The Christiana Riot and The Treason Trials of 1851, An Historical Sketch. [within Papers Read before the Lancaster County Historical Society October 6, 1911]
Resisting the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
Hensel’s account of the Christiana Riot, an incident of African American-led armed resistance which took place in 1851 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, just over the Mason-Dixon line, in reaction to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
The “riot” occurred when a U.S. Marshall attempted to capture four slaves from Maryland who had escaped into the free state of Pennsylvania. The incident began during a raid on the farm of former slave-turned abolitionist William Parker (1821–1891) in Christiana in Lancaster County where two of the escaped slaves were believed to be hiding. The slaves’ owner was killed during the subsequent confrontation.
Dozens of African Americans and one white man were arrested and charged with treason under the Fugitive Slave Act. One of the accused rioters—the only white defendant, Castner Hanway—was later tried, but he was acquitted.
“The defense of the Christiana Riot participants became a popular cause for the abolitionist movement. Fiery abolitionist and U.S. representative for Lancaster County Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868) led Hanway’s defense team, and abolitionist Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) sat in the courtroom on the second floor of Independence Hall throughout the trial.
For many Pennsylvanians—even those who were not in sympathy with the abolitionist cause—there was little interest in prosecution, because the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law seemed to represent an incursion of federal power into state sovereignty. After fifteen minutes of deliberation by the jury, Hanway was found not guilty of treason. Subsequently, federal and state officials declined to press further charges against the riot participants. The verdict served as a fuel for the abolition movement as it gained momentum in the 1850s.” (Christiana Riot Trial, Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia online)
Published one month after the first edition. Lancaster’s Press of the New Era Printing Company issued both editions. The typesetting and illustrations within each are identical.
Description: The Christiana Riot and The Treason Trials of 1851, An Historical Sketch. [within Papers Read before the Lancaster County Historical Society October 6, 1911]
Lancaster: Press of the New Era Printing Co., 1911. Front matter, then: Frontispiece, [iv], 134 pages. Illustrated with plates and drawings throughout text. One former owner’s embossed blind stamp. Very good, lightly-soiled, in the publisher’s printed wrappers.