Address of the Committee... Held at Faneuil Hall, September 24, 1846

John Quincy ADAMS   |   Ralph Waldo EMERSON

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(ADAMS, John Quincy; EMERSON, Ralph Waldo). Address of the Committee Appointed by a Public Meeting, Held at Faneuil Hall, September 24, 1846, For the Purpose of Considering the Recent Case of Kidnapping from our Soil, And of Taking Measures to Prevent the Recurrence of Similar Outrages. Boston: White & Potter, 1846. Slim octavo, disbound; pp. 42.

First edition of this record of a turning point in Massachusetts abolitionist history as Bostonians crowded into Faneuil Hall in 1846 to protest the capture of a fugitive slave on Boston’s streets, with a speech by President John Quincy Adams, correspondence from Emerson, and listing white abolitionists Theodore Parker and Wendell Phillips, and black abolitionist William Nell as members of a Vigilance Committee.

John Quincy Adams, America's sixth president, is also famed for his success in the 1839 Amistad case and his role as "the conscience of the U.S. Congress" (Finkelman, 328). On September 24, 1846 Adams, despite his age and poor health, stood before Boston's leading citizens to chair what became "arguably one of the most heated gatherings within Faneuil Hall… Many Bostonians were upset with a recent incident that they equated to kidnapping: a slave named Joe, in an attempt to escape bondage, had jumped from a ship in Boston harbor and swum to shore but was recaptured and returned south. Feeling that slavery had crept into Boston at the very moment of Joe's recapture, many Bostonians decided that the institution could no longer be tolerated" (Encyclopedia of African American History, 1). Address of the Committee is a record of that momentous day, in which "a series of resolutions were adopted, a vigilance committee was established, and an indignant address was drafted" (Morris, Free Men All, 116). The committee included major abolitionists such as Theodore Parker, Wendell Phillips, Samuel Howe, black abolitionist William C. Nell, and Charles Sumner. It quickly came to act "as a committee of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. It paid boatmen to move slaves to Canada, defrayed the cost of slaves staying in homes on the way north, and paid for medical expenses and clothing " (Cumbler, From Abolition to Rights, 71).

Thoreau, who spent his famous night in jail that July, "was undoubtedly affected three months later by the fate of a fugitive slave who had managed to reach Boston after stowing away… These new social and moral concerns would eventually find expression in what is undoubtedly Thoreau's most famous protest essay, Resistance to Civil Government, more popularly known as Civil Disobedience" (Myerson, Cambridge Companion, 201). In addition to the speeches of Quincy Adams, Sumner, Howe and others, this also features correspondence from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Gerrit Smith and William Seward. American Imprints 46-958. Work, 333. Dumond, 29.

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