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The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 provided the means by which the Fugitive Slave Clause in Article 4 Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution could be carried out. The clause stated that a slaveholder had the right to claim any slave who had escaped from his possession. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was part of the Compromise of 1850 where by California would enter the union as a free state, future territories applying for statehood would vote on the issue of slavery, and any slave who went into free states without the consent of their master must be returned. To ensure enforcement penalities were perscribed for states that did not comply.
As for perspectives on the Fugitive Slave Acts, one of the best examples is that of Oney Judge. Escaped slave belonging to George Washington post 1793 gave her account to The Liberator an abolitionist newspaper just prior to the 1850 law which no doubt was already looming by 1848.
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 stated that fugitive slaves were to be returned to their masters. This law actually had something to do with the rising of the underground railroad. Slavery was strong in the south but not very popular in the north. This slave law was not heavily enforced in the north and this angered many southerners. Because of this, abolitionists created the underground railroad to assist slaves in reaching their freedom.
Because the south was very angry, it led to the Compromise of 1850. It had much more strict laws regarding slaves than the law in 1793. There were very heavy penalties for those who help slaves escape and if a white man said a black man was his slave, the black man really had no voice.
If you start with the idea that slavery is legal, then fugitive slave laws make sense. It does not make sense that my property could stop being my property if it went to some other state.
However, even if you look at it like that, there were two big problems with the 1850 law, in my opinion. First, it said that only one witness (white) was needed to prove the black person was a slave. That seems to invite lying. Second, the judges got paid more if they said the black person was a slave and less if they said he was not. That gives them an incentive to say the black person was a slave.
I also read that the law stated that no one could help that accused slave and if they did they would be charged accordingly. Bt their was many people who felt that the act was wrong and that once slaves got away they should not be sent back to be a slave. Is it right for the slave to have to go back or not be set free?
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