The 1800’s in America was a time of change and it was a time of resistance.
Many people were against the new laws that were being created or reinstated by different leaders at different times. Of these laws, the one that received probably the most backlash was the Fugitive Slave Act. This act, which was a component of the Compromise of 1850, allowed people to recapture any slave who they believed had escaped to the North to be free, and to force them back into slavery without allowing them a trial by jury. The backlash caused by this act became most prominent on June 2, 1854, when Anthony Burns was forced back into slavery in Virginia. Northerners were furious with this new change under the administration of President Taylor’s successor, Millard Fillmore.
Resistance is the history of America, as well as the present, so it’s no surprise that the response to the reinforcement was resistance and protest by mainly Northerners. Some organized groups that helped escaped slaves make it to Canada. Southern’s were incredibly furious at the Northern resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act, especially after 9 Northern states passed personal liberty laws which made the imprisonment of escaped slaves and guaranteed them a trial by jury.
Another form of resistance in response to the new Fugitive Slave Act was the Underground Railroad.
Don’t be fooled, the Underground Railroad wasn’t actually underground, but instead was a network of people who would house runaway slaves as well as tell them which “stop” they should go to next. One of the most famous conductors of the Underground Railroad was Harriet Tubman
The issue of slavery and Northern and Southern opinions on it were omnipresent in early America. The issue resurfaced once again when the subject of slavery in the territories was brought up again.
In 1854, territory west of Iowa and Missouri was divided into 2 territories; Nebraska and Kansas. Everyone began to wonder whether these new terriotories would be slave states or not. Popular sovereignty, which is when the people in the territory are allowed to vote whether they want to be a slave state or not, was said to have been the best bet in deciding what these new territories stance on slavery would be. In splitting up the territory into 2 territories, the Missouri Compromise would, therefore, be repealed. The bill passed and became law in May of 1854 and soon everyone was looking west to see what the new territories decided.
Once the new territories came about, everyone rushed to Kansas in a race for the possession of the new land. The object was to get either more people from Slave states or more people from Free states to get their first to lay their claim on the land. By March of 1855, there were finally enough people in Kansas to hold an election. However, a bunch of people from Slave state Missouri crossed the border into Kansas and voted illegally, therefore technically making Kansas win as a Slave state. Abolitionists were furious at the results and set up an anti-slavery government in Topeka, Kansas to rival the pro-slavery government set up in Lecompton, Kansas.
Violence began to spread quickly in Kansas, eventually leading to the territory adopting the name of Bleeding Kansas after the event of the Pottawatomie Massacre in 1856.
The rivalry between the North and South over the issue of slavery seemed to be never ending. However, the resistance of the Northerners towards Southern beliefs and pro-slavery laws continued as well. A connection can be made to today between the persistance of the early Northern Americas to the youth of America today. Every day we see news of groups of people protesting issues that they believe are unjust and that are not receiving enough attention.
America was born from rebellion, and it seems that rebellion is the one American ideal we can all agree on presently.