On the Edge of Freedom:The Fugitive Slave Issue in South Central Pennsylvania, 1820-1870
The Fugitive Slave Issue in South Central Pennsylvania, 1820-1870
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Fordham University Press
On the Edgeof Freedom
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I have incurred numerous debts completing this project, which I can only imperfectly acknowledge. Thanks to the community of scholars who encouraged this work or commented on parts of it, including Richard J. M. Blackett, Stephen Browne, Peter Carmichael, Margaret Creighton, William “Jack” Davis, Susan De- Wees, Robert Engs, Barb...
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In between the Black Belt South and the Yankee Upper North lies a lush middle ground, less explored by historians, particularly on the northern side of the Mason-Dixon Line. There, residents had views that often diverged from the views of inhabitants of both of those better-studied regions. A great historian once aptly captured...
1 South CentralPennsylvania, Fugitive Slaves, and the Underground Railroad
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At dusk, a shadow crept parallel to a road from central Maryland to Pennsylvania, following the road while still avoiding exposure. A fugitive slave! Unaware of the precise moment when he crossed the Mason- Dixon Line, he silently entered south central Pennsylvania, a region with its own history of slavery, antislavery...
2 Thaddeus Stevens’ Dilemma, Colonization,and the Turbulent Years of Early Antislavery in Adams County, 1835–39
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South central Pennsylvania was liminal ground, lying on the dividing line between the border North and the Upper South. This physical circumstance, combined with a legacy of slavery lasting into the 1830s, gave the area a distinctive, almost Southern character. At the same time, many Quakers, Mennonites, and other...
3 Antislavery Petitioning in South Central Pennsylvania
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The failure of the antislavery lecturers to ignite a mass movement in south central Pennsylvania roughly coincided with disturbing events elsewhere, such as the martyrdom of Elijah Lovejoy and the burning of Pennsylvania Hall. Likely as a result, the Adams County Antislavery Society returned to two tools that...
4 The Fugitive Slave Issue on Trial
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Stymied by entrenched opposition to their grassroots efforts, and perhaps cowed by the violent murder of Elijah Lovejoy in Ohio and the burning of Pennsylvania Hall, south central Pennsylvania’s antislavery activists turned to another traditional refuge of minority groups seeking change: the court system.1 The courts offered opportunities...
5 Controversy and Christiana
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The opening of the 1850s marked the beginning of a new era in Pennsylvania’s protracted engagement with the fugitive slave issue. The state’s new personal liberty law, passed in 1847, had largely superseded previous legislation passed in 1820 and 1826. More significant, however, was the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which gave new powers to the federal government and made new claims on ordinary...
6 Interlude: Kidnapping, Kansas, and the Rise of Race-Based Partisanship
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The explosive Christiana riot and trial brought the fugitive slave issue to the forefront of national attention, and highlighted deep divisions within Pennsylvania. So did the defeat of Governor Johnston. The fugitive slave issue seemed poised to usher in significant political change, possibly even to split the Union. Facing...
7 Revival of the Fugitive Slave Issue, 1858–61
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As a result of the pressures of the border political environment and the salience of Kansas, the fugitive slave issue appeared quiescent in 1858. Neither the 1855 case involving the Wiermans nor the 1856 Carlisle case seemed to engage the populace. Despite statewide defeats in the 1856 presidential election and the 1857 Pennsylvania...
8 Contrabands, “WhiteVictories,” and theUltimate Slave Hunt
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All hopes for peaceful reunion exploded at Fort Sumter. Then Lincoln’s call for volunteers pushed most of the Upper South to secede. Where the Potomac River bent closest, south central Pennsylvania lay less than five miles from Virginia, and the possibility of Maryland joining Virginia in the new Confederacy gravely...
9 After the Shooting
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In April 1865, the long war ended. Vacant chairs and empty sleeves across the North testified to loss; south central Pennsylvania had suffered especially. Three times the region had been invaded, including in 1863, when two large armies camped, looted, and...
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In runaway slave advertisements and illustrations in abolitionist literature, the fugitive slave was often depicted as traveling, like Bunyan’s pilgrim, with a bundle on his back or tied to a staff . To some, he was a self-made man, boldly striking out for a better life, heeding a call to freedom, aspiring to equality. To others, he was a supplicant...
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The North’s Civil War
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Page Count: 260
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: The North's Civil War