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First and Second Fugitive Slave Acts -- differences?

Hello. I am writing a research paper on the Second Fugitive Slave Act. In my paper i have to describe the 1st Fugitive Slave act of 1793. Can you help me find articles that have infomation on this topic? Also, can you find an article on how the 1st act was differet from the 2nd?

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One of the differences between the fugitive slave acts of 1793 and 1850 might be termed motivational differences. The differences address the question of what motivated the laws to be enacted: were the motivations the same or different?

The first in 1793 came about because Southern masters had difficulties reclaiming run-away slaves from the Northern states which had agreed upon independence of the colonies from England to abolish slavery in the North. The issue of rendition of escaped slaves (rendition: surrender of persons or goods) came to the attention of Congress, through the referral of President Washington, because of the difficulties in the case in which Pennsylvania accused men in Virginia of kidnapping free black men under the guise of calling them run-away slaves. The motive for Congress finally producing a bill that addressed the issue of rendition of slaves was to settle a North-South dispute in which the North wanted to protect its citizens and the South wanted to more easily reclaim its property.

The second of 1850 came about after a great expanse of land was added to the United States following a victory over Mexico. The North-South dispute over the curtailment or expansion of the rights to slavery extended itself into the question of governance of the new territory. As part of the Compromise of 1850, the new fugitive slave act allowed for greater dominance of Southern interests in rendition of slaves to rightful owners. The motivation in this second fugitive slave act was to bring peaceable agreement about between the North and South in regards to the future of the new territories. Both North and South were adamant about extending their influence and philosophies and rights into the new territories. In this case, Congress's motivation to act was to keep the nation at peace and unified. The motivations were singularly different for the enactment of the first and second fugitive slave acts; you might say it was State protectionism versus State expansionism.

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Usually when a law is changed it is changed to make it more strenuous, or to give it "teeth" so to speak.  The first Fugitive Slave Act was much weaker in terms of penalties for people helping slaves escape.  By the time the second Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, many northern states were havens for escaping slaves, so there was a need to give people incentives to comply with the law.

The second law is more specific in terms of applying punishment to people who try to help a slave escape or harbor a slave.  Although the law itself is pretty cumbersome to read, Section 7 is pretty specific.

[Any person assisting a fleeing slave will] be subject to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, and imprisonment not exceeding six months, by indictment and conviction before the District Court of the United States for the district in which such offence may have been committed. (

By this time, both slave states and free states were having to face the reality that they could not co-exist.  The battle over slavery would not end with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

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Another aspect of the Second Law that was different was that it authorized federal district courts to appoint commissioners to determine whether apprehended people were fugitive slaves or not. But the law provided for twice as much compensation (ten dollars) for commissioners who ruled in favor of a master's claim on a fugitive than for those that did not. So the commissioners had a financial stake in siding with the masters. 

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Since you are a premium member here at eNotes, you should be able to access the full text of all of the three links below.  One of them describes both Fugitive Slave Acts while the other two each describe one of the Acts.  These articles should give you all of the information you need.

The basic difference between the First Fugitive Slave Act and the Second was that the earlier law did not really give help to people trying to recover their slaves.  It allowed a slaveowner to come and get his slave and bring the slave back to slavery, but it provided for no government help for that person in doing so.  The later law required federal marshals to help catch fugitive slaves and it allowed them to force regular citizens to help them.

Basically, the second law was much more favorable to the slaveowners than the first one was.

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