June 21, 2019 10:00 AM EDT Cincinnati


Antislavery Woodcut, No Higher Law, Ca 1850

Woodcut print, 19.5 x 14.5 in. No Higher Law. Distributed in New York, NY: William Harned, n.d., ca 1850. Anti-slavery image denouncing the Fugitive Slave Act, passed by Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between southern slave-holding states and northern free states. "King Slavery" appears at center, seated upon a throne built of skulls, the Bible, and a scroll titled "Fugitive Slave Bill." He wears a crown of finger bones and raises a whip and chains in his right hand. At his feet, a robed man raises his left hand towards to the American flag and pours liquid on the smoke and fire spewing from an altar bearing the face of cat, marked "Sacred to Slavery," resting on a book of law. Three slaves crouch at the base of the throne, while fugitives appear at left, both evading capture and seeking refuge in the home of a white family. Daniel Webster stands at right, gesturing towards the throne and holding a scroll with text reading, "'I propose to support that / bill. . . to the fullest extent - to / the fullest extent." Just behind him, a defeated male figure stands with his head bowed, holding "Freedom" crown and liberty pole. In the background, a statue of an allegorical Liberty topples to the ground. The title, "No Higher Law.," is an allusion to a speech given by William Henry Seward in March of 1850, in which he expressed the need for a "higher law" than the Constitution to regulate slavery.

Provenance:Descended Directly in the Family of Asa Severance Fiske


Creasing with minor wear to corners/edges and scattered areas of spotting and soiling.

Estimate: $400 - $600
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium

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