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The Fugitive Slave Act 1850
Section 7 - And be it further enacted, That any person who shall knowingly and willingly obstruct, hinder, or prevent such claimant, his agent or attorney, or any person or persons lawfully assisting him, her, or them, from arresting such a fugitive from service or labor, either with or without process as aforesaid, or shall rescue, or attempt to rescue, such fugitive from service or labor, from the custody of such claimant... when so arrested, pursuant to the authority herein given and declared; or shall aid, abet, or assist such person so owing service or labor as aforesaid, directly or indirectly, to escape from such claimant...; or shall harbor or conceal such fugitive, so as to prevent the discovery and arrest of such person, after notice or knowledge of the fact that such person was a fugitive from service or labor as aforesaid, shall, for either of said offences, be subject to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, and imprisonment not exceeding six months, ... and shall moreover forfeit and pay, by way of civil damages to the party injured by such illegal conduct, the sum of one thousand dollars for each fugitive so lost as aforesaid, to be recovered by action of debt, in any of the District or Territorial Courts aforesaid, within whose jurisdiction the said offence may have been committed.

  1. Re-write "Section 7" of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 into your own words.

Document #2

John Andrew Jackson. The Experience of a Slave in South Carolina. London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1862.


“...he was so anxious to catch me that he followed me to Boston--at least, I believe, from the description given by Mr. Forman that it was he; but fortunately I had gone to Salem, which is 15 miles from Boston. Mr. Forman did not tell Anderson where I was, but merely told him that there was no such person as Jackson there. Anderson said, "I know better, here is the letter he wrote home, wishing to know what he can buy his father and mother for, and I now want to see him." This incensed the sailors, who said, "Here are the slave-hunters, hunting for negros," and drove them from the house. Mr. Forman wrote to me at Salem, to warn me not to come to Boston, as they were hunting for me there. I remained at Salem, and worked in the tan yard there, turning the splitting machine, until I had saved one hundred dollars... But to proceed with my life. Just as I was beginning to be settled at Salem, that most atrocious of all laws, the "Fugitive Slave Law," was passed, and I was compelled to flee in disguise from a comfortable home, a comfortable situation, and good wages, to take refuge in Canada...”

  1. Describe Jackson's life as a fugitive slave.

  2. Why did Jackson go to Canada?

Document #3


"Arrest in Salem, for Assisting in the Rescue of Shadrach." Salem Observer (22 February 1851)
Yesterday, about 12 o'clock, Deputy U. S. Marshal John H. Riley, with a posse of officers from Boston, arrested Alexander B. Burton, a colored barber, while at work in a shop near the depot of this city, on the charge of being concerned in the riot on Saturday last.

A rumor was started that Burton was arrested as a "fugitive," and quite a crowd gathered around the scene. The Boston Journal says three thousand people collected, but we are inclined to think that three hundred would be a large estimate. Previous to making the arrest, the Deputy Marshal informed the Mayor, of his purpose, and assured him that it was not intended to claim Burton as a fugitive. The Mayor ordered out a number of the Police, but there was no force of any kind used.

Burton was carried to Boston on the 121/2 train. He offered no resistance, and we hear he says he can prove an alibi. Sheriff Sprague accompanied the officers and prisoner as far as Lynn. The prisoner was taken before Commissioner B. F. Hallett.

We learn that Burton returned to the city last evening, having proved that he was in Salem on Saturday last.



  1. Why was Burton arrested?

  2. Why do you think the Police suspected Burton to be a “fugitive”?

Document #4

"A Fugitive Slave Case in Boston" New York Daily Times (26 May 1854).

Boston, Thursday, May 25.

Last evening ...arrested an alleged fugitive slave named Anthony Burns, who was kept in custody during the night, and this morning, at an early hour, brought before the Commissioner for examination. The Court-room was but partially filled, officers having been placed at the door to prevent too great a crowd.

E.G. Parker appeared for complainant, and read the necessary documents from Circuit Court of Virginia, setting forth the claim of Col. Charles F. Suttle, of Alexandria, Va., to one Anthony Burns, a slave, who is described in the papers as being 23 or 24 years old, six feet high, with scars upon the cheek and right hand, which slave the said Suttle alleges escaped from his service on the 24th of March last.

...It is said that during last evening, Burns had an interview with his former master, at which he consented to go back with him. All the proceedings were conducted with great decorum, no signs of disorder being manifested.



  1. Why was Anthony Burns arrested?

  2. Why does the article mention that "no signs of disorder" had been manifested?



Document #5
Charles Emery Stevens, Anthony Burns: A History . (Boston: John P. Jewett and Co., 1856).
"'BOSTON, June 2, 1856.
"'To his Honor the Mayor, and Aldermen of the City of Boston:

"'Through all the excitement attendant upon the arrest and trial of the Fugitive by the U. S. Government, I have not received an order which I have conceived inconsistent with my duties as an Officer of the Police until this day, at which time I have received an order which, if performed, would implicate me in the execution of that infamous Fugitive Slave Bill. I therefore resign the office which I now hold as Captain of the Watch and Police, from this hour, 11 o'clock.'



  1. Why does the Captain of the Watch resign his position?

  2. Burns states that he received an order that was inconsistent with his duties as a police officer. Infer what the officer was asked to do based on this passage.

Document #6caution

  1. What response do you think the author of this poster wanted from free African Americans? How do you know this?

  2. How do you think government officials responded to this poster? How do you know this?


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