No sooner was this law enacted than the slave owners began to use it, and during the autumn of 1850 a host of “slave catchers” and “man hunters,” as they were called, invaded the North, and negroes who had escaped twenty or thirty years before were hunted up and dragged back to slavery by the marshals of the United States. This so excited the free negroes and the people of the North, that several times during 1851 they rose and rescued a slave from his captors. In New York a slave named Hamet, in Boston one named Shadrach, in Syracuse one named Jerry, and at Ottawa, Illinois, one named Jim, regained their liberty in this way. So strong was public feeling that Vermont in 1850 passed a “Personal Liberty Law,” for the protection of negroes claimed as slaves.
[Footnote 1: On the Compromise of 1850 read Rhodes’s History of the United States, Vol. I., pp. 104-189; Schurz’s Life of Clay, Vol. II., Chap. 26. Do not fail to read the speeches of Calhoun, Clay, Webster, Seward; also Lodge’s Life of Webster, pp. 264-332. For the rescue cases read Wilson’s Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Chap. 26.]
The North was now becoming strongly antislavery. It had long been opposed to the extension of slavery, but was now becoming opposed to its very existence. How deep this feeling was, became apparent in the summer of 1852, when Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe published her story of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It was not so much a picture of what slavery was, as of what it might be, and was so powerfully written that it stirred and aroused thousands of people in the North who, till then, had been quite indifferent. In a few months everybody was laughing and crying over “Topsy” and “Eva” and “Uncle Tom”; and of those who read it great numbers became abolitionists.
1. The Mexican state of Texas revolts and in 1837 becomes independent.
2. President Tyler secretly negotiates a treaty for the annexation of Texas to the United States, but this is defeated (1844).
3. The labors of Elijah White and others lead to the rapid settlement of the Oregon country.
4. The annexation of Texas and the occupation of the whole of Oregon become questions in the campaign of 1844. The Democrats carry the election, Texas is annexed, and the Oregon country is divided between Great Britain and the United States.
5. The question of the boundary of Texas brings on the Mexican War, and in 1848 another vast stretch of country is acquired.
6. The acquisition of this new territory, which was free soil, causes a struggle for the introduction of slavery into it.
7. The refusal of the Whigs and Democrats to take issue on slavery in the territories leads to the formation of the Free-soil party.
8. The discovery of gold in California, the rush of people thither, and the formation of a free state seeking admission into the Union force the question of slavery on Congress.