Second Fugitive Slave Law (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: A law aimed at making the rendition of fugitive slaves from Northern states easier for Southern slaveholders exacerbates tensions between North and South.
Summary of Event
The United States Congress passed the Second Fugitive Slave Law in September, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850. This compromise, its supporters hoped, would provide a permanent settlement of the long-standing dispute between the North and the South over slavery. The dispute had reached crisis proportions in 1848, after the United States forcefully acquired from Mexico huge territories in the Southwest, which raised the issue of the status of slavery in those territories. Most of the provisions of the Compromise of 1850 dealt with that issue. Southern white spokespersons also insisted that the government do something to prevent slave escapes into the North and to make it easier for masters to reclaim fugitive slaves from there.
Slave escapes had been common long before the United States became an independent country. It was the decision of the Northern states following the Revolutionary War to abolish slavery within their bounds that created a sectional issue. As a result, in 1787, Southern influence brought about the insertion in the U.S. Constitution of a clause providing that slaves escaping from one state to another were not to be freed but returned to their masters.
This clause established the...
(The entire section is 1571 words.)
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