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 classic literature ?
I was living in a time of high political tumult, and I certainly cared very much for the question of slavery which was then filling the minds of men; I felt deeply the shame and wrong of our Fugitive Slave Law; I was stirred by the news from Kansas, where the great struggle between the two great principles in our nationality was beginning in bloodshed; but I cannot pretend that any of these things were more than ripples on the surface of my intense and profound interest in literature.
An anti-abolitionist and a backer of fugitive slave laws, in line with common sentiments in southern Illinois, Logan was elected to the U.S.
The states in America were divided-- in the North, slavery was being abolished whereas in the South, fugitive slave laws were becoming tighter.
It was also imperative that the remedy sought by the petitioner be distinguished from the national fugitive slave laws, which compelled the return of slaves to their owners even when captured in free states.
Chase and his colleagues--which ultimately included Lincoln--did not believe they had the constitutional power to end slavery in the states--unlike the more extreme antislavery theorists like Lysander Spooner (599)--but they did believe the national government could withdraw much of its support for slavery by banning it from the territories, repealing the fugitive slave laws, abolishing it in Washington D.C., aggressively suppressing the already prohibited African slave trade, and even considering ending the interstate trade.
Northern defiance of the Fugitive Slave laws, excluding slavery from the Mexican cession, and abolishing the slave trade in Washington would have "depressing effects ...
An additional Article of War [March 1862] all but emasculated the Fugitive Slave Laws of 1793 and 1850.
federal fugitive slave laws superseded state fugitive slave laws, (9)
Since the 1830s, African-American abolitionists in the North (with the backing of a few steadfast white abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison) formed a social underground, which protected runaway slaves or assisted them in crossing the border into Canada, where they could be safe from the operations of fugitive slave laws. Washington's biography of Sojourner Truth, who was born a slave in 1797, is a significant contribution to the literature, as well as an intimate treatment of the life of one of these antislavery activists.
In 1850 Spooner published A Defence for Fugitive Slaves, Against the Acts of Congress on February 12, 1793 and September 18, 1850, where he argued that juries "are judges of the law, as well as the fact" and are therefore justified in nullifying federal fugitive slave laws. "No man can be punished for resisting the execution of any law," Spooner wrote, "unless the law be so clearly constitutional, as that a jury, taken promiscuously from the mass of the people, will all agree that it is constitutional" Today we call this radical approach "jury nullification."
Northern abolitionists sought to nullify the Constitution itself, albeit to stop a hideous injustice, in opposing the fugitive slave laws (as well as the unconstitutional federalization of those laws after the Compromise of 1850).
However, to evade Hugh Auld, who still held a legal claim on Douglass under the fugitive slave laws, Douglass traveled to England for a two-year speaking tour of the British Isles, raising anti-slavery sympathies.