Reply
Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

The Fugitive Slave Act

The Fugitive Slave Act (part of the Compromise of 1850, which was passed in an effort to prevent a conflict between North and South) forced Northerners to help in the apprehension of runaways. How does this play out in the novel?
Stephanie
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Fugitive Slave Act

I've read some background information about the Fugitive Slave Act; my jaw dropped at the legal implications of this law. In return for letting California into the Union as a slave-free state, and to end slavery in Washington, DC, this law allowed the Federal government to create a force of federal commissioners who were empowered to pursue runaway slaves.

What's so jawdropping about this law was that the Federal government was given amazing authority -- there was no statute of limitations; a fugitive slave (or even a free born) could be pursued for his entire life; there was no legal recourse in local courts to defend their freedom. Any black person could be dragged back to the South into slavery.

This law worked against both blacks and white. The Federal government could deputize citizens againt their will, force them to join posses to seize fugitive slaves.

This background information put Cain's career in perspective for me. In the context of his talents as "soul catcher", and the difficulties he encounters, and the company he has to keep, put his moral dilemma into sharp focus.

I kept wondering, there must be better ways, in pre-Civil War America, for a gambling drunkard, addicted to laudunum, to earn a living.
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Author
MichaelCWhite
Posts: 98
Registered: ‎10-08-2007
0 Kudos

Re: The Fugitive Slave Act

But slave catching was a pretty lucrative way to make a living. A reward of several hundred dollars for bringing back a slave was the equivalent of a year or more of salary. But to you other point, the Fugitive Slave Law (part of the greater Compromise of 1850) by Webster and Clay was an amazing compromise, seen in retrospect. While aimed at keeping the Union together, I feel, it had the opposite effect, in that it made the North intimately involved in slavery, by forcing Northerners to participate in return slaves--or by taking a stand against it.

Michael


Learn more about
Soul Catcher
.
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Fugitive Slave Act

Your point is well taken. The irony of this compromise law, which hoped to keep the Union together, actually resulted in its exact opposite.

By forcing otherwise uninvolved citizens to participate and assist "slave catchers", slavery became an in-your-face situation. It was no longer convenient to dismiss slavery as a Southern issue, that only mattered hundreds of miles away. Ordinary folks who had no strong feelings either way found themselves, as you say, having to take a stand.

In SOUL CATCHER, you've made me realize that both pro and anti-slavery citizens are found on either side of the Mason-Dixie line. That's a misinterpretation that I now find extremely simplistic.

Thank you for that eye-opener. And for many others to come.
IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Inspired Correspondent
Wrighty
Posts: 1,762
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Fugitive Slave Act


IBIS wrote:
Your point is well taken. The irony of this compromise law, which hoped to keep the Union together, actually resulted in its exact opposite.

By forcing otherwise uninvolved citizens to participate and assist "slave catchers", slavery became an in-your-face situation. It was no longer convenient to dismiss slavery as a Southern issue, that only mattered hundreds of miles away. Ordinary folks who had no strong feelings either way found themselves, as you say, having to take a stand.

In SOUL CATCHER, you've made me realize that both pro and anti-slavery citizens are found on either side of the Mason-Dixie line. That's a misinterpretation that I now find extremely simplistic.

Thank you for that eye-opener. And for many others to come.
IBIS



This was a real eye opener for me as well. I wasn't familiar with the Fugitive Slave Act and all it entailed. I had no idea that citizens were forced to catch slaves or that slaves all over the country could be forced to return to the south. I've received quite an education from this book and these discussions.
Users Online
Currently online: 4 members 300 guests
Recent signins:
Please welcome our newest community members: