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Commonwealth vs. Mrs.

Douglass

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FromtheNorfolkArgus,February9,1854
Commonwealthvs.Mrs.Douglass
Wepublishto-daythejudgmentofHon.JudgeBakerinthecaseofMrs.Douglass,whichhasmuch
excitedourcitizens.Thefirsttimewithinthepassageoftheactforbiddingtheteachingofslavesorfree
coloredpersonstoreadorwrite,hasacaseofthisdescriptioncomeunderthejurisdictionofourCourt,
anditwassingularthatthiscaseshouldbeawoman.Thejuryfoundaverdictofguilty,andthelawhadto
besustained.SympathywasarousedforMrs.Douglass.Itwasrevoltingtothecitizenstohaveawoman
imprisonedinourjail,andinducementwasofferedMrs.Douglasstoescapethepunishment.TheCourt
wasobligedtoadjournitsjudgmentover,andalthoughacapiaswasawarded,yetitwasthehopeand
wishofeveryonethatshewouldleavethecity.Butno;amartyr'shewouldbetothecauseof
benevolence;andtocaptheclimax,shebroughtherdaughter,amaidenofsomeseventeensummers,
whohadobeyedtheinjunctionsofhermother,asachildshould,totrythesternrealitiesofthelaw,and,to
useherownlanguageindefendinghercause,togloryinworksofbenevolenceandcharitytoarace
down-trodden.Thensympathydeparted,andinthebreastofeveryonerosearighteousindignation
towardsapersonwhowouldthrowcontemptinthefaceofourlaws,andbravetheimprisonmentforthe
causeofhumanity.
ThedecisionofJudgeBakeriscogentandpungent,andwillbereadwithinterest.Thelawsmustbe
upheld.ItisnotfortheJudgetosetupontheconstitutionalityorjusticeofthelaw;itisforhimasacred
dutytoimposethepunishmentmetedoutinthecode.Virginiamustkeepinrestraintthewire-workingsof
abolitionsentiments.WehaveinthistownsufferedmuchfromtheaggressionofNorthernfoes,anda
strongcordonmustencircleourdomesticinstitutions.Wemustpreservefromdiscordandangrypassions
ourfiresidesandhomesteads.Wemustpreserveinviolatethemajestyoflawsnecessaryforthe
protectionofourrights;andthereisnooneofintelligenceandforesightwhowillpronouncethejudgment
unrighteous.
Mrs.Douglass'stimewillrunoutthisweek,andwehavehearditstatedfromgoodauthority,thather
imprisonmentwillbeapecuniaryrewardtoher.Wehopethatourcitizenswillpreventbyallpossible
meansanyattempttoaidthiswoman,butletherdeparthencewithonlyonewish,thatherpresencewill
neverbeintrudeduponusagain.LetherseekherassociatesattheNorth,andwiththemcommingle,but
letusputachecktosuchmischievousviewsasfellfromherlipslastNovember,sentimentsunworthya
residentoftheState,andindirectrebellionagainstourConstitution.

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