The Slave Catchers: Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, 1850-1860

By Stanley W. Campbell | Go to book overview
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Chapter VII

Non-Enforcement
of the
Fugitive Slave Law:
Slave Rescues,
1850-1860

The record for capturing and returning fugitive slaves in the 1850's was obscured by the relatively few cases in which slaves were rescued from federal custody. The rescue cases prompted great outrage in the South, and, because of the wide publicity they received, many Southerners became convinced that the Fugitive Slave Law was not being enforced. Indeed, many Southerners felt that, as long as a majority in the North remained hostile to the institution of slavery and the recovery of fugitive slaves, the law was unenforceable. Compared with the number of slaves returned, the number of rescues was small, but three of the most notorious cases occurred in 1851 when opposition to enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law was at its highest.

Frederick Jenkins, called Shadrack, was a waiter at the Cornhill Coffee House in Boston. He had escaped in May, 1850, from the service of John Debree of Norfolk, Virginia, a purser in the United

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