Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America

By Carol Faulkner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Fugitives

Robert Purvis once called Lucretia Mott “the most belligerent NonResistant he ever saw.” She liked the characterization, telling an audience of abolitionists, “I am no advocate of passivity”: “I have no idea, because I am a Non-Resistant, of submitting tamely to injustice inflicted either on me or on the slave.”1 Her refusal to link pacifism to inaction informed her response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. After the failure of Wilmot’s Proviso, Congress spent two years debating how to incorporate lands gained from Mexico. The resulting Compromise of 1850 abolished the slave trade (but not slavery) in the District of Columbia, instituted the doctrine of popular sovereignty in the New Mexico territory, allowing these new states to decide whether to legalize slavery, and implemented a drastic fugitive slave law. The law gave slave catchers the power to force any individual—regardless of political or religious beliefs—to participate in the capture of a fugitive. It also established harsh fines and jail terms for anyone who aided an escaped slave. Finally, the law placed the onus on the alleged fugitive to prove he or she was a free person. In other words, Fugitive Slave Act presumed any African American claimed by a southerner was a slave. Though all abolitionists shared Mott’s vehement opposition to the law, they disagreed over the best way to resist its enforcement.

Ongoing divisions in the anti-slavery movement did not affect Mott’s close friendship with Robert and his wife Harriet Forten Purvis. In July 1850, Lucretia and Harriet traveled to New York Central College in McGrawsville. The college was one of the few institutions in the country to accept women and African Americans. Harriet’s sons, Joseph and Robert, were students at

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Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction- Heretic and Saint 1
  • Chapter 1- Nantucket 8
  • Chapter 2- Nine Partners 25
  • Chapter 3- Schism 41
  • Chapter 4- Immediate Abolition 60
  • Chapter 5- Pennsylvania Hall 75
  • Chapter 6- Abroad 87
  • Chapter 7- Crisis 109
  • Chapter 8- The Year 1848 127
  • Chapter 9- Conventions 148
  • Chapter 10- Fugitives 161
  • Chapter 11- Civil War 176
  • Chapter 12- Peace 197
  • Epilogue 213
  • Notes 219
  • Index 265
  • Acknowledgments 289
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