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Fugitive Slave Law (Murrin, 1999)

Textbook

John M. Murrin, et al., eds., Liberty Equality Power: A History of the American People, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1999), 456-57.

Abolitionist both black and white, denounced the law as draconian, immoral and unconstitutional. They vowed to resist it. Opportunities soon came, as slaveowners sent  agents north to recapture fugitives, some who had escaped years earlier (the act set no statute of limitations). In February 1851 slave-catchers arrested a black man living with his family in Indiana and returned him to an owner who said he had run away 19 years before.  A Maryland man tried to claim ownership of a Philadelphia woman who he said had escaped 22 years earlier; he also wanted her six children, all born in Philadelphia.  In this case, the commissioner disallowed his claim to both mother and children.  But statistics show that the law was rigged in favor of the claimants.  In the first 15 months of its operation, 84 fugitives were returned to slavery and only 5 were released.  (For the entire decade of the 1850s the ration was 332 to 11.)
How to Cite This Page: "Fugitive Slave Law (Murrin, 1999)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/16881.