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Research Article

“If Ever Saints Wept and Hell Rejoiced, It Must Have Been Over the Passage of That Law”: The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act in Detroit River Borderland Newspapers, 1851-1852

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ABSTRACT

The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 raised the stakes for antislavery Whites and people of African descent in the United States by making resistance to slave catchers a federal crime. This study uses historical theme analysis to examine the rhetoric employed by newspapers in the Detroit River Borderland, which connected Michigan to Canada West, to promote or resist the Fugitive Slave Act from 1851 to 1852. While the Canada-based Voice of the Fugitive, edited by the formerly enslaved Henry Bibb, and the Michigan Christian Herald, a Baptist antislavery newspaper in Detroit, argued that the Fugitive Slave Act was unconstitutional and immoral, the proslavery Detroit Free Press supported the Act. These differing stances evince the divisiveness of the Fugitive Slave Act, which had been developed as a compromise measure a decade before the US was divided by civil war.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the enslavement of Africans and their descendants was a bitterly contested topic. Highly valued as chattel, many African Americans asserted their agency by fleeing the horrors of slavery and seeking refuge in the North and other free territories. The passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act raised the stakes for free and enslaved Black Americans, and antislavery Whites, by making resistance to slave catchers or refusal to help them capture fugitive slaves in free territories a federal crime. The law, a part of the Compromise of 1850, was designed to settle disputes between the North and South over slavery and territorial expansion. Yet the passage of the law engendered more conflict than compromise, which was reflected in partisan newspapers in the Detroit River Borderland region.

Although the pathways to freedom through eastern metropolises such as Philadelphia and New York City have been the subjects of extensive study,Footnote1 the comparably active corridor through Michigan to Black settlements in Canada West—a former name for modern Ontario—has been neglected by media historians.Footnote2 This region, the Detroit River Borderland, is separated by an international boundary but unified by the river, the watery frontier that fugitives crossed to escape enslavement and find freedom in Canada. An important crossing that rivaled the Underground Railroad corridors of the Northeast, the Detroit River Borderland was host to a print culture that emerged to robustly debate the slavery question, just as Rochester, New York, provided a home for Frederick Douglass’s North Star on the Upstate New York route to Canada.

The present study examines the rhetoric employed by three newspapers in the Detroit River Borderland to resist or promote the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act in 1851 and 1852. Two of these newspapers opposed the Fugitive Slave Act: the Voice of the Fugitive, a Black-controlled newspaper representing the interests of fugitive slaves and free African Americans, and the Michigan Christian Herald, an antislavery newspaper in Detroit run by White abolitionists. A third newspaper, the Detroit Free Press, endorsed slavery and represented the viewpoint of the proslavery Democratic Party. Mediated discourses about the Fugitive Slave Act resonate across the centuries in continued negotiations over Black Americans’ places in society. Although the US was built on the backs of enslaved Africans, Black Americans’ right to freedom—and their very claim to humanity—has continually been debated in conversations often dominated by White voices.

Considering instances of solidarity between Whites and African Americans fighting to dismantle slavery and appeals to heritage and law that were targeted at White Americans, this article examines how newspaper rhetoric reflected varying commercial, religious, and cultural interests in the Old Northwest. The purpose of this study is to identify the debates staged over the legal standing of African Americans, which evince anxieties over the future of the nation that were undergirded by anti-Black attitudes and policies. To do so, this study applies historical theme analysis, a method developed from fantasy theme analysis that facilitates the systematic identification of the rhetorical tactics used in persuasive communication. Analyzing the rhetoric used by ideologically oppositional newspapers, the present study distills the legal, political, and religious arguments made for and against the controversial 1850 Fugitive Slave Act in the Detroit River Borderland.

Background: Slavery, the Press, and the Fugitive Slave Act

The first Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 enabled slaveholders to send bounty hunters into any US state or territory to retrieve those who had escaped slavery. But when Great Britain abolished slavery in most of its North American territories in 1833, it opened Canada as a haven for enslaved people of African descent beyond the reach of US law: “Let the slave only reach Canada and HE SHALL BE FREE,” read an 1842 editorial in the Boston Emancipator and Republican.Footnote3 Antislavery activists in the Northern US formed a vast network comprising 3,000 managers, station keepers, and agents who ushered fugitives to freedom between 1830 and 1860 that became known as the Underground Railroad.Footnote4 The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati estimates that 100,000 people escaped to the Northern US, Canada, Florida, and Mexico, although historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. put the number at a more conservative 50,000.Footnote5 ()

Figure 1. “The Underground Railroad,” 1893, reproduction of painting by Charles T. Webber in the Cincinnati Art Museum. Image is in the public domain and obtained via Wikipedia: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/37/The_Underground_Railroad_by_Charles_T._Webber%2C_1893.jpg.

Figure 1. “The Underground Railroad,” 1893, reproduction of painting by Charles T. Webber in the Cincinnati Art Museum. Image is in the public domain and obtained via Wikipedia: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/37/The_Underground_Railroad_by_Charles_T._Webber%2C_1893.jpg.

The Black Canadian abolitionist press has received increasing scholarly attention over the last half century.Footnote6 The newspapers in the present study extended an internationalist mission to conceptualize African liberation that had begun, as Charlton W. Yingling pointed out, in Freedom’s Journal in the 1820s.Footnote7 Gordon Fraser noted that Freedom’s Journal enabled authors and editors to access “a networked, interconnected black assemblage” that was part of a “mobile, continually transforming, communal affiliation that is not national in the conventional sense.”Footnote8 Instead, Fraser wrote, the ad hoc networks of the antebellum Black press grew unevenly across the country, suggesting that Black and White abolitionist newspapers in any given period emerged and grew in some regions, but in other regions, antislavery voices were silenced.

Across the border, Michigan had an estimated 200 Underground Railroad stops where fugitives could find food, shelter, and medical care. Detroit, codenamed “Midnight,” played a critical role in this network as one of the last stops before the crossing to Canada.Footnote9 David W. Blight, director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, lauded Karolyn Smardz Frost and Veta Smith Tucker’s book A Fluid Frontier: Slavery, Resistance, and the Underground Railroad in the Detroit River Borderland for establishing that “the Detroit River-Canadian border region was every bit as large and important as a place and a system through which African American former slaves found degrees of freedom” when compared to other escape routes.Footnote10 After being transported across the Detroit River or the Great Lakes, or by land along the Canadian border in New York or New England, the newly self-emancipated were greeted at settlements such as Sandwich and Amherstburg that had been established by free people of African descent.

Michigan became a flashpoint in the tension between abolitionists and slave catchers when the free Black communities of Porter and Calvin in Cass County faced down bounty hunters who demanded the return of escaped slaves from Kentucky in 1847 and 1849. The failure of these raids precipitated Southern demand for Congress to adopt federal legislation to strengthen the 1793 law, through Kentuckians’ petitions and the Kentucky Legislature’s demand for redress from the state of Michigan. Slaveholders also found trouble elsewhere in the state. The Colored Vigilant Committee of Detroit helped fugitives who arrived in the city from the South via Toledo, Ohio, or Adrian, Michigan; from the West via the Territorial Road or Michigan Central Railroad; and via Great Lakes vessels. Thousands of fugitives received food, clothing, shelter, medical treatment, protection, jobs, and transportation across the Detroit River to Canada.Footnote11 Frustrated in their demands, Kentucky slaveholders agitated for passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. This was the most contentious law passed as part of the Compromise of 1850, which aimed to defuse a national crisis as tension mounted between the Northern and Southern states.

A sectional balance of power between the Northern free states and Southern slave states had been maintained since the founding of the nation by the successive admission of one slave and one free state each time a territory petitioned for statehood. The US war with Mexico from 1846 to 1848 upset that balance when one of the territories acquired in the war, California, petitioned for entry to the Union as a free state with no slave territory to restore equilibrium. Proslavery Southerners felt that the basis of their culture and economy was under siege from antislavery agitators whose voices were growing ever louder. Southern states threatened to secede from the Union unless the future of slavery could be assured through federal legislation.Footnote12

The answer was the Compromise of 1850, a package of bills that aimed to mollify Southerners who felt their right to hold humans as property was in danger. The Compromise bills, passed September 17, 1850, abolished the slave trade in the District of Columbia; established popular sovereignty to give citizens a stake in decisions about slavery’s expansion into the new western states and territories west of the Mississippi River and south of the Mason-Dixon Line; and, most vexing to abolitionists, established a strict law compelling Northern citizens to help apprehend fugitive slaves.Footnote13 The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 denied those accused of being “runaway” slaves the right to a trial and gave commissioners a perverse incentive to convict by awarding a $10 fee in cases where an alleged fugitive was delivered to a claimant, but only $5 if the accused was freed. Most odious to the conscience of antislavery Northerners, and threatening to anyone with dark skin, was that the act empowered marshals to summon all citizens to aid in its enforcement, requiring them to not only watch slave catchers invade their homes, but also to become slave catchers themselves.Footnote14

Immediately after the act’s passage, antislavery radicals vowed to disobey it. Ohio abolitionist Joshua Giddings urged armed resistance to slave catchers and federal marshals, and lawyer and politician John Albion Andrew called the rescue of a fugitive from a Boston jail “a noble thing—nobly done.”Footnote15 These radicals used their opposition to the act to buttress their position in the antislavery Republican Party.Footnote16 Within a month of the act’s passage, slave catchers seized Black people in Detroit, New York City, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and other places. This triggered a panic among Black residents who had previously felt safe. Even free African Americans started fleeing to Canada, often leaving most of their property behind.Footnote17 Their fear proved to be warranted: in October 1850, two slave catchers arrived in Detroit in pursuit of a fugitive from Tennessee named Giles Rose, who had lived in the city for several years, but the Colored Vigilant Committee of Detroit rallied 300 Black residents to rescue Rose.Footnote18 Roy Finkenbine estimated that the committee helped more than 5,000 fugitives cross the Detroit River between 1850 and 1860.Footnote19

Schuyler Colfax, an antislavery newspaper editor in Indiana, predicted in 1848 that “new slavery aggressions may again awaken the North and cause them to stand fast for Freedom.”Footnote20 At the time he made this prescient statement, Colfax was a member of the Whig Party, the counterpart to the proslavery Democratic Party. These were the two major American political parties from 1830 to 1855. The Whig Party ruptured after its presidential candidate Winfield Scott’s landslide defeat by Democrat Franklin Pierce in the 1852 election, which was disastrous for antislavery partisans. Scott carried just four states for the Whigs, and proslavery Pierce won an overwhelming Electoral College victory for the Democrats. Third-party candidate John P. Hale of the antislavery Free Democrats siphoned support from the Whigs, ensuring the party’s dissolution and precipitating a fundamental restructuring of the American party system.Footnote21 Given this background, the following research question guides the present study: How did newspapers in the Detroit River Borderland rhetorically frame the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act in 1851 and 1852?

Methods

This study is an analysis of mediated discourse about the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act from January 1851 to November 1852 in three newspapers—the Voice of the Fugitive, the Michigan Christian Herald, and the Detroit Free Press—that contested, defended, and resisted this new law across the Detroit River Borderland. The Voice of the Fugitive was an abolitionist newspaper founded by Henry Bibb, who fled bondage and dedicated his life to promoting antislavery causes in Canada and Michigan. Another antislavery newspaper, the Michigan Christian Herald, was published in Detroit and controlled by White Baptist editors. Finally, the Detroit Free Press was a White conservative proslavery newspaper.

The phrases “Fugitive Slave Act” and “Fugitive Slave Law” were located manually in the Voice of the Fugitive and the Michigan Christian Herald and through database searches in the newspapers.com holdings of the daily Detroit Free Press. The beginning and end dates of the study were determined by the launch of the Voice of the Fugitive as an engine of resistance to the newly enacted law in January 1851 and the presidential election of November 1852, when the Whigs realized the futility of tolerating slavery, leading to the party’s dissolution and the birth of the Republican Party. Because an exploratory search of the Free Press revealed an overwhelming number of articles that made only incidental mention of the Fugitive Slave Act, a purposive search through all three newspapers was employed to identify discourse within two weeks after several watershed events in the implementation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850: the founding of the Voice of the Fugitive on January 1, 1851; the founding of the Antislavery Society of Canada in March 1851; the national meeting of the American Antislavery Society in May 1851; the founding of the Refugee Home Society near Detroit in May 1851; the Christiana Riot, when a Maryland slaveholder was killed trying to capture a fugitive in Pennsylvania; the election of abolitionist Charles Sumner to the US Senate in December 1851; the March 1852 passage of Vermont’s personal liberty law, which protected fugitive slaves; the June 1852 Democratic and Whig national conventions; Frederick Douglass’s July 5, 1852, speech, “The Meaning of July 4th to the Negro”; the August 1852 Free Soil Party National Convention; abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner’s speech denouncing the Fugitive Slave Act in the US Senate; and the November 1852 presidential election. This search located a total of 261 editorials, reports, letters to the editor, and poems: 97 in the Voice of the Fugitive, 116 in the Michigan Christian Herald, and 48 in the Detroit Free Press.

Discourse surrounding the Fugitive Slave Act was examined using historical theme analysis. This approach was developed from fantasy theme analysis, by which scholars assess the “rhetorical visions” of campaigns and movements designed to persuade audiences.Footnote22 While fantasy theme analysis was developed to describe oration, it can be applied to how rhetoric constitutes an audience rooted in a particular culture and worldview.Footnote23 For instance, a study in the field of communication applied fantasy themes to historical events, examining how Muncie, Indiana, residents responded from 2003 to 2004 to the proposed renaming of Broadway Avenue after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The study identified five fantasy themes that illustrated the community’s struggle to “forge its public memory.”Footnote24 The current study also uses methods similar to Kathy Charmaz’s grounded approach to qualitative analysis, by which scholars attend closely to the language in the data to develop themes.Footnote25 This method has been used by media historians such as Kristen Heflin, who implemented Charmaz’s analysis in her study of newspapers’ portrayal of television news in the 1950s-1970s.Footnote26 Historical theme analysis is a synthesis of the above approaches, and in this study, is applied to the rhetoric of three newspapers.

The themes identified in the Voice of the Fugitive were “Invoking the Framers of the Constitution,” “Legal Issues of the Fugitive Slave Act,” and “Appeals to Morality and Christianity.” Themes identified in the Michigan Christian Herald were “Moral and Religious Appeals,” “The Fugitive Slave Act as a Destructive Force,” “Legal Issues with the Fugitive Slave Act,” and “Appeals to the Founding Fathers and Founding Principles of America.” Finally, “Divisiveness of the Fugitive Slave Law,” “Religious Appeals,” and “Constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Law” were identified in the Detroit Free Press. Given the disparate ideological stances of the three publications, the themes identified in the current study sometimes aligned in direct contradiction. For example, the Michigan Christian Herald and Voice of the Fugitive used the US Constitution to argue for the rights of all men while the Detroit Free Press pointed to measures in the Constitution that called for the return of fugitives to their masters. The following analysis demonstrates how the themes identified reveal the ideologies, faiths, and social stances expressed in each newspaper.

The Voice of the Fugitive

Afua Cooper argues that although the Detroit River stood as an absolute boundary between enslavement and freedom for self-emancipated slaves, for Voice of the Fugitive founder Henry Bibb, it was a “fluid frontier.”Footnote27 Bibb briefly lived in Canada during his first escape attempt in 1837.Footnote28 After successfully freeing himself in 1842, he settled in Detroit, where he began to lecture against slavery at Liberty Party gatherings and abolitionist societies meetings in Michigan. His activism led him to serve as an agent in the Detroit Underground Railroad, escorting fugitives across the river to Canada. Wilbur H. Siebert, an early historian of the Underground Railroad, noted that of its many terminals along the southern shores of the Great Lakes and along the Detroit and Huron rivers, Detroit sent the most fugitives into Canada.Footnote29 Bibb () left Detroit for Sandwich, Canada West, in November 1850 to join thousands of free Black Americans.Footnote30 Supported by abolitionists in Michigan and Canada, Henry established the Refugee Home Society to help the previously enslaved acquire land and founded the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada.

Figure 2. Henry Bibb’s engraving, by Patrick H. Reason. Source: Bentley Historical Library. Image is in the public domain and obtained via Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Bibb#/media/File:Henry_Bibb.png.

Figure 2. Henry Bibb’s engraving, by Patrick H. Reason. Source: Bentley Historical Library. Image is in the public domain and obtained via Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Bibb#/media/File:Henry_Bibb.png.

As his commitment to the cause deepened, Bibb established Voice of the Fugitive, Canada West’s chief antislavery voice and the first successful Black publication in Canada, only months after the enactment of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Bernell Tripp declared that the Voice of the Fugitive was “rivaled only by Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s Provincial Freeman as the top newspapers for black Canadians in the 1850s,”Footnote31 and that the Black press was a site of debate over African Americans’ future.Footnote32 Bibb and his wife Mary disseminated news on the needs of former slaves throughout North America. In the first issue of the Voice, Henry Bibb spelled out his editorial policy:

We expect, by the aid of a good Providence, to advocate the cause of human liberty in the true meaning of that term. We shall advocate the immediate and unconditional abolition of chattel slavery everywhere, but especially on the American soil. We shall also persuade, as far as it may be practicable, every oppressed person of color in the United States to settle in Canada, where laws make no distinction among men.Footnote33

The Voice filled its columns with information about the Underground Railroad, temperance, religion, and the education of Canada’s Black residents, along with exchange articles and editorials from the US press about slavery and abolition.Footnote34 Bibb’s correspondents included Martin Delany in Pittsburgh, James Theodore Holly in Vermont, and Henry Highland Garnet in London, giving the Voice a transatlantic reach.Footnote35

The Voice often discussed the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act in relation to the US Constitution, using two tactics to demonstrate how the new law was an offense against that foundational document. The first was an appeal to America’s heritage, as the paper often argued that the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act did not represent the spirit of the Constitution and American democracy. In August 1852, the Voice described the new fugitive slave law as “unjust, oppressive and unconstitutional” and said it was “inconsistent with all the principles and maxims of Democracy.”Footnote36 In a July 1852 exchange from the Independent Democrat, Bibb’s paper decried the Fugitive Slave Act because it “denies to a man what the Common Law and the Constitution both guaranty [sic] to a dog or horse.”Footnote37

The Voice also argued that the act violated the intent of the Founding Fathers and the Framers of the US Constitution. An October 1852 report described the “the horrid features of this law—its palpable violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution … and of the whole spirit and acts and lives of our revolutionary fathers.”Footnote38 The Voice argued that the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 unfairly compelled Northerners who opposed slavery to aid slave catchers. In one of his speeches, Joshua Giddings asked, “Did these framers of the Constitution intend that Northern freemen … give chase to fugitive slaves? Why, such an assertion would be a slander, a libel upon those patriots.”Footnote39 For the editors of the Voice, the Fugitive Slave Act not only violated the spirit of the Constitution, but also its legal mandates. As articulated by Senator John Hale of New Hampshire, the act was “a reproach on the civilization of the age and a perfect parody on the Constitution,”Footnote40 and violated the constitutional rights of citizens. Further, the Voice argued that beyond the new law, slavery itself was “a gross violation of the Constitution, an outrage upon the principles of civil liberty and a disgrace to civilization and Christianity.”Footnote41

According to the Voice, much of the blame fell on Congress for overstepping its bounds by implementing the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Whether the reason was corruption, hypocrisy, or shortsightedness, the Voice reviled Congress as “infidels to their own doctrine.”Footnote42 Congress, the Voice argued, violated the Constitution by implementing a federal law that conflicted with various state laws. Bibb’s newspaper repeatedly argued that the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 could not be enforceable in Northern states and featured stories of Northerners winning court cases after refusing to cooperate with it. To the Voice and its readers, these were more than legal victories: they were vindication that those opposed to the Fugitive Slave Act were right to challenge its legality.

The Voice’s moral stance against the Fugitive Slave Act was patently obvious and repeatedly articulated, as it called Christians to follow God’s higher calling. A February 1851 issue condemned the act, stating, “If ever saints wept and hell rejoiced, it must have been over the passage of that law.”Footnote43 The Voice not only called for an end to the Fugitive Slave Act, but also called on Christians to join the abolitionist cause because slavery represented “a sin against God and an outrage to humanity.”Footnote44 Underlying nearly all arguments in the Voice was the idea that resisting the Fugitive Slave Act was a noble and godly duty.

An increasing number of Christians answered the Voice’s call to fight the act and slavery in general. In April 1852, an antislavery convention in Michigan resolved that “to deliver a fugitive slave to his master, is an act of injustice, and forbidden by the law of God; and that therefore no human law or constitution requiring such delivery can be binding upon any man’s conscience.”Footnote45 In July 1852, the Voice ran a series of statements from the Pastoral Convention of Presbyterian and Congregational Ministers that condemned slavery and argued that the act violated “the revealed will of God” and “that any law of man which conflicts with the law of God ought not to be obeyed.”Footnote46 In the fall of 1852, the Voice of the Fugitive celebrated that Northern churches had become an integral part of the abolition movement. The rhetoric utilized by the Voice underscored the supremacy of God’s law, a fantasy vision that drew their community together.

The Michigan Christian Herald

The Michigan Christian Herald was founded as a result of schisms within Protestant churches. Slavery emerged as a moral issue among the major Protestant denominations in 1844, when the General Conference of the Methodist Church failed to reach a compromise in the case of a Georgia Bishop who became a slaveholder through a second marriage. Its conclusion that the bishop must refrain from practicing his religious duties until he rid himself of his slaves triggered a rupture, with slaveholders leaving the General Conference to form the Methodist Episcopal Church South.Footnote47 The Baptists experienced a similar split in 1845 because of the increasing influence of Southern planters over a membership whose majority had no slaves. Southern pastors preached that the Bible supported slavery and encouraged slaveholders to be good masters, in contrast with the Northern Baptist teaching that the enslaved should be freed.Footnote48

The Herald was established in 1842 as the voice of the Baptist state convention.Footnote49 Initially published monthly, it became a weekly publication in 1847.Footnote50 The paper’s circulation of 2,500 exceeded that of the Detroit Free Press, making it a significant voice in Michigan’s public sphere.Footnote51 Commercial success was less important to the Herald than disseminating moral literature: editor George W. Harris and publisher Marvin Allen, both ordained Baptist ministers, accepted payment in potatoes, apples, poultry, eggs, and butter in lieu of a $2 annual subscription.Footnote52 Harris earned bachelor’s and graduate degrees from the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution (later Colgate University) and served as secretary of the Michigan Baptist State Convention for five years, giving the organization’s statements a direct line from deliberation to dissemination in the pages of the Herald.Footnote53 Under his editorship, the newspaper embraced the Michigan Baptists’ resolutions against slavery.Footnote54

The Herald’s dominant appeal was that the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act violated God’s higher law and as such was invalid. The paper used scripture to argue that the law was immoral and anti-Christian, and to establish a hierarchy of authority to provide meaning for believers when human law violated Christian edicts. In February 1851, the Herald declared, “Who then shall decide when the law shall be obeyed! Shall the State! This cannot be; for that would place the State above the higher law. … God has given us the higher law written in the Scriptures of truth. He has made us individually responsible for our obedience to him.”Footnote55 Such teachings exempted followers from the law of man in favor of what the editors perceived to be God’s law.

The Herald also featured fugitive and slave catcher narratives to appeal to Christian morality and duty regarding the treatment of fugitives. An item reprinted from the New York Tribune in September 1851, in response to the killing of White slave catchers at the hands of fugitives, asserted: “No act of Congress can make it right for one man to convert another into his personal property, or wrong for that other to refuse to be so treated.”Footnote56 A letter from a fugitive in the same issue proclaimed:

You acknowledge the high authority of His law who preached deliverance to the captive, and who commands you to give to your servant “that which is just and equal.” Oh, I entreat you, withhold not at this trying hour from my child that which will cut off her last hope, and which may endanger your own soul.Footnote57

These passages reveal how the Herald engaged with the tensions between some Americans’ Christian convictions and their responsibility to US law.

The Herald also charged that the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 divided Americans along political and geographic lines. The Herald published Whig Governor Seabury Ford’s remarks to the Ohio Legislature in January 1851. He argued that the Fugitive Slave Act “implies a general distrust of the good faith of the people of the free States. … Such distrust, which I believe is without any real foundation, weakens the ligaments which bind us together, and of course strikes at the foundation of our government.”Footnote58 Similarly, in June 1851, in response to a slave owner’s accusations that court officers had aided in a fugitive slave’s escape, the Herald declared: “We have never doubted that the law was fraught with more disaster than of good to the Union.”Footnote59 Finally, in December 1851, the paper responded to the acquittal of a Boston-based Black lawyer named Robert Morris, accused of “rescuing” a fugitive named Shadrach, thusly: “The pro-slavery press set up a howl of triumph when he was indicted. The same press will probably denounce the Jury which acquitted him as ‘higher law’ traitors. If the ‘Union’ is to be saved, Jurymen must convict all men suspected of questioning the political or moral infallibility of the ‘divine institution.’”Footnote60 For the Herald, biblical law was the foundation for human and constitutional law, but the newspaper also pointed out the difficulties of enforcing US law for those of differing convictions.

The Herald rejected the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 on the grounds that it was unconstitutional because it violated legal rights afforded to American citizens, rights the Herald applied to fugitive slaves and free Black Americans living in the North. In September 1851, the newspaper agreed with a judge who freed Daniel, a Black man arrested under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act despite his escape from slavery before the Act’s passage: “Judge Conklin ruled that the fugitive slave act has no action in cases of escape that took place before the passage of the law … applying the well-known constitutional principle, that there can be in this country no ex post facto laws.”Footnote61 This reflects the stance that the US Constitution granted fugitive slaves and free African Americans due process under the law, a revolutionary position at the time.

In January 1851, the Herald contended that “persons of color claiming to be free, and really free, are not allowed the reasonable opportunities and those customary safeguards, necessary to enable them to establish by adequate proof the fact of their freedom.”Footnote62 The Herald also declared that a man named Gibson, “a free citizen of New Jersey,” had been “arrested on a false pretense, and without legal warrant … his liberty sworn away, and he hurried off into slavery.”Footnote63 The editors noted the ineffectiveness of the law: Gibson was freed only after the slave owner “saw at once that he was not his slave, and refused to receive him.”Footnote64 The newspaper often invoked the right to trial by jury and habeas corpus, an assertion that African American men, free and enslaved, deserved the basic human rights afforded to European American men. The Herald also argued that the Fugitive Slave Act punished citizens in the North who objected to the law, publishing correspondence from the New York Tribune: “The Constitution does not forbid me as a citizen of a free State, to exercise hospitality toward any man, of whatever complexion, who calls at my door and calls for food or raiment and shelter.”Footnote65

Finally, the Herald appealed to the principles of liberty, justice, and the belief that “all men were created equal,” a central tenet in the founding of the nation. In January 1851, the paper contended, “by constitution of the US no freeman can be deprived of his liberty, without a trial by jury.”Footnote66 In June 1851, the Herald published a vow by Free Soil Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts: “to discountenance every effort to loosen any of those ties by which our fellowship of the States is held. … E. Pluribus Unum is stamped upon the National coin, the National territory, and upon the National heart.”Footnote67 The Herald interpreted the US Constitution as an authoritative document clearly at odds with slaveholding in the South, the inverse of the stance held by the Detroit Free Press.

The Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Free Press was founded in 1831 as a weekly newspaper that served as the official organ of the state Democratic Party, and within a few years, went to daily publication.Footnote68 Its 1852 circulation was reportedly 1,500.Footnote69 Although the paper scolded the rival Detroit Advertiser’s opposition to allowing naturalized citizens to vote, it staunchly opposed freedom for enslaved Black people,Footnote70 and Free Press editor Thornton F. Brodhead actively campaigned for Democrat Franklin Pierce, who won the presidency that year.Footnote71 Its origin as a proslavery Democratic newspaper can be seen in the Free Press’s support of the Fugitive Slave Act.

With tensions over states’ rights and slavery mounting, divisiveness over the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was one of the most prominent themes in the Free Press. A January 4, 1851, reprint from the Indiana State Sentinel discussed a naval meeting in Washington, DC, during which members agreed that “on the faithful execution of the fugitive slave law depends the security of our confederacy.”Footnote72 Expanding on the need for national unity, on January 14, the Free Press printed correspondence from the Boston Courier, a Whig newspaper, warning, “Let the North beware—let them not repeal the fugitive slave law,” because if it did so, “the dissolution of the Union will be inevitable,” as such an act would be “considered the climax of aggression.”Footnote73 Preserving unity required a series of compromises that were constantly debated at both the state and federal level, the Free Press argued.

A few voices dominated that debate. The Free Press quoted Governor Joseph Wright, an Indiana Democrat, who declared that the law was a compromise measure “enacted by Congress” and that despite differences in opinion, “there is but one course of action for the true patriot to pursue.” That course was to enforce the act because “there is no safety for property or life except in the absolute supremacy of the law—there is no higher duty of the citizen than to maintain, by word and deed, that supremacy.” Wright then invoked the “heritage, rich beyond all price,” that was “bequeathed to us by our fathers,” warning his audience that “the first public act of disobedience to law is the first fatal step on the downward road to anarchy.”Footnote74 This appeal to heritage, likely a reference to the wealth and social privilege amassed by Europeans and their descendants in the Americas, operated very differently from the ways heritage was deployed in the Voice of the Fugitive and the Michigan Christian Herald, as a celebration of the accomplishments of African descendants in the Americas. Ultimately, notions that executing the law was a patriotic act were reflected by federal Judge Richard Rush of Pennsylvania and federal Judge Ross Wilkins of Michigan, whom the Free Press held in high regard as authorities on US law.Footnote75

While the Free Press supported the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, the paper occasionally published differing opinions without explicitly condemning them. The Free Press quoted the Western Chronicle of Centreville, Michigan, which mused, “And has it come to this, that every man who does not fully endorse [the act] is to be kicked out of the democratic ranks?”Footnote76 Putting their personal convictions aside, the Free Press editors recognized that a healthy democracy must allow for dissent. And while the paper touted the constitutionality of the act, it also reported the opinions of the residents of Marshfield, Michigan, who denounced it “as unconstitutional and repugnant to our moral sense, a disgrace to the civilization of the age, and clearly at variance with the spirit of our institutions.”Footnote77 The range of opinions featured in the Free Press reinforces the notion that the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act was highly divisive and bitterly contested across the political spectrum.

While the Herald and the Voice frequently appealed to religious sensibilities to denounce the Fugitive Slave Act, the Free Press largely avoided religious arguments. However, on January 10, 1851, the Free Press republished an article from its rival Detroit Advertiser declaring that because “God has ordained government and required obedience to it,” the “supremacy of the law” overrode Northern appeals to moral conscience and Southern states had the right “to call colored men property, as we have to call houses property.” The passage concluded by questioning “whether God’s word as absolutely and clearly prohibits compliance with the Constitution and Fugitive Slaw Law” because “it ordains submission to the powers that be.”Footnote78 This sobering conclusion shows how some White Americans’ appeals to God’s providence were deployed to justify the manmade legal systems governing the United States and the horrors of slavery.

The Free Press focused on justifying the Fugitive Slave Act through arguments regarding its constitutionality. On January 9, 1851, the paper published a letter to the editor of the Detroit Advertiser in which the author begged his audience “to consider its relation to the Constitution,” quipping that if there were “a ‘higher law’ relieving us from obedience to the laws of the land, we shall try to ascertain what it is, and whether its provisions are such as to necessitate disobedience to the fugitive slave law,” and lauding US laws as the basis of “all that is beautiful, good and useful.”Footnote79 This passage prioritized US legal systems over divine or other authorities, a reversal of the arguments made in the Herald and Voice. A similar article quoted Whig Senator Samuel S. Phelps of Vermont, who declared, “The main purpose of [the] act, the surrender of the fugitive, is demanded by the Constitution itself,” leaving law-abiding Americans with only two choices: “either to carry out the law, or repudiate the Constitution.”Footnote80 Such rhetoric cast those who opposed the fugitive slave law as unpatriotic through arguments for the supremacy of the legal system.

Addressing controversies over repealing the fugitive slave law, the Free Press cited an opinion expressed by the Massachusetts Whig Party: “This law is no new thing. The Constitution clearly provides for the restoration of slaves,” and was “one of the earliest laws” in American history.Footnote81 Further, the article pointed out that the law was a result of compromise measures between the North and the South, which were necessary to preserve unity. Penned half a century earlier by men who owned slaves, the references to slavery in the US Constitution were consistently invoked by those attempting to justify the Fugitive Slave Law.

Further illustrating this theme is a March 6, 1851, story about a fugitive named Shadrach in custody in Boston. The author, identified as “Arthur,” condemned the White abolitionists who escorted Shadrach through the streets to freedom in broad daylight. The Free Press explained that this “disgraceful” affair had been viewed as “evidence that the fugitive slave law cannot be executed in Boston,” but argued that this was untrue because the “law can be executed here easily, if its enforcement is put into proper hands.” The passage concluded with a statement encapsulating the Northern, proslavery stance: “Our people, like those of all the free States, have no relish for slavery, nor for the catching of those who have escaped from bondage. But they are, as a whole, lovers of ‘law and order,’ and ready and desirous of supporting the law and its faithful execution.”Footnote82 This rhetoric reveals how some Northerners distanced themselves from slave owners and flaunted their moral superiority while remaining complicit in oppressive systems under the guise of “law and order,” thereby supposedly ensuring not only their bodily safety, but also the continued control and discipline of “negroes” who threatened social stability.Footnote83

Another passage addressed division between the North and the South, derision for abolitionists, and devotion to constitutionality, noting how Southerners believed all Northerners opposed the Fugitive Slave Law. However, as “Arthur” pointed out, “Our business people, and in fact a very large majority of the voters through the State are for sustaining the law.” This fact, he believed, was obscured because “abolitionists are wild and reckless in their opposition to the enforcement of the law, and will go themselves, and instigate the colored people, to any excess.”Footnote84 The Free Press continued to target abolitionists, deriding Ohio’s appointment of abolitionist Senator Benjamin F. Wade, whom they called an “opposer of the laws and the Constitution.”Footnote85 Rhetorically representing abolitionism as contrary to the Constitution allowed supporters of the Fugitive Slave Act to believe that they were legally justified.

Conclusion

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was a compromise measure designed to mediate between the North and the South as their disagreements mounted. Yet the act continued to incite controversy, expressed as hopes, fears, condemnations, and appeals in relation to the act in publications across the Detroit River Borderland. The Voice of the Fugitive and the Michigan Christian Herald argued that the act contradicted the US Constitution, while the Detroit Free Press cited the Constitution for its stipulation of the return of fugitive slaves to their masters. Similarly, the Voice of the Fugitive and the Michigan Christian Herald made appeals to American heritage and the foundational principles of the nation to argue for the dignity of all people, while the Free Press made fear appeals to heritage and nationalism, reminding White Americans about their ancestors’ sacrifices and warning them that disobeying the law could lead to anarchy. And while the Michigan Christian Herald fretted that upholding the act spelled disaster for the Union because of the discord it created, the Detroit Free Press declared that failure to enact the fugitive slave law in the North would dissolve the Union because the South would retaliate.

The Voice of the Fugitive and the Michigan Christian Herald emphasized moral and religious arguments against the act, while the Detroit Free Press disparaged abolitionist convictions and professed loyalty to the American legal system. Controlled by politicians, the Free Press dipped deep into the well of American historical artifacts, such as the US Constitution, to justify its political views. In contrast, the tenets of American Baptist faith held that all believers were endowed with the ability to interpret scripture on their own and discern between the mandates of secular authorities. The Baptist ministers who edited the Herald drew from this belief their moral and faith-based arguments against the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which they believed violated God’s higher law, and the Voice saw the fight against slavery as both a struggle for Black autonomy in Canada and for racial equality.

Assessing the Fugitive Slave Act from various standpoints reveals the ways that publications used the same easily recognized and available artifacts, such as the US Constitution, to form oppositional arguments and galvanize Americans to take sides by invoking culturally shared rhetorical visions. Further, it parses rhetoric that was deployed to unify Black and abolitionist audiences in the fight against slavery, which contrasted the fear-based appeals to White American identity, as they were faced with the threat of growing Black autonomy. This study explores how existing rifts were deepened by the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which, ironically, was originally developed as a compromise measure between states. The ensuing tensions over slavery in the new territories of the United States did not just engulf the nation in the most catastrophic conflict in the nation’s history since the American Revolution—the Civil War, which erupted ten years later due to inability to compromise over slavery. These events also ruptured, recast, and cemented the two-party political system that continues to govern, and divide, the United States today, with material and often violent consequences for African Americans who struggle for equality in a society that was built by, but not for, them.

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Additional information

Notes on contributors

Anna E. Lindner

Anna E. Lindner (MA, Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University) is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication at Wayne State University. A critical/cultural media historian, her dissertation focuses on colonial discourses of slavery and resistance in mid-nineteenth-century Cuba. ORCID No. 0000-0002-8002-2634.

Michael Fuhlhage

Michael Fuhlhage is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Wayne State University. He received the American Journalism Historians Association’s National Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2020 and is the author of Yankee Reporters and Southern Secrets: Journalism, Open Source Intelligence, and the Coming of the Civil War (Peter Lang, 2019).

D. T. Frazier

D. T. Frazier is an assistant professor of teaching in the Department of Communication at Wayne State University. He is also a PhD candidate in the Department of Communication, completing work on his dissertation looking at media representation of the isolationist movement prior to World War II.

Keena S. Neal

Keena S. Neal (MA, Mass Communication, University of New Mexico) is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication at Wayne State University. A critical media scholar, her dissertation examines the lived experiences of Black women in television programming. Her research contributes to theory and knowledge about the media’s construction of gendered roles and media’s role in shaping public perceptions about Black people and culture.

Notes

1. Examples include Nilgun Anadolu Okur, “Underground Railroad in Philadelphia, 1830–1860,” Journal of Black Studies 25, no. 5 (May 1995): 537–557, https://doi.org/10.1177/002193479502500502; William J. Switala, Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001); David Blight, Passages to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in History and Memory (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2006); Fergus M. Bordewich, Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America’s First Civil Rights Movement (New York: Amistad, 2006); Charles Blockson, Hippocrene Guide to the Underground Railroad (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1994); Charles Blockson, The Underground Railroad (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1987); and Eric Foner, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of America’s Fugitive Slaves (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

2. The most thorough study is Karolyn Smardz Frost and Veta Smith Tucker, ed., A Fluid Frontier: Slavery, Resistance, and the Underground Railroad in the Detroit River Borderland (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2016).

3. Boston Emancipator and Republican, September 15, 1842.

4. David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis 1848–1861 (New York: Harper Perennial, 1976), 135.

5. Henry Louis Gates Jr., “Who Really Ran the Underground Railroad?” last modified 2013, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/who-really-ran-the-underground-railroad/.

6. See, for example, Lionel C. Barrow Jr., “‘Our Own Cause:’ Freedom’s Journal and the Beginnings of the Black Press,” Journalism History 4, no. 4 (1977): 118–22, https://doi.org/10.1080/00947679.1977.12066860; Kenneth D. Nordin, “In Search of Black Unity: An Interpretation of the Content and Function of ‘Freedom’s Journal,’” Journalism History 4, no. 4 (1977): 123–28, https://doi.org/10.1080/00947679.1977.12066861; Bernell Tripp, “The Media and Community Cohesiveness: The Black Press and the Colonization Issue,” in The Significance of the Media in American History, ed. James D. Startt and Wm. David Sloan (Northport, AL: Vision Press, 1994); Matthew Peeples, “Creating Political Authority: The Role of the Antebellum Black Press in the Political Mobilization and Empowerment of African Americans,” Journalism History 34, no. 2 (2008): 76–86, https://doi.org/10.1080/00947679.2008.12062759; Benjamin Fagan, “The North Star and the Atlantic 1848,” African American Review 47, no. 1 (2014): 51–67, https://www.jstor.org/stable/24589795; and Benjamin Fagan, The Black Press and the Chosen Nation (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2016).

7. Charlton W. Yingling, “No One Who Reads the History of Hayti Can Doubt the Capacity of Colored Men: Racial Formation and Atlantic Rehabilitation in New York City’s Early Black Press, 1827–1841,” Early American Studies 11, no. 2 (2013): 314–48, https://www.jstor.org/stable/23547664.

8. Gordon Fraser, “Emancipatory Cosmology: ‘Freedom’s Journal, The Rights of All,’ and the Revolutionary Movements of Black Print Culture,” American Quarterly 68, no. 2 (June 2016): 263, https://www.jstor.org/stable/26359596.

9. “Underground Railroad,” Encyclopedia of Detroit, https://detroithistorical.org/learn/encyclopedia-of-detroit/underground-railroad.

10. Smardz Frost and Smith Tucker, A Fluid Frontier, xii.

11. Roy Finkenbine, “A Community Militant and Organized: The Colored Vigilant Committee of Detroit,” in A Fluid Frontier, 157.

12. See Robert Pierce Forbes, The Missouri Compromise and its Aftermath: Slavery and the Meaning of America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

13. Mary M. Cronin, “An Editorial House Divided: The Texas Press Response to the Compromise of 1850,” in The Antebellum Press: Setting the Stage for Civil War, ed. David B. Sachsman and Gregory A. Borchard with Dea Lisica (New York: Routledge, 2019), 77–90.

14. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 131.

15. Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970), 134.

16. Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, 134.

17. Finkenbine, “Militant and Organized,” 159.

18. Finkenbine, “Militant and Organized,” 160.

19. Finkenbine, “Militant and Organized,” 161.

20. Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, 93.

21. Sewell, Ballots for Freedom, 250.

22. Ernest G. Bormann, “The Eagleton Affair: A Fantasy Theme Analysis,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 59, no. 2 (1973): 143, https://doi.org/10.1080/00335637309383163.

23. Ernest G. Bormann, “Fantasy and Rhetorical Vision: The Rhetorical Criticism of Social Reality,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 58, no. 4 (1972): 396–407, https://doi.org/10.1080/00335637209383138.

24. Beth A. Messner and Mark T. Vail, “A ‘City at War’: Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Communication Studies 60, no. 1 (2009): 23, https://doi.org/10.1080/10510970802623567.

25. Kathy Charmaz, Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006).

26. Kristen Heflin, “The Future Will be Televised: Newspaper Industry Voices and the Rise of Television News,” American Journalism 27, no. 2 (2010): 90, https://doi.org/10.1080/08821127.2010.10677774.

27. Afua Cooper, “The Fluid Frontier: Blacks and the Detroit River Region. A Focus on Henry Bibb,” Canadian Review of American Studies 30, no. 2 (2000): 129–50, https://doi.org/10.3138/CRAS-s030-02-02.

28. Cooper, “The Fluid Frontier,” 136.

29. Wilbur H. Siebert, “The Underground Railroad in Michigan,” Detroit Historical Monthly 1, no. 1 (March 1923): 16, https://doi.org/10.2307/360280.

30. Cooper, “The Fluid Frontier,” 140.

31. Bernell E. Tripp, “Mary Miles Bibb: Education and Moral Improvement in the ‘Voice of the Fugitive’” (paper presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference, Kansas City, MO, August 11–14, 1993), https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED361727.

32. See Tripp, “The Media and Community Cohesiveness.”

33. Henry Bibb, “Introduction,” Voice of the Fugitive, January 1, 1851.

34. Roger W. Hite, “Voice of a Fugitive: Henry Bibb and Ante-Bellum Black Separatism,” Journal of Black Studies 4, no. 3 (March 1974): 269–84, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2783657.

35. Hite, “Voice of a Fugitive,” 274.

36. “Second Day,” Voice of the Fugitive, August 26, 1852.

37. “New Hampshire,” Voice of the Fugitive, July 1, 1852.

38. “Hon. Horace Mann—Fugitive Slave Law,” Voice of the Fugitive, October 7, 1852.

39. “Speech of Hon. Joshua R. Giddings on President’s Message at Fugitive Slave Law,” Voice of the Fugitive, December 17, 1851.

40. “Congressional,” Voice of the Fugitive, January 29, 1851.

41. Brandon Post, “Vermont,” Voice of the Fugitive, August 12, 1852.

42. Thomas J. Gool, “Fugitive Slaves in Canada West,” Voice of the Fugitive, January 1, 1851.

43. “The Press and the Pulpit,” Voice of the Fugitive, February 12, 1851.

44. A. T. Power, “Antislavery in Michigan,” Voice of the Fugitive, November 4, 1852.

45. Stephen Allen, “Proceedings of an Antislavery Convention for the State of Michigan,” Voice of the Fugitive, April 8, 1852.

46. I. P. Gulliver, “The Church on Slavery,” Voice of the Fugitive, July 1, 1852.

47. Avery Craven, The Coming of the Civil War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), 200–201.

48. Christine Leigh Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginning of the Bible Belt (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 10–18.

49. The City of Detroit, Michigan, ed. Clarence M. Burton, William Stocking, and Gordon K. Miller, vol. 1, 1701–1922 (Detroit, MI: S. J. Clarke, 1922), 829.

50. Mary Elizabeth Day Trowbridge, History of Baptists in Michigan (Kalamazoo, MI: Michigan Baptist State Convention, 1909), 94.

51. Trowbridge, History of Baptists in Michigan, 93.

52. Trowbridge, History of Baptists in Michigan, 94.

53. Trowbridge, History of Baptists in Michigan, 97.

54. Trowbridge, History of Baptists in Michigan, 99.

55. “O. A. Brownson—The Catholic Doctrine … Higher Law,” Michigan Christian Herald, February 20, 1851.

56. “The Affray at Christiana,” Michigan Christian Herald, September 25, 1851.

57. Ellen Brown, “Letter from the Mother of the Slave to the Pious Owner,” Michigan Christian Herald, September 25, 1851.

58. “Governors’ Views,” Michigan Christian Herald, January 2, 1851.

59. “How it Works,” Michigan Christian Herald, June 5, 1851.

60. “Acquittal of Morris,” Michigan Christian Herald, December 11, 1851; italics in original.

61. “The Slave Daniel,” Michigan Christian Herald, September 11, 1851.

62. “Gov. Hunt,” Michigan Christian Herald, January 23, 1851.

63. “The Case of Gibson,” Michigan Christian Herald, January 9, 1851.

64. “The Case of Gibson,” Michigan Christian Herald, January 9, 1851.

65. “Dr. Bacon on the Fugitive Slave Law,” Michigan Christian Herald, April 3, 1851.

66. “Vermont,” Michigan Christian Herald, January 2, 1851.

67. “Mr. Sumner’s Acceptance,” Michigan Christian Herald, June 5, 1851.

68. Frank Angelo, On Guard: A History of the Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI: The Detroit Free Press, 1981), 24.

69. John Livingston, Livingston’s Law Register for 1852 (New York: U.S. Law Magazine, 1852), 21.

70. Angelo, On Guard, 52.

71. Angelo, On Guard, 53–54.

72. “Philadelphia, April 21,” Detroit Free Press, January 4, 1851.

73. “Southern Feeling,” Detroit Free Press, January 14, 1851.

74. “Message of the Governor of Indiana,” Detroit Free Press, January 14, 1851.

75. “Letter from the Hon. Richard Rush,” Detroit Free Press, November 11, 1851; “Friday Morning, May 30,” Detroit Free Press, May 30, 1851.

76. “The Western Chronicle, published at Centreville, has the following,” Detroit Free Press, April 23, 1851.

77. “By Telegraph. Reported for the Detroit Daily Free Press by O’Reilly’s Line,” Detroit Free Press, March 6, 1851.

78. LIBERTAS, “The Fugitive Slave Law—Its relation to Conscience,” Detroit Free Press, January 10, 1851.

79. LIBERTAS, “From the Advertiser. Fugitive Slave Law,” Detroit Free Press, January 9, 1851.

80. “Senator Phelps, of Vt., on the Fugitive Slave Law. Springfield, Aug. 28,” Detroit Free Press, September 4, 1851.

81. “Massachusetts Whiggery Opposed to Speedy Repeal,” Detroit Free Press, November 20, 1851.

82. Arthur, “Correspondence of the Free Press. Boston, February 25, 1851,” Detroit Free Press, March 6, 1851.

83. Arthur, “Correspondence of the Free Press. Boston, February 25, 1851.”

84. Arthur, “Our Boston Correspondence. Boston, March 26, 1851. New Hampshire election—The Democracy of the Granite State as true as steel—Business in Boston—Theodore Parker, &c., &c.,” Detroit Free Press, April 1, 1851.

85. “Wade, the Ohio Senator,” Detroit Free Press, September 4, 1851.

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