The Oberlin Evangelist
January 19, 1859
On Wednesday last, (Jan. 11,) the citizens of this place who are under indictment for a breach of the Fugitive Slave Act, entertained their fellows in bonds from other places, at a dinner given at the Palmer House, in this place. The indicted present numbered twenty-six, and of them nine were accompanied by their wives. Several gentlemen connected with the bar and others with the press, and a few immediate personal friends of the indicted, made the whole number present about sixty-five.
The dinner was suitably served and was evidently enjoyed by all. Even the indicted addressed themselves to creature comforts as if no consciousness of wrong disturbed their appetites. After dinner, a variety of sentiments brought out speakers who held the company of constantly growing interest till the hour of adjournment. The sentiments and the speeches glowed with the spirit of philanthropy, and of that Christian patriotism which our fathers well illustrated, but which has become sadly dimmed in these days of reckless national vain-glorying. It was obvious that religious principle actuated and furnished the characteristics of all that was said and done. If there was hilarity and frequent mirth, it was such as comports with serious love to God and his cause, and none has need to go from the place feeling that the inner-life had suffered harm.
And we cannot leave the subject without saying that the spectacle, which this occasion furnished, was indeed a singular one. Here were twenty-six men – all of them industrious, useful citizens, and many of them filling the highest places in society who were in the hands of the law, under the charge of crime. And none of them looked abashed; all carried themselves as if they felt that their case was well made with conscience and the Higher aw, however it might stand with human enactments and human tribunals!
Nor did the guests, all persons who would have been quick to feel the reproach of being feel the reproach of being found in unworthy associations, manifest the least compunction at consorting with the alleged criminals about them! Indeed, they seemed to think of their indicted friends as the noble Scotchwoman did of her husband when, her companion being slain by Claverhouse and the ruffian asking her “What she now thought of her gude man,” she answered firmly, drawing the bleeding corpse to her breast, “I aye thought much of him, but now more than ever.”
We are justified, then, in saying that this was a singular spectacle. Let those who fluently talk of the importance of recognizing and obeying all law, whether good or bad, explain it as they can.
And we cannot allow ourselves to close our sketch without offering one more word of comment on this matter. We think the spectacle which this occasion furnished, proves conclusively the impossibility of forcing the execution of such a law as that which binds the men who gave this entertainment. No law, the demands of which provokes the religious sentiment, and opposition to which challenges the respect of orderly men and women can possibly be carried out. Or, if it is, it can be done only by a tyranny which would dissolve social order, and bring Government into utmost disgrace. Let rulers and politicians see that they do not compel such an issue.
We understand that, after the festival the indicted held a private meeting for business in which they appointed an executive committee as follows:
Prof. H.E. Peck, Oberlin.
Matthew De Wolf, Esq., Wellington.
Hon. Ralph Plumb, Oberlin.
W.D. Scrimgeour, Oberlin.
This committee is to attend to all matter defensive and offensive, which the case may require.