December 6, 1850
From the Georgia Constitutionalist is an account of an unsuccessful attempt to recapture fugitive slaves from Boston. It is written by Willis H. Hughes, from Macon, dated Nov. 21, 1850, and is addressed to “fellow citizens”. The fugitive is named as “Bill”, but it becomes clear it is William Craft. Hughes recounts the ways in various officials in Boston avoided assisting him by delays, postponements, jurisdictional disputes, and even at one time when he was arrested for slandering Ellen Crafts, and held to bail for $20,000. He indicates that he has leaned that the Crafts had “positively left for England”. Hughes concludes that he “went to Boston as an agent to execute a lawful trust, thinking I should be protected and assisted by the laws of my country. But, on the contrary, from the first, the laws of the country, instead of a protection, were made an engine of cruelty, oppression, injustice, and abuse; so that my life was constantly endangered, and this, without the first offer of assistance from Government, national, State, or city. I feel that every man who has a Southern heart in his bosom, and would maintain the honor of his country, should sustain the Southern right cause, by every constitutional measure, until our rights are acknowledged, and justice obtained.”
A similar account is given here by John Knight, the slave Pursuer, from Macon, who had been with Mr. Hughes.
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William and Ellen Craft were two fugitive slaves who sought refuge in Boston after escaping their master, Robert Collins of Macon, Georgia, in December 1848. Two agents for Collins, Willis H. Hughes (?-1851) and John Knight, arrived in Boston in October 1850 intending to recapture the Crafts under the new Fugitive Slave Law. The Boston Vigilance Committee and local black community took immediate action to defend the fugitives. Each time Hughes and Knight approached the Crafts, the southerners were arrested, once for slander and once for kidnapping. Large crowds of blacks besieged the agents? hotel and shadowed their movements. This harassment, coupled with thinly veiled threats against their lives delivered by the Reverend Theodore Parker, eventually unnerved Hughes and Knight and persuaded them to return to Georgia empty-handed. The Crafts soon after fled to England. Lib., 6 December 1850, 24 January 1851; R.J.M. Blackett, "Fugitive Slaves in Britain: The Odyssey of William and Ellen Craft," Journal of American Studies, 12:41-44 (April 1978); Donald Martin Jacobs, "A History of the Boston Negro from the Revolution to the Civil War" (Ph.D. diss., Boston University, 1968), 273-74.