Understanding Free Soil

Masur map

Map of Louis Masur’s Civil War –Origins layer

Discussion Questions

  • How does Louis Masur distinguish between long-term and short-term causes of the Civil War and what events does he identify as the final triggers for the conflict?
  • Can you identify and explain these terms below?


Statistical Gateway

  • Enslaved population in 1840: roughly 2 million
  • Enslaved population in 1860: roughly 4 million
  • Estimated number of antebellum slave sale transactions: 2 million
  • Ratio of antebellum slave marriages broken apart by sale: ¼
  • Estimated annual temporary escapes from slavery (“laying out”): 100,000
  • Estimated annual attempts at permanent escapes from slavery: 1,000
  • Documented recaption (kidnapping) efforts across North during 1850s: 150
  • Documented individual fugitive rendition cases between 1850-1861:  200
  • Total number of formal federal rendition hearings between 1850-1861:  125
  • Number of rendition hearings in New England states after 1854:  0
  • Percentage of nation’s rendition hearings held in Ohio between 1855-1861: 75
  • Vigilance committee records for successful escapes during 1850s:  3,000+
  • Documented vigilance-led resistance efforts during 1850s:  80
  • Estimated total casualties from antebellum resistance efforts:  100s
  • Total number of UGRR operatives killed in free states: 0
  • Total number of freedom seekers killed in free states:  1
  • Total number of slaveholders or slave catchers killed in free states:  3
  • Total number of UGRR operatives fined or imprisoned in free states:  about 10-12
  • Estimated number of figures imprisoned for slave-stealing in slave states, 1840s-50s: 200+
  • Longest sentence for UGRR operative convicted in northern state under federal law:  3 months
  • Longest period of imprisonment for a UGRR operative convicted in a slave state:  17 years

Sources:  McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom (1988); Franklin & Schweninger, Runaway Slaves (1999)Stanley Campbell, The Slave-Catchers (1968); Lois Horton in David Blight, Passages to Freedom (2004); Walter Johnson, Soul By Soul (1999).

1851: William and Eliza Parker and the Christiana Resistance


Christiana Riot or Resistance, September 11, 1851

Parker house

Parker house at Christiana, c. 1890 (no longer standing) with 1850 census records



Eliza Parker’s original horn, Christiana, PA (courtesy of Christiana Historical Society; photo by Aiden Pinsker)

Below: interview with Michele Parker Samuels, descendant of William and Eliza Parker, conducted April 2021 by Aiden Pinsker