Subversive Historian – 09/18/08

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

One-hundred and forty-eight years ago on this day in people’s history, the U.S. Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. On September 18th, 1850, the new legislation was perhaps the most controversial part of the Compromise of 1850 between the Northern states and the southern slaveholders. The provisions of the law called upon the Federal government to track down and return former slaves who had fled oppression in the South. Federal officials who failed to comply faced stiff penalties of upwards to $1,000 while any Northerner who aided and sheltered such so-called fugitives could be subjected to six months imprisonment and a similar fine. As a result of the Fugitive Slave Law, the abolitionist movement was radicalized further. Another outcome was the fact that both runaway and free slaves fearing being affected by its enactment fled to Canada.

Oh Canada, that bastion of freedom…


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