Monday, July 25, 2016

Salmon P. Chase to William H. Collins*, February 18, 1846

Feb. 18, 1846.

My Dear Sir: I have, for some time, cherished the purpose of writing to you in behalf of the Rev. C. T. Torrey now imprisoned in the penitentiary of your state. If I am not mistaken, your brother informed me that you appeared as Counsel against him, and this constitutes an additional reason for applying to you.

I shall not trouble you with any discussion of the nature of the acts for which Mr. Torrey is imprisoned.1 You know as well as I do, that by a considerable portion of our Countrymen they are regarded as deeds of mercy performed under the constraint of Christian obligation: while by another portion they are regarded as unwarrantable invasions of the rights of property.

Whichever of these opposite opinions may be correct — I hold undoubtingly the first, and perhaps you hold undoubtingly the second — it is certain that Torrey acted under the conviction that he was doing right — doing as he would have others in similar circumstances do to him. It is certain that he is an educated and esteemed Christian minister of unblemished character, unless his aid to the flying slaves must be regarded as a blemish. I hear also that his health is wasting away in confinement, and that he cannot live long unless released. Under these circumstances, I feel confident that I shall not appeal in vain to your benevolence to contribute your influence to his liberation. Surely neither the State of Maryland nor the individuals whose slaves escaped or attempted to escape can desire that Torrey shall die in prison among common felons. The attention of great multitudes is drawn to the fact of his incarceration both in America and Europe. Sympathy with him is deep, strong and wide-spread. Intelligence of his death in the Penitentiary of Maryland would cause a pang of sorrow, to be succeeded by intense indignation in more than a million breasts. His death would, under such circumstances, do more against Slavery than all the efforts of all his life.

Sound expediency, therefore as well as Common Humanity, seems to me to require his liberation. Let me add to you, on the score of old and I hope mutual regard & friendship, my earnest personal solicitation for your good offices in behalf of Torrey. By no act can you lay me under deeper obligation to you: and I am confident that any efforts which you may put forth in his behalf will always be remembered by you with satisfaction.

Please give my most cordial regards to the Doctor and also make my respects to Mrs. Collins.

* From letter book 6, pp. 31.

1 Charles Turner Torrey, 1813-1846, a graduate of Yale College and a Congregational clergyman, early became an active Abolitionist. In 1844 he was convicted in Maryland of having attempted to aid some slaves to escape and was sentenced to imprisonment in the penitentiary. He died in prison May 9, 1846.

SOURCE: Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 107-8

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