Fugitive Slave Act of 1850


The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 represented an effort by white southerners to use federal power to protect slavery by providing for the recovery of fugitive slaves who crossed state boundaries in their efforts to escape. Meant to improve upon previous legislation to enforce the Constitution’s provision for the return of fugitives “held to service or labor,” the new law became the most controversial measure passed as part of what became known as the Compromise of 1850, an omnibus package of five bills. Many northerners who were at best vaguely antislavery still found the new measure...

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James Murray Mason (Library of Congress)

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