Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Rescue of a Fugitive Slave

Incidences of fugitive rescues happened with increasing frequency in the decade after the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. The most well known rescues and rescue attempts were those that happened in eastern states, and thus seemed to get the most East Coast press. The cases of Shadrack Minkins, Anthony Burns, William Henry (Jerry rescue), among many others, are all rather well known by historians.

However, fugitive slave rescues happened all across the spectrum of northern states, as is shown in the news article above, published in the October 27, 1859 issue of the Richmond Daily Dispatch, and that happened in Ottawa, Illinois.

Cases such as this one brought added pressure to the already divisive issue of slavery. Northerners did not feel obligated to help maintain a labor system they did not feel they benefited from, and one that many felt was morally objectionable. Not that most Northerners believed in equality between whites and blacks, but most did not hold to the idea of a person owning another person. Southerners on the other hand believed that since the Fugitive Slave Law was a federal law, their northern neighbors were obligated to abide by it, whether they liked it or not. When secession came, most southern states included among their stated reasons for leaving the Union the North's unwillingness to uphold the law. Without slavery there would not have been secession, and without secession there would have been no war.

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