Some one started a conundrum: “Why is Daniel Webster like Sisera? Because he was killed by a woman,” and this had almost as great a run as the original accusation.
When the National Convention met in Pittsburg, in 1852, to form the Free Democratic party, there was an executive and popular branch held in separate halls. I attended the executive. Very few women were present, and I the only one near the platform. The temporary chairman left the chair, came to me to be introduced, saying:
“I want to take the hand that killed Daniel Webster.”
Henry Wilson was permanent chairman of that convention, and he came, too, with similar address. Even Mr. Greeley continued to be my friend, and I wrote for the Tribune often after that time.
FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW.
When it became certain that the Fugitive Slave Bill could pass Congress, but could not command a two-thirds vote to carry it over the assured veto of President Taylor, he ate a plate of strawberries, just as President Harrison had done when he stood in the way of Southern policy, and like his great predecessor Taylor, died opportunely, when Mr. Fillmore became President, and signed the bill. When it was the law of the land, there was a rush of popular sentiment in favor of obedience, and a rush of slave-catchers to take advantage of its provisions. Thousands of slaves were returned to bondage. Whigs and Democrats were still bidding for the Southern vote, and now vied with each other as to who should show most willingness to aid their Southern brethren in the recovery of their lost property. The church also rushed to the front to show its Christian zeal for the wrongs of those brethren, who, by the escape of their slaves, lost the means of building churches and buying communion services, and there was no end of homilies on the dishonesty of helping men to regain possession of their own bodies. All manner of charges were rung about Onesimus, and Paul became the patron saint of slave-catchers.
Among the many devices brought to bear on the consciences of Pittsburgers, was a sermon preached, as per announcement, by Rev. Riddle, pastor of the Third Presbyterian church. It was received with great favor, by his large wealthy congregation, was printed in pamphlet form, distributed by thousands and made a profound impression, for Pittsburg is a Presbyterian city, and a sermon by its leading pastor was convincing. The sermon was an out and out plea for the bill and obedience to its requirements. Did not Paul return Onesimus to his master? Were not servants told to obey their masters? Running away was gross disobedience, etc., etc.
Robt. M. Riddle, in a careful leader in The Journal, deprecated the existence of the law, but since it did exist, counseled obedience. He was a polished and forcible writer and his arguments had great weight.