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The Civil War

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Essay title: The Civil War


The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was a Federal law which was written with the intention of enforcing a section of the United States Constitution that required the return of runaway slaves. It sought to force the authorities in free states to return fugitive slaves to their masters. In practice, however, the law was rarely enforced because the northern states were against slavery. The act protected property rights of white slave-owners while violating the rights of the individuals who had been enslaved by an unjust system.

Some Northern states passed "personal liberty laws", mandating a jury trial before alleged fugitive slaves could be moved. Otherwise, they feared free blacks could be kidnapped into slavery. Other states forbade the use of local jails or the assistance of state officials in the arrest or return of such fugitives. In some cases, juries simply refused to convict individuals who had been indicted under the Federal law. Moreover, locals in some areas actively fought attempts to seize fugitives and return them to the South.

The Missouri Supreme Court routinely held that voluntary transportation of slaves into free states, with the intent of residing there permanently or indefinitely, automatically made them free. The Fugitive Slave Law dealt with slaves who went into free states without their master's consent. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842), that states did not have to proffer aid in the hunting or recapture of slaves, greatly weakening the law of 1793.

[edit] New law


Period and context

History of slavery

Slavery in antiquity

Slavery and religion

Atlantic slave trade

African slave trade

Arab slave trade

The Bible and slavery

Christianity and slavery

Islam and slavery

Judaism and slavery

Slavery in Asia

Human trafficking

Sexual slavery






Unfree labour

Debt bondage

Indentured servant

List of slaves

Legal status


Category: Slavery

Category: Slave trade

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