Mar 01, 2012 - Sale 2271

Sale 2271 - Lot 58

Price Realized: $ 4,080
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,500 - $ 2,500
NO COPY AT AUCTION IN 25 YEARS (SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) FILLMORE, MILLARD. The Fugitive Slave Bill, Enacted by the United States Congress, and Approved by the President, Millard Fillmore, September 18, 1850. 8 pages, seven of which are printed with bold black mourning borders; the rear cover with an engraving of "The Boston Police executing the infamous law in the case of Simms [sic]." Boston: Printed and for Sale at 145 Hanover Street, 1854

Additional Details

first edition, a rare printing of the entire act which enabled slave owners to retrieve slaves with the sanction and aid of local and state autorities. Shows an engraving on the rear cover of Thomas Sims being taken from jail to be return to his owner. Thomas Sims was a slave in Savannah, Georgia. In February of 1851, he stowed away on a ship bound for Massachusetts, reaching Boston in March. Once there, he wrote to his wife, a free black in Georgia. The letter was somehow intercepted and his master set about having him captured and returned. In April he was captured and jailed by an agent of his master under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. At the time, Boston was still reeling from the riot and rescue of the "alleged slave" Shadrach. In fact, while Sim's case was being heard, a federal grand jury was hearing arguments about illegalities in the Shadrach rescue. To insure that another Shadrach-type rescue did not occur, the courthouse was ringed with chains and ropes, and only people with pressing business were allowed to enter. Judge Lemuel Shaw, hearing the case, had to stoop under the chains to enter; while an estimated 500 police guarded the building. Sims' case became the first real test of the validity of the Fugitive Slave Act. U.S. Senator Robert Rantoul and a legal team agued the case before U.S. Commissioner George T. Curtis. Twice they tried to get a writ of habeas corpus, but failed in both instances. Because this was the first extensive examination of the Act of 1850, Rantoul presented a detailed attack on the constitutionality of the statute, but to no avail. In the end, when Sims was ordered to be returned to his owner, he pleaded for a knife to kill himself. The next morning Sims was moved under guard of one hundred policemen, and placed on a boat for Georgia. Rantoul had argued that once Sims left Massachusetts he would not be able to argue for his freedom, but Curtis ignored him and declared that the rendition did not preclude a trial once he was returned. However, on his arrival in Georgia, Sims was given thirty-nine lashes and sent to labor in the rice fields. "As the first important and extensive investigation of the meaning of the 1850 Act, this case was extremely important and influential." It would be cited again and again up to and including the case of Dred Scott. See Finkelman, "Slavery in the Courtroom," pages 89-94. Sabin 26124; not in LCP Afro-Americana; not in Blockson Collection.