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The Underground Railroad In Hudson County - Part Eight

By Alexander Maclean

Edited by GET NJ, Copyright 2002

The Fugitive Slave law of 1850 required that citizens aid slave hunters.

The abolition of slavery in the British Colonies made flight to freedom in Canada the cherished dream of slaves. This motivated both their efforts to escape and the sympathizers in the northern States to provide asssistance.

Thus there were two currents in abolition thought; -- lines of faith and lines of work. In looking back on a closed past, it is evident that these lines coalesced after the Presidential campaign of 1844. Many of the abolitionists were willing to risk their lives and their property in the cause of humanity. These active opponents of slavery found all of the common faith ready to aid in money or kind and in maintaining lines of communication between slavery and freedom.

It was the passage of the Fugitive Slave law in September 1850 that made the Underground Railroad popular and gave it national prominence.

This law provided that any United States Commission could surrender an African-American to any one who claimed that African-American as a slave; that the African-American could not give testimony; that citizens were commanded to aid slave hunters, as a sheriff's posse is directed to assist in the search for an escaped murderer; and it provided fine and imprisonment for those who prevented recapture, or who harbored runaway slaves. It also provided for civil as well as criminal procedure, and that damages up to the assessed value of the slave, could be collected from those who aided an escape, as well as a fine and imprisonment. Rewards were offered for the capture of runaways, and shifty and shiftless men in the "neck of travel" formed bands to catch slaves. The efforts of these slave catchers but caused extra precautions in conducting fugitives, and enlarged the number of contributors to the fund that paid for clothing, railroad fare, and other expenses.

The exodus from slavery extended all along the Pennsylvania border, though the short cut across Delaware from the Chesapeake and the banks of the Susquehanna were favored routes. All these minor routes led to New Jersey, where there were four regular lines of communication, all converging in Jersey City.

Part Nine

Hudson County Facts  by Anthony Olszewski
Hudson County, New Jersey is a place of many firsts - including genocide and slavery.
Political corruption is a tradition here.
First issue in a series by Anthony Olszewski
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