Opinion - fugitive slaves and Pennsylvania press, 1854
The Pa. Press—Fugitive Slaves.
~A portion of the Pennsylvania Press—deeply dyed in the wool of Abolitionism—-are in the combatant habit of exulting- with fiendish delight over the escape of Fugitive Slaves and the discomfiture of their pursuers, bidding the former "God-speed" on the “Underground Rail Road," and applying various epithets of opprobium to the latter. We read with some indignation an article of this discription in the last Chambersburg Repository and Whig, copied from the Gettysburg Star and Banner, entitled “Slave Hunts in Adams County,” in which an account of the escape of some six or eight slaves from Maryland is given with undisguised complacency, and the disappointment of those who pursued them set forth in lively colors, and evidently enjoyed with an epicure’s gusto.
Now we ask these journals in all sincerity, both of which are otherwise well conducted, and printed within 20 miles of the Northern border of Washington County, whether this course of conduct on their part towards our people is not, to say the least of it, a mark of very “bad neighborhood?" and whether, moreover, it is not well calculated to produce a rupture of the friendly relations subsisting between citizens of a common country, residing near each other, although in different States, and daily interchanging kind offices? A candid must be an affirmative response.
Our people do not esteem it a crime to hold slaves as property, any more than the dollar-loving ancestry, of these Pennsylvania or Yankee editors did to sell the South such property a century ago.—~ Our forefathers purchased slaves from the vessels of Northern Importers, to whom we are indebted for this evil, if it be an evil, and taught their descendants to believe that they had the same legal and moral right to hold such property, as Pennsylvanians have to any of the “goods and chattles, lands and tenements” which they may possess.— We, therefore, naturally feel ourselves as grossly outraged in our private rights, when one of those slaves is spirited away from our domicils by a whining, canting Abolitionist, as Pennsylvanians usually do when a thief steals a horse from them, or a worthless free negro in the exercise of the "largest liberty", robs their hen-roosts; and if we were not a patient, forbearing, law-abiding and order-loving people ; if we did not know that two wrongs cannot make a right according to any recognised code of ethics; we should most certainly resort to measures of retaliation or reprisal as an indemnification for the heavy losses which we have from time to time sustained at the hands of some of our recreant neighbors—aye recreant to the Constitution and Laws of the United States—on the other side of Mason and Dixon’s line.
We have, however, no disposition to spring upon the editors of the Whig and Star a controversy upon the subject of slavery ; but we do think that they could employ their pens to a better purpose than to indict articles of the obnoxious character of the one complained of, and to chuckle over the escape of slaves from their masters, many of whom are the sole dependence of aged widows and helpless orphans, and none but are better fed, better clothed and better treated in every respect, than the free negroes, who infest the suburbs of either Chambersburg or Gettysburg.
Herald of Freedom & Torch Light
Slaves, Western Maryland
Western Maryland, 1800-1864