Fugitive Slave Act 1850

Condensed but detailed notes on the 1850 compromise's Fugitive Slave Act and the impacts it had

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Fugitive Slave Act ­ Overview
Background:
First suggested by Senator Henry Clay in January 1850.
Stephen Douglass' successful legitimisation of the 1850 compromise legalised it.
It was a development of the 1793 "runaway act" making it the most controversial act of all previous
compromises.
Summary:
Aid given to escaping slaves was a federal crime $1,000 fine and 6 months in prison.
Omitted constitutional guarantees e.g. trial-by-jury.
Authorised federal marshals to raise posses to pursue fugitive slaves on northern soil.
$10 earned for every conviction / $5 earned for every acquittal. CORRUPTION
Commanded public assistance "whenever their services may be required."
Northern Reactions:
Minority: a price to save the union.
Moderates: distasteful / morally wrong.
Abolitionists: outrageous / "a filthy enactment".
Created new opponents; the idea of the federal government compelling kidnapping was repugnant.
Vigilance committees appeared in Northern communities to aid slaves escaping to Canada. Over 20,000
moved to Canada between 1850-57.
9 northern states passed personal liberty laws in the 1850s.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in 1851.
Sold 300,000 copies in one year, and was turned into songs and plays.
Made majority of northerners complicit in the fugitive slave act.
Galvanised anti-slavery sentiments.
Jerry McHenry
A violent slave rescue in Syracuse, New York in 1851. Abolitionists killed 1 captor and
lead him to Canada
Shadrach Minkins
Boston, early 1852. He was captured while working in a coffeehouse; rescued by Lewis Hayden who barricaded
the house with gunpowder and a large posse.
Southern Reactions:
Used the Fugitive Slave Act to "test northern goodwill". The vehement reactions to the law resulted in Southern
states feeling distrust towards the north.
Raising Tensions:
Resistance to slavery was now direct, sometimes violent.
Abolitionists and moderates merged; beginning to galvanise northern opposition.

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Southern distrust of the north was heightened and sectional animosity increased.…read more

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