Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (September 18, 1850)

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Quick Facts about the subject of this entry.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was enacted by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 expanded the federal government to track down and apprehend fugitive slaves in the North.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made any Federal marshal or other official who did not arrest an alleged runaway slave subject to a fine of $1,000.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required law-enforcement officials to arrest anyone suspected of being a runaway slave on no more evidence than a claimant's sworn testimony of ownership.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 denied suspected runaway slaves of the right to jury trials.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 denied suspected runaway slaves of the right to testify on their or her own behalf.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 stipulated that persons aiding runaway slaves by providing food or shelter were subject to six months' imprisonment and $1,000 fines.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 created a force of federal commissioners empowered to pursue fugitive slaves in any state and return them to their owners.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 empowered federal commissioners to issue warrants, depose witnesses, and employ federal marshals to arrest and imprison suspected runaways within the jurisdictions of the individual states.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 empowered federal commissioners to imposes fines of $1,000 on federal marshals or local officials who did not cooperate in the pursuit or arrest alleged runaways.

Federal commissioners created by the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 received ten dollars, paid by the plaintiffs (slave owners), for each suspect sent back into bondage and half of that amount for each suspect set free.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 empowered the federal government to deputize citizens, even against their will, and force them to take part in posses or other groups to seize fugitive slaves.

Historians estimate that eighty percent of accused runaways brought before federal commissioners under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 were sent into bondage.

Many Northerners disapproved of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 because the terms of the law were much harsher and more unfair to suspected runaway slaves.

Many Northerners disapproved of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 because the terms of the law impinged upon their own freedom by requiring them to personally participate in the pursuit and apprehension of suspected runaways.

Many Northerners disapproved of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 because it circumvented state and local jurisdiction and expanded the power of the federal government.

In a strange reversal of roles, Southern apostles of states' rights championed the extension of federal jurisdiction to protect their property rights north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Simultaneously, many Northern promoters of federal authority to limit or even abolish slavery found the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 insidious and threatening to home rule.

Rather than reduce sectional division over the issue of slavery, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 fanned the flames of civil war in the United States.

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