2 Days: How to Remember?

Kane kept Williamson locked in prison for 100 days. Williamson and his fellow abolitionists managed to make the most of his incarceration to advance the cause. Hundreds, including more than a few celebrities, visited the tiny, damp cell in Moyamensing, pictured here in a daguerreotype at the Chester County Historical Society. If the cause thrived, Williamson did not. His health suffered, his business faltered and he even missed the birth of a child.

As soon as he was released, on November 3rd, 1855, Williamson went after Kane, immediately suing Kane for $50,000. He managed to have the judge arrested – while eating breakfast at the home of relatives in Delaware County. But this was the least of Judge Kane’s mounting troubles. Congress was being petitioned for his impeachment. And, as the Brandts reveal in their new book In the Shadow of the Civil War: Passmore Williamson and the Rescue of Jane Johnson, “the contempt-of-court case against [Williamson] was added in 1856 to the American edition of a book entitled Atrocious Judges: Lives of Judges Infamous as Tools of Tyrants and Instruments of Oppression.” Kane had become known as one of history’s “most venal judges.”

How could we have forgotten such a story?

Maybe the question should be turned a bit: How it should we remember this story?
The Sixth Square will be remembering Jane Johnson’s stand for freedom at the foot of Walnut Street on Wednesday, July 18th, 4:30-5PM. (Today, that’s the entrance of the Independence Seaport Museum.) Anyone and everyone is welcome to join.

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