Tuesday, April 3, 2012

John G. Fee Asked for Reason and Protection

Kentuckian John G. Fee does not get near the historical attention he deserves. He was one of the few abolitionists working for the end of slavery inside the borders of a slave state. Certainly, Fee suffered for his beliefs, and yet he persevered.

I located this broadside while searching on the Library of Congress American Memory for some primary sources on Fee that showed his constitutional rights were restricted.

In this document Fee explained some of the persecution to which he was subjected. "I have recently, by a portion of your citizens, on the Sabbath day, in the midst of a discourse, by superior force, been torn from the house of worship. By this lawless conduct, my clothes were torn and my person abused. I was then - under threats and weapons, part of the time still drawn - driven, like a manacled slave, some eight or nine miles into an adjoining county." Why was he abused so? Because he had the backbone to claim that slavery would end if people followed Christ's example, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you do ye even so unto them."

Fee claimed that if things did not change and this vigilante terrorism did not end, it would only hurt the prosperity of the state. "Property will sink in value because of like insecurity. One of the pubic journals of Louisville announces the fact that millions of dollars have recently been lost to that city because of recent mobs there [Bloody Monday, two years earlier]. Business men will not come, no the capitalist stay, where there is such insecurity and turmoil. Land will depreciate in value, because few will want to occupy it. All kinds of business must stagnate, as in Western Missouri during the reign of Border-Ruffianism [Bleeding Kansas]. Population will soon become sparse. Schools and churches will die out for want of patronage. Ignorance, vice, and barbarism follow as necessary results."

What then did Fee want? "But I may ask of you equal protection by law in the expression of my sentiments. This is my natural and constitutional right. If I have in any wise violated law, I refuse not to come before legal or constitutional tribunals. But so far as I know, my enemies do not pretend that I have violated law. They openly say I have not. I have maintained that Slavery is a violation of the law of God - the law of love; that this, like all other sins, should be repented of immediately, and that without expatriation or forcible colonization - because the latter would be a violation of Christ's 'golden rule,' and is, as I believe, inexpedient. This expression of opinion is my constitutional right and religious duty."

Fee deftly attempted to play the native card to convince his enemies of his sincerity. "I am an native-born citizen. You have often said if Northern men would let you alone you would soon put away Slavery. I now come to you as a native-born, law abiding citizen, entreating you now to begin the work. You mob me, and treat me as bad as you do Northern men. Can you thus convince the world that you are sincere in your professions of willingness to put away Slavery?"

Fee touched on other subjects that related to slavery. He claimed he was not a "hireling," but that he was working on his own conviction. He claimed that he did not promote amalgamation [race mixing], but rather, that the institution of slavery encouraged amalgamation between slaveowners and their chattel.

Fee ended his pleas with some probing and empathetic questions. "Must I suffer longer? Must my wife and friends be roused at the hour of midnight to go and search for my body, perhaps mangled and torn by a drunken and infuriated mob? Must virtue-loving women and venerable fathers be further disturbed in religious devotions, cursed and abused, with weapons of death over them? Finally, Fee closed, "Will not the lovers of virtue and domestic security speak out, act timely, and in the spirit of love restore order and peace, and wipe out what otherwise will be eternal disgrace? I want not revenge, but protection."

John G. Fee, Berrea [sic], Madison Co., Ky., July 30, 1857.

No comments:

Post a Comment