Educator Resources

Fugitive from Labor Cases

Teaching Activities

Standards Correlations

This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.

  • Era 5 -Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
    • Standard 1A -Demonstrate understanding of how the North and South differed and how politics and ideologies led to the Civil War.

This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.

  • Standard I.A.3 -Evaluate, take, and defend positions on competing ideas regarding the purposes of politics and government and their implications for the individual and society.
  • Standard I.B.1 -Explain the essential characteristics of limited and unlimited governments.
  • Standard I.B.2 -Evaluate, take, and defend positions on the importance of the rule of law and on the sources, purposes, and functions of law.
  • Standard I.C.2 -Explain the various purposes served by constitutions.

Constitutional Connection

Comparison of the Henry Garnett and Moses Honner cases demonstrates the increasingly volatile political crisis in the 1850s arising over the issue of slavery and the necessity for the enactment of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Cross-curricular Connections

Share this exercise with your history, government, and language arts colleagues.


Class Discussion

  1. Ask the students to explain the difference between the phrase "fugitive from labor" and "runaway slave." Instruct them to keep these differences in mind as they analyze the documents.

Document Analysis

  1. Divide the students into 8 groups. Provide one group with a copy of the Garnett warrent, one group with the Garnett evidence, one group with the Garnett judgment, one group with the Honner warrent, three groups with different documents from the Honner evidence, and one group with the Honner judgment. Provide each group with a copy of one of the Document Analysis Worksheet. Instruct each group to complete the worksheet based on their document. As they do this, ask students to list and define unfamiliar words and terms in the document. Direct a representative from each group to describe their document or documents to the class.

Compare and Contrast

  1. Copy the following comparison/contrast matrix onto a transparency or the chalkboard. Ask the students to complete the matrix based on the information obtained from the documents. After completing the matrix, direct the students to look for subtle yet important contrasts between the two cases. For example, the warrant and judgment in 1850 were hand-written, but they were issued on preprinted forms in 1860. Ask the students to determine what these differences might indicate.
Items to Compare/Contrast Henry Garnett Moses Honner
Date of the trial
Location of the trial
Claimant's name
Where did the claimant live?
Item of Evidence 1
Item of Evidence 2
Item of Evidence 3    
Item of Evidence 4    
Item of Evidence 5    


  1. Explain to students that between the two court cases, actions were taken by many individuals and numerous events occurred that indicated intensifying feelings with respect to slavery. These events and individuals included the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the Compromise of 1850, bounty hunters, the Christiana riots, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, "Bleeding Kansas," the Dred Scott decision, the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman, Preston Brooks and Charles Sumner, President James Buchanan, the Lincoln - Douglas debates, and John Brown's raid. Divide students into 12 small groups and assign one topic to each group. Direct student groups to conduct research on their topic using library and Internet resources. Ask each group to report the key information about their topic as a news flash to the class. After each group has shared their information, ask students to evaluate which topics may have had an effect on the differing judgments in the Garnett and Honner cases. Students might observe, for instance, that Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who wrote the "non-jurisdiction" decision in the Dred Scott case, issued the warrant for the arrest of Moses Honner in 1860. Direct the students to prepare a brief report supporting their evaluations.

Essay Writing

  1. Ask students to write an essay explaining why the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were legally necessary for the elimination of slavery in the United States. Require students to refer specifically to the Garnett and Honner court cases in their arguments. Remind them that there is specific reference to the Constitution of the United States in the judgment rendered in the Moses Honner case.

Extension Activity

  1. Tell the students to review all the documents in both cases, which are available online through the NAIL database . The total number of pages is 31. Direct students to re-enact the cases by portraying the defendants, judges, claimants, bounty hunters, and witnesses as revealed in the documents.

The documents included in this project are from Record Group 21, Records of the U.S. Circuit Court. They are available online through the National Archives Catalog database, by conducting a search on the keywords "Moses Honner" and "Henry Garnett.", or by using the National Archives Identifiers :


The National Archives Catalog replaces its prototypes, the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL). You can still perform a keyword, digitized image and location search. The online catalog's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.

The online catalog is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use the National Archives Catalog to search record descriptions by keywords or topics and retrieve digital copies of selected textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings related to thousands of topics.

Currently, about 80% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in the National Archives Catalog. Thousands of digital images can be searched in the National Archives Catalog. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in the National Archives Catalog will grow continually.

This article was written by John M. Lawlor, Jr., an instructor at Reading Area Community College in Reading, PA.

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