Commonwealth of Mass. Resolves

April 25, 1951

In the Senate, March 24, the Joint Special Committee, cites arguments and the history of previous actions by the legislature, including references to the 1793 Fugitive Slave laws, and recently to actions in the 1843 ‘Latimer law’, all of which assert the right of the legislature to prohibit all actions of its officers under certain acts of Congress.  The resolves are designed “for protecting the rights of our citizens against invasion, by persons acting under the authority of the Fugitive Slave Law.”  The following resolutions are to be forwarded to the Congress.

Resolved:  That Massachusetts affirms anew her hostility to slavery, and her devotion to the Union; that, inspired by these cherished sentiments, she longs for harmony among the different parts of our common country; but she cannot conceal the conviction, that this can be finally and permanently secured only by the overthrow of slavery, so far as the same can be constitutionally done, everywhere within the jurisdiction of the national government; that, the free States may be relieved from all responsibility therefore, so that freedom, instead of slavery, shall become national, and slavery, instead of freedom, become sectional.
Resolved: That Massachusetts protests against the Fugitive Slave Law as alien to the spirit of the Constitution, destructive of rights secured by that instrument, hostile to the sentiments of Christianity, and abhorrent to the feelings of the people of this Commonwealth; that such a law will naturally fail to secure that support in the heart and conscience of the community, without which, any law must sooner or later become a dead letter.”

A note by the editor reminds readers that this proposed action provides, among other things, “for a trial by jury in every instance in which a person is arrested in this Commonwealth as a fugitive from slavery — and makes it a duty of the district attorneys, whenever any such arrest is made, to use all lawful means to protect, defend, and procure to be discharged, every such person so arrested or claimed…etc., etc .” (Note by researcher: these resolutions were tabled; never passed.)