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Disunion!The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859$
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Elizabeth R. Varon

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780807832325

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807887189_varon

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Beneath the Iron Heel Fugitive Slaves And Bleeding Kansas

Beneath the Iron Heel Fugitive Slaves And Bleeding Kansas

(p.235) 7 Beneath the Iron Heel Fugitive Slaves And Bleeding Kansas

Elizabeth R. Varon

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter discusses the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which legitimized and lent immediacy to an argument that abolitionists had long been making—that Northerners were complicit in the slave system. Northern outrage at the law, in turn, legitimized a long-standing argument of the South's proslavery vanguard—that Northerners could not be trusted to keep their promises. Such a dialectic reflected the design of the bill's Southern sponsors, who knew well that the bill's measures were “gratuitously provocative.” The new fugitive slave policy created a class of federal commissioners who would act as judge and jury when claims for rendition of slaves were brought before them by slaveholders, their agents, or federal marshals, who were required by law to assist slaveholders.

Keywords:   Fugitive Slave Act, abolitionists, slave system, proslavery vanguard, federal commissioners, rendition of slaves

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