Fugitive Slave Act

In recognition of Southern support for California's admission to the Union as a free state and ending the slave trade in the District of Columbia, as part of the Compromise of 1850, Congress enacted the Fugitive Slave Act to assist the South with maintaining a tight rein on slaveholdersu0092 property.

Existing laws had created a system designed to enforce the institution of slavery. Southern states usually had slave codes that prevented slaves from being "at large" without a pass. Any black determined to be more than a certain number of miles from his home was automatically considered a fugitive and could be thrown in jail. In Northern states like Massachusetts, however, opinion was sufficiently hostile that slaveowners could not rely on local courts to uphold their property rights.

The new law created a force of federal commissioners empowered to pursue fugitive slaves in any state and return them to their owners. No statute of limitations applied, so that even those slaves who had been free for many years could be (and were) returned.

Capture of a Fugitive Slave

The commissioners enjoyed broad powers, including the right to compel citizens to assist in the pursuit and apprehension of runaways; fines and imprisonment awaited those who refused to cooperate. United States marshals were required to be diligent in the enforcement of the act and could be fined for being lax. A captured runaway could not testify on his own behalf and was not entitled to a court trial. The commissioners received a fee of 10 dollars for every slave returned; the fee was reduced to five dollars if the accused slave were released.

The passage and enforcement of this law enraged many in the North. Some states reacted by passing legislation designed to hamper the federal commissioners' activities, but such laws were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Riots occurred in some Northern communities and soldiers were deployed to restore order.

The 1852 publication of Uncle Tomu0092s Cabin capitalized upon the Northern sensibilities, which had been rubbed raw by the Fugitive Slave Act. Massachusetts went so far as to pass the Massachusetts Personal Liberty Act of May 21, 1855, in order to frustrate the Fugitive Slave Act within its borders. The primary provocation had been the "trial" of Anthony Burns, who been arrested, tried, and returned to his purported master after living as a free black in Boston.

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Fugitive Slave Act
u00a0 The Fugitive Slave Act legally mandated the return of any runaway slaves, regardless of the location (state) within the Union where they were at the time ofu00a0their discovery or capture. u00a0 As part of The Compromise of 1850, Fugitive Slave Act legally mandated the return of any runaway slaves, regardless of the location (state) within the Union where they were at the time ofu00a0their discovery or capture. u00a0 As part of The Compromise of 1850, California was ...
http://www.civil-war.net/pages/fugitive_slave_act.asp

Fugitive Slave Act - 1850
Fugitive Slave Act 1850 u00a0 The Fugitive Slave Act was part of the group of laws referred to as the "Compromise of 1850." In this compromise, the antislavery advocates gained the admission of California as a free state, and the Fugitive Slave Act 1850 u00a0 The Fugitive Slave Act was part of the group of laws referred to as the "Compromise of 1850." In this compromise, the antislavery advocates gained the admission of California as a free state, and the Fugitive Slave Act was part of the group of laws referred to as the "Compromise of 1850." In this compromise, the antislavery advocates gained the admission of California as a free state, and the prohibition of ...
http://www.nationalcenter.org/FugitiveSlaveAct.html

Fugitive Slave Act 1850
The Fugitive Slave Act 1850 Section 1 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the persons who have been, or may hereafter be, appointed commissioners, inFugitive Slave Act 1850 Section 1 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the persons who have been, or may hereafter be, appointed commissioners, in virtue of any ...
http://americancivilwar.com/documents/Fugitive_Slave_Act_1850.html

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