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 ?
A fugitive from slavery was, even if successful, still only a fugitive, and under the terms of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 could be returned to slavery under procedures which make the words "due process" fail on the lips.
(71) Every judge, state as well as federal, swore an oath to "be bound" by "[t]his Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof." (72) This included the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 (73) and later the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. (74) Members of Congress and all the state legislatures were also "bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution." (75)
The federal fugitive slave law of 1850 was enacted to mollify slave owners from the South who were threatening to secede from the Union since slaves were illegally running away and the North was not doing enough to stop it.
Four years after the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was enacted, Douglass wrote in his newspaper: "The True Remedy for the Fugitive Slave Bill [was a] good revolver, a steady hand and a determination to shoot down any man attempting to kidnap" (111).
Professor Harrold's Border War begins with an incisive introduction, "Perception of War," and progresses through a series of chapters entitled: "Early Clashes," "Fear and Reaction in the Border South," "Southern Aggression in the Lower North," "Interstate Diplomacy," "Fighting Slavery in the Lower North," "The Struggle for the Border South," "Fighting over the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850," "Pressure on the Border South Increases," "From Border War to Civil War," and "Conclusion." All contribute to an organizational scheme that is used effectively, concisely, and comprehensively to explain a difficult and often impassioned tale.
Chapters cover "Southern Aggression in the Lower North", "Interstate Diplomacy", "Fighting Over the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850", and much more.
After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, Burns and Sims were arrested and returned to slavery.
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 would soon change that and Horace Mann would soon part company with the majority of the Whig Party.
This pattern of viewing national issues through the lens of an intensely local outlook only intensified when Liberty's successor, the Free Soil Party, confronted the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Laurie confirms a tradition of scholarship emphasizing that, ultimately, political antislavery predicated its claims on a vision of northern society as a transcendent moral ideal.
(14) Money, "The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in Indiana," 161; Campbell, Slave Catchers, 185; Thornbrough, Negro in Indiana, 109; Vincennes Gazette, April 3, 1851, 2; Madison Weekly Courier, March 5, 1851, 2.
Without context this incident is one of many antebellum fugitive slave stories in which a slave is returned to her owners through the federal court system as required by the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. But Bagby's saga can tell us much more if placed in the context of time, place, politics, gender, and race.
In fact, since the American Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 had turned "the trickle of fugitives" lecturing in Britain into "a flood," Remond may have been taken as a fugitive slave by audiences not told otherwise.