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THE BOSTON MOB.- Mr. Webster has written a letter, in behalf of Mr. Fillmore, to the Mayor of Boston, in response to the resolutions of the City authorities concerning the mob that rescued Shadrach. The letter very properly describes that mob and its results as ' having been an entire surprise upon the citizens, and upon the authorities; an act of successfully temerity, on the part of a very inconsiderable number of persons which only needed to have been apprehended the shortest time beforehand, to have been prevented.'

'The President (says Mr. Webster in conclusion and with great correctness) does not doubt that the people of Massachusetts perfectly well understand the difference between the freest discussion of political measures, and opposition to legal enactments already made and established. He is quite sure that they regard the law of the land not as sentiment or an opinion; but as a rule of conduct prescribed by the general authority, and which all are bound to obey, at the risk of the penalties attached to its violation.'

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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Three days after fugitive slave Shadrach's arrest and subsequent rescue by a mob, the board of aldermen ordered that the mayor of Boston direct the city marshal to assist agents of the state and federal government in the execution of their duty when obstructed by a mob. The Boston authorities had not come to the aid of the federal marshals when a mob broke into the courtroom and rescued Shadrach. These officers felt that the 1843 Massachusetts law that prevented "all officers of the commonwealth from engaging . . . in the arrest, detention, or imprisonment of a fugitive slave" governed their actions. The Boston officers probably did not agree with the Fugitive Slave Law and did not want to come to the aid of the federal marshals in any case. The letter from Daniel Webster on behalf of President Fillmore to the mayor of Boston, includes the sentiment that the people of Boston must understand that a law should be regarded as a law, whether they agree with it or not.

 

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

publisher   Greenfield Gazette and Courier
date   Mar 31, 1851
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
width   3.75"
height   4.5"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
accession #   #L09.004


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See Also...

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

"To Hon. John P. Bigelow, Mayor Boston"article re: Shadrach and Webster's response to riot in the Franklin Democrat newspaper

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


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