Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White - Vol. 1

By Andrew Dickson White | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IV
EARLY MANHOOD -- 1851-1857

O N the first day of October, 1851, there was shuffling about the streets of Syracuse, in the quiet pursuit of his simple avocations, a colored person, as nearly "of no account" as any ever seen. So far as was known he had no surname, and, indeed, no Christian name, save the fragment and travesty, -- "Jerry."

Yet before that day was done he was famous; his name, such as it was, resounded through the land; and he had become, in all seriousness, a weighty personage in American history.

Under the law recently passed, he was arrested, openly and in broad daylight, as a fugitive slave, and was carried before the United States commissioner, Mr. Joseph Sabine, a most kindly public officer, who in this matter was sadly embarrassed by the antagonism between his sworn duty and his personal convictions.

Thereby, as was supposed, were fulfilled the Law and the Prophets -- the Law being the fugitive slave law recently enacted, and the Prophets being no less than Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.

For, as if to prepare the little city to sacrifice its cherished beliefs, Mr. Clay had some time before made a speech from the piazza of the Syracuse House, urging upon his fellow-citizens the compromises of the Constitution; and some months later Mr. Webster appeared, spoke from a balcony near the City Hall, and to the same purpose; but more so. The latter statesman was prophetic, not only in the hortatory, but in the predictive

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