The Oberlin Evangelist
February 2, 1859
Chains for Men who do the Will of God
Our readers have already been informed that sundry respectable citizens of this county have been indicted by the U.S. district Court for rescuing an alleged fugitive from slavery from the clutches of his pursuers, and that the major part of the persons so indicted, on appearing in Court, were at once discharged on their own recognizances. We have now to record a shameful outrage of which officials have been guilty in arresting one of the indicted who did not so appear. The subject of the outrage is Mr. W.E. Lincoln – a devoted Christian young man connected with Oberlin College. Mr. L. has for some weeks, been engaged in teaching in Franklin county. His school happened to be located near the residence of Mr. Samuel Davis, who, as a bailiff in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Ohio, assisted Dep. Marshall Lowe in capturing John Price, the fugitive who was rescued at Wellington. Davis, who would seem to be a bloodthirsty fellow, had already threatened personal violence against the “abolition school-teacher,” when he accidentally learned that the young man was one of those whose humanity he had encountered at Wellington. Revenge at once joined malice in making use of the opportunity of annoying the harmless Christian, which the pending indictment furnished. Armed with a warrant solicited from the authorities at Cleveland and accompanied by another “lewd fellow” like himself, the zealous bailiff appeared in Lincoln’s schoolroom and, without signifying his authority to do so, (for it was not until an hour after that he even spoke of his warrant) immediately proceeded, amidst the tears and terror of the scholars, to put the unresisting teacher in irons. It was of no account that Lincoln protested against the outrage and that he assured his captor that he had not the least idea of offering any personal resistance to him. It was in vain that the children clamored against the indignity, which their friend and teacher was suffering. The tyrant knew his duty and would do it. And when Lincoln endeavored to calm the fears of the children by telling the that “God’s will was being done,” the blasphemous official discharged curses at him, and told him to stop his nonsense about God’s will, “he would teach him better than to talk about such things.”
In a few moments, for Davis would allow no delay not even so much as was necessary for arranging the affairs of the school, the minister and victim of the law were on their way to Columbus, twelve miles distant. The profanity, the belchings of rage with which the officer beguiled the way need not desire to inflict upon his enemies so great indignities as this representative of the U.S. Government plainly declared he would be glad to visit upon the friends of the oppressed who had thwarted the man-hunting of himself and his compeers. As the party approached Columbus, Lincoln asked to have the chains removed, as he did not wish friends whom he had in the city to see him in such a plight. But no, the request would not be granted. The irons should be kept on until the prisoner had been delivered over to Lowe the bailiff’s superior I authority. And they were. It was not until the Christian had been carried into the interior of the jail, where Lowe happened to be, that the manacles were removed. Then the prisoner was turned loose to lodge among thieves and villains of every grade. The night was spent by the young man in a cell, the air of which was the last degree fetid and which swarmed with rats – nor was any food given him for twenty six hours but a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. In the morning he was removed to the cars and was taken by them to Cleveland where, as soon as Judge Wilson could be found, he was discharged on his own recognizance.
While all this was passing, the Christian did not forget his religion. His bearing was calm, self-possessed, dignified: nor did he lose any opportunity for talking with those who were oppressing him and with the felons with whom he was lodged respecting the interests of their souls. Christ in the Judgment-hall was his pattern, and his testimony is, that through all his distress the indwelling Christ was his comforter.
So was it that a Christian young man against whom the law knew so little wrong that it discharged him from its custody on his own promise to appear when the time for trial should come, was treated by the ministers of our Republican Government. What say our readers? Do not the facts, which have been recited, prove that Tyranny has usurped Rule among us? Is that dignity of law or the well-being of society enhanced by such outrages as this? Will not the American people soon see that the bonds which oppression has put on the slave, have been transferred to those who have thought themselves free? But, blessed by Divine Providence, the shackles, which bind Christian freemen, will soon be forging into wedges for forcing apart the chains, which gall the slave.