@Book{ harrold2010,
    author = {Stanley Harrold},
    title = {Border War: Fighting over Slavery before the Civil War},
    address = {Chapel Hill},
    publisher = {University of North Carolina Press},
    year = 2010,

p. 10: “In 1842, Ohio’s excitable former Democratic U. S. Senator, Thomas Morris, denounced the kidnapping of African Americans as a potential ‘cause of war’”

p. 11: “As time passed, the Border South grew more apprehensive than the lower North that it faced defeat. … They amended slave codes, expanded patrols, formed vigilance associations, and threatened abolitionists. They sent diplomats to border free-state capitals seeking legislation to curtail northward escapes and aid masters in apprehending fugitives. When, during the 1840s, the last of the diplomatic efforts only increased antislavery sentiment, they sought federal protection.”

p. 20-21: common law and right of recaption

p. 38: abolitionist publications sent into Border South, especially after 1835

p. 41: slave population actually increased in Kentucky, even in border counties just south of Ohio, between 1820 and 1850

p. 44: claims by Kentuckians that abolitionists were targeting them

p. 47-48: proliferation of “vigilance” associations both in the north and south in the 1830s, with formation of one in Kenton County in 1841

p. 49: Birney attempts to found abolitionist society and newspaper in Danville

p. 54:

… criminal organizations used cross-border tactics on the Ohio River to steal slaves in Kentucky and kidnap free African Americans in southern Ohio, Indiana, an Illinois. In 1846, Ohio attorney William Johnson charged, “A horde of pirates … infest[s] the waters of the Ohio on both its banks, and make man-catching a trade … they are the enemies of the human race.”

Often, Harrold continues, “river pirates and other criminal groups co-opted law enforcement officers … to give legal veneer to their activities” (54).

p. 55: in 1838, the “moderately antislavery” editor of the Cincinnati Gazette said free staters duty-bound to respect masters’ property rights in slaves.

But despite such sentiment and general racism in Lower North, whites did resist kidnappers, especially “when the African Americans involved were their employees or neighbors, had established themselves as productive community members, displayed courage, or suffered severe mistreatment” (56).

p. 57:

… southward abductions of African Americans began another round of expansion after the mid-1830s. … Perpetrators included professional criminals—such as Torrey’s “border miscreants”—law enforcement officers, and individuals seeking to recover former slaves freed by their relatives. During the 1830s and 1840s, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati were notorious for kidnapping due to their large black populations, proximity to the Border South, and the publicity abolitionist newspapers generated. … Kidnappers operating on the north bank of the Ohio River, especially in Cincinnati, continued to be more brutal than those in Philadelphia, and they compromised numerous law enforcement officials.

Harrold mentions several cases of kidnapping in the Cincinnati area from the late 1830s and early 1840s (p. 58). Eliza Jane Johnson case worth highlighting. Sometimes abolitionists were able to intervene, but sometimes law officers failed to grant warrants and the like. “The meaning of law and order became a contentious sectional issue” (59). In the Johnson case, one Kentucky newspaper even suggested that a county sheriff could act to defend masters rights even if law favored the fugitive. Also see kidnapping case in Ohio from 1838 on p. 63.

p. 65-66: Cincinnati “particularly susceptible to slaveholding,” since many who lived in the city owned slaves in the south or even hired out slaves in Cincinnati

p. 67: Ebenezer Lane’s 1841 Supreme Court decision (in the case officially known as State v. Farr but colloquially called the Raines case) seemed to suggest that a slave became free immediately upon coming to Ohio, which helped spark the 1841 riot and outraged Kentuckians who continued to cross into Ohio to claim slaves. Yet the decision encouraged resistance by Ohioans to such captures.1 At same time, moderates in Cincinnati tried to reassure Southerners that they could still bring slaves into the state (see p. 113).

p. 67-68: the 1836 mob that destroyed Birneys printing press

All of this led to delicate negotiations between Kentucky and Ohio at the end of the 1830s that Harrold refers to as “interstate diplomacy” (chapter 4). In 1839, the state legislature passed Ohio Fugitive Slave Law: “banned jury trials for the accused,” did not allow lawyers to require “proof of slavery’s legality in a claimant’s home state,” imposed stiff penalties on anyone who aided escaping slaves (85).

But Prigg v. Pennsylvania essentially declared any state law affecting recaption null and void, and as 1840s wore on, attempts at interstate diplomacy failed, leading Border Southerners to believe they had no choice but to support more federal intervention in protection of slaveholders’ rights, especially as aggressive abolitionists like Calvin Fairbank were arrested. Even “moderate” Border South Congressmen became leading advocates of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850—which only exacerbated resistance rather than solving the problems that had led to its construction.

p. 141 - In presenting compromise measures in 1850, Clay calls slave renditions “the most irritating and inflammatory [issue] to those who live in the slave States”; a Richmond newspaper predicts that the new FSL “should naturally have the efffect of inducing a better feeling and aiding the adjustment of alarming difficulties”

p. 142 - Kentucky General Assembly called on federal government for a new FSL back in 1847 after the Kentucky raid into Michigan

p. 173 - October 1856, the Louisville Courier worried Kansas wars would spread east to make the “Ohio river run blood.”

p. 185-186 - In September 1856, in conjunction with the Fremont campaign, the Louisville Courier “claimed a black arsonist had destroyed several buildings in Frankfort, Kentucky.”2

p. 192 - Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin’s comments on John Brown’s raid

p. 193 - “Although Brown’s raid spread fear of abolitionist-inspired slave revolt throughout the South, it had its greatest impact in the Border South.”

p. 202, 205 - short paragraphs on Kentucky’s response to secession crisis

  1. See also middleton1993.

  2. Cites Dew and Wish.