Road to Civil War: From Free to Fugitive

Finally, after the blood, sweat, and tears, I escaped my way to freedom. The burdens of slavery shall affect me no longer as I am now a free man and start my life anew in the North. Sadly, that’s not entirely true, and a new life is far from reach….

After being a plaything under King Cotton’s grasp, I decided not to bear the conditions of slavery any longer, so I left my master and fled north. For years, I have tried to establish a better life in the North, for I know I would be thrown under slavery’s shadow if I ever set foot in the South again. I thought to myself that I’d have more rights in a free state like Massachusetts. For once, I could live my own happy life in the city of Boston!

But now, the year is 1850, and it seems like my chance for freedom is now over.

The constant talk of compromise with the South scares me. Why would the kind hearts of the free states ever wish to appease the people who have oppressed my people and me for years on end? There should be no room for compromise, especially if my master and other slave holders could use it to their advantage and once again claim me for their own. I am my own man, not a piece of property that works to give the white man profit at my own expense.

As the days go by, I wonder what the news is on whatever so-called “compromise” actually takes place. As much as I never want to know, I have no other choice but no know.

Wait a minute. They made a decision? Does it help or harm me? Since it’s a compromise, that means it works to help the South as well as the North, so it’s bound to hurt me. It seems there’s a new law up and about….

“Colored people of Boston….You are hereby respectfully CAUTIONED…to avoid conversing with the Watchmen and Police Officers of Boston, for…they are empowered to act as Kidnappers and Slave Catchers, And they have already been actually employed in Kidnapping, Catching, and Keeping Slaves….”

What have I just read? What does this mean?

The city I love, the city that has granted me freedom, is now the city that turns its back on me with a terrible frostbitten shoulder. The people that stood against slavery are now employed and obligated to bind my people and me in shackles for another time.

Never did I think the good word of the North was faulty and foul. Here, I wanted to be free. My only wish was to live my life outside of bondage. And now, that kind of hope has been taken by force and pried from my helpless, calloused hands.

To think that mere talk of compromise chilled my bones enough, now this, this…destroyer of my very hope. An act enforced against freed and fugitive slaves haunts me as I speak.

I thought my chance for freedom lied with my escape from my master, but now I am branded a fugitive slave. I have been cheated and lied to; it feels like once a slave, always a slave.

I will not live like this any longer. I desired to be free, and I will fulfill it no matter the circumstances. Between my own will power and the rising talk of an underground railroad of some sort, I will find my way to freedom. Where will the end of the road lead me? I don’t know. One thing’s for sure, I will live free, or die trying.

The North made a grave mistake. Appeasement and compromise will go nowhere. Either you stand up for your own separate beliefs, or you never make the initial decision to change your ways. There is no room for compromise with a situation as great and immoral as slavery.

Don’t worry, this mistake will not go unnoticed. The blacks will be free, and if I won’t help in that, then someone else will take my place and fulfill my goals. Slavery is not a force to be reckoned with, and it only makes sense to just free an entire race of people from this kind of injustice.

Whether you agree with my statement or not, heed this warning: slavery will be the end of the Union, one way or another. The time for compromise will be over and the country will descend into chaos. The only way for this country to truly become a whole is to act on the problem and get rid of slavery for the greater good.

Image–Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 poster

Text–Free Blacks in the Antebellum Period–Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act

The American Pageant, 11th Edition


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