Practical Illustration of the Fugitive Slave Law
Original Author: Signed E. C.
Created: 1851
Medium: Lithograph

Practical Illustration of the Fugitive Slave Law

A political cartoon produced in 1851 depicts the antagonism antislavery activists directed toward Daniel Webster, a New England politician who supported the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, legislation that allocated increased federal resources to help return escaped slaves to their owners. Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison (at left) protects an escaped slave and points a pistol at a slave catcher sitting atop Webster, who was then serving as secretary of state. The slave catcher, armed with a noose and manacles, says, "Do'nt back out Webster, if you do we're ruind." Webster, clutching a copy of the Constitution in one hand, comments, "This, though Constitutional, is 'extremely disagreeable.'" A man behind the slave catcher holds two volumes titled Law & Gospel and says, "We will give these fellows a touch of South Carolina." Another man, in a top hat and carrying a ledger book and quill pen, says, "I goes in for Law & Order." The "Temple of Liberty" stands in the background, and in front of it, a well-dressed former slave takes a whip to his old master and tells him, "It's my turn now Old Slave Driver." Another beaten slaveholder lies prostrate on the ground; a caption next to him reads, "This is all your fault Webster." The cartoon was probably produced in Boston, where there was strong opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act.