The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

35.
William P. Powell to Mary Ann Duval 25 March 1851

After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, a number of fugitive slaves fled northern cities for Britain, fearing recapture and enslavement. Alexander Duval, who had escaped from slavery in Baltimore two years earlier and settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, left his free black wife, Mary Ann, and young daughter and sailed for Liverpool with the assistance of the Boston Vigilance Committee. He was armed with a letter of introduction from Samuel May, Jr., and was accompanied by Francis S. Anderson, another fugitive slave who had worked for six years as a waiter in Boston. Duval managed comfortably on the passage, but Anderson was continually ill. Upon their arrival in Liverpool on 25 or 26 March 1851, they were greeted by Liverpool resident William P. Powell. More than any other black abolitionist, Powell hosted newly arriving fugitive slaves. I, 31 May 1851; Lib, 13 June [ 6:0965], 5 September 1851; NASS, 1 May 1851; List of Fugitive Slaves Aided by the Vigilance Committee since the Passage of the Fugitive Slave Bill [ 1850-58], Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society Collection, MHi [ 6:0324].

LIVERPOOL, [ England]
March 25, 1851

Mrs. MARY ANN DUVAL1

Madame:

I am requested by your husband, Mr. ALEXANDER DUVAL, 2 to inform you of his safe arrival in Liverpool this day, in the ship Parliament, and it was my pleasure to take him and his companion, Mr. FRANCIS ANDERSON, 3 by the hand and welcome them to the land of Liberty. I hardly know how to express myself to you, knowing full well, that, the separation from your dear bosom companion is painful and heart-rending. American Slavery--American Christians--Ministers and Statesmen "have a law, and by that law" your husband must "die" a--Slave! Hence the separation and its necessity. I rejoice to say that British "Christians, Ministers and Statesmen," have proclaimed a Higher Law, 4 and have decided for all time to come, that, your husband (together with others of a like stamp) "the moment he sets his foot upon our native earth (British soil) that the ground on which he treads is holy; no matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted on the altar of slavery; the first moment he touches our sacred soil (British of course) the altar and the God sink together in the dust; his soul walks abroad in her own majesty; his body swells beyond the measure of his chains, that burst from around

-255-

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