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SEVERAL FATHERS.- The Commonwealth, a Boston free soil paper, has lately charged Henry Clay with being the author of the fugitive slave law. During the Fall campaign, Daniel Webster was decried, denounced, cursed and damned for being the author of the fugitive slave law. Every free soil press, and every free soil stump-speaker, vied with its fellow laborer in manufacturing condemnatory epithets to be applied to the present Secretary of State for originating the fugitive slave law. Soon after said law passed Congress and received the signature of the President, Millard Fillmore was charged with being the author of it, by many free soilers, and an attempt was made to create a prejudice against the whig party, by trumpeting about the country the falsehood that the President was the author of the odious law. Taking free soilers for authority, the fugitive slave law has several fathers, to say nothing about democratic Mr. Mason of Virginia, who, as every honest man will admit, devised said law and introduced it into the Senate. The late U. S. census will not suffer us to doubt that the same parent may be blessed with a numerous offspring, but it was reserved for a free soil census to disclose the fact that the same child may lay claim to a numerous parentage. Should any quarrel arise between the reputed parents of this fugitive child, respecting the rightful possession of it, we doubt not that a free soil Solomon will be ready to quarter the animal, and divide it among the claimants.

The charge that the fugitive law was devised by Webster or Fillmore, and passed by the whig party, has been so often asserted by the free soilers, and so often refuted by the whig press, that nothing but willful blindness can keep one ignorant of the truth. He whose eyes are still shut against the light, is not worth the cost of enlightening him.

The free soilers of Massachusetts find themselves in such a 'smash up' with the party that has the peculiar honor of devising and passing the fugitive law, that their leading organs are constrained to attempt to divert the public gaze from their unwarrantable and detestable union, or rather attempted union with the locos, by still persisting in their attempts to cast the odium of the parentage of the fugitive law upon the whigs. The fugitive child of which we have been speaking is a nephew or niece (doubtful which) to the free soil party, being locofoco in its lineal? descent, and there being brotherly ties, at present, between the free soil and democratic parties, we see no legal or political impediment why this fugitive child may not claim the free soil party as its own uncle. The uncle may repudiate the relation, or the nephew may be ashamed of its uncle, but the world knows the relationship exists.

It is a singular circumstance that these same individuals who have been successively pronounced father of the fugitive law by the free soil press, have likewise been charged with bidding for Southern votes in 1852. They say Daniel Webster originated the fugitive law for the purpose of conciliating the South and securing their votes for the next Presidency. They charge the same upon Millard Fillmore. Now, since each of the above named gentlemen could not originate the fugitive law, the free soilers stand contradicted and condemned by their own mouths. When they charge each of several individuals with being the author of the execrable law, for the purpose of making political capital, may we not safely conclude that they have the same object in view, when charging them with "bidding for Southern votes?" When Millard Fillmore, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay are alternately declared father of the fugitive law, is it not manifest that the free soil organs publish such contradictions and falsehoods for the purpose of defaming the whig party? They fondly hope that by attacking each distinguished members of the whig party, they shall succeed in demolishing the whole party. But they will sooner or later learn their mistake.

We do not propose to defend Fillmore, Webster or Clay in their relation to the fugitive law; they may possibly survive their Lilliputian calumniators. We only wish to call the attention of our readers to the contradictory charges of the free soilers, who, in their political aberrations, betray motives very similar to those so freely charge upon whigs.

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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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 and required all citizens to aid in the capture and return of any fugitive slave. The passage and enforcement of this law enraged many people in the North--even those who were not ardent abolitionists. This article is poking fun at the free soilers (abolitionists) who keep changing their minds on who is to blame for the law. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster both supported the compromise that lead to the act. The compromise plan seemed destined to fail until Millard Fillmore became president in July. With the administration behind the plan, the compromise bills passed and were signed by the president to become law. The compromise divided the Whig party and eventually lead to the downfall of the party.


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

publisher   Greenfield Gazette and Courier
date   Mar 31, 1851
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
width   2.0"
height   10.0"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
accession #   #L09.006

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See Also...

Boston Commonwealth report of speech of Dana in behalf of Davis re: fugitive Shadrich article in Gazette and Courier newspaper

Letter to Aaron Fuller from son Elijah

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

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

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