The opposition of Northern abolitionists, churchmen, and political figures to enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 is criticized in this rare pro-Southern cartoon. In two panels artist Edward Williams Clay illustrates the abolitionist's invocation of a "higher law" against the claim of a slave owner, and the application of the same principle against the Northerner in a case of stolen textiles. In the left panel a slaveholder "Mr. Palmetto" and a federal marshal confront an abolitionist "Mr. Pumpkindoodle" and a garishly dressed, runaway slave "Pompey" in a warehouse or shop interior. On the counter is a copy of the newspaper the "Emancipator."
Palmetto: ". . . I've come here to take that fugitive slave who belongs to me, according to the provisions of the U. S. law! Officer do your duty!"
Pumpkindoodle (handing a pistol to the slave): "What! seize my African brother! never! I dont recognize any U.S. law! I have a higher law, a law of my own. here Pompey take this pistol and resist to the death! if he attempts to take you!"
Pompey (trembling): "Ye yes sa! I'll try, cause brudders [antislavery senator from New York William H.] Seward and [abolitionist William Lloyd] Garrison says its all right; and so does Parson Squash! But I'm mighty feared."
Federal marshal: "Whew! I think I'd better make myself scarce!"
In the panel on the right, the same abolitionist approaches the seated slaveholder in the latter's shop. A sturdy slave "Cesar" and a grinning attendant stand by. On the counter are several bolts of fabric, labeled "Bay State Shawls," "Cotton Shirting," "Domestic Prints," "Amoskeag Ticks," "Lowels Negro Cloth" and "Hamilton Long Cloth." A copy of the "Charleston Mercury" lies open on Palmetto's lap.
Pumpkindoodle: "Look here Mr. Palmetto them 'ere goods is mine! They've been stole from me, and if you dont give 'em up, I'll take the law of the land on you!"
Palmetto: ". . . They are fugitives from you, are they? As to the law of the land, I have a higher law of my own, and possession is nine points in the law. I cant cotton to you. Kick out the abolitionist Cesar."
Cesar: "Of course Massa. De dam Bobolitionist is the wus enemy we poor niggers have got."