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Boston Commonwealth report of speech of Dana in behalf of Davis re: fugitive Shadrich article in Gazette and Courier newspaper
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On February 15, 1851, Shadrach Minkins was arrested by Deputy U. S. Marshall Riley, under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act. This act was passed by congress on September 18, 1850, as part of a compromise allowing California to enter the Union as a free state and ending the slave trade in the District of Columbia. The act made the federal government responsible for tracking down and apprehending slaves who had escaped to the northern states. Shadrach had made his way from Norfolk, Virginia, where he had been born into slavery, to Boston, Massachusetts, in May, 1850. He worked at the Cornhill Coffee House, where he was arrested that Saturday morning and brought across the street to the federal courthouse. Charles G. Davis was one of the lawyers who offered their services as Shadrach's counsel. They asked the court to postpone the proceedings until February 18, so that they could prepare a case. A group of about thirty African-American men had gathered in the hallway, and when Davis and another man who had been with Shadrach opened the door to leave, the men rushed the courtroom and grabbed Shadrach. He eventually found his way to safety in Canada. Charles Davis was arrested for his part in Shadrach's escape. Richard Henry Dana, who had founded the anti-slavery free soil party and was a prominent abolitionist, represented Davis at his hearing before court. The judge finally decided that there wasn't sufficient evidence to hold Davis for trial. In this extract, Richard Henry Dana argues Davis would not have supported the men who acted against the law because he, being a lawyer, would only act within the law.
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