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The Fugitive Slave Act was passed by congress on September 18, 1850, as part of a compromise allowing California to enter the Union as a free state and ending the slave trade in the District of Columbia. The act made the federal government responsible for tracking down and apprehending slaves who had escaped to the northern states. No statute of limitations applied, so that even slaves who had been free for many years could be returned. The passage and enforcement of this law enraged many people in the North--even those who were not ardent abolitionists. As noted in this article, an 1843 Massachusetts law prevented "all officers of the commonwealth from engaging under severe penalties in the arrest, detention, or imprisonment of a fugitive slave." Shadrach Minkins was the fugitive slave who had been rescued by a mob when he was arrested and then held at the courthouse on February 15, 1851. This article mentions that four men had been arrested for their part in Shadrach's escape, but a total of nine abolitionists were eventually indicted. All were ultimately acquitted.

 

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The Boston Mob article regarding fugitive Shadrich in Gazette and Courier newspaper

publisher   Greenfield Gazette and Courier
date   Feb 24, 1851
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
width   3.0"
height   10.0"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
accession #   #L09.002


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See Also...

Excerpts from "Reminiscences of Fugitive-Slave Law Days in Boston"

Article about wrongful arrest suits by rescuers of Shadrich from Gazette and Courier newspaper

"To Hon. John P. Bigelow, Mayor Boston"article re: Shadrach and Webster's response to riot in the Franklin Democrat newspaper


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