Militant Boston


William Wetmore Story (1819-1895) Autograph letter, signed, to Charles Sumner, 19 February 1851.

Under the harsher Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, slave catchers arrested Shadrach Minkins in Boston in February of 1851. Within hours of his arrest, the black community, led by Lewis Hayden, a formerly enslaved activist and Prince Hall Mason, stormed the courthouse and rescued Shadrach in a brazen assault on federal authority. Dated four days after the rescue, this letter from William Story to his friend Sumner, son of the late Sheriff, describes the fallout from the rescue in the nation's capitol. Story discusses how the "Boston Riot has had a great effect here...," how Senator Henry Clay belittled a Massachusetts congressman, and how he "felt ashamed for my state that there was no man in the Senate" to answer Clay's attacks. Two months later, Massachusetts elected Charles Sumner to the United States Senate where he continued the struggle against slavery and racial injustice.

MS Am 1 (6057) – Gift of Edward L. Pierce, 1874.