Saturday, February 9, 2013

Margaret's Choice: No Escape

Partial View Of A Picture of Margaret Garner 

Recollections and experiences of an abolitionist, from 1855 to 1865, by a Canadian, Alexander Milton Ross, published in 1875, told the story of Margaret Garner.  In a live free or die moment, Margaret chose to murder her young daughter in Ohio rather than return her to the bonds of slavery in Kentucky.

From Dr. Ross's book:

But every case pleaded with an eloquence of its own, until at last one of those tragedies occurred which darken the heavens, and cry out with a voice that will be heard.  It was the voice of a mother standing over her murdered child. Margaret Garner had escaped from slavery with three children, but she was overtaken at Cincinnati. 

Unwilling to see her offspring returned to the shambles of the South, this unhappy person, described in the testimony as 'a womanly, amiable, affectionate mother,' determined to save them in the only way within her power. With a butcher knife, coolly and deliberately, she took the life of one of the children, described as ' almost white, and a little girl of rare beauty,' and attempted, without success, to take the life of the others two.

To the preacher who interrogated her, she exclaimed : ' The child is my own, given me of God to do the best a mother could in its behalf. I have done the best I could; I would have done more and better for the rest; I knew it was better for them to go home to God than back to slavery.'  But she was restrained in her purpose. The Fugitive Slave Act triumphed, and after the determination of sundry questions of jurisdiction, this devoted historic mother, with the two children that remained to her, and the dead body of the little one just emancipated, was escorted by a national guard of armed men to the doom of slavery.

Paperwork in the Margaret (Peggy) Garner case.  Violation of the Federal law, The Fugitive Slave Act, took precedence over the slavery-free State of Ohio's charge of murder.

More details about about Margaret's tribulations here.

One of Dr. Alexander Milton Ross's experiences was his work with the abolitionist John Brown.

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