Milton in the News – 1854

By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | December 30, 2018

Here we find again the inhabitants of Milton stoutly opposing slavery. In this instance, Senator William P. Fessenden, an anti-slavery Whig from Maine, submitted to the US Senate the petition of 340 male voters of Milton, NH, for a repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

Their petition was referred to committee, i.e., ignored.

Congress Thursday. In the Senate. Mr. Fessenden presented a petition signed by over 340 voters of the town of Milton, N.H., the birthplace of President Pierce, praying for a repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law – referred. The bill to establish a line of steamers between the ports of San Francisco and Shanghai, in China, was then taken up, when Mr. Seward supported the bill in an earnest and forcible speech, and when he concluded, the bill was laid aside to take up the bill appropriating $10,000,000 for the ratification of the Mexican Treaty, which was received from the House. The bill was immediately passed by a vote of 34 to 6. After an Executive Session, the Senate adjourned (Hartford Courant, July 1, 1854).

The Milton of 1850 had 1,629 inhabitants, consisting of 307 households residing in 295 dwellings. (That makes for an average of 5.31 inhabitants per household and 5.52 inhabitants per dwelling). Of those 1,629 inhabitants, 861 were males and 768 were females. (This ratio is rather male heavy). Some 431 of those male inhabitants were of voting age.

So, the 340 anti-slavery petitioners of 1854 represented nearly eight-tenths (78.9%) of Milton’s 431 eligible male voters. We might justly take pride in them.

One of the principal methods used by those opposing the Fugitive Slave Law was jury nullification. Jurors simply refused to convict those on trial for aiding fugitive slaves. They were well within their rights to do so. They held the Fugitive Slave Law to be invalid.

It has always been, and still is, a juror’s absolute right to judge the validity of the laws being prosecuted, as well as the facts of any particular case. NH’s constitution, as well as its laws, explicitly recognize and acknowledge what was already a juror’s natural right.

See also Milton and Abolitionism and Milton in the News – 1838

Previous in sequence: Milton in the News – 1853; next in sequence: Milton in the News – 1857


FIJA. (2018). Fully Informed Jury Association. Retrieved from

NH General Court. (2012). RSA 519:23-a – Right of Accused. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, December 6). Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, November 8). Jury Nullification. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, November 6). William P. Fessenden. Retrieved from

Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

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