On Tuesday July 4, 1854, it was hot and humid at Harmony Grove; “the heat of the weather…was extreme.” But this did not deter a large audience from gathering at this location in Framingham, Massachusetts. This was the spot upon which many of them had assembled, under the organization of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, for the past 8 years. They came by crowded railroad cars (from Boston, Milford, and Worcester), and by horse and carriage from many other surrounding towns, eager to hear speeches by prominent members of the antislavery community. William Lloyd Garrison was not the first to speak, but his actions were the most memorable. Addressing the audience, Garrison held up, and systematically burned, three documents: a copy of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act; a copy of a recent court decision that ordered the free state of Massachusetts to use its facilities to assist in the capture of fugitive slaves; and a copy of the United States Constitution. This was no mere symbolic act; it conveyed an important part of the Garrisonian argument. Namely, that the Constitution was “a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell.”
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