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6 - Above Ground

Open Defiance and the Limits of Free Soil

from Part III - 1850–1860

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 December 2019

Robert H. Churchill
Affiliation:
University of Hartford, Connecticut
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Summary

The chapter focuses on the renewed campaign by Southerners to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act in the Free Soil Region, from which few fugitives had hitherto been recovered. The law’s passage triggered a storm of indignation across the region as communities gathered in public meetings and pronounced the law void and of no force. Nevertheless, the law emboldened slaveholders to pursue fugitives from enslavement who had taken refuge in abolitionist strongholds in the Upper North. In response, Underground activists took pains to publicize their activities and promised to protect fugitives who settled within the United States. As slave catchers ventured into the region, a series of spectacular public rescues garnered national attention. These large-scale acts of outright defiance revealed the determination of the region’s residents to defend the “free soil” of their communities by violence if necessary. Free Soil residents gathered in interracial crowds numbering in the thousands to confront slave catchers, humiliate those cooperating with the law, and punish those who performed the violence of mastery within their communities.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Above Ground
  • Robert H. Churchill, University of Hartford, Connecticut
  • Book: The Underground Railroad and the Geography of Violence in Antebellum America
  • Online publication: 16 December 2019
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108773997.007
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To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

  • Above Ground
  • Robert H. Churchill, University of Hartford, Connecticut
  • Book: The Underground Railroad and the Geography of Violence in Antebellum America
  • Online publication: 16 December 2019
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108773997.007
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Above Ground
  • Robert H. Churchill, University of Hartford, Connecticut
  • Book: The Underground Railroad and the Geography of Violence in Antebellum America
  • Online publication: 16 December 2019
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108773997.007
Available formats
×