The Life of Slaves in 1850

940 Words4 Pages
Slaves in 1850 couldn’t do much with their lives. They could stay on their master’s plantation and do all sorts of extremely hard labor, get beaten, and experience what it is like to have family members sold away. Or they could try to escape. When a slave would try to run away he would normally have people sent, by his master, to hunt him down. If the slave was found he would most likely be killed; however, frequently all of the other slaves would have to watch him be executed and then later would be beaten or punished to make sure they would not make the same mistake. However, if a slave was able to make it out alive his life was not necessarily easy. He always had to be cautious because anyone could recognize him as a slave and turn him. Also, another slave could rat him out to try to gain favor with his master. The slave would have to travel on clear nights so he could use the North Star as his guide. During the day he would have to sleep in caves or other secluded areas. He might get a little help along the way but he had to be careful with who he got help from because if he got it from the wrong person he could end up back in his master’s hands. If he got north he still wasn’t fully free because there were plenty of people in the north willing to take the reward and return him back to his master. When the fugitive slave act of 1793 was put into place it made it harder because if the slave was found, even in the north, he could be taken back to the south by his master. This meant that the best hope for the slave was to go all the way to Canada. Chances were very slim, but if he was able to make it, he was free! Because the Underground Railroad was so secretive there is no way to tell how it exactly originated. Many peop... ... middle of paper ... ... to how many escaped. Some say that several hundred escaped in the mid 1800s, others say that 1,000 per year escaped during the same time, and others say 2,000 escaped per year during that time. Experts do agree though that early on most successful attempts were made from the states closest to the north and only a handful made it successfully from the deeper parts of the south. They believe this for multiple reasons. First of all, the journey from the deep south was noticeably way longer. Secondly, since the slave trade was put to an end, slaves were very valuable, and because of the large cotton fields, which needed to be maintained, masters were more caring about lost slaves, and willing to spend the extra money getting their slaves back. Finally, since slaves were so much farther from the free areas it was harder for them to get information about freedom.
Open Document