"A new Champion in the Ranks of Freedom": Vermont's Whigs React to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
Vermont abolitionist and anti-slavery Whig newspapers in 1851 contain many articles denouncing the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Through an analysis of Vermont abolitionist newspapers, this paper will trace the several main arguments given by the State's abolitionist and anti-slavery Whig population against the act and the reasoning behind them. These arguments include that the Fugitive Slave Act was unconstitutional because it took away basic human rights, such as a trial by jury, and the argument that Congress had no power to pass such a law or dictate whether or not a state could issue writs of habeas corpus and provide a trial for the accused fugitive. Vermont's most infamous reaction was the passage of their very own Habeas Corpus Act to modify the actions made by state officials in the occurrence of the use of the Fugitive Slave Act within Vermont. These arguments against the Fugitive Slave Act and the growing abolitionist movement widened the divide between anti-slavery Whigs and the rest of the Whig population. This eventually led to the fall of the Whig party and the convergence of the anti-slavery Whigs and other anti-slavery parties to create the new Republican Party.
Paper presented at the Phi Alpha Theta Upper New York Regional Conference, Plattsburgh, N.Y., April 30, 2016.