Fugitive Slave Law Abolition

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One of the most controversial issues of the mid-nineteenth century was that of slavery. In September of 1850 the Fugitive Slave Law began as part of the Compromise of 1850, which provided for the return of runaway slaves to their owners. The Fugitive Slave Law caused a significant increase in abolitionist activity in the form of writing and riots. In response to the Fugitive Slave Law, common citizens starting backing the abolitionist movement with writing and text. As stated by the History Channels America: The Story of US, “Ordinary people were outraged by the new law...abolitionist newspapers and literature spread like wildfire.” (History). For example, anti-slavery magazines such as ‘The Slave’s friend’ were widely popular. Anger…show more content…
Burns had escaped slavery and fled to Boston, where he was discovered by his former owner and arrested under the Fugitive Slave Law. Fraser describes the chaos that ensued “White and Black abolitionists attacked the courthouse where Burns was held, and a federal marshal was killed in the melee.” (Fraser). As Burns was marched through Boston and back to slavery, many witnesses turned towards the abolitionist movement. This, and other incidents such as the Christiana riots in Pennsylvania, and Margaret Garner’s case in Ohio, are direct evidence of abolitionist activity sparked by the Fugitive Slave Law. It is arguable that Fugitive Slave Act decreased abolitionist activity because it provided incentive for Northerners to comply with it. Federal commissioners who determined whether a person was truly free or not was paid a double fee whenever they decided someone a fugitive. Not only that, but any Northerners caught helping blacks, runaway or not, faced the risk of a thousand dollar fine and up to a year in jail. But, as argued by historian Lincoln Austin Mullen, in his article Fugitive Slave Laws (1793 and 1850), “Northern reaction to the law was swift and angry. Many Northerners, including some who had never before supported antislavery efforts, decried the injustice of the

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