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Proclamation by the President.

Whereas, information has been received that sundry lawless persons, principally persons of color, combined and confederated together for the purpose of opposing by force the execution of the laws of the United States, did at Boston, Massachusetts, on the 15th of this month, make a violent assault on the Marshal or Deputy Marshal of the United States for the district of Massachusetts in the court house, and did overcome the said officers, and did by force take from their custody a person arrested as a fugitive slave, and there and then a prisoner lawfully holden by the Marshal or Deputy Marshal of the United States, and other scandalous outrages did commit in violation of law.

Now, therefore, to the end that the authority of the law may be maintained, and those concerned in violating them brought to immediate and condign punishment, I have issued this, my proclamation, calling on all well disposed citizens to the support of the laws of their country, and commanding all officers, civil and military, who shall be found in the vicinity of this outrage, by aiding and assisting by all means in their power in quelling this and other such combinations, and assisting the Marshal and his Deputies in recapturing the above named persons.

And I do emphatically direct, that prosecutions be commenced against all persons who shall have made themselves aiders or abettors in this flagitious offense. And I do further command that the District Attorney of the United States, and all other persons concerned in the administration or execution of the laws of the United States, to cause the foregoing offenders, and all such as aided, abetted, or assisted them, or shall be found to have harbored or concealed such fugitive contrary to law, to be immediately arrest and proceeded with according to law.

Given under my hand and the seal of the United States, this 18th day of February, 1851.
DANIEL WEBSTER, Sec'y of State.

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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President Fillmore issued this proclamation following the arrest and subsequent rescue by a mob of fugitive slave Shadrach Minkins in Boston on February 15, 1851. The Fugitive Slave 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. Boston authorities did not come to the aid of the federal marshals when a mob broke into the courtroom and rescued Shadrach. In this proclamation, President Fillmore commands "all officers, civil and military," to aid and assist the "Marshal and his Deputies in recapturing the above named persons." He also compels the arrest and prosecution of all the people who helped in Shadrach's escape.


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"Proclamation by the President" [Millard Fillmore] article in the Franklin Democrat newspaper

publisher   Franklin Democrat
date   Feb 24, 1851
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
width   3.75"
height   8.25"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
accession #   #L09.003

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See Also...

Excerpts from "Reminiscences of Fugitive-Slave Law Days in Boston"

"Several Fathers" article re: Clay, Webster and Fillmore and Fugitive Slave Law in the Gazette and Courier newspaper

"The Boston Mob" article to the Mayor in Gazette and Courier newspaper

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