Lewis Hayden

View by Horace Seldon

An early item in the Liberator told of the 1845 trial and sentence of Calvin Fairbank, who had aided the Haydens in their escape.

Later, when the Haydens were settled in Boston, an 1849 item in the Liberator announced Lewis’s clothing store, on Cambridge Street.  The item expressed Hayden’s “thanks to those who have rendered him assistance since his arrival here; and he trusts that, although he may not be able to reward them, yet that Being who knows the hearts of all men, will render unto them their just reward.”

In September,1849, there was a notice,in the Liberator, signed by Francis Jackson and Ellis Gray Loring, indicating that a sum of money remitted to Kentucky, had resulted in the release of Calvin Fairbank from prison.  Early in the year it had been ascertained that Fairbank could be pardoned if Hayden’s former owner was to receive indemnity of six hundred and fifty dollars.  The article also noted that Hayden had raised that amount of money from “one hundred and sixty individuals nearly all from Massachusetts.”  That money was deposited with Jackson and Loring, and then forwarded to Kentucky.

In October, 1850, the Liberator reported a meeting of Colored Citizens in response to the Fugitive Slave Law.  The meeting was at the Rev. Samuel Snowden’s church, and “the house was densely crowded, and at an early hour many were compelled to leave for lack of room.”  Lewis Hayden was chosen as chairman of the meeting, and William Cooper Nell, as secretary.  Hayden called for the adoption of “ways and means for the protection of those in Boston liable to be seized by the prowling man-thief.”  Hayden was reported to have said that “safety was to be obtained only by an united and persevering resistance of this ungodly, anti-republican law, and that, as this meeting would likely be followed by another, he hoped, conducive to an end worthy of those who, at all hazards, would defend the liberties of themselves and friends..” At the same meeting, Garrison read the Fugitive Slave Bill, and “electrified the audience by his bold denunciations of the law and its supporters.”

A year later, the Liberator included a June account of the trial of Hayden and Robert Morris, charged with aiding in the rescue of Shadrach.  The report indicated that the defense was conducted by Richard H. Dana and John P. Hale, and that the jury was unable to agree upon a verdict, nine being for conviction, and three for acquittal.

An expanded Hayden store, at 121 Cambridge Street, was announced in the Liberator, in April, 1853.  In response, Samuel May, Jr., in a letter to Garrison, wrote:  “Let those who are skeptical of what a slave can do, when he has no longer a master to oversee him, call at Friend Hayden’s store.”

The next reference to Hayden was a June, 1859 issue of the Liberator. The article included a Call to a Convention of Colored Citizens of New England, which was to be held in Boston, in August.  The call invited all to attend and to pursue suffrage rights, which at that time were available to colored citizens in only five of the Eastern states.  Lewis Hayden was listed as one of the signers, along with William Cooper Nell, William Wells Brown, and John J. Smith.

The last entry in the Liberator, relative to Hayden, came in January, 1865.  It told of a Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Masons meeting, at which a letter from Governor Andrew  to Hayden was read .  With the letter, the Governor sent to Hayden a gavel made from a piece of the whipping-post at Hampton, Virginia.  The Governor also included, with the gavel, a “rude boat of straw, made in the woods by a poor refugee from slavery, Jack Flowers”. Writing to Hayden, the Governor said he knew “of no place more fitting for the preservation of these memorials of the barbarous institution that is now tottering to its rapidly approaching fall, than the association of free colored persons of Massachusetts over which you preside.”

Sources to explore: items cited here can be seen at the website theliberatorfiles.com