The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

SBA to William Lloyd Garrison

Dear Mr. Garrison

Enclosed is an article from Thursday's "Albany Atlas and Argus," Democrat paper, on the Personal Liberty Bill, "Treason in the Capitol"— it may do to grace the Refuge column of the Liberator— [1]
The Albany Evening Journal has seen fit to speak disparagingly of the Bill—   I am not surprised— I had several talks with Thurlow Weed, from which I learned that the discreet Republicans are not ready to have such a law enacted— that they consider Sewards Rochester speech a sad mistake— [2]  But there are a few members in our Legislature who stand ready to do all they can to effect the passage of the Bill—  Still it will require great strength to over rule Weed and the Evening Journal.
Speaker Littlejohn,[3] to whom the Argus alludes, will I think re-assert his position of .57— discusion & action on the Bill has been delayed the past week on account of the absence of several prominent friends of the Bill—   I wish it might pass the House, but if it does not, this year, we have only to work right earnestly for the coming year—
Love to Mrs. Garrison & all the home circle yours

Susan B. Anthony

ALS, Garrison Papers, MB. Numeral in year rubbed away at margin.
    [1.] Enclosure missing. Published on 15 March 1859, the editorial rebuked the legislature for a bill that was "boldly revolutionary and atrociously treasonable in its character." Debate on the measure began in the assembly on March 7 and continued for several weeks. SBA returned to Rochester on March 10. The senate considered a separate bill in late March; the assembly passed the bill on April 8. (SBA daybook, p. 108, and SBA to Editor, 8 March 1859, both in Film, 8:620ff, 9:227; Albany Atlas and Argus, 15 March 1859; New York Times, 8 March 1859; Journal of the New York Assembly, 8 April 1859, p. 1182; Morris, Free Men All, 190-92.)
[2.] Thurlow Weed (1797-1882) ruled New York's Whig and Republican parties for decades and managed the elections of William Seward to governor and United States senator. He was the model "political boss" who employed patronage, lobbying, and probably graft to retain control over the state legislature. The Albany Evening Journal was his mouthpiece. During the formation of the Republican party, Weed sold the paper to Samuel Wilkeson, but he repurchased it in 1858.(Dictionary of American Biography; Van Deusen, Thurlow Weed.)
William Henry Seward (1801-1872) was the first Whig governor of New York from 1839 to 1842 and a United States senator from 1849 to 1861. After graduation from Union College, he studied law in Auburn and made his home there. Since 1850, he had become one of the Senate's outspoken opponents of slavery. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1856 and 1860, and he served as secretary of state in the cabinets of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. (Dictionary of American Biography; Taylor, William Henry Seward.)
SBA explains that the Republicans were not of one mind about slavery, and many of them distanced themselves from the disunionism of the personal liberty bill. Seward spoke on 25 October 1858 at Rochester in support of gubernatorial candidate Edwin D. Morgan and predicted an "irrepressible conflict" in the United States over two radically different systems of labor. The nation would have to choose between slaveholding and free labor. The speech caused an uproar, and Weed, who was moderate in his antislavery convictions, thought Seward had gone too far in condemning slavery. The "discreet" Republicans, who opposed slavery's expansion, hoped to increase their strength by winning over disaffected Democrats. (Taylor, William Henry Seward, 106-8.)
    [3.] DeWitt Clinton Littlejohn (1818-1892), Speaker of the New York State Assembly and member since 1853 from Oswego, was a Seward Republican who took a prominent part in thesenator's reelection in 1855. He supported passage of a personal liberty bill in 1857, arguing that the state must take extreme action to protect individual rights in response to the Dred Scott decision. His support was again important in carrying the measure in the assembly in 1859. (Rosenberg, "Personal Liberty Laws," 37; Murphy, New York State Officers, 1859, 125-26; Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896.)