WHY WAS THE TRIAL SO IMPORTANT?
IN 1859 the United States was being torn apart by the issue of slavery and the trial of the Wanderer was another conflict in a string of battles fought over this institution.
For over 40 years the institution of slavery had been heavily debated across the country, and by the 1850's it threatened to destroy the Union. Southern states wanted to spread slavery into the newly acquired western territories, northern states, of course, did not. A reflection of this dispute was found in newspapers overflowing with scathing articles either promoting the institution of slavery or condemning it. For instance, after the Wanderer's landing, The New York Times published a series of articles, over 100 of them, detailing the travesty. One of the articles stated:
"With every day's mail that reaches us from the Southern States, this hesitation is fast resolving itself into the most deplorable certainty. . . We are now called upon to believe that this State - the State of Oglethorpe. . . The one State of all the South which has heretofore claimed and held the proudest position in the van of law-abiding, orderly, loyal adherence to the principals which have made, and which alone can maintain us as a nation - has assumed the damning responsibility of endorsing afresh the most accursed system of organized inhumanity which has ever afflicted the earth."
The Revival of Piracy
- The New York Times, December 24, 1858
The subject of slavery, mainly the South's right to spread slavery, was so hotly debated and contested that the South began to threaten secession in the 1830's, led by Vice President John C. Calhoun from South Carolina. In order to settle this issue, a string of laws and acts were passed in the 1850's, but they only seemed to cause more problems. One of these initiatives was the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
Image: "Advertisement for Slave Sale," Charleston, South Carolina, 1760, *image reference: H021