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In the United States a slave catcher was a person employed to track down and return escaped slaves to their enslavers. The first slave catchers in the Americas were active in European colonies in the West Indies during the sixteenth century. In colonial Virginia and Carolina, slave catchers (as part of the slave patrol system) were recruited by Southern planters beginning in the eighteenth century to return fugitive slaves; the concept quickly spread to the rest of the Thirteen Colonies.[ citation needed ] After the establishment of the United States, slave catchers continued to be employed in addition to being active in other countries which had not abolished slavery, such as Brazil. The activities of slave catchers from the American South became at the center of a major controversy in the lead up to the American Civil War; the Fugitive Slave Act required those living in the Northern United States to assist slave catchers. Slave catchers in the United States ceased to be active with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.
The first slave catchers in the Americas were active in European colonies in the West Indies during the sixteenth century. In colonial Virginia and Carolina, slave catchers (as part of the slave patrol system) were recruited by Southern planters beginning in the eighteenth century to return fugitive slaves; the concept quickly spread to the rest of the Thirteen Colonies. 7 Slave catchers in the Americas consisted of white colonists who were employed by planters to control the rapidly increasing enslaved population as a result of the transatlantic slave trade. These early efforts at establishing a slave patrol system were hampered by the small number of slave catchers who operated over a large landscape. As a consequence, many of the enslaved population managed to escape detection and flee to regions where they could live as free people of color.:
The colonial era of the United States saw the emergence of a law enforcement system modeled on those in Europe. In the Northern Colonies, these consisted of watchmen, who were employed by private citizens to police the streets and maintain order; in the Southern Colonies, law enforcement was primarily centered around policing the large population of enslaved African Americans who worked on plantations. These groups consisted of both planters and colonists which owned no slaves, and were paid by planters to search for escaped slaves. However, the Southern Colonies were much more sparsely populated than the Northern ones, presenting difficulties for slave catchers. Although slavery existed in the Northern Colonies, the majority of the enslaved population in Colonial America lived in the South, leading to a disproportionate amount of slave catchers being active in the region. Although historians have noted that the issue is underrepresented in American historiography, female planters would also participate in efforts to recapture escaped slaves. 2 :123 Nearly any prospecting individual could set out to be a slave hunter, but few were able to find much success.:
These Southern law enforcement groups, which continued to be active after the American Revolution and the establishment of the United States, were created out of a need to maintain order among slaves and slave owners, rather than to protect the interests of the colonists which owned no slaves. Many Southern planters were considered irresponsible if their enslaved chattel property were allowed to escape, and it was a fear that more escapes would upend the system if not met with an immediate response. It was believed to be in the general interest of all planters to maintain discipline so that the enslaved did not have the chance to start a slave rebellion. 6 Many states allowed local law enforcement to enlist the help of federal marshals, U.S. commissioners, and other local citizens. This spread to more states with the ratification of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required all citizens and local law enforcement to aid in the capture of runaway slaves. This meant that Northerners, many of whom were abolitionists, were forced to work with slave catchers, although they often found ways to evade the policy. Up until this point, many states did their best to thwart slave catchers by passing decrees such as Massachusetts’ personal liberty statute of 1842, which barred slave catchers from seeking the aid of state officials. However, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 nullified these formal efforts, and abolitionists were forced to resort to small acts of defiance instead. In many areas it could actually be dangerous to be a part of a slave-catching group, due to the hostility of the locals.:
Under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, slave hunters could easily obtain an "Order of Removal", which approved the return of a runaway slave. However, these orders were often met with resistance from Northern abolitionists, who tried to intervene by blocking entry to the room where a fugitive was being held. 167Local government tried to shut this practice down by offering law enforcement agents a greater reward for returning a slave to the South than they could get from abolitionists who were willing to pay police to look the other way. During the Civil War, these law enforcement groups met with great difficulty, primarily because most of the white men were off fighting in the war. With the men gone, the duty to keep slaves in line fell on the women, who also had households to run. Lack of punishment and a greater likelihood of successful escape caused more and more slaves to run away. With slave patrols stretched so thin, many slaves were able to escape, and were often aided by enemy invaders. Many of the slaves joined Union ranks, the United States Colored Troops, taking up arms against their former owners. :
When an enslaved person run away, they could expect to be questioned and asked to show their emancipation or manumission papers to prove that they were free by citizens or local law enforcement, who looked out for runaway slaves.Slaveowners hired people who made a living catching fugitive slaves. Since these slave catchers charged by the day and mile, many of them would travel long distances to hunt for fugitives. Slave catchers often used tracking dogs to sniff out their targets; these were called "negro dogs," and, though they could be of multiple breeds, they were typically bloodhounds.
If a slave reached the Northern "free" states, a slave catcher's job was substantially more difficult; even if they did find the fugitive they could face resistance from anti-slavery citizens. If a slave managed to escape this far, slave owners typically sent an agent more closely connected to them, or put out notices about the escaped slave.
White abolitionists and anyone else aiding in freeing or hiding of slaves were punished for their efforts. One account of drastic fugitive slave catching was approximately 200 U.S. Marines escorting one fugitive slave back into the custody of his owner.[ citation needed ] As laws even in the North punished both the people who helped slaves escape as well as the fugitive slaves, many fled to Canada where slavery had been abolished in 1834.
By the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, slave catchers' jobs were made easier by the mandating of government officials to locate and prosecute runaway slaves, giving slave catchers more freedom to act under the law.With this law, slave catchers were reportedly able to gain warrants to apprehend those identified as fugitive slaves.
The North became increasingly opposed to the idea of fugitive slave catchers. Several Northern states passed new personal liberty laws in defiance of the South's efforts to have slaves captured and returned. Slave-catching was allowed in the North and the new laws in the North did not make it impossible to catch fugitive slaves. However, it became so difficult, expensive, and time-consuming that the fugitive slave catchers and the owners stopped trying.
The Fugitive Slave Act strengthened abolitionist response against slave catchers, with abolitionist groups including the Free Soil Party advocating for the use of firearms to stop slave catchers and kidnappers, comparing it to the American Revolution. The 1850s saw a significant rise in violent conflicts between abolitionists and law enforcement, with large groups forming to counter activities that threatened fugitive slaves. 340Slave catchers were heavily reduced in number during the American Civil War as many of them joined or were conscripted into the Confederate army; and the institution of slave patrolling disappeared after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery in the United States. :
The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early to mid-19th century. It was used by enslaved African Americans primarily to escape into free states and Canada. The scheme was assisted by abolitionists and others sympathetic to the cause of the escapees. The enslaved who risked escape and those who aided them are also collectively referred to as the "Underground Railroad". Various other routes led to Mexico, where slavery had been abolished, and to islands in the Caribbean that were not part of the slave trade. An earlier escape route running south toward Florida, then a Spanish possession, existed from the late 17th century until approximately 1790. However, the network now generally known as the Underground Railroad was formed in the late 18th century. It ran north and grew steadily until the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln. One estimate suggests that, by 1850, 100,000 enslaved people had escaped via the network.
Abolitionism, or the abolitionist movement, was the movement to end slavery. In Western Europe and the Americas, abolitionism was a historic movement that sought to end the Atlantic slave trade and liberate the enslaved people.
Slavery in the United States was the legal institution of human chattel slavery, comprising the enslavement primarily of Africans and African Americans, that existed in the United States of America from its founding in 1776 until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. Slavery was established throughout European colonization in the Americas. From early colonial days, it was practiced in Britain's colonies, including the Thirteen Colonies which formed the United States. Under the law, an enslaved person was treated as property and could be bought, sold, or given away. Slavery lasted in about half of U.S. states until 1865. As an economic system, slavery was largely replaced by sharecropping and convict leasing.
James William Charles Pennington was an African-American orator, minister, writer, and abolitionist active in Brooklyn, New York. He escaped at the age of 19 from slavery in western Maryland and reached New York. After working in Brooklyn and gaining some education, he was admitted to Yale University as its first black student. He completed studies and was ordained as a minister in the Congregational Church, later also serving in Presbyterian churches for congregations in Hartford, Connecticut; and New York. After the Civil War, he served congregations in Natchez, Mississippi; Portland, Maine; and Jacksonville, Florida.
The Fugitive Slave Act or Fugitive Slave Law was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern interests in slavery and Northern Free-Soilers.
The Stono Rebellion was a slave revolt that began on 9 September 1739, in the colony of South Carolina. It was the largest slave rebellion in the Southern Colonies, with 25 colonists and 35 to 50 Africans killed. The uprising was led by native Africans who were likely from the Central African Kingdom of Kongo, as some of the rebels spoke Portuguese.
The slave codes were laws relating to slavery and enslaved people, specifically regarding the Atlantic slave trade and chattel slavery in the Americas.
In the United States, fugitive slaves or runaway slaves were terms used in the 18th and 19th century to describe enslaved people who fled slavery. The term also refers to the federal Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850. The use of "fugitive" and "runaway" infers that the enslaved person had committed a crime and inferred that slaveholder was the injured party. Enslaved people who fled servitude were in fact freedom seekers, which reflects African American's objectives to make liberty a reality.
Slave patrols—traditionally known as patrollers, patterrollers, pattyrollers or paddy rollers by enslaved persons of African descent—were organized groups of armed men who monitored and enforced discipline upon slaves in the antebellum U.S. southern states. The slave patrols' function was to police enslaved persons, especially those who escaped or were viewed as defiant. They also formed river patrols to prevent escape by boat.
In the British colonies in North America and in the United States before the abolition of slavery in 1865, free Negro or free Black described the legal status of African Americans who were not enslaved. The term was applied both to formerly enslaved people (freedmen) and to those who had been born free.
The fugitive slave laws were laws passed by the United States Congress in 1793 and 1850 to provide for the return of enslaved people who escaped from one state into another state or territory. The idea of the fugitive slave law was derived from the Fugitive Slave Clause which is in the United States Constitution. It was thought that forcing states to deliver freedom seekers back to enslavement violated states' rights due to state sovereignty and was believed that seizing state property should not be left up to the states. The Fugitive Slave Clause states that freedom seekers "shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due", which abridged state rights because forcing people back into enslavement was a form of retrieving private property. The Compromise of 1850 entailed a series of laws that allowed enslavement in the new territories and forced officials in free states to give a hearing to slave-owners who enslaved people without a jury.
Ellen Craft (1826–1891) and William Craft were American fugitives who were born and enslaved in Macon, Georgia. They escaped to the North in December 1848 by traveling by train and steamboat, arriving in Philadelphia on Christmas Day. Ellen crossed the boundaries of race, class, gender, and physical ability by passing as a white male planter with William posing as her personal servant. Their daring escape was widely publicized, making them among the most famous of fugitives from slavery. Abolitionists featured them in public lectures to gain support in the struggle to end the institution.
Mary Edmonson (1832–1853) and Emily Edmonson (1835–1895), "two respectable young women of light complexion", were African Americans who became celebrities in the United States abolitionist movement after gaining their freedom from slavery. On April 15, 1848, they were among the 77 slaves who tried to escape from Washington, DC on the schooner The Pearl to sail up the Chesapeake Bay to freedom in New Jersey.
The Reverse Underground Railroad is the name given, sardonically, to the pre-American Civil War practice of kidnapping in free states not only fugitive slaves but free blacks as well, transporting them to slave states, and selling them as slaves, or occasionally getting a reward for return of a fugitive. Those who used the term were pro-slavery and angered at an "underground railroad" helping slaves escape. Also, the so-called "reverse underground railroad" had incidents but not a network, and its activities did not always take place in secret. Rescues of blacks being kidnapped were unusual.
The Fugitive Slave Clause in the United States Constitution of 1789, also known as either the Slave Clause or the Fugitives From Labor Clause, is Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3, which requires a "person held to service or labor" who flees to another state to be returned to his or her master in the state from which that person escaped. The passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery except as a punishment for criminal acts, made the clause irrelevant.
The Underground Railroad in Indiana was part of a larger, unofficial, and loosely-connected network of groups and individuals who aided and facilitated the escape of runaway slaves from the southern United States. The network in Indiana gradually evolved in the 1830s and 1840s, reached its peak during the 1850s, and continued until slavery was abolished throughout the United States at the end of the American Civil War in 1865. It is not known how many fugitive slaves escaped through Indiana on their journey to Michigan and Canada. An unknown number of Indiana's abolitionists, anti-slavery advocates, and people of color, as well as Quakers and other religious groups illegally operated stations along the network. Some of the network's operatives have been identified, including Levi Coffin, the best-known of Indiana's Underground Railroad leaders. In addition to shelter, network agents provided food, guidance, and, in some cases, transportation to aid the runaways.
The 1842 Slave Revolt in the Cherokee Nation was the largest escape of a group of slaves to occur in the Cherokee Nation, in what was then Indian Territory. The slave revolt started on November 15, 1842, when a group of 20 African-American slaves owned by the Cherokee escaped and tried to reach Mexico, where slavery had been abolished in 1829. Along their way south, they were joined by 15 slaves escaping from the Creek Nation in Indian Territory.
Slavery in Virginia began with the enslavement of Native Americans, during the early days of the English Colony of Virginia and through the late eighteenth century. They primarily worked in tobacco fields. Africans were first brought to Colonial Virginia in 1619, when 20 Africans from present-day Angola arrived in Virginia on the ship The White Lion. About that time, Native Americans were also captured and enslaved.
Abolitionism in the United States was a movement which sought to end slavery in the United States, being active from the colonial era until the American Civil War, which saw the abolition of American slavery. The abolitionist movement originated in Western Europe during the Age of Enlightenment, seeking to end the transatlantic slave trade and outlaw the institution of slavery in European colonies in the Americas. In Colonial America, German settlers issued the 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, which would initiate the American abolitionist movement. Before the Revolutionary War, evangelical colonists were the primary advocates for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade, doing so on humanitarian grounds. Georgia, the last of the Thirteen Colonies to be established, originally prohibited slavery upon its founding, a decision which was eventually reversed.
Harrisburg was a pivotal hub in the Underground Railroad (UGRR) particularly because the number of free blacks that could assist runaways and the many routes through the area.