Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

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Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 mandated that states to which escaped slaves fled were obligated to return them to their masters upon their discovery and subjected persons who helped runaway slaves to criminal sanctions. The first Fugitive Slave Act was enacted by Congress in 1793 but as the northern states abolished Slavery, the act was rarely enforced. The southern states bitterly resented the northern attitude toward slavery, which was ultimately demonstrated by the existence of the Underground Railroad, an arrangement by which abolitionists helped runaway slaves obtain freedom.

To placate the South, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (9 Stat. 462) was enacted by Congress as part of the Compromise of 1850. It imposed a duty on all citizens to assist federal marshals to enforce the law or be prosecuted for their failure to do so. The act also required that when a slave was captured, he or she was to be brought before a federal court or commissioner, but the slave would not be tried by a jury nor would his or her testimony be given much weight. The statements of the slave's alleged owner were the main evidence, and the alleged owner was not even required to appear in court.

Northern reaction against the Fugitive Slave Act was strong, and many states enacted laws that nullified its effect, making it worthless. In cases where the law was enforced, threats or acts of mob violence often required the dispatch of federal troops. Persons convicted of violating the act were often heavily fined, imprisoned, or both. The refusal of northern states to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act was alleged by South Carolina as one reason for its secession from the Union prior to the onset of the Civil War.

The acts of 1793 and 1850 remained legally operative until their repeal by Congress on June 28, 1864 (13 Stat. 200).

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 essentially left African Americans anywhere in America slave or free vulnerable to apprehension and accusation in special courts.
Chapter three, "After the Blood" discusses the prosecution process of the Garners under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and Margaret who murdered one of her daughters and attempted to kill her other children.
The marker also alludes to two of the myths that evolved from the incident--that it was responsible for passage of the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the Civil War.
This is a constitutional principle that dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, when the Supreme Court overturned a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that nullified the abominable Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
* Under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, what was the penalty for interfering with a slave owner's attempts to seize a runaway slave?
The story unfolds as they travel north to the Free States but eventually due to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 they are threatened with being returned to their owners.
Caption: Left: The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 heightened the chances that freedom-seekers in the north could be recaptured and returned to their former owners in the south.
He covers the time just before and after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the area of the Philadelphia-Wilmington-Baltimore corridor, a region deeply embroiled in the controversy; therein lived proslavery advocates engaged in profiting from slavery, and those trying to destroy it.
(468) For Douglass, the worst part of the Compromise was the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, (469) which threatened the personal security of almost every black in the North.
THE TOPIC: Between the 1830s and the onset of the Civil War in 1861, the Underground Railroad delivered an estimated 30,000 fugitive slaves to freedom in spite of the punitive Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which imposed harsh penalties on citizens caught helping runaways.
In Boundaries, nonfiction author Walker (Secrets of a Civil War Submarine [Lerner, 2005/VOYA June 2005]) discusses boundaries as a broad theme, from the early colonists' religious persecution to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Readers familiar with the popular perception of the Mason-Dixon Line as the divider between the North and the South may be surprised to find the bulk of the book focused on the origin of the line: the much smaller boundary dispute between Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Booth was later prosecuted under the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 for "aiding and abetting" the escape of Glover, who fled to freedom in Canada after a mob sympathetic to Glover broke down the door of the Milwaukee jail where he was detained.