Iowa and the Fugitive Slave Era


Of Slavery, and Moral Conviction…


In our own common lives we rarely may be called on to make very hard choices or statements with our lives.


          The underground railroad with its network of conductors and station masters helping the fugitive traveler to safety and freedom is a unique story of many common people doing uncommon things with their lives.


It is a great story of courage in conviction.


          These people as our forbearers had the vision of moral courage to stand in front of something and stop it.  They knew slavery and saw the effect of slavery first hand.  They saw it as a wrong.  They saw it and knew it as a social, economic, spiritual, political, religious moral wrong.


          In early America the ideal of "All men are created equal" was the young idea and an experiment, these people lived then with the contradiction of slavery and they knew the contradiction.  They chose not to just stand passively out; but by conscience they stood convinced, they stood in front of it.


          In their times what they did was uncommon.  They agitated.  They aggravated.  They confronted.  They confounded.  They were not popular.  They were reviled by their neighbors and shunned by friends.  Their work was criminal. It was illegal in their day.  However their vision did grow in America.  The America we have today is a tribute to their moral vision; a tribute to the expressed courage of their conviction.  It is a great story which is part of our own story.



          With Due and Great Respect,  -Doug Hamilton




Accessing the story:


          The story of Quakers in Iowa does also start with slavery and abolitionism. The story however does start from even before the Quaker arrival in pioneer Iowa.  Salem today is an artifact of the principles of Quakers and also the larger American high thinking of those early times.  There is a lot of substantial history that happened in Salem.  To access it, the 1850 fugitive slave act is a good place to start for a context. 


In early America, a cultural split of the 19th Century became exampled over abolitionist activism.  Salem tells that particular story well.  Salem tells of schism and separation between old Quakerism and modernizing American societies and Churches of Friends as we can see them now.  Salem also is part of the larger American story, by example.