THE CASE OF EUPHEMIA WILLIAMS,
CLAIMED AS A FUGITIVE SLAVE UNDER THE FUGITIVE SLAVE-LAW AFTER HAVING LIVED IN PENNSYLVANIA FOR MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS.
Scarcely had the infamous statute been in existence six months, ere the worst predictions of the friends of the slave were fulfilled in different Northern States. It is hardly too much to say, that Pennsylvania was considered wholly unsafe to nine-tenths of her colored population. The kidnapper is fully shown in the case of Rachel and Elizabeth Parker as he appeared on the soil of Pennsylvania, doing his vile work in the dead of night, entering the homes of unprotected females and children, therefore:
The case of Euphemia Williams will serve to represent the milder form of kidnapping in open day, in the name of the law, by professed Christians in the city of Brotherly Love, and the home of William Penn.
February 6, 1851, Euphemia Williams, the mother of six children, the youngest at the breast, was arrested in the upper part of the city (Philadelphia), and hurried before Edward D. Ingraham, a United States commissioner, upon the charge of being a fugitive from labor. She was claimed by William T.J. Purnell, of Worcester county, Maryland, who admitted that she had been away from him for twenty-two years, or since 1829. Her offspring were born on the soil of Pennsylvania, and the eldest daughter was seventeen years of age.
Euphemia was living in her own house, and had been a member of church, in good and regular standing, for about seventeen years, and was about forty years of age. When the arrest was made, Euphemia had just risen from her bed, and was only partly dressed, when a little after daylight, several persons entered her room, and arrested her. Murder! murder! was cried lustily, and awakened the house. Her children screamed lamentably, and her eldest daughter cried “They’ve got my mother! they’ve got my mother!” “For God’s sake, save me,” cried Euphemia, to a woman in the second story, who was an eye-witness to this monstrous outrage. But despite the piteous appeals of the mother and children, the poor woman was hastened into a cab, and borne to the marshall’s office.
Through the vigilance of J.M. McKim and Passmore Williamson, a writ of habeas corpus returnable forthwith was obtained at about one o’clock. The heart-broken mother was surrounded by five of her children, three of whom were infants. It was a dark and dreadful hour. When her children were brought into the room where she was detained, great drops of sweat standing on her face plainly indicated her agony.
By mutual arrangement between the claimants and the prisoner’s counsel the hearing was fixed for the next day, at the hour of three o’clock. According to said arrangement, at three o’clock Euphemia was brought face to face with her claimant, William T.J. Purnell. The news had already gone out that the trial would come off at the time fixed; hence a multitude were on hand to witness the proceedings in the case. The sympathy of anti-slavery ladies was excited, and many were present in the court-room to manifest their feelings in behalf of the stricken woman. The eloquent David Paul Brown (the terror of slave-hunters) and William S. Pierce, Esqrs., appeared for Euphemia, R.C. McMurtrie, Esq., for the claimant.