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On the Edge of FreedomThe Fugitive Slave Issue in South Central Pennsylvania, 1820–1870$
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David G. Smith

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823240326

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823240326.001.0001

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Controversy and Christiana

Controversy and Christiana

(p.115) 5 Controversy and Christiana
On the Edge of Freedom

David G. Smith

Fordham University Press

This chapter examines how the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law politicized the fugitive slave issue on a national scale. With the sectional conflict increasing, and the fugitive slave issue at the heart of compromises designed to resolve it, local newspapers began covering fugitive slave cases extensively, creating a new body of evidence just as the local Underground Railroad was becoming more secretive due to legal liabilities. Fugitive slave cases that previously would have only received limited local attention now might be publicized across the North and South. In Congress, Representative Thaddeus Stevens and Senator James Cooper gave important speeches on the Compromise. In southern Pennsylvania, this process as well as the 1840s legal struggle over fugitive slaves culminated in the Christiana riot and the resulting treason trials of William Parker and Christian Hanway, which helped unseat a sitting governor and almost caused sectional rupture.

Keywords:   1850 Fugitive Slave Law, Thaddeus Stevens, James Cooper, fugitive slave, Christiana, treason, William Parker, Christian Hanway

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