With a vibrant abolitionist movement, an active Underground Railroad, increasing northern opposition to slavery, and powerful escaped slave orators and authors decrying bondage, southern states faced formidable obstacles to sustaining their system of bondage. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 had given teeth to the constitutional right of slaveholders to recover property, but the Supreme Court decision in Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842) had served to both affirm the supremacy of the federal rule over any state resistance and provide states with the ...

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