Condemning Slavery and Protecting Freedom Seekers
From his teenage years in the employ of Ellis Gray Loring through the end of the Civil War, Robert Morris fought to end slavery and protect fugitives from slavery, often putting himself at great risk. He regularly participated in meetings, conventions, and committees dedicated to those goals. Morris was an active member of the Boston Vigilance Committee, an interracial group that aided fugitives by providing food, money, shelter, travel fare, legal representation, and an active network of spies who alerted the community about the presence of kidnappers and slave catchers. After the Fugitive Slave Act became law in September 1850, antislavery efforts redoubled. That law allowed federal officials to arrest suspected fugitives and return them to slavery with minimal legal process, no trial by jury, and no opportunity to appeal. Morris soon became a central figure in one of the major Boston cases to arise under the Fugitive Slave Act.
“Let us be bold, if any man flies from slavery, and comes among us. When he’s reached us, we’ll say, he’s gone far enough. If any man comes here to New Bedford, and they try to take him away, you telegraph to us in Boston, and we’ll come down three hundred strong, and stay with you; and we won’t go until he’s safe.”