The Underground Railroad The Kansas-Nebraska Act and Uncle Tom’s Cabin Protest, Resistance, and Violence
Objectives • To understand the Fugitive Slave Act and the reaction of Northern abolitionists to this law. • To understand how violence erupted in Kansas, as well as Senate, due to slavery. • To understand what popular sovereignty meant for the future of the nation, as well as Douglas’s involvement in turning over the Missouri Compromise. • Key Terms: Fugitive Slave Act, Underground Railroad, and Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Fugitive Slave Act The Fugitive Slave Act surprised many people due to the harsh terms which would not allow fugitives to a trial or the right to testify on their own behalf. Read the passage on pg. 311, by Frederick Douglass. Anyone convicted of helping an alleged fugitive could receive a $1,000 fine, six months in prison, or even both. Northerners resisted the fugitive slave act through protests, legal matters, and violence. The personal liberty laws guaranteed fugitives a trial, which lawyers would stretch out for several years. Outraged Southerners found themselves edging more and more towards a desire for disunion.
Harriet Tubman & The Underground Railroad Free slaves and white abolitionist joined forces in the north to create a network of people who would aid fugitive slaves escape to freedom. This network was known as the Underground Railroad, and the people involved were known as “conductors.” The conductors would hide slaves in tunnels and false cupboards, and then pass the fugitives on to the next safe house. Harriet Tubman was one of the most famous conductors, and reportedly traveled back to the South 19 times and rescued 300 slaves including her own parents. To escape from slavery, fugitives needed to travel at night with only the North Star to guide them. They had to avoid patrols of armed men on horseback and struggled to get food. Some slaves remained in the North once free while others went on to Canada.
Harriet Beecher Stowe & Uncle Tom’s Cabin In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published her pro-abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin in which she depicted slavery as more than a political debate, but rather as a great moral struggle. The novel created a stir in both the North and South, and increased the protests against the Fugitive Slave Act in the North while being banned in the South. This book was thought to “galvanize” or excite (as if by electrocution) the entire nation. And now a quick quiz…. Take out a fresh piece of paper! How was Tom and Legree depicted in the excerpt you read? Use adjectives to describe them, as well as explaining why you think Stowe depicted them the way she did. What symbolism or imagery did you find in the story? Think about the title “The Martyr”
Problems in Congress Stephen Douglas intensified the issue of slavery when he supported the Southern bill to repeal the Missouri Compromise, in an effort to further his own interests in running a railroad line from Chicago to California. Douglas’s bill separated the unorganized territories into Nebraska and Kansas, each would be given popular sovereignty, thus repealing the Missouri Compromise. Douglas honestly believed that popular sovereignty was the democratic way of solving the issues of slavery. He was mistaken in how the public would react. Northern congressman saw the plan as a plot to turn the territories into slave states, and 90% of southern congressman voted for the bill. With the help of President Pierce, the Kansas-Nebraska Act became a law in 1854, and many questioned what the outcome would be for these territories.
Violence in Kansas Kansas became a competition between the North and South to see who could claim the state first. Both sides were armed with the needs of farmers, but also many were equipped with rifles. When it came time to vote, “border ruffians,” from Missouri illegally voted in the poll and allowed for the state to be claimed for slavery. Violence erupted when an anti-slavery town (Lawrence) was sacked by proslavery militia. In response to this act, John Brown attacked the settlement a Pottawatomie Creek and cut the hands off 5 men before stabbing them through with broad swords. Kansas became known as “Bleeding Kansas,” due to the dozens of incidents that broke out throughout the state after John Brown’s actions. Over 200 people were killed in this mini-civil war.
Violence in the Senate A very odd moment in history occurred in the Senate in 1856, when Charles Sumner was attacked by Preston Brooks with a cane for slandering his uncle (Sen. Andrew Butler of SC) for a speech impediment. Sumner did not return to Congress for three years and suffered apparent brain damage from the beating.
Reminders • HW: SpNotes Ch10.3 • Push in your chairs and clean up! • Have a great day!