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Resistance (Nash, 1994)

Textbook

Gary B. Nash, et al., eds., The American People: Creating a Nation and Society, 3rd ed. (New York:  Harper Collins College Publishers, 1994), 467.

Others were immediately upset.  The new fugitive slave law angered many northerners because it brought the evils of slavery right into their midst.  The owners of runaway slaves hired agents, labeled 'kidnappers' in the North, to hunt down fugitives.  In a few dramatic episodes, most notably in Boston, literary and religious intellectuals led mass protests to resist slave hunters' efforts to return alleged fugitives to the South.  When Senator Webster supported the law, New England aboliltionists denounced him as 'indescribably base and wicked.'  Theodore Parker called the new law a 'hateful statute of kidnappers,' and Ralph Waldo Emerson said it was a 'filthy law' that he would not obey.  Frederick Douglass would not obey it either.  As a runaway slave himself, he was threatened with arrest and return to the South until his friends overcame his objections and purchased his freedom.  Douglass still risked harm by his strong defiance of the Fugitive Slave Act.  Arguing the 'rightfulness of forcible resistance,' he urged free blacks to arm themselves and even wondered whether it was justifiable to kill kidnappers.  'The only way to make the Fugitive Slave Law a dead letter,' he said in Pittsburg in 1853, 'is to make a half dozen or more dead kidnappers.'  Douglass raised money for black fugitives, hid runaways in his home, and help hundreds escape to Canada.
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