Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Pearson House, Morality, and Legality

St. Louis Trip, Day 1 - Friday, July 24, 2015
Driving through Keosauqua, Iowa, we noticed a sign pointing out the Pearson House which was built between 1845 and 1847.  We hadn't planned on stopping, and it was not open while we were there, so we admired the buildings and the grounds, but didn't get to see the inside of the house.  Also on the property are the Ellis Schoolhouse and a log cabin.
Originally, the second floor of the house was used for Methodist church services.  But, what the Pearson House is most noted for is its place as a stop on the Underground Railroad, which helped fugitive slaves on their way to freedom in Canada before the Civil War.

Under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, any person aiding a runaway slave by providing food or shelter would be subject to 6 months' imprisonment and a $1000 fine (Considering inflation, that is $28,000+ in today's currency).   No one was ever convicted under this law in Iowa.  Still, those who aided runaway slaves were taking a risk in committing what was then considered a criminal act. 
It is important to note that just because something is legal, does not necessarily make it moral.  And simply because something is illegal does not necessarily make it immoral.  In fact, a strong sense of morality may compel a person to do that which is illegal when laws are immoral.  

Deuteronomy 23:15, "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee."
"We ought to obey God rather than men."  --Acts 5:29

16 comments:

  1. So interesting and very good points you bring up Bethany! Love it!! xo

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  2. Very true! I think we may be having to make those decisions more often in the future.
    This looks like another interesting stop. You could be on the tourist board for Iowa - I want to visit!

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    1. Thanks, I will call my travel posts a success once I have talked all my blogging friends into visiting Iowa. ;)

      The simple decision of obeying God or the government seems like a no-brainer. What complicates things might be if a person had a family to take care of. If a person were single, it would probably be easier to help the runaway slaves. But would it be wise to risk one's family's livelihood to help an unknown runaway? That would be a much tougher case. Ethical dilemmas are interesting to theorize about, but they can be hard to face.

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  3. Interesting site, Bethany! And I agree on the finer points...we must judge our actions wisely.

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  4. What an exceptional piece of history!

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    1. It seems there is history everywhere, just waiting to be noticed!

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  5. I always wonder what would I have done....

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    1. It's easy to do what's right when people pat us on the back for it. The possibility of being sent to jail, fined, or hated would make doing the right things a lot harder.

      “I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.”
      --Leonardo da Vinci

      God would give us the strength we would need.

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  6. What a great post! It took incredible bravery (and a strong sense of moral obligation) for individuals to help the runaway slaves and put themselves at risk. I admire these people and I wonder what I would have done. I really hope that I would have helped those in need!

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    1. Although I've never met you, from what I know about you from reading your posts, I think you would have, Martha.

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  7. Wise words. You've traveled to some really neat historical places.

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  8. Hi Bethany, This is a powerful post. I am reminded of the recent issues relating to the County Clerk in Kentucky who will not issue marriage licenses to gays. I believe all that has happened since you posted this. She is following "God's authority" and not man's. Wow, this post gives me a lot to think about. Excellent work!

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read all of these posts, John! Yes, I was thinking about this post after I heard about Kim Davis being sent to jail. It seems rather Orwellian that someone was sent to jail for only issuing licenses to man+woman couples, when just back in the 90s a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, signed the Defence of Marriage act making it illegal for anyone but man+woman couples to marry. Now we're just supposed to forget all about that and believe the Constitution says otherwise.

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