November 9, 1851: Kidnapping of Calvin Fairbank


Some abolitionists were criticized for engaging in no-risk criticism from a long distance of slavery.  Such a charge could never have been lodged against abolitionist Calvin Fairbank.  Born in 1816 in New York state, he was converted to the cause of abolitionism in hearing two former slaves testify at a Methodist meeting.  He was licensed by the Methodist Episcopalian Church in 1840 to preach and in 1842 he was ordained by that denomination.  Between 1837 and 1851 he aided some 47 slaves in escaping to freedom.  In 1844 he was arrested in Kentucky for aiding escaping slaves and served time in prison until 1849.  After his release, from southern Indiana, he continued to aid slaves escaping from Kentucky.

On November 9, 1851, with the connivance of the local Indiana sheriff and the Indiana governor, he was kidnapped by Kentucky marshals.  Sentenced in 1852 to fifteen years, he remained in prison until 1864 when he was pardoned by the Union governor of Kentucky.  (He was lucky.  Amazingly, the last man in Kentucky prisons for aiding escaping slaves was not released until 1870, five years after the conclusion of the Civil War.)  His treatment during his two imprisonments had been brutal, and he estimated that over the years he had received 35,000 lashes from his jailers.  In this frequently unjust world, those who suffer for a good cause often do not receive an earthly reward.  Fairbank’s health broken by his imprisonment, he died in poverty in 1898.

Published in: on November 9, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 9, 1851: Kidnapping of Calvin Fairbank  
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