fugitive slave laws

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fugitive slave laws,

in U.S. history, the federal acts of 1793 and 1850 providing for the return between states of escaped black slaves. Similar laws existing in both North and South in colonial days applied also to white indentured servants and to Native American slaves. As slavery was abolished in the Northern states, the 1793 law was loosely enforced, to the great irritation of the South, and as abolitionist sentiment developed, organized efforts to circumvent the law took form in the Underground RailroadUnderground Railroad,
in U.S. history, loosely organized system for helping fugitive slaves escape to Canada or to areas of safety in free states. It was run by local groups of Northern abolitionists, both white and free blacks.
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. Many Northern states also passed personal-liberty laws that allowed fugitives a jury trial, and others passed laws forbidding state officials to help capture alleged fugitive slaves or to lodge them in state jails. As a concession to the South a second and more rigorous fugitive slave law was passed as part of the Compromise of 1850Compromise of 1850.
The annexation of Texas to the United States and the gain of new territory by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the close of the Mexican War (1848) aggravated the hostility between North and South concerning the question of the extension of slavery into the
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. By it "all good citizens" were "commanded to aid and assist [federal marshals and their deputies] in the prompt and efficient execution of this law," and heavy penalties were imposed upon anyone who assisted slaves to escape from bondage. When apprehended, an alleged fugitive was taken before a federal court or commissioner. He was denied a jury trial and his testimony was not admitted, while the statement of the master claiming ownership, even though absent, was taken as the main evidence. The law was so weighted against the fugitives that many Northerners, formerly unconcerned, were now aroused to opposition. New personal-liberty laws contradicting the legislation of 1850 (and described, with some reason, by Southerners as equivalent to South Carolina's notorious ordinance of nullification) were passed in most of the Northern states. Abolitionists fearlessly defied the 1850 act, often mobbing federal officials in attempts to rescue fugitives. In Boston, for instance, the "good citizens," including some of the foremost Brahmins, stormed the federal courthouse, but failed to free the escaped Virginia slave Anthony Burns; moreover, it was thought expedient to have 1,100 soldiers guard him when he was marched aboard ship for his return to bondage. In Lancaster co., Pa., a riot broke out when a federal official ordered Quaker bystanders to help catch a runaway; the Quakers were prosecuted, but not convicted. Other notable fugitive-slave cases arose in Northern courts, and the trials further stirred up public opinion both North and South. The whole dispute, combined with the question of the extension of slavery into the territories, served to set the two sections at each other's throats. The actions of Northern states in nullifying the fugitive slave laws or rendering "useless any attempt to execute them" were cited (Dec. 24, 1860) by South Carolina as one cause for secession. Both acts were finally repealed by Congress on June 28, 1864.
References in periodicals archive ?
They also contended that the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850 were unconstitutional.
Before the Civil War, it was the Slave Power who enlisted the power of the federal government to impose the Fugitive Slave Acts.
17) The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 (18) authorized a slave owner to seize a fugitive slave in a free state and return her to bondage after obtaining a certificate of removal from a federal judge or a state magistrate in the free state.
Nor could the Necessary and Proper Clause be used to support the Fugitive Slave Act.
Sebok, Note, Judging the Fugitive Slave Acts, 100 YALE L.
In 1793, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which empowered a person claiming he owned an alleged fugitive to "seize or arrest such fugitive," and "take him or her before any judge of the circuit or district courts of the United States.
After Prigg, the abolitionists' principal approach was to withdraw any state support for slaveowners seeking to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and capture blacks, making both the kidnapping of free blacks and the recovery of slaves more difficult.
Southerners had never been entirely happy with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 themselves.
The Fugitive Slave Act not only authorized not only the forcible return of fugitive slaves to their masters, but five years imprisonment to anyone who helped a suspected fugitive.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 provided for the legal return of
United States Constitution; (14) that the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was
government's enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.