President Obama is expected to issue an executive order today creating five new national monuments, including the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Leaving aside the questions about whether such decisions should be made unilaterally by the president, without input from Congress, Harriet Tubman is certainly deserving of national recognition. Cato senior fellow Jim Powell, author of The Triumph of Liberty: A 2,000-Year History Told Through the Lives of Freedom’s Greatest Champions, wrote about Tubman two weeks ago on the 100th anniversary of her death:
Few freedom fighters were more tenacious than petite Harriet Tubman, the African-American slave-turned-abolitionist who died March 10, 1913 when she was about 92. She escaped to freedom, then was reported to have gone back into the Confederacy 19 times, risking capture as she “conducted” some 300 slaves to freedom….
She heard that her sister — a slave with children — was going to be sold away from her husband, who was a free black. Tubman decided she would return to Maryland and guide them to freedom. That was her start as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad.
Then in 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act empowered Southern slave hunters to capture alleged runaways without a jury trial, and Tubman began conducting slaves hundreds of miles farther north — across the Canadian border. She knew the abolitionist orator Frederick Douglass, whose three-story house in Rochester, N.Y., was the last stop for many slaves on the Underground Railroad before they boarded a steamer across Lake Ontario.
Harriet Tubman risked her life time after time to lead people out of slavery to freedom. She’s a libertarian heroine.