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5 - Law and Degradation

Lethal Violence and Beleaguered Resistance in the Borderland

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

Chapters 5–7 bring the story into the 1850s. Chapter 5 opens with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and the distinct regional reactions to the legislation. The discussion then turns to the law’s impact on the operations of the Underground Railroad in the Borderland. Though attempts to remand fugitives from the Borderland accelerated, enslaved African Americans continued to strike out for freedom in ever greater numbers. The law empowered slave catchers to retaliate legally and violently against Underground activists, but this added pressure was at least partially offset by the completion of rail transportation networks linking the Borderland with the Upper North, which boosted activists’ capacity to help fugitives traverse the region quickly. Though the new fugitive slave law did not succeed in suppressing Underground activity, it did inhibit resistance to fugitive slave renditions: most fugitive slave rescues in the region in the 1850s employed trickery and misdirection as opposed to the large-scale riots that had characterized the region in the 1840s.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Law and Degradation
  • 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/10.1017/9781108773997.006
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  • Law and Degradation
  • 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/10.1017/9781108773997.006
Available formats
×

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.

  • Law and Degradation
  • 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/10.1017/9781108773997.006
Available formats
×