The Fugitive Slave Problem, 1850 to 1864

Don E. Fehrenbacher and Ward M. McAfee

in The Slaveholding Republic

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780195158052
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849475 | DOI:
The Fugitive Slave Problem, 1850 to 1864

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The bill signed by President Millard Fillmore in 1850 was designated an amendment supplementary to the act of 1793. Essentially, it expanded federal power over the interstate rendition of fugitive slaves at the expense of state power to intervene in the process. Thus, anyone taken into custody as a fugitive slave was cut off from the traditional legal resorts of an accused person. As for extralegal action, the new law made it more hazardous by increasing financial penalties and adding the threat of imprisonment. The law of 1850 never could have been passed except as part of a grand design of compromise at a time of national crisis. It was utterly one-sided, lending categorical federal protection to slavery while making no concession to the humanity of African Americans or to the humanitarian sensibilities of many white Americans.

Keywords: Millard Fillmore; fugitive slaves; law; penalties; imprisonment; slavery; African Americans

Chapter.  9254 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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