CHAPTER XI
FUGITIVE SLAVES: TRUMPETS AND ALARUMS

ONE evening, late in October of 1850, Parker returned from Plymouth to find Doctor Howe waiting for him, chafing with impatience. It was barely a month after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Bill, and Howe had come to tell Parker that the kidnappers were in town, hunting for Ellen and William Craft. The Crafts were parishioners of Parker's, and friends too; they had won their way from Georgia north to Boston, and come to his house; the narrative of their escape staggered the imagination. He was responsible for them, he was minister-at-large to all the fugitive slaves of the city. Besides, had he not drawn up the resolutions of the Vigilance Committee, publicly advising fugitives to stay in Boston -- "For we have not the smallest fear," he wrote in his folly, "that any one of them will be taken from us and carried off into bondage." Now what was to be done? There was a hasty meeting of the Vigilance Committee; Doctor Bowditch was there, and Ellis Gray Loring, who could always be relied on for legal aid, Francis Jackson and Samuel May, Phillips and Charles Ellis, and Howe, of course, who was chairman; and there were two Negroes: Lewis Hayden whose house was a notorious depot on the Underground Railroad, and Frederick Douglass, the "Swarthy Ajax" of abolition. With doors locked and blinds drawn (for when would Howe forgo the dramatic gesture, he who had fought with Byron and known Lafayette?), the committee discussed the crisis. A bold stand, that was best. Let them scare the kidnappers out of Boston, not the Crafts.

-214-

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