Friday, February 24, 2006

Black History Month: Slavery a Heated Topic

In the autobiography of John Gregg Fee (1816-1901), Fee recounts an anti-slavery meeting that was being held in nearby Lewis County on July 4, 1846. The meeting was held to ensure that no slave owners had the ability to vote. Accompanying the invitations was a letter that read, "The anti-slavery sentiment of the community will soon be embodied, and it will be made known that no man, Whig or Democrat, can have their votes who is a practical slaveholder, or an apologist for slavery."

According to Fee's biography, "this stirred the slave power, especially in Mason County, the adjoining county. An article appeared in the Maysville Eagle, which in some respects misrepresented the statement of the former, by saying: 'This is as rank Abolitionism as was ever uttered by Birney or Tappan. No slaveholder is hereafter to receive the votes of these simon-pure liberty men; and they who dare to apologize for the institutions of our country are thus denounced and proscribed, and this is heralded forth as the sentiments of Lewis County.'"

In essence, the Maysville Eagle denounced abolitionists and nearby Lewis County as being ran by abolitionists. On one hand, anti-slavery supporters were calling for slave owner votes to go uncounted, and on the other hand the Eagle was calling for abolitionist votes to be uncounted.

People who were to gather at the meeting in Lewis County were met with "threats of violence" including the destruction of their homes. Fee himself was shot at, at one point, and not many showed up at the meeting because, as Fee said, they were "afraid to be seen listening to me in public audiences."

Dismayed at the small turn out, Fee decided to write an anti-slavery handbook, have it printed, and distribute it to door-to-door. He chose to have it printed in Maysville, Kentucky, but, Fee wrote, "a man of wealth and influence in that city wrote to me a letter, saying that if I should come to that city and attempt to publish an anti-slavery book he would head a band of sixty men, ride me on a rail and duck me in the Ohio river."

The Autobiography of John G. Fee can be found here.

posted at 11:51 AM by Jeremy Parnell