Document HS I-16: “Highhanded Outrage in a Court of Justice”: An Account of the Escape of Shadrach Minkins
THE ARREST AND RESCUE OF A FUGITIVE SLAVE—
HIGHHANDED OUTRAGE IN A COURT OF JUSTICE
The city of Boston was on Saturday last disgraced by one of the most lawless and atrocious acts that ever blackened the character of any community pretending to be in the enjoyment of an enlightened state of civilization. A band of two hundred negroes violently entered a Court of Justice, and by force carried from the custody of the officers a person arrested agreeable to an established law of the nation. The act is a burning disgrace not only to the city, but to the Commonwealth, and indeed to the whole Union; for it was a Court of the United States which was thus treasonably invaded, and its statutes and power put openly and insultingly at defiance. It was a disgrace to the city that the Mayor took no interest in a riot which occurred in a building belonging to the city, and refused his aid in suppressing proceedings which, had the officers performed a simple and unquestionable duty, would have resulted in a sanguinary conflict; for the rioters were supplied with arms and were determined to use them against all who obstructed them in their law defying course. It was a disgrace to the Commonwealth, as no provision had been made for the detention of prisoners arrested under a law for which a majority of its Representatives in the United States Congress had recorded their votes. And it was a disgrace to the Union itself, in that the Naval officer commanding this station declined to furnish the necessary aid to enforce a national law. Looking at it in every aspect, we can regard it as nothing but a complete triumph over law and order, by a band of black ruffians, countenanced and encouraged by a batch of white rioters—legal, religious, philanthropical, and fanatical—for whom hanging would be too lenient punishment. It is a blow at the supremacy of justice, at the dignity, power and glory of the Union—and exhibits to other countries, the ease with which a law of the “Model Republic” can be set at naught by any gang of determined scoundrels who object to its enforcement. It has indicated the predominancy of Negrodom in the Athens of America [Boston], ...The officers in the court room probably did all they could under the circumstances, although some persons are ungenerous enough to think that the odor of a little gun powder would not have proved very annoying to the nostrils of Justice, had the incense been offered up. But Shadrach has gone....
Boston Daily Times and Bay State Democrat, Monday, February, 17, 1851.
- What position did the Boston Daily Times take regarding the Shadrach Minkins incident?
- At what point in the account does the paper'seditorial stand become clear?
- Identify specific words and phrases that indicate the slant of the paper.
- According to the Boston Daily Times, what happened in the courthouse?
- What appears to have been the response of several other officials indirectly involved (for example, the mayor, the “Commonwealth,” a Naval officer)?
- What did the Boston Daily Times suggest would be the consequences of the rescue?
- Is this a news report? An editorial? How would you describe it?
- What does this article tell you about the incident itself?
- What have you learned about the range of responses to the rescue of Shadrach Minkins?
- What questions does this document raise and where might you find answers?