The fugitive slave act was passed by the United States congress onSeptember 18, 1850. It was part of the compromise of 1850 between the southernslaveholders and the north with free slaves. This act provided for the returnof slaves who escaped one state to another. This law was actually approved onFebruary 12, 1793 but it was strengthened by the demand of the southern statesin 1850. This act also required the government and even the residents toenforce the capture and return of the slaves.
This act had many immediateeffects and long term effects that shape the United States. This act caused theAmerican civil war, it caused the demand for civil rights and it caused theabomination of slavery. The 1850 fugitive slave act was enacted to further regulate thelife of slaves. It was put as a concession for the southern states as part ofthe compromise of 1850.
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One of the main reasons this act was prompted was to”obtain agreement between the southern states and the northern free states asto the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American war”(Socratic.org. During the Missouri compromise, California was declared a freestate. This outraged the south because it was supposed to be a slave statesince it was under the compromise line. To please the south and to recover fromthe in balance, the government set in an act that was beneficial to the south.Southerners also wanted this act to pass because they felt threatened whenthousands of slaves had escaped the slavery states to the free states. Most of the south supported the fugitive slave act.
Thesoutherners were the ones demanding the law to pass. They wanted a moreeffective legislation to further their control of the slaves of the slaves.They went so far that the slaves could not testify on their own behalf nor bepermitted a trial by jury. The southerners felt that the act would benefit thembecause every citizen in the United States was to be a slave catcher. They feltempowered because this law benefited the south.
The southerners also capturedfree African Americans and turned them into slaves. These free AfricanAmericans “were easy prey for kidnappers, who, under the guise of the FugitiveSlave Act, kidnapped and sold them into slavery” (education.gov). Some slavecatchers would kidnap African Americans without checking their identities.
Oncekidnapped, the slave catchers would destroy freedom papers and they would mostlikely never be able to regain their freedom again. So essentially, the south wasnot only catching runaway slaves; they were also kidnaping free AfricanAmericans. The north, on the other hand opposed the 1850 fugitive slave law.They believed it was inhumane. Northern states were so angered by the fugitiveslave law that they “passed special Lara’s nullifying the law, participated incivil disobedience and helped slaves escape to Canada” (PBS.org). Federalgovernment had to get involved and catch the slaves because the north did notwant to participate.
Quakers in Pennsylvania were jailed and fined for helpingthe runaway slaves. All of these disobeying actions done by the northern statesrendered the fugitive slave act as ineffective. So many people in the northopposed this act because it caused tensions between the north and south.
Theybelieved that the fugitive slave act was unfair because many free AfricanAmericans were sold into slavery without jury or anything. They felt it wasinhumane that African Americans were seen a property than actual human beings.During the years this act was effective; abolitionists groups increased.
Thisact showed how wrong slavery was and it is among the reasons why slavery is nothere today. The fugitive slave act of 1850 was being opposed more and moreuntil “the law became virtually unenforceable in certain northern states.Tensions between the south and north states grew stronger. The north stateskept trying to pass laws meant to oppress the act but they were most likelydenied. The immediate result of the fugitive slave act was the pleasure of thesoutherners being aided to catch runaway slaves.
The long term effects weredevastating. The fugitive slave act ultimately led to the civil war as tensionskept growing between the north and south. Also, the use of the undergroundrailroads increased tremendously and a lot of slaves escaped to Canada. Thefugitive slave act also helped people understand and examine how they viewedslavery and it forced them to make moral decision about slavery.