Early Chicago, 1833–1871
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 22PETITION RELATING TO THE ARREST OF A FUGITIVE SLAVE
March 1, 1852
Chicago was a depot for the Underground Railroad to Canada from 1840 to 1861. In 1854 alone it was estimated that 482 slaves had passed through the city in a seven month period. Allan Pinkerton, who later became a world famous detective, was working as a conductor for the "railroad" in 1855. Although federal law provided for the capture and return of escaped slaves, local abolitionist feelings were so strong that city law did not recognize federal fugitive slave statutes. On the few occasions that professional slave hunters attempted to capture escaped slaves in Chicago, the local citizenry forcibly thwarted their efforts.
Points to Consider
Why was William Taylor fined for assisting the police?
Is local law higher than federal law? In this instance, which law was higher?
By which means could a fugitive slave have reached Chicago?
What would Stephen Douglas's attitude have been concerning this incident?