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Fugitive slave catchers were people who returned escaped slaves to their owners in the United States in the mid-19th century. Slaves who managed to free themselves from their owners had yet another worry: fugitive slave catchers. The Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Law, the latter enacted pursuant to a specific provision contained in Article IV of the United States Constitution, created the Fugitive Slave.

A fugitive slave

A fugitive slave was a slave who had run away or abandoned his owner. By the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Law this was a criminal act and the title "Fugitive Slave" was born. Fugitive slave catchers were people who returned a slave that had run away from his or her owner. Federal and state laws guaranteed the right of southern slave holders to pursue and recover their property on Northern soil.[1]

Uneasy compromise and disagreement

At the time of Fugitive Slave catchers the North was moving more in the direction of abolition. The South[citation needed] wanted runaway slaves caught and brought back to their owners and they activated this by means of Fugitive Slave catchers. The Fugitive Slave Law stated that every citizen was responsible for helping to recover, punish, and return fugitive slaves; so any white person from the North or South could be, and was expected to be[citation needed], a fugitive slave catcher. (See also Indiana in Slavery to refute the idea that only Southern States held such views[2].)

The Northern states, however. began giving more freedom and rights to black people; as a result many slaves from the south fled north where they thought they could live with more opportunity for freedom. It was possible for them to be citizens in the North, and not live as slaves.

Helping fugitive slaves was punished

White abolitionists from the North and anyone else aiding in freedom or hiding of slaves were punished for their efforts. One account of drastic measures that fugitive slave catching went to was some 200 marine soldiers escorting one fugitive slave back into the custody of his owner.

The North increasingly opposed slave catching

With the North becoming increasingly opposed to the idea of fugitive slave catchers they adopted "anti-southern" views. Several northern states passed new personal liberty laws in defiance of the South's efforts to have slaves captured and returned. The new laws in the North did not make it impossible to catch fugitive slaves but it became so difficult, expensive and time consuming that the fugitive slave catchers and the owners stopped trying.[3]

References

  • Murrin, Johnson & McPherson, Gerstle Rosenburg; Liberty, Equality, Power; A History of The American People: Volume 1: to 1877 (4th edition) Thomas/ Wadsworth 2006

ISBN - 0006437885

  1. John Hope Franklin, Loren Schweninger, Runaway slaves: rebels on the plantation (Oxford University Press US, 2000) http://books.google.com/books?id=3pZgiM6pXosC&source=gbs_navlinks_s
  2. John Hope Franklin, Loren Schweninger, Runaway slaves: rebels on the plantation (Oxford University Press US, 2000) http://books.google.com/books?id=3pZgiM6pXosC&source=gbs_navlinks_s
  3. John Hope Franklin, Loren Schweninger, Runaway slaves: rebels on the plantation (Oxford University Press US, 2000) http://books.google.com/books?id=3pZgiM6pXosC&source=gbs_navlinks_s
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