[Boston? 1850-1851?]. Lithograph, 13 x 16 1/2 inches. Matted. Light scattered foxing, but generally a clean, crisp copy. Very good. Item #WRCAM52267
A striking lithographed cartoon illustrating the tensions over the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This severe law was part of the Compromise of 1850 orchestrated by Henry Clay, and it allowed slave owners to pursue and capture their "property" without due process, laid heavy penalties on those who hoped to assist escaped slaves, and enjoined all citizens to aid in the implementation of the statutes. "Thousands of Negroes [sic] who had been settled in the North for years, found reputable employment, built homes, and reared families, were now in danger of being dragged back into servitude. It was not difficult to kidnap a free Negro on the pretext that he was a slave. Many Northerners, including prominent ministers, defied it. The newspapers were soon full of news of rescues or attempted rescues of fugitive blacks, while some of the most noted statesmen of the North went into the law court to defend alleged fugitives. Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, for example, was soon called 'attorney general for runaway Negroes.'... This cartoon, a bit freer in drawing than cartoons generally at that time, appeals to Northern indignation over the law, showing an arrogant slave driver riding a bitted Daniel Webster, while Garrison defends a cowering black woman" - Weitenkampf. "A satire on the antagonism between Northern abolitionists on the one hand, and Secretary of State Daniel Webster and other supporters of enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Here abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison (left) holds a slave woman in one arm and points a pistol toward a burly slave catcher mounted on the back of Daniel Webster. The slave catcher, wielding a noose and manacles, is expensively dressed, and may represent the federal marshals or commissioners authorized by the act (and paid) to apprehend and return fugitive slaves to their owners. Behind Garrison a black man also aims a pistol toward the group on the right, while another seizes a cowering slaveholder by the hair and is about to whip him saying, "It's my turn now Old Slave Driver."... The print may (as Weitenkampf suggests) be the work of New York artist Edward Williams Clay. The signature, the expressive animation of the figures, and especially the political viewpoint are, however, uncharacteristic of Clay. (Compare for instance that artist's "What's Sauce for the Goose," no. 1851-5.) It is more likely that the print was produced in Boston, a center of bitter opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 and 1851" - Reilly. A rare and vivid illustration, with only six copies located on OCLC. NEVINS & WEITENKAMPF, pp.70-71. REILLY, p.344.