In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: But when a voice in our hearing

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1850 and 1855

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01018

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images of the original. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of manuscripts, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: This manuscript discusses the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and issues of state sovereignty. It was probably written not long after the law's passage, likely between 1850 and 1855.

Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Janel Cayer, Kevin McMullen, Nicole Gray, and Kenneth M. Price

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But when a voice in my our hearing excuses this Fugitive damned Act, because it binds no leg and breaks chains no wrist of mine ours, the true response is, That's ^Have Can you no talk ^no nigher to the purpose ^than that?—Have we squashed in the mind so far, that you make a parley about our ^the freedom of our own personal flesh, on our own sovereign, [s?] ^independent soil, and assure us ^as if there were any debate about it the police, irresponsible police of Congress ^and the President will not never not touch us [nor?] our women, nor the coal in the that cellars nor the horses in that barn?—We know they will not, lay hands on us, nor any thing that is physically ours.—for certain excellent reasons.—Passing over the more direct ones, the heart of the theory under which we are secure from all such outrages, and an endless programme of others, is, local state or local sovereignty, dispensed through the hands of equal, well-defined, all-powerful Law, adm untramme unwarped by any outside influences, ^complete in itself broad, benignant.

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