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A handsomely panoplied, fictionalized reconstruction of one of the most sensational fugitive slave trials in which the Massachusetts Abolitionists were involved before the Civil War, and a full-blooded, shade-more-than-life-size portrait of the thunderous Boston clergyman, Theodore Parker. In common with most idealistic movements whose sentiments are exploited in regional or political schisms, the Abolitionist movement included a representative number of giants and jackals among its sympathizers and detractors. This concentrates on the incident when a Southern Colonel, slave-hunting from Virginia, demanded the return of his slave, Tony Burns, who was brought in chains to Goston Courthouse as a live exhibit to test the Fugitive Slave Law. What was to the Colonel a simple formality, soon became a crisis heated by the powerful, insistent flames of moral codes and political expediency. Among the men involved were Ben Hallett, a U.S. Marshall and shrewd interpreter of party tactics; his collection of hatchet men; a delicately impartial, morally topid judge; a brace of clever Abolitionist lawyers; a young clergyman, some battle-cry fanatics, and the citizenry. However, towering above them all was the flery intelligence of Theodore Parker, who gave meaning to action, direction conviction, and became for men like Tony Burns the genius of freedom from mental as well as physical tyranny. Within the framework of the trial with its delays, mounting and sudden violence, the strength of the prophet Parker is sorely tried, yet through the eventual release of Tony Burns, Parker renews his hope in the unconquerable, evolutionary human spirit....Although followers of historical literature may find the author's blithe unconsciousness of period speech and atmosphere rather startling, this ery neutrality, together with the strong statement of positive, dynamic elements in human life and society, mark this as important and moving reading for our time.

Pub Date: Feb. 13th, 1951
Publisher: Little, Brown