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Christiana Treason Trials


On September 11, 1851 Maryland slaveholder Edward Gorsuch, his son and five others went to Christiana, Pennsylvania in search of four freedom seekers. The freedom seekers were living with William Parker, a former slave.

Parker, the freedom seekers and other free African Americans attempted to prevent Gorsuch from capturing the freedom seekers. Caster Hanway, a Quaker neighbor, tried to prevent the group from resorting to violence, but Gorsuch was killed and Parker, the four freedom seekers, and others escaped to Canada.

A company of U.S. Marines joined U.S. Marshalls in a house-to-house search of the neighborhood, and Hanway and 40 others (38 of whom were black) were charged with treason in trying to resist the Fugitive Slave Law.

Abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Lucretia Mott attended their trials, which were held at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. On December 11, they were acquitted of treason.