Category Archives: Grave Crisis (1801-61)

1817 (Arguing for Justice) Jesse Torrey, Jr.

Jesse Torrey (House Divided)

Sources
Important primary sources include Jesse Torrey’s A Portraiture of Domestic Slavery, in the United States (1817) and The Moral Instructor and Guide to Virtue and Happiness (1819). Torrey’s book was published in London as American Slave Trade in 1822.

Places to Visit
No structures or sites related to Jesse Torrey, Jr. exist. Torrey was born in New Lebanon, New York.

Images
Some of the images that Torrey created and published in A Portraiture of Domestic Slavery, in the United States (1817) are in the slideshow below.

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1830s –Consolidation and Revolt

As slaves revolted in Virginia and American settlers rebelled against Mexico in Texas, the decade saw the further consolidation of settlement. This was especially true in the Midwest, where Michigan became a state and Wisconsin and Iowa were organized as territories, and along the banks of the Mississippi, where Arkansas was admitted to the Union in 1837.  The Census of 1830 was the first to use a uniform printed schedule for counting and tallied 12,858,670 Americans, of whom 2,009,050 were slaves.

Railroads Booming
There was thirty miles of track in the United States in 1830.  Within twenty years there would be 9,000.  Nine railroads were chartered in 1831, sixteen in 1831, and twenty-six in 1832 alone.  No longer dependent on imported British locomotives, rolling stock,… Read the rest

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1832 (Arguing for Justice) Thomas Roderick Dew

Thomas Roderick Dew (College of William and Mary)

Life & Family
Thomas Roderick Dew did not have any children. He married Natilia Hay in 1845, but died the following year in Paris, France.

Sources
After Nat Turner’s revolt in 1832, Dew published Review of the Debate in the Virginia Legislature, 1831-1832. In 1853 it was republished in The Pro-Slavery Argument, as maintained by the most distinguished Writers of the Southern States. In addition, Dew’s lectures at the College of William and Mary were published as Digest of the Laws, Customs, Manners, and Institutions of the Ancient and Modern Nations (1853). Dew also wrote several other books, including Lectures on the Restrictive System (1829).  His correspondence is in the Read the rest

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1840 (Arguing for Justice) Solomon Northrup

Solomon Northrup (House Divided)

Sources
A key primary source is Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853 (1853). In addition, see “An Account of Solomon Northup” from the New York Times on January 20, 1853 and an advertisement for Northrup’s book in the August 26, 1853 issue of the Liberator. You can read other accounts in the  ”North American Slave Narratives” collection at the  Documenting the American South project.

Places to Visit
A historical marker on Northrup is located in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Images
An image is available on Northup’sRead the rest

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1840s –What Hath God Wrought!

The Mexican-American War was an aggressive and  smashing victory that saw the United States acquire massive new territories in the south-west and along the Pacific coast.  This typified a dynamic decade that saw the admission of four new states, two slave and two free, the rise of women’s rights activity, the intensification of the Underground Railroad, and the discovery of gold in California that touched off an unprecedented and frantic western migration.

“Manifest Destiny”
Democratic writer and columnist John L. O’Sullivan wrote first in the Democratic Review in July 1845 and then in his column in the New York Morning News in December that it was “the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence… Read the rest

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1848 (Arguing for Justice) Edmondson Family

Edmondson Sisters (Washington Post Magazine)

Sources
A key secondary source is Mary Kay Ricks’ Escape on the Pearl: The Heroic Bid for Freedom on the Underground Railroad (2007). In addition, a short essay from the Washington Post Magazine has been reposted on this flickr page. Other sources include The Case of the Edmondson Sisters (1848) and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s The Edmondson Family and the Capture of the Schooner Pearl (1856).

Places to Visit
The Edmondson sisters were imprisoned at the Bruin Slave Jail, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and located at 1707 Duke Street in Alexandria, Virginia. In 1854 Harriet Beecher Stowe explained in The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin that she… Read the rest

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1850 (Arguing for Justice) William Still

William Still (House Divided)

Sources
A key primary source is William Still’s The Underground Rail Road (1872). In addition, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia has Still’s “Journal C of Station No. 2 of the Underground Railroad, 1852-1857” and the “Minute Book of the Vigilant Committee of Philadelphia.” have been digitized and are available online. Several historians have focused on Still’s work as an abolitionist, including Larry Gara’s “William Still and the Underground RailroadPennsylvania History (1961) and Stephen G. Hall’s “To Render the Private Public: William Still and the Selling of the Underground Rail Road,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (2003). Other important sources on the… Read the rest

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1850 (Compromising for Union) Franklin & Armfield

Franklin and Armfield Slave Dealers (House Divided)

Sources
The Virginia African American Heritage Program has a short essay about the Franklin and Armfield office on their website. In addition, Edward E. Baptist uses Isaac Franklin and John Armfield as an example in his article “”Cuffy,” “Fancy Maids,” and “One-Eyed Men”: Rape, Commodification, and the Domestic Slave Trade in the United States,” American Historical Review (2001). Robert H. Gudmestad also discuses the two slave dealers in A Troublesome Commerce: The Transformation of the Interstate Slave Trade (2003).

Places to Visit
Franklin and Armfield’s office became a  National Historic Landmark in 1978 and is now home to the Freedom House Museum. The museum opened in 2008… Read the rest

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1850s –A House Divided

As the bloodshed in Kansas and during John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry in Virginia set an awful precedent on the road to civil war, the nation grew at a remarkable rate. By the end of the decade there had been a 34% increase in population to more than 31 million, of which almost four million were slaves. Minnesota, California, and Oregon had become states, while Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, and Washington were organized as territories. By 1860, many more Americans were living in cities. In the twenty years since 1840 the number of towns with more than 8000 people had more than tripled, to 141.

Bleeding Kansas
Immigrants from the north-east, the north-west, and the neighboring slave state of Missouri competed with terror and violence to insure

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1851 (Fighting for Liberty) Dickinson Gorsuch

Dickinson Gorsuch (House Divided)

Sources
The key primary sources on on Dickinson Gorsuch and the Christiana Riot are William Still’s The Underground Rail Road (1872), David R. Forbes’ A True Story of the Christiana Riot (1898), and Jonathan Katz’s Resistance at Christiana: The Fugitive Slave Rebellion, Christiana Pennsylvania, September 11, 1851: A Documentary Account (1974). Important secondary sources include William Uhler Hensel’s The Christiana Riot and the Treason Trials of 1851: An Historical Sketch (1911),  Thomas Slaughter’s Bloody Dawn: The Christiana Riot and Racial Violence in the Antebellum North (1991), and Fergus M. Bordewich’s Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America’s First Civil Rights Movement (2006). You can also read Mark G. Jaede’s short essayRead the rest

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1854 (Arguing for Justice) Anthony Burns

Sources
Newspaper articles and other publications related to the event were published in The Boston Slave Riot, and Trial of Anthony Burns in1854. Other important primary sources include Charles Emery Stevens’ Anthony Burns: A History (1856), E. H. Gray’s Assaults Upon Freedom!  A Discourse, Occassioned by the Rendition of Anthony Burns (1854), Theodore Parker’s The New Crime Against Humanity: A Sermon Preached at the Music Hall, in Boston, on Sunday, June 4, 1854 (1854) , and Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s Massachusetts In Mourning: A Sermon, Preached in Worcester, on Sunday, June 4, 1854 (1854).  Henry David Thoreau also responded to Burns’ situation with an essay entitled ”Slavery in Massachusetts” in 1854. In addition, the Massachusetts Historical Society has several collections with  material related to Burns’ case, such as Read the rest

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1854 (Arguing for Justice) Joshua Glover

Joshua Glover (House Divided)

Sources
The Wisconsin Historical Society has several primary sources related to Glover, including a 1852 Reward Advertisement from the St. Louis (MO) Republican and an April 1854 article from the (Stevens Point) Wisconsin Pinery. Also see Henry E. Legler’s 1898 essay, “Rescue of Joshua Glover, a Runaway Slave.” Key secondary sources include H. Robert Baker’s The Rescue of Joshua Glover: A Fugitive Slave, the Constitution, and the Coming of the Civil War (2006) and Ruby West Jackson and Walter T. McDonald’s Finding Freedom: The Untold Story of Joshua Glover, Runaway Slave (2007). 

Places to Visit
A historical marker about Glover’s rescue is located at the intersection of East… Read the rest

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1854 (Arguing for Justice) Moncure Conway

Moncure Conway (House Divided)

Narrative
Though his family connections alone guaranteed a bright legal future, the young Moncure Conway was an indifferent law student. Despite the urging of his numerous cousins to take up his place as an active defender of the South, he was already having significant problems justifying his beloved Virginia’s maintenance of slavery. Despite this, he served in 1850 as the secretary of the Southern Rights Association in Warrenton, and seemed in his momentary embracing of the recently published racial theories of Louis Agassiz to be searching for any justification for human bondage. Despairing of the law, he pleased his parents at last when on his nineteenth birthday he became a Methodist circuit rider preacher, assigned to… Read the rest

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1856 (Arguing for Justice) Joseph C. Bustill

Narrative
Joseph Bustill was a teacher and an Underground Railroad agent from Harrisburg who helped create a “Fugitive Aid Society” in Pennsylvania’s capital city during the 1850s.  He is one of the few agents who left behind operational letters, including this one to William Still from 1856 that refers to the escape of four adult slaves and two children (“four large and two small hams”).

Life & Family
The Bustill family were prominent black Quakers from Philadelphia. Joseph Bustill was the great uncle of legendary singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson.

Sources
Important primary sources include three letters that Bustill sent William Still in 1856. These letters were later published in Still’s  Underground Rail Road (1872). You can also read them on House… Read the rest

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1857 (Arguing for Justice) Harriet Robinson Scott

Harriet Robinson Scott (House Divided)

Sources
The online Dred Scott Case Collection (Missouri State Archives & Washington University) contains over 100 documents and provides information on trials from the first Circuit Court Case in 1846 to the Supreme Court decision in 1857. In addition, the St. Louis Circuit Court Historical Records Project created the “Freedom Suits Case Files, 1814-1860,” which has 301 petitions from individuals who attempted to prove in court that they were free. Other books and pamphlets are online at the Library of Congress’ Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860 collection and at Cornell University’s Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection. In addition, you can… Read the rest

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