A Southern Newspaper Lashes out against the Fugitive Slave Law
With the Compromise of 1850, the North and South avoided - or more accurately, delayed - a struggle that threatened to rip the Union apart. The Compromise included a Fugitive Slave Law, which empowered the federal government to prosecute northern whites who shielded runaways. Bounty hunters sometimes wrongfully seized free blacks born in the North as escaped slaves. In response, black Americans and their white allies used force to protect fugitive slaves, sometimes attacking and even killing their pursuers. Conflicts sparked by the Fugitive Slave Law also infuriated southern slaveholders, who believed that the federal government was failing to keep northern abolitionists in check.
The Fugitive Law.
With the Constitution or without it – with the Fugitive Law or without it – there is still for Northern [states] and Fanatic bands, "a Higher Law," which sanctions the violation of all faith with the slaveholder, the robbing of his property and the taking of his life.
It is the most stupid of delusions which leads Southerners to rely upon the protection of the Constitution of the Fugitive Law, in the recovery of their slaves.....Had the Constitution been faithfully executed the South would not have needed the Fugitive Law, and it was therefore, the veriest of cheats, which led the South to believe that the miserable patchwork of this Law would or could restore vitality to a treaty which had already been spurned by the North. How far we are right, let the following answer:
Seeking Fugitive Slaves in Chicago - Colored People Flogging Slave Hunters.
From the Chicago Tribune, February 15.
About two months ago, two men, who live near Independence, Missouri, named Calvert and Bagsby, came to this city in search of four of their runaway slaves, who had come thus far on their way to freedom...[The slaveholders'] runaway chattels were all here, consisting of two young women and two men. They soon found out this, and [hired] a person named Thurston, who promised to catch their negros for them for $40. This they paid over to him, but Thurston found that negro-catching was not quite so easy a matter, and did not fulfill his promise.
The colored people here concluded that [the slaveholders] had bothered them long enough, and concluded to give them a sound whipping and send them back to Missouri. So on Friday night...some fifteen stout gentlemen from Africa awaited them. Mr. Calvert was armed with a pistol, and on finding himself in rather dangerous company, drew it and attempted to shoot one of his assailants. He was immediately knocked down and delivered over to the tender mercies of a two-fisted negro, who gave him a sound dressing, while his comrade was treated in the same manner. They were then set upon their feet and told to run for their lives, which they did in excellent style.
They left home yesterday morning, without their "niggers," having expended two or three hundred dollars in the search for them, and armed all the time with a writ from the United States Court for their apprehension, and covered all over with the panapoly of the Fugitive Slave Law.
Creator | Charleston Mercury
Item Type | Newspaper/Magazine
Cite This document | Charleston Mercury, “A Southern Newspaper Lashes out against the Fugitive Slave Law,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed February 20, 2020, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/933.