Primary Sources


Alexandria, VA Gazette (Genealogy Bank)

Alton, IL Telegraph (

Alton, IL Weekly Courier (

Baltimore Sun (

  • 1851-07-04 “Fugitive Slave Case in West Chester”
  • 1862-08-14 “Correspondence of the Baltimore Sun”

Boston Liberator (

Burlington, IA Hawk-Eye (Genealogy Bank)

Chicago Democrat (Cornell University)

  • 1851-06-07 “George W. Meeker”
  • 1854-12-16 “Great Excitement–Slave Catchers Again Defeated”

Chicago Evening Journal (University of Memphis)

  • 1860-11-13 “Great Fugitive Slave Excitement”

Chicago Free West (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library)

Chicago Tribune (Genealogy Bank)

Chicago Tribune (

  • 1857-12-03 “The Fugitive Slave Case at Indianapolis”
  • 1857-12-05 “Another Fugitive Slave Case”

Chicago Western Citizen (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library)

Cleveland Herald (Genealogy Bank)

Cleveland Plain Dealer (Genealogy Bank)

  • 1853-10-24 “The Fugitive Slave Case–Escape of Lewis–Great Excitement”

Concord, NH Independent Democrat (Genealogy Bank)

Edwardsville, IL Intelligencer (

Harrisburg, PA Pennsylvania Telegraph (State Library of Pennsylvania)

  • 1851-10-15 “Fugitive Slave Case–Commissioner McAllister’s Administration of Law”
  • 1859-04-04 “The Fugitive Slave Case”

Honesdale, PA Wayne County Herald (

Huntsville, AL Democrat (

  • 1853-06-16 “The Fugitive Slave Law-Novel and Important Case”

New Lisbon, OH Anti-Slavery Bugle (Genealogy Bank)

New Orleans Crescent (

  • 1850-11-16 Appointment of U.S. Commissioner James L. Jones

New Orleans Times-Picayune (

  • 1855-02-18 Resignation of U.S. Commissioner George W. Meeker

New York Herald ( and Genealogy Bank)

New York National Anti-Slavery Standard (Accessible Archives)

New York Observer (Genealogy Bank)

New York Times (ProQuest Historical Newspapers)

New York Tribune ( and Genealogy Bank)

Palmyra, MO Weekly Whig (

  • 1851-06-19 “The Fugitive Slave Case at Chicago”

Pennsylvania Freeman (Genealogy Bank)

Philadelphia Inquirer (Genealogy Bank)

Philadelphia Daily Pennsylvanian (Genealogy Bank)

Philadelphia North American (Genealogy Bank)

Philadelphia Press (Genealogy Bank)

Pittsburgh, PA Daily Post (

  • 1850-11-21 Commissioner Jacob Bowman Sweizer Appointment

Pittsburgh, PA Saturday Morning Visiter (Penn State University)

Portsmouth, VA Daily Pilot (Library of Virginia)

  • 1850-10-15 “The Fugitive Slave Bill and Commissioner Gardiner”

Raleigh, NC Weekly Register (

Richmond, VA Daily Dispatch (Genealogy Bank)

Sandusky, OH Commercial Register (Genealogy Bank)

  • 1856-02-28 “The Cincinnati Fugitive Slave Case”

Springfield, IL Daily Illinois Journal (Genealogy Bank)

  • 1857-08-01 “Fugitive Slave Case”
  • 1857-08-03 “Fugitive Slave Case: Decision of the Commissioner”
  • 1860-02-13 “Rendition of a Fugitive Slave”

Springfield, IL Daily Illinois Register (Genealogy Bank)

St. Louis, MO Republican (State Historical Society of Missouri)

Washington, D.C. National Era (

Washington, D.C. National Intelligencer (

Washington, D.C. National Republican (

Archival Collections

Clinton Special Collections, Tutt Library, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO

Historical Society of Dauphin County, Harrisburg, PA

  • Simon Cameron Papers (correspondence with U.S. Commissioner Richard McAllister)

Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, MD

  • Governors Papers (correspondence with U.S. Commissioner Richard McAllister)

Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City, MO

  • Governors Papers (correspondence with U.S. Commissioner Edward Ingraham)

National Archives and Records Administration, Philadelphia, PA:

  • Record Group 21
    • Habeas Corpus Case Files, 1848-1862

National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.:

  • Record Group 217, Settled Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT:

  • John White Geary Papers, MSS 212

Books & Pamphlets

Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men of Chicago. Chicago: Wilson & St. Clair, 1868. [WEB]

Coffin, Levi. Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, The Reputed President of the Underground Railroad. Cincinnati, OH: Robert Clarke, 1880. [WEB]

Frazee, George. “The Iowa Fugitive Slave Case.” The Annals of Iowa 4, no. 2 (1899): 118-137. [WEB]

May, Samuel J. The Fugitive Slave Law and its Victims. New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1861. [WEB]

Norton, W.T. ed. Centennial History of Madison County, Illinois and Its People 1812 to 1912. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1912. [WEB].

Phillips, Wendell. Argument of Wendell Phillips, Esq. Before the Committee on Federal Relations, In Support of the Petitions for the Removal of Edward Greely Loring. Boston: J.B. Yerrinton & Son, 1855. [WEB]


Secondary Sources

Ayers, Edward L. The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America. New York: W.W. Norton, 2017.

Baker, H. Robert. The Rescue of Joshua Glover: A Fugitive Slave, the Constitution, and the Coming of the Civil War. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2006.

Barker, Gordon S. The Imperfect Revolution: Anthony Burns and the Landscape of Race in Antebellum America. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2010.

Blackett, Richard. Making Freedom: The Underground Railroad and the Politics of Slavery. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.

Blackett, Richard. The Captive’s Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the Politics of Slavery. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Blight, David W. Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018.

Blight, David. W. ed. Passages to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in History and Memory. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Cahan, Richard. A Court that Shaped America: Chicago’s Federal District Court from Abe Lincoln to Abe Hoffman. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2002.

Campbell, Stanley. The Slave Catchers: Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, 1850-1860. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970.

Churchill, Robert H. The Underground Railroad and the Geography of Violence in Antebellum America. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2020.

Churchill, Robert H. “Fugitive Slave Rescues in the North: Towards a Geography of Antislavery Violence.” Ohio Valley History 14, no. 2 (Summer 2014): 51-75.

Churchill, Robert H. “When the Slave Catchers Came to Town: Cultures of Violence along the Underground Railroad.” The Journal of American History 105, no. 3 (December 2018): 514-537.

Collison, Gary. Shadrach Minkins: From Fugitive Slave to Citizen. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Curran, Nathaniel B. “Levi Davis, Illinois’ Third Auditor.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 71, no. 1 (February 1978): 2-12.

Delbanco, Andrew. The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War. New York: Penguin Press, 2018.

Diggins, Milt. Stealing Freedom Along the Mason-Dixon Line: Thomas McCreary, the Notorious Slave Catcher from Maryland. Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 2015.

Eggert, Gerald. “The Impact of the Fugitive Slave Law on Harrisburg: A Case Study.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 109, no. 4 (1985): 537-569.

Fehrenbacher, Don E. ed. Ward M. McAfee. The Slaveholding Republic: An Account of the United States Government’s Relations to Slavery. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Finkelman, Paul. An Imperfect Union: Slavery, Federalism, and Comity. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981.

Finkelman, Paul. “The Kidnapping of John Davis and the Adoption of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793.” The Journal of Southern History 56, no. 3 (August 1990): 397-422.

Finkelman, Paul. “Fugitive Slaves, Midwestern Racial Tolerance, and the Value of ‘Justice Delayed.'” Iowa Law Review 78, no. 1 (October 1992): 89-142.

Finkelman, Paul. “John Bingham and the Background to the Fourteenth Amendment.” Akron Law Review 36, no. 4 (2003): 671-692.

Finkelman, Paul. ed. Slavery in the Courtroom: An Annotated Bibliography of American Cases. Washington: Library of Congress, 1985.

Finkelman Paul. ed. Slavery, Race and the American Legal System, 1700-1872. New York: Garland, 1988. 16 vols.

Finkelman, Paul. ed. Slavery and the Law. Madison, WI: Madison House Publishers, 1997.

Finkelman, Paul and Donald R. Kennon. eds. Congress and the Crisis of the 1850s. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2012.

Franklin, John Hope and Loren Schweninger. Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Freehling, William W. The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Foner, Eric. Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad. New York: W.W. Norton, 2015.

Gronningsater, Sarah H.L. “‘On Behalf of His Race and the Lemmon Slaves’: Louis Napoleon, Northern Black Legal Culture, and the Politics of Sectional Crisis.” Journal of the Civil War Era 7, no. 2 (June 2017): 206-241.

Harrold, Stanley. Border War: Fighting Over Slavery before the Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

Huebner, Timothy S. “Roger B. Taney and the Slavery Issue: Looking beyond—and before—Dred Scott.The Journal of American History 97, no. 1 (June 2010): 17-38.

Lindquist, Charles A. “The Origin and Development of the United States Commissioner System.” The American Journal of Legal History 14, no. 1 (January 1970): 1-16.

Lubet, Steven. Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

McDougall, Marion Gleason. Fugitive Slaves (1619-1865). Boston: Ginn & Company, 1891.

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Middleton, Stephen. The Black Laws: Race and the Legal Process in Early Ohio. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2005.

Murphy, Angela F. The Jerry Rescue: The Fugitive Slave Law, Northern Rights, and the American Sectional Crisis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Morris, Thomas D. Free Men All: The Personal Liberty Laws of the North, 1780-1861. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974.

Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union: Fruits of Manifest Destiny, 1847-1852. New York: Scribner, 1947.

Pinsker, Matthew. “After 1850: Reassessing the Impact of the Fugitive Slave Law.” In Damian Alan Pargas ed. Fugitive Slaves and Spaces of Freedom in North America. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2018.

Rhodes, James Ford. History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1896.

Richardson, Jean. “Buffalo’s Antebellum African American Community and the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History 27, no. 2 (July 2003): 29-46.

Reinhardt, Mark. Who Speaks for Margaret Garner? Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

Robinson, Marcia C. “The Tragedy of Edward ‘Ned’ Davis: Entrepreneurial Fraud in Maryland in the Wake of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 140, no. 2 (2016): 167-182.

Sernett, Milton C. North Star Country: Upstate New York and the Crusade for African American Freedom. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2002.

Sinha, Manisha. The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016.

Smith, David G. On the Edge of Freedom: The Fugitive Slave Issue in South Central Pennsylvania, 1820-1870. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013.

Von Frank, Albert J. The Trials of Anthony Burns: Freedom and Slavery in Emerson’s Boston. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.