of its constitutional obligations. Regarding both these propositions as false and mischievous, as tending to reconcile the public to the present state of the law, I wish, if you will give me room in your paper, to state, briefly, the points of difference between the two States, and the points wherein the statute of 1850 transcends the requirements of the Constitution.
1. The law of 1793, as expounded by the Supreme Court of the United States imposed no duty upon a free State, or upon any citizen of a free State, except upon certain officers; and, as they occupied their places voluntarily, it may with truth be said that, under that law, a man could live in a free State without participating in the business of making men who, through deadly peril, had won their freedom, slaves again. The amount of the enactment of 1793, was, that if a slave escaped into a free State, his owner might, carrying with him from home, or engaging in the State to which the slave had fled, such voluntary aid as he should find needful, take him away, without becoming liable to the penalties for kidnapping. By that law, freemen were not required to become slave-hunters or slave-catchers. They performed their whole duty if they offered no opposition when the slave-hunter would hunt his prey upon their soil. By the law of 1850, the United States carries the fugitive back to slavery, and thus every citizen must participate in the deed. More than this by that law every citizen is required, when called upon, to give his strength the labor of his own free muscles to the work.