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During the antebellum period, Illinois proved to be problematic for the North. Geographically, it is a Northern State. Population wise, it was split between Northern and Southern tradition. Around the Chicago area, abolitionism had a strong pull as expressed by the various colored conventions held there, as well as the variety of Whig/Republican newspapers. From the state capital of Springfield and further south, many people held Democratic view points and could sympathize with their Southern neighbors. As Illinois had slave states on two sides, it is easy to understand how these neighbors had an impact on Illinoisan culture and politics. Illinois was not the only Northern state to enact Black Laws, but theirs were certainly among the harshest. While enforcement of these laws was sporadic, most of the cases of violations were found in the Southern part of the state. One of the laws that proved to be among the most scandalous was the Black Exclusion Law of 1853. This law prohibited any blacks from coming into the state with the intention of living there. Punishment proved to be especially harsh in that it found a way to make slavery legal in the eyes of the law. While Chicago may have supported abolitionism, much of the rest of the state pushed for legislation to keep blacks out. The traditional Southern opinion of the lower status of blacks is engrained into the very fiber of this Northern state. The Illinois Supreme Court case, Nelson versus The People, is littered with southern sympathies as it all started with a violation of the Black Exclusion Law of 1853 in Hancock County. Through exploration of how this law came into being, and the intricacies of the case, it can be better understood how Southern ideas and culture were very much involved in the political opinions of the state until the Exclusion Law was repealed in 1865.

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Nelson vs. The People, Illinois, Chicago


History | United States History

Southern Sympathies in Illinois as Expressed Through