Many slave-holders fully understood the law in this particular, and were also equally posted with regard to the vigilance of abolitionists. Consequently they avoided bringing slaves beyond Mason and Dixon’s Line in traveling North. But some slave-holders were not thus mindful of the laws, or were too arrogant to take heed, as may be seen in the case of Colonel John H. Wheeler, of North Carolina, the United States Minister to Nicaragua. In passing through Philadelphia from Washington, one very warm July day in 1855, accompanied by three of his slaves, his high official equilibrium, as well as his assumed rights under the Constitution, received a terrible shock at the hands of the Committee. Therefore, for the readers of these pages, and in order to completely illustrate the various phases of the work of the Committee in the days of Slavery, this case, selected from many others, is a fitting one. However, for more than a brief recital of some of the more prominent incidents, it will not be possible to find room in this volume. And, indeed, the necessity of so doing is precluded by the fact that Mr. Williamson in justice to himself and the cause of freedom, with great pains and singular ability, gathered the most important facts bearing on his memorable trial and imprisonment, and published them in a neat volume for historical reference.
In order to bring fully before the reader the beginning of this interesting and exciting case, it seems only necessary to publish the subjoined letter, written by one of the actors in the drama, and addressed to the New York Tribune, and an additional paragraph which may be requisite to throw light on a special point, which Judge Kane decided was concealed in the “obstinate” breast of Passmore Williamson, as said Williamson persistently refused before the said Judge’s court, to own that he had a knowledge of the mystery in question. After which, a brief glance at some of the more important points of the case must suffice.
[Correspondence of The N.Y. Tribune.]
PHILADELPHIA, Monday, July 30, 1855.
As the public have not been made acquainted with the facts and particulars respecting the agency of Mr. Passmore Williamson and others, in relation to the slave case now agitating this city, and especially as the poor slave mother and her two sons have been so grossly misrepresented, I deem it my duty to lay the facts before you, for publication or otherwise, as you may think proper.
On Wednesday afternoon, week,
at 4-1/2 o’clock, the following
note was placed in my hands by a colored boy whom I had never
before seen, to my recollection:
“MR. STILL—Sir: Will you come down to Bloodgood’s Hotel as soon as possible—as there are three fugitive slaves here and they want liberty. Their master is here with them, on his way to New York.”
The note was without date,
and the signature so indistinctly
written as not to be understood by me, having evidently been
penned in a moment of haste.