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The Duty of Disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act Anti-Slavery Tracts No. 9, An Appeal To The Legislators Of Massachusetts   By: (1802-1880)

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ANTI SLAVERY TRACTS. No. 9. New Series.

THE

DUTY OF DISOBEDIENCE

TO THE

FUGITIVE SLAVE ACT:

AN APPEAL TO THE

LEGISLATORS OF MASSACHUSETTS,

BY L. MARIA CHILD.

"Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee." DEUT. 23:15.

BOSTON: PUBLISHED BY THE AMERICAN ANTI SLAVERY SOCIETY. 1860.

APPEAL

TO THE

LEGISLATORS OF MASSACHUSETTS.

I feel there is no need of apologizing to the Legislature of Massachusetts because a woman addresses them. Sir Walter Scott says: "The truth of Heaven was never committed to a tongue, however feeble, but it gave a right to that tongue to announce mercy, while it declared judgment." And in view of all that women have done, and are doing, intellectually and morally, for the advancement of the world, I presume no enlightened legislator will be disposed to deny that the "truth of Heaven" is often committed to them, and that they sometimes utter it with a degree of power that greatly influences the age in which they live.

I therefore offer no excuses on that score. But I do feel as if it required some apology to attempt to convince men of ordinary humanity and common sense that the Fugitive Slave Bill is utterly wicked, and consequently ought never to be obeyed. Yet Massachusetts consents to that law! Some shadow of justice she grants, inasmuch as her Legislature have passed what is called a Personal Liberty Bill, securing trial by jury to those claimed as slaves. Certainly it is something gained, especially for those who may get brown by working in the sunshine, to prevent our Southern masters from taking any of us, at a moment's notice, and dragging us off into perpetual bondage. It is something gained to require legal proof that a man is a slave, before he is given up to arbitrary torture and unrecompensed toil. But is that the measure of justice becoming the character of a free Commonwealth? " Prove that the man is property, according your laws, and I will drive him into your cattle pen with sword and bayonet," is what Massachusetts practically says to Southern tyrants. "Show me a Bill of Sale from the Almighty!" is what she ought to say. No other proof should be considered valid in a Christian country.

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 destinies?"

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... Continue reading book >>




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