The 1850
Fugitive Slave Law
And Synopsis
The Compromise of 1850
The Compromise of 1850 consisted of four seperate bills:
1. Texas land (Texas was paid 10 million dollars).
2. California would enter the Union as a free state.
3. Ended the sale of slaves in the District of Columbia (but slaves were still owned in the District).
4. The territories of New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah were organized without mention of
slavery.
5. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed to replace the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act.

The 1850 Fugitive Slave Law
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was an attempt to overcome the barriers being set up by free
states against the Fugitive Act of 1793. This law placed greater power with federal officers to
enforce slave laws of the slave states. Marshals, deputy marshals were required to execute the
warrants from all Federal Judges in regard to this act and they became liable for the return of
the runaway after being placed in their custody. Commissioners could also appoint individuals to
execute warrants or form posses. The act also provided stiff fines and punishments to anyone
aiding or abetting the escape of slaves. The U. S. Marshal also had the responsibility to return
the runaways to the state from which they escaped. They could be returned either to an agent or
the owner.

President Millard Fillmore, initially requested the opinion of the Attorney general J. J. Crittenden
on the constitutionality of the bill, specifically the sixth section which he worried might be a
suspension of the writ of
habeas corpus. He reduced the law to a one paragraph explanation.

                                     
   1850 Fugitive Slave Law

"An Act Respecting Fugitives from Justice, and Persons Escaping from the Service of
their Masters"

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of
America in Congress assembled, That the persons who have been, or may hereafter
be, appointed commissioners, in virtue of any act of Congress, by the Circuit Courts of
the United States, and Who, in consequence of such appointment, are authorized to
exercise the powers that any justice of the peace, or other magistrate of any of the
United States, may exercise in respect to offenders for any crime or offense against
the United States, by arresting, imprisoning, or bailing the same under and by the
virtue of the thirty-third section of the act of the twenty-fourth of September
seventeen hundred and eighty-nine, entitled "An Act to establish the judicial courts of
the United States" shall be, and are hereby, authorized and required to exercise and
discharge all the powers and duties conferred by this act.

Section 1: United States Commissioners "authorized and required to exercise and discharge all
the powers and duties conferred by this act."

2. And be it further enacted, That the Superior Court of each organized Territory of the
United States shall have the same power to appoint commissioners to take
acknowledgments of bail and affidavits, and to take depositions of witnesses in civil
causes, which is now possessed by the Circuit Court of the United States; and all
commissioners who shall hereafter be appointed for such purposes by the Superior
Court of any organized Territory of the United States, shall possess all the powers, and
exercise all the duties, conferred by law upon the commissioners appointed by the
Circuit Courts of the United States for similar purposes, and shall moreover exercise
and discharge all the powers and duties conferred by this act.

Sect. 2. Commissioners for the Territories to be appointed by the Superior Court of the same.

3. And be it further enacted, That the Superior Court of each organized Territory of the
United States shall have the same power to appoint commissioners to take
acknowledgments of bail and affidavits, and to take depositions of witnesses in civil
causes, which is now possessed by the Circuit Court of the United States; and all
commissioners who shall hereafter be appointed for such purposes by the Superior
Court of any organized Territory of the United States, shall possess all the powers, and
exercise all the duties, conferred by law upon the commissioners appointed by the
Circuit Courts of the United States for similar purposes, and shall moreover exercise
and discharge all the powers and duties conferred by this act.

Sect. 3 United States Circuit Courts, and Superior Courts of Territories, required to enlarge the
number of Commissioners, "with a view to afford reasonable facilities to reclaim fugitives from
labor," etc.

4. And be it further enacted, That the commissioners above named shall have
concurrent jurisdiction with the judges of the Circuit and District Courts of the United
States, in their respective circuits and districts within the several States, and the
judges of the Superior Courts of the Territories, severally and collectively, in term-
time and vacation; shall grant certificates to such claimants, upon satisfactory proof
being made, with authority to take and remove such fugitives from service or labor,
under the restrictions herein contained, to the State or Territory from which such
persons may have escaped or fled.

Sect 4. Commissioners put on the same footing with Judge of the Superior Courts, with regard to
enforcing the Law and its penalties.

5. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of all marshals and deputy
marshals to obey and execute all warrants and precepts issued under the provisions
of this act, when to them directed; and should any marshal or deputy marshal refuse to
receive such warrant, or other process, when tendered, or to use all proper means
diligently to execute the same, he shall, on conviction thereof, be fined in the sum of
one thousand dollars, to the use of such claimant, on the motion of such claimant, by
the Circuit or District Court for the district of such marshal; and after arrest of such
fugitive, by such marshal or his deputy, or whilst at any time in his custody under the
provisions of this act, should such fugitive escape, whether with or without the assent
of such marshal or his deputy, such marshal shall be liable, on his official bond, to be
prosecuted for the benefit of such claimant, for the full value of the service or labor of
said fugitive in the State, Territory, or District whence he escaped: and the better to
enable the said commissioners, when thus appointed, to execute their duties faithfully
and efficiently, in conformity with the requirements of the Constitution of the United
States and of this act, they are hereby authorized and empowered, within their
counties respectively, to appoint, in writing under their hands, any one or more
suitable persons, from time to time, to execute all such warrants and other process as
may be issued by them in the lawful performance of their respective duties; with
authority to such commissioners, or the persons to be appointed by them, to execute
process as aforesaid, to summon and call to their aid the bystanders, or posse
comitatus of the proper county, when necessary to ensure a faithful observance of the
clause of the Constitution referred to, in conformity with the provisions of this act; and
all good citizens are hereby commanded to aid and assist in the prompt and efficient
execution of this law, whenever their services may be required, as aforesaid, for that
purpose; and said warrants shall run, and be executed by said officers, any where in
the State within which they are issued.

Sect 5. United States Marshals and Deputy Marshals, who may refuse to act under the Law, to
be fined one thousand dollars, to the use of the claimant. If a fugitive escape from the custody of
a Marshal, the Marshal to be liable for his full value. Commissioners authorized to appoint
special officers, and to call out the
posse comitatus, etc.

6. And be it further enacted, That when a person held to service or labor in any State
or Territory of the United States, has heretofore or shall hereafter escape into another
State or Territory of the United States, the person or persons to whom such service or
labor may be due, or his, her, or their agent or attorney, duly authorized, by power of
attorney, in writing, acknowledged and certified under the seal of some legal officer or
court of the State or Territory in which the same may be executed, may pursue and
reclaim such fugitive person, either by procuring a warrant from some one of the
courts, judges, or commissioners aforesaid, of the proper circuit, district, or county,
for the apprehension of such fugitive from service or labor, or by seizing and
arresting such fugitive, where the same can be done without process, and by taking,
or causing such person to be taken, forthwith before such court, judge, or
commissioner, whose duty it shall be to hear and determine the case of such claimant
in a summary manner; and upon satisfactory proof being made, by deposition or
affidavit, in writing, to be taken and certified by such court, judge, or commissioner, or
by other satisfactory testimony, duly taken and certified by some court, magistrate,
justice of the peace, or other legal officer authorized to administer an oath and take
depositions under the laws of the State or Territory from which such person owing
service or labor may have escaped, with a certificate of such magistracy or other
authority, as aforesaid, with the seal of the proper court or officer thereto attached,
which seal shall be sufficient to establish the competency of the proof, and with proof,
also by affidavit, of the identity of the person whose service or labor is claimed to be
due as aforesaid, that the person so arrested does in fact owe service or labor to the
person or persons claiming him or her, in the State or Territory from which such
fugitive may have escaped as aforesaid, and that said person escaped, to make out
and deliver to such claimant, his or her agent or attorney, a certificate setting forth the
substantial facts as to the service or labor due from such fugitive to the claimant, and
of his or her escape from the State or Territory in which he or she was arrested, with
authority to such claimant, or his or her agent or attorney, to use such reasonable
force and restraint as may be necessary, under the circumstances of the case, to take
and remove such fugitive person back to the State or Territory whence he or she may
have escaped as aforesaid. In no trial or hearing under this act shall the testimony of
such alleged fugitive be admitted in evidence; and the certificates in this and the first
[fourth] section mentioned, shall be conclusive of the right of the person or persons
in whose favor granted, to remove such fugitive to the State or Territory from which
he escaped, and shall prevent all molestation of such person or persons by any
process issued by any court, judge, magistrate, or other person whomsoever.

Sect 6. The claimant of any fugitive slave, or his attorney, "may pursue and reclaim such fugitive
person, " either by procuring a warrant from some Judge or Commissioner," whose duty it shall
be to hear and determine the case of such claimant in a summary manner," and, if satisfied of
the identity of the prisoner, to grant a certificate to said claimant to "remove such fugitive person
back to the State or Territory from whence he or she may have escaped," -- using "such
reasonable force or restraint as may be necessary under the circumstances of the case." "In no
trail or hearing under this act shall the testimony of such alleged fugitive be admitted in
evidence." All molestation of the claimant, in the removal of his slave, "by any process issued by
any court, judge, magistrate, or other person whomsoever," prohibited.

(See
Ex Parte Garnett for clarification)

7. And be it further enacted, That any person who shall knowingly and willingly
obstruct, hinder, or prevent such claimant, his agent or attorney, or any person or
persons lawfully assisting him, her, or them, from arresting such a fugitive from
service or labor, either with or without process as aforesaid, or shall rescue, or
attempt to rescue, such fugitive from service or labor, from the custody of such
claimant, his or her agent or attorney, or other person or persons lawfully assisting as
aforesaid, when so arrested, pursuant to the authority herein given and declared; or
shall aid, abet, or assist such person so owing service or labor as aforesaid, directly
or indirectly, to escape from such claimant, his agent or attorney, or other person or
persons legally authorized as aforesaid; or shall harbor or conceal such fugitive, so as
to prevent the discovery and arrest of such person, after notice or knowledge of the
fact that such person was a fugitive from service or labor as aforesaid, shall, for either
of said offences, be subject to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, and
imprisonment not exceeding six months, by indictment and conviction before the
District Court of the United States for the district in which such offence may have been
committed, or before the proper court of criminal jurisdiction, if committed within any
one of the organized Territories of the United States; and shall moreover forfeit and
pay, by way of civil damages to the party injured by such illegal conduct, the sum of
one thousand dollars for each fugitive so lost as aforesaid, to be recovered by action
of debt, in any of the District or Territorial Courts aforesaid, within whose jurisdiction
the said offence may have been committed.

Sect 7. Any person obstructing the arrest of a fugitive, or attempting his or her rescue, or aiding
him or her to escape, or harboring and concealing a fugitive, knowing him to be such, shall be
subject to a fine of not exceeding one thousand dollars, and to be imprisoned not exceeding six
months, and shall also "forfeit and pay the sum of one thousand dollars for each fugitive so lost."

8. And be it further enacted, That the marshals, their deputies, and the clerks of the
said District and Territorial Courts, shall be paid, for their services, the like fees as
may be allowed for similar services in other cases; and where such services are
rendered exclusively in the arrest, custody, and delivery of the fugitive to the
claimant, his or her agent or attorney, or where such supposed fugitive may be
discharged out of custody for the want of sufficient proof as aforesaid, then such fees
are to be paid in whole by such claimant, his or her agent or attorney; and in all cases
where the proceedings are before a commissioner, he shall be entitled to a fee of ten
dollars in full for his services in each case, upon the delivery of the said certificate to
the claimant, his agent or attorney; or a fee of five dollars in cases where the proof
shall not, in the opinion of such commissioner, warrant such certificate and delivery,
inclusive of all services incident to such arrest and examination, to be paid, in either
case, by the claimant, his or her agent or attorney. The person or persons authorized
to execute the process to be issued by such commissioner for the arrest and
detention of fugitives from service or labor as aforesaid, shall also be entitled to a fee
of five dollars each for each person he or they may arrest, and take before any
commissioner as aforesaid, at the instance and request of such claimant, with such
other fees as may be deemed reasonable by such commissioner for such other
additional services as may be necessarily performed by him or them; such as
attending at the examination, keeping the fugitive in custody, and providing him with
food and lodging during his detention, and until the final determination of such
commissioners; and, in general, for performing such other duties as may be required
by such claimant, his or her attorney or agent, or commissioner in the premises, such
fees to be made up in conformity with the fees usually charged by the officers of the
courts of justice within the proper district or county, as near as may be practicable,
and paid by such claimants, their agents or attorneys, whether such supposed
fugitives from service or labor be ordered to be delivered to such claimant by the final
determination of such commissioner or not.

Sect. 8 Marshals, deputies, clerks and special officers to receive usual fees; Commissioners to
receive ten dollars, if fugitive is given up to claimant; otherwise, five dollars; to be paid by
claimant.

9. And be it further enacted, That, upon affidavit made by the claimant of such fugitive,
his agent or attorney, after such certificate has been issued, that he has reason to
apprehend that such fugitive will he rescued by force from his or their possession
before he can be taken beyond the limits of the State in which the arrest is made, it
shall be the duty of the officer making the arrest to retain such fugitive in his custody,
and to remove him to the State whence he fled, and there to deliver him to said
claimant, his agent, or attorney. And to this end, the officer aforesaid is hereby
authorized and required to employ so many persons as he may deem necessary to
overcome such force, and to retain them in his service so long as circumstances may
require. The said officer and his assistants, while so employed, to receive the same
compensation, and to be allowed the same expenses, as are now allowed by law for
transportation of criminals, to be certified by the judge of the district within which the
arrest is made, and paid out of the treasury of the United States.

Sect. 9. If claimant make affidavit that he fears a rescue of such fugitive from his possession, the
officer making the arrest to retain him in custody, and "to remove him to the State whence he
fled."  Said officer "To employ so many persons as he may deem necessary." All, while so
employed, to be paid out of the Treasury of the United States."

10. And be it further enacted, That when any person held to service or labor in any
State or Territory, or in the District of Columbia, shall escape therefrom, the party to
whom such service or labor shall be due, his, her, or their agent or attorney, may apply
to any court of record therein, or judge thereof in vacation, and make satisfactory
proof to such court, or judge in vacation, of the escape aforesaid, and that the person
escaping owed service or labor to such party. Whereupon the court shall cause a
record to be made of the matters so proved, and also a general description of the
person so escaping, with such convenient certainty as may be; and a transcript of
such record, authenticated by the attestation of the clerk and of the seal of the said
court, being produced in any other State, Territory, or district in which the person so
escaping may be found, and being exhibited to any judge, commissioner, or other
office, authorized by the law of the United States to cause persons escaping from
service or labor to be delivered up, shall be held and taken to be full and conclusive
evidence of the fact of escape, and that the service or labor of the person escaping is
due to the party in such record mentioned. And upon the production by the said party
of other and further evidence if necessary, either oral or by affidavit, in addition to
what is contained in the said record of the identity of the person escaping, he or she
shall be delivered up to the claimant, And the said court, commissioner, judge, or
other person authorized by this act to grant certificates to claimants or fugitives, shall,
upon the production of the record and other evidences aforesaid, grant to such
claimant a certificate of his right to take any such person identified and proved to be
owing service or labor as aforesaid, which certificate shall authorize such claimant to
seize or arrest and transport such person to the State or Territory from which he
escaped: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed as requiring the
production of a transcript of such record as evidence as aforesaid. But in its absence
the claim shall be heard and determined upon other satisfactory proofs, competent in
law.

Sect 10. (This section provides an additional and wholly distinct method for the capture of a
fugitive; and, it may be added, one of the loosest and most extraordinary that ever appeared on
the pages of a statute book.) Any person, for whom one held to service or labor has escaped,
upon making "satisfactory proof" of such escape before any court of record, or judge thereof in
vacation, -- a record of matters as proved shall be made by such court, or judge, and also a
description of the person escaping, "with such convenient certainty as may be;" -- a copy of
which record, duly attested, "being produced in any other State, Territory or District," and "being
exhibited to any Judge, Commissioner, or other officer authorized," -- shall be held and taken to
be full and conclusive evidence of the fact of escape, and that the service or labor of the person
escaping is due to the party in such record mentioned; "when, on satisfactory proof of identity, "
he or she shall be delivered up to the claimant." "Provided, That nothing herein contained shall
be construed as requiring the production of a transcript of such record as evidence as
aforesaid; but in its absence, the claim shall be heard and determined upon other satisfactory
proofs competent in law."


* * *

The Fugitive Slave Law was enacted by Congress in September, 1850, received the signature of
Howell Cobb (Ga) as Speaker of the House of Representatives and William R. King (Al) as
President pro tempore of the Senate.. The bill was signed into law on September 18, 1850 by
President Millard Fillmore. The authorship of the bill is generally ascribed to James M. Mason,
Senator from Virginia.

Voting against the act were John P Hale, Charles Sumner, Salmon Chase, Benjamin Wade,
Baldwin, Bradbury, Davis (Mass), Henry Dodge, Green, Winthrop, Walker, Smith, Dayton.

Opinion of the Attorney General J. J. Crittenden
CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE FUGITIVE SLAVE BILL.

The provisions of the bill, commonly called the fugitive slave bill, and which Congress have
submitted to the President for his approval and signature, are not in conflict with the provisions
of the Constitution in relation to the
writ of habeas corpus.

The expressions used in the last clause of the sixth section, that the certificate therein alluded to
"shall prevent all molestation" of the persons to whom granted, "by any process issued," etc.,
probably mean only what the act of 1793 meant by declaring a certificate under that act a
sufficient warrant for the removal of a fugitive; and do not mean a suspension of the
writ of
habeas corpus
.

There is nothing in the act inconsistent with the Constitution, nor which is not necessary to
redeem the pledge which it contains, that fugitive slaves shall be delivered upon the claim of
their owners.

Attorney-general's Office,      
September 18,1850.
Sir,—I have had the honor to receive your note of this date, informing me that the bill, commonly
called the fugitive slave bill, having passed both houses of Congress, had been submitted to you
for your consideration, approval, and signature, and requesting my opinion whether the sixth
section of that act, and especially the last clause of that section, conflicts with that provision of
the Constitution which declares that "the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be
suspended unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it."

It is my clear conviction that there is nothing in the last clause, nor in any part of the sixth
section, nor, indeed, in any of the provisions of the act, which suspends, or was intended to
suspend, the privilege of the
writ of habeas corpus, or is in any manner in conflict with the
Constitution.

The Constitution, in the second section of the fourth article, declares that " no person held to
service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in
consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but
shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."

It is well known and admitted, historically and judicially, that this clause of the Constitution was
made for the purpose of securing to the citizens of the slaveholding States the complete
ownership in their slaves, as property, in any and every State or Territory of the Union into which
they might escape. (
Prigg vs. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 16 Peters, 539.) It devolved on
the general government, as a solemn duty, to make that security effectual. Their power was not
only clear and full, but, according to the opinion of the court in the above-cited case, it was
exclusive,—the States, severally, being under no obligation, and having no power to make laws
or regulations in respect to the delivery of fugitives. Thus the whole power, and with it the whole
duty, of carrying into effect this important provision of the Constitution, was with Congress. And,
accordingly, soon after the adoption of the Constitution, the act of the 12th of February, 1793,
was passed, and that proving unsatisfactory and inefficient, by reason (among other causes) of
some minor errors in its details, Congress are now attempting by this bill to discharge a
constitutional obligation, by securing more effectually the delivery of fugitive slaves to their
owners. The sixth, and most material section, in substance declares that the claimant of the
fugitive slave may arrest and carry him before any one of the officers named and described in
the bill; and provides that those officers, and each of them, shall have judicial power and
jurisdiction to hear, examine, and decide the case in a summary manner,—that if, upon such
hearing, the claimant, by the requisite proof, shall establish his claim to the satisfaction of the
tribunal thus constituted, the said tribunal shall give him a certificate, stating therein the
substantial facts of the case, and authorizing him, with such reasonable force as may be
necessary, to take and carry said fugitive back to the State or Territory whence he or she may
have escaped,—and then, in conclusion, proceeds^as follows: "The certificates in this and the
first section mentioned, shall be conclusive of the right of the person or persons in whose favor
granted to remove such fugitive to the State or Territory from which he escaped, and shall
prevent all molestation of such person or persons by any process issued by any court, judge,
magistrate, or other person whomsoever."

There is nothing in all this that does not seem to me to be consistent with the Constitution, and
necessary, indeed, to redeem the pledge which it contains, that such fugitives "shall be delivered
up on claim" of their owners.

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that the owner, independent of any aid
from State or national legislation, may, in virtue of the Constitution, and his own right of property,
seize and recapture his fugitive slave in whatsoever State he may find him, and carry him back to
the State or Territory from which he escaped.
(Prigg vs. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 16
Peters, 539.)
This bill, therefore, confers no right on the owner of the fugitive slave. It only gives
him an appointed and peaceable remedy in place of the more exposed and insecure, Dut not
less lawful mode of self-redress; and as to the fugitive slave, he has no cause to complain of this
bill,—it adds no coercion to that which his owner himself might, at his own will, rightfully exercise;
and all the proceedings which it institutes are but so much of orderly, judicial authority
interposed between him and his owner, and consequently of protection to him, and mitigation of
the exercise directly by the owner himself of his personal authority. This is the constitutional and
legal view of the subject, as sanctioned by the decisions of the Supreme Court, and to that I limit
myself.

The act of the 12th of February, 1793, before alluded to, so far as it respects any constitutional
question that can arise out of this bill, is identical with it. It authorizes the like arrest of the fugitive
slave, the like trial, the like judgment, the like certificate, with the like authority to the owner, by
virtue of that certificate as his warrant, to remove him to the State or Territory from which he
escaped, and the constitutionality of that act, in all those particulars, has been affirmed by the
adjudications of State tribunals, and of the courts of the United States, without a single dissent,
so far as I know. (
Baldwin, C. C. R. 177, 579)

I conclude, therefore, that so far as the act of the 12th of February, 1793, has been held to be
constitutional, this bill must also be so regarded; and that the custody, restraint, and removal to
which the fugitive slave may be subjected under the provisions of this bill, are all lawful, and that
the certificate to be granted to the owner is to be regarded as the act and judgment of a judicial
tribunal having competent jurisdiction.

With these remarks as to the constitutionality of the general provisions of the bill, and the
consequent legality of the custody and confinement to which the fugitive slave may be subjected
under it, I proceed to a brief consideration of the more particular question you have propounded
in reference to the writ of habeas corpus, and of the last clause of the sixth section, above
quoted, which gives rise to that question.

My opinion, as before expressed, is that there is nothing in that clause or section which conflicts
with or suspends, or was intended to suspend, the privilege of the
writ of habeas corpus. I think
so because the bill says not one word about that writ; because, by the Constitution, Congress is
expressly forbidden to suspend the privilege of this writ, " unless when in cases of rebellion or
invasion the public safety may require it;" and therefore such suspension by this act (there being
neither rebellion nor invasion) would be a plain and palpable violation of the Constitution, and no
intention to commit such a violation of the Constitution, of their duty and their oaths, ought to be
imputed to them upon mere constructions and implications; and thirdly, because there is no
incompatibility between these provisions of the bill and the privilege of the
writ of habeas corpus
in its utmost constitutional latitude.

Congress, in the case of fugitive slaves, as in all other cases within the scope of its constitutional
authority, has the unquestionable right to ordain and prescribe for what causes, to what extent,
and in what manner persons may be taken into custody, detained, or imprisoned. Without this
power they could not fulfill their constitutional trust, nor perform the ordinary and necessary
duties of government. It was never heard that the exercise of that legislative power was any
encroachment upon or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. It is only by
some confusion of ideas that such a conflict can be supposed to exist. It is not within the
province or privilege of this great writ to loose those whom the law has bound. That would be to
put a writ granted by the law in opposition to the law, to make one part of the law destructive of
another. This writ follows the law and obeys the law. It is issued, upon proper complaint, to make
inquiry into the causes of commitment or imprisonment, and its sole remedial power and purpose
is to deliver the party from "all manner of illegal confinement."
(3 Black. Com. 131.) If upon
application to the court or judge for this writ, or if upon its return it shall appear that the
confinement complained of was lawful, the writ, in the first instance, would be refused, and in the
last the party would be remanded to his former lawful custody.

The condition of one in custody as a fugitive slave is, under this law, so far as respects the writ
of
habeas corpus, precisely the same as that of all other prisoners under the laws of the United
States. The " privilege" of that writ remains alike to all of them, but to be judged of—granted or
refused, discharged or enforced—by the proper tribunal, according to the circumstances of each
case, and as the commitment and detention may appear to be legal or illegal.

The whole effect of the law may be thus briefly stated: Congress has constituted a tribunal with
exclusive jurisdiction to determine summarily and without appeal who are fugitives from service
or labor under the second section of the fourth article of the Constitution, and to whom such
service or labor is due. The judgment of every tribunal of exclusive jurisdiction where no appeal
lies, is, of necessity, conclusive upon every other tribunal; and therefore the judgment of the
tribunal created by this act is conclusive upon all tribunals. Wherever this judgment is made to
appear, it is conclusive of the right of the owner to retain in his custody the fugitive from his
service, and to remove him back to the place or State from which he escaped. If it is shown upon
the application of the fugitive for a writ of habeas corpus, it prevents the issuing of the writ; if
upon the return, it discharges the writ and restores or maintains the custody.

This view of the law of this case is fully sustained by the decision of the Supreme Court of the
United States in the case of Tobias Watkins, where the court refused to discharge upon the
ground that he was in custody under the sentence of a court of competent jurisdiction, and that
that judgment was conclusive upon them. (3 Peters.)

The expressions used in the last clause of the sixth section, that the certificate therein alluded to
"shall prevent all molestation" of the persons to whom granted "by any process issued," etc.,
probably mean only what the act of 1793 meant by declaring a certificate under that act a
sufficient warrant for the removal of a fugitive, and certainly do not mean a suspension of the
habeas corpus. I conclude by repeating my conviction that there is nothing in the bill in question
which conflicts with the Constitution or suspends, or was intended to suspend, the privilege of
the writ of habeas corpus.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir,

Your obedient servant,           
J. J. Crittenden.

How Long the Act was legally in force
The acts of 1793 and 1850 remained legally operative until their repeal by Congress on June
28, 1864 (13 Stat. 200).

First Arrest
In September 26, 1850 James Hamlet, a mulatto of about 30 years of age,  of Williamsburgh in
the borough of Brooklyn New York was the first victim. He was a porter in a Water Street store of
Tilton & Maloney with a wife and two children. Arrested by U. S. Marshal Henry F. Tallmadge, he
was surrendered by United States Commissioner Alexander Gardiner (Clerk of the Circuit Court
of the United States for the Southern District of New York)  tThomas J. Clarke, the agent of Mary
Brown of Baltimore who claimed him as her slave in an affidavit signed with her mark. A Clare
and Gustavus Brown her son gave testimony that the prisoner was Mary Brown's slave. However
a lawyer took a cross examination of the witness that found she was a clerk in the Baltimore Shot
Company where Hamlet had worked. Hamlett was (by the 1850 law) not allowed to give
testimony.  He was taken to Baltimore by deputy Marshal Benjamin H. Tallmadge where he was
placed in the Baltimore Slave Market owned by Hope H. Slatter who valued him but warned
potential buyers that he was a New Yorker. He was advertised in the
Journal of Commerce as "a
steady, correct, and upright man," "a member of the Methodist Church," and "can be redeemed
for $800."The black community of New York quickly rallied and raised $800 to redeem Hamlet.
He was welcomed home by a huge rally held in City Hall Park on Saturday October 5th. Four or
five thousand citizens African American and white welcomed him back. Addresses were made by
John J. Raymond, Robert Hamilton, Charles B. Ray and Wm. P. Powell.

Mistaken Identity
Adam Gibson, a married man with children, on December 21, 1850 in Philadelphia was standing
at the corner of Second and Lombard streets in Philadelphia was arrested by a policeman with
the charge of stealing chickens. He was taken to the office of the United States Marshal for the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He was surrendered by Edward D. Ingraham, United States
Commissioner (Note that the commissioner received $10 for every person he returned and $5
for every person he released.) The case was hurried through with one witness swearing that
Gibson's name was Emery Rice. One of the accusors admitted that he had formerly been
arrested on the charge of kidnapping. This was inspite of the fact that substancial testimony that
he had been born free.

He was taken to Elkton, Maryland by three of the Marshal's Police and Wm. Halzell, U. S. Deputy
Marshall accompanied by George F. Alberti.  William S. Knight refused to receive Gibson, saying
that he was not the man and Gibson was taken back to Philadelphia. At Wilmington Delaware, he
left the railroad car for a moment and could not get back on. He walked back to Philadelphia
where Rev. Dr. Bias took him to Philadelphia Institute where a crowd had gathered to celebrate.

George F. Alberti was a noted slavecatcher who admitted to capturing over one hundred  
fugitives. He had been around since the 1815.  Alberti was arrested for kidnapping but it wasn't
until March 1851 when he was convicted in a case involving an escaped Maryland slave and her
freeborn child. Alberti claimed he took the child only because the mother refused to leave him
behind. The Judge in this case condemned Alberti and an accomplice, James Frisby: "Think for
a moment how great the magnitude of sealing an infant, born in a free state, and binding it in the
galling chains of slavery for a little money..." "This case is without parallel in attrocity, and is the
most aggravated, legally, of any of its kind that has been presented to an American court of
justice." He was fined $1,000 and sentenced to 10 years hard labor. The new Governor William
Bigler pardoned him.

Buy Back
Stephen Bennet(t), Columbia, Penn., arrested as the slave of Edward B. Gallup, of Baltimore. He
was a slave for live about twenty-six years old. Edward Gallup claimed that he ran away from
Havre de Grace in July 1847.  A crowd gathered to free him with a man named Cole threatening
to shoot his captors. He droped to the ground as the group shot at him and the crowd dispersed.
Taken before Commissioner Ingraham; thence, by
habeas corpus, before Judge Kane. He was
saved only by his freedom being purchased by his friends.

Fight Back
Shadrach Minkins (1815-December 13, 1875)was an escaped slave from Virginia. On February
15, 1851 he was captured at Taft's Cornhill Coffee House in Boston (where he was a waiter) by
Patrick Riley and other U. S. Marshals. He was the first former slave seized in New England
under the 1850 law. His legal team consisted of Robert Morris, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. Ellis
Gray Loring and Samuel Seawall who sought a petition of
habeas corpus with the Massachusetts
Supreme Court. The writ was denied under the new law.

"What a moment was lost when Judge [Lemuel] Shaw declined to affirm the unconstitutionality of
the Fugitive Slave Law!" Ralph Waldo Emerson
Journals 1851.

A crowd of abolitionists under the urging of the Boston Vigilance Committee entered the
courthouse overcame the guards and rescued Minkins. He was sent to Canada on the
Underground Railroad. President Fillmore ordered the arrest of nine abolitionists: Robert Morris
Lewis Hayden, John J. Smith and others. Some charges were immediately dismissed...all were
eventually acquitted.

Shoot Back
Christina, Lancaster County, Penn, Sept., 1851. Edward Gorsuch with his son Dickinson,
nephew Dr. Thomas Pierce, a cousin Joshua M. Gorsuch , and two neighbors Nathan Nelson
and Nicholas Hutchings accompanied by the Sheriff of Lancaster County, Pa, and by a U. S.
Marshal Henry Kline with more officers, went to Christiana to arrest Noah Buley, Nelson Ford,
George Hammond, and Joshua Hammond, who (as he had been privately informed in a letter by  
Wm. M. Padgett a possible member of the slavecatcher Gap Gang) were living there. William
Parker was the leader of the free black community. William Parker had lived there since 1839.

Samuel Williams a free black from Philadelphia went on the train with the posse. He warned
Parker and the now know threat of violence turned two of the Philadelphia men: Constable John
Agan and "Sheriff's Officer" Thompson Tully away. There were seven whites against seven
blacks (including two African American women). With the addition of more African Americans
(fifty to a hundred) and the Quakers Elijah Lewis and Joseph Scarlett and miller Castner Hanway
the fight started. An attack was made upon the house, the slaveholder declaring (as was said)
that he " would not leave the place alive without his slaves." "Then," replied one of them, "you will
not leave here alive." (Another account gives Gorsuch's words as "I'll have my property, or I'll
breakfast in hell.") Many shots were fired on both sides, and the slave-hunter, Edward Gorsuch,
was killed.Gorsuch was killed, his son badly wounded and the cousin and nephew suffered
buckshot wounds. Two African Americans were wounded. Parker, his men the fugitives, and the
wounded left for Canada. Blacks were rounded up and six were remanded to slavery including
Parker's mother-in-law.

141 people were arrested. A grand jury indited thirty-nine men (4 white and 35 African American)
on 117 counts of  "treason against the United States, by levying war against the same, in
resisting by force of arms the execution of the Fugitive Slave Law. The trail was held in
Independence Hall in Philadelphia. After suffering imprisonment, and being subjected to great
loss of time and heavy expenses, they were all discharged.

If You Can't Catch Them, Kill Them
William Smith was arrested as a fugitive slave in the lumber yard of Mr. Gottlieb in Columbia Pa
by Deputy Marshal Snyder of Harrisburg and Police Officer Ridgeley of Baltimore under a
warrant from Commissioner M'Allister. Smith tried to escape, when Ridgeley drew a pistol, and
shot him dead. The officers then walked off.

An inquest was held over the body of Smith and J. W. Fisher sent a telegram about the murder
to John L. Thompson the Prosecuting Attorney for the county. Fisher was asked to summon all
the witnesses to appear the the office of Thompson and testimony was taken and sent to
Governor Bigler.

African American John Williams was sworn. "On Thursday, the 29th ult. in the lower part of
Columbia, where I was at work, in the afternoon, I saw two men arrest William Smith; didn't see
any paper in their hands. Before they placed their hands on him, heard Snyder say to the other
man, "Catch him;" they then laid hold of him---one on each side; didn't hear them say anything to
Smith; he struggled and tried to pull away from them; was in a stopped position all the while;
think he did not at any time get his arm away from their hands; from the time they seized Smith
until he was shot, could not have been more than two minutes; at the end of the two minutes, the
man they call Ridgely fired and shot; Ridgely had a pistol; I did not see Snyder have any
instrument; heard the report of the pistol; did not see the pistol at the time Ridgely shot; saw it
before; saw Smith fall and turn over on his back; what I mean by struggling is, Smith tried to pull
away from the officers; the backs of all were towards me; I was standing about thrity yards from
where Smith was shot, at the time of the occurrence; Smith was engaged in piling lumber; after
Smith fell, Snyder said to Ridgely, "Come, give yourself up;" they then started up Front-street
towards the centre of Columbia when the officers first arrested Smith, I heard Snyder tell Ridgely
to knock him down; this was when Smith had fallen in the struggle, and had raised again; did not
hear Ridgely make any reply; there were no persons present when the affair happened, except
some colord men on the top of the board piles; no effort was made after the affair to do violence
to the officers; they were not followed by the crowd; Smith did not live more than two minutes
after the pistol was fires; from all I saw of the struggle, I think the pistol was fired by design; at no
time had Smith any advantage over the two officers; they had hold of him all the time; suppose
that Smith was about five feet six or seven inches high. Ridgely is about six feet, well
proportioned; Snyder about as large as Smith; Snyder has but one hand; when when Snyder
told Ridgely to give himself up, Ridgely said he would; Smith was forking for me; had a wife but
no children that I know of.

Henry K. Minnich testified that there was no crowd following the officers. Levi Tille swore that he
saw no warrant or paper in the hands of Ridgely. Christmas Johnson (African American) swore to
the same that John Williams earlier had. James Boggs (African American) swore that he heard
smith say "Man, what do you mean?" and Ridgely replied"Now I've got you, you balck son of a
bitch."  Allen Bowsin (African American) swore he heard someone say: "Oh man men, oh men."
but he couldn't understand what Ridgely said. Sarah Harris testified that she did not see
Ridgely's finger in his mouth but would have seen it if he did. She didn't see any persons about
but the three and no struggling to get away.

Ridgeley was demanded by the Governor of Pennsylvania, of the Governor of Maryland and the
demand was referred to the Maryland Legislature.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals 1851)
One thing or the other. If it is ascertained that the commissioner is only a notary to surrender the
black man to his hunter, then infamy attaches to the post. No man of right sentiments can sit on
that bench. It belongs to a class from which the turnkey & the hangman & the informer are taken.
The dislike & contempt of Society very properly attaches to the officer.

The fugitives
You may say the slaves are better off as they are, & that nothing will tempt them to exchange
their condition. This amiable argument falls to the ground in the case of the fugitive. He has
certified, as distinctly as human nature could, his opinions.

And to take him back is to steal.

No Defense for Obstruction
Before the actual arrest, obstruction, hindrance, or interruption was no offence. Defendants who
assisted runaway slaves not only had no resort to a defense through ignorance of the law but
their honest belief that the person was not a fugitive from service or labour was not an
acceptable defense (
Hill v. Low, 4 Washing. C.C.R. 327). In fact, notice that the persons
concealed were runaway slaves didn't need to be in writing nor did it need to be verbal; the act
of 1793 itself was notice that the persons were fugitives (
Jones v. Vanzant, 2 MCLean's C. C. R.
596).

President Fillmore responds:
Executive Department, February 18, 1851

To the Senate of the United States:

I have received the resolution of the Senate of the 18th instant, requesting me to lay before that
body, if not incompatible with the public interest, any information I may possess in regard to an
alleged recent case of a forcible resistance to the execution of the laws of the United States in
the city of Boston, and to communicate to the Senate, under the above conditions, what means I
have adopted to meet the occurrence, and whether in my opinion any additional legislation is
necessary to meet the exigency of the case and to more vigorously execute existing laws.

The public newspapers contain an affidavit of Patrick Riley, a deputy marshal for the district of
Massachusetts, setting forth the circumstances of the case, a copy of which affidavit is herewith
communicated. Private and unofficial communications concur in establishing the main facts of
this account, but no satisfactory official information has as yet been received; and in some
important respects the accuracy of the account has been denied by persons whom it implicates.
Nothing could be more unexpected than that such a gross violation of law, such a high-handed
contempt of the authority of the United States, should be perpetrated by the very temple of
justice. I regard this flagitious proceeding as being a surprise not unattended by some degree of
negligence; nor do I doubt that if any such act of violence had been apprehended thousands of
the good citizens of Boston would have presented themselves voluntarily and promptly to
prevent it. But the danger does not seem to have been timely made known or duly appreciated
by those who were concerned in the execution of the process. In a community distinguished for
its lover of order and respect for the laws, among a people whose sentiments is liberty and law,
and not liberty without law nor above the law, such an outrage could only be the result of sudden
violence, unhappily too much unprepared for to be successfully resisted. It would be melancholy
indeed if we were obliged to regard this outbreak against the constitutional and legal authority of
the Government as proceeding from the general feeling of the people in a spot which is
proverbially called "the Cradle of American Liberty." Such, undoubtedly, is not the fact. It violates
without question the general sentiment of the people of Boston and of a vast majority of the
whole people of Massachusetts as much as it violates the law, defies the authority of the
Government, and disgraces those concerned in it, their aiders and abettors.

It is, nevertheless, my duty to lay before the Senate, in answer to its resolution, some important
facts and considerations connected with the subject.

A resolution of Congress of September 23, 1789, declared:
That it be recommended to the legislatures of the several States to pass laws making it expressly
the duty of the keepers of their jails to receive and safe keep therein all prisoners committed
under the authority of the United States until they shall be discharged by the course of the laws
thereof, under the like penalties as in the case of prisoners committed under the authority of
such States respectively; the United States to pay for the use and keeping of such jails at the
rate of 50 cents per month for each prisoner that shall, under their authority, be committed
thereto during the time such prisoner shall be therein confined, and also to support such of said
prisoners as shall be committed for offenses.

A further resolution of Congress, of the 3d of March, 1791, provides that---

Whereas Congress did, by a resolution of the 23d day of September, 1789, recommend to the
several States to pass laws making it expressly the duty of the keepers of their jail to receive and
safe keep therein all prisoners committed under the authority of the United States: In order,
therefore, to insure the administrations of justice---

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of ?America in
Congress assembled, that in case any State shall not have complied with the said
recommendation the marshal in such State, under the direction of the judge of the district, be
authorized to hire a convenient place to serve as a temporary jail, and to make the necessary
provision for the safe-keeping of prisoners committed under the authority of the United States
until permanent provision shall be made by law for that purpose; and the said marshal shall be
allowed his reasonable expenses incurred for the above purposes, to be paid out of the
Treasury of the United States.

These various provisions of the law remain unrepealed.

By the law of Massachusetts, as that law stood before the act of the legislature of that State of
the 24th of March, 1843, the common jails in the respective counties were to be used for the
detention of any persons as well as by the courts and magistrates of the State. But these
provisions were abrogated and repealed by the act of the legislature of Massachusetts of the
24th of March, 1843.

That act declares that---

No judge of any court of record of this Commonwealth and no justice of the peace shall hereafter
take cognizance or grant a certificate in cases that may arise under the third section of an act of
Congress passed February 12, 1793, and entitled "An act respecting fugitives from justice and
persons escaping from the service of their masters," to any person who claims any other person
as a fugitive slave within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.

And it further declares that ---

No sheriff, deputy sheriff, corner, constable, jailer, or other officer of this Commonwealth shall
hereafter arrest or detain, or aid in the arrest or detention or imprisonment, in any jail or other
building belonging to this Commonwealth, or to any county, city, or town thereof, of any person
for the reason that he is claimed as a fugitive slave.

And further declares that ---
Any justice of the peace, sheriff, deputy sheriff, corner, constable, or jailer who shall offend
against the provisions of this law by in any way acting, directly or indirectly, under the power
conferred by the third section of the act of Congress aforementioned shall forfeit a sum not
exceeding $1,000 for every such offense to the use of the county where said offense is
committed, or shall be subject to imprisonment not exceeding one year in the county jail.

This law, it is obvious, has two objects. The first was to make it a penal offense in all officers and
magistrates of the Commonwealth to exercise the powers conferred on them by the act of
Congress of the 12th of February, 1793, entitled "An act respecting fugitives from justice and
persons escaping from the service of their masters," and which powers they were fully competent
to perform up to the time of this inhibition and penal enactment; second, to refuse the use of the
jails of the State for the detention of any person claimed as a fugitive slave.

It is deeply to be lamented that the purpose of these enactments is quite apparent. It was to
prevent, as far as the legislature of the State could prevent, the laws of Congress passed for the
purpose of carrying into effect that article of the Constitution of the United States which declares
that "no person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into
another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service
or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be
due" from being carried into effect. But these acts of State legislation, although they may cause
embarrassment and create expense, can not derogate either from the duty or the authority of
Congress to carry out fully and fairly the palin and imperative constitutional provision for the
delivery of persons bound to labor in one State and escaping into another to the party to whom
such labor may be due. It is quite clear that by the resolution of Congress of March 3, 1821, the
marshal of the United States in any State in which the use of the jails of the State has been
withdrawn, in whole or in part, from the purpose of the detention of persons committed under the
authority of the United States is not only empowered, but expressly required, under the direction
of the judge of the district, to hire a convenient place for the safe-keeping of prisoners
committed under authority of the United States. It will be seen from papers accompanying this
communication that the attention of the marshal of Massachusetts was distinctly called to this
provision of the law by a letter from the Secretary of the Navy of the date of October 28 last.
There is no official information that the marshal has provided any such place for the confinement
of his prisoners. If he has not, it is to be regretted that this power was not exercised by the
marshal  under the direction of the district judge immediately on the passage of the act of the
legislature of Massachusetts of the 24th of March, 1843, and especially that it was not exercised
on the passage of the fugitive-slave law of the last session, or when the attention of the marshal
was afterwards particularly drawn it.

It is true that the escape from the deputy marshals in this case was not owing to the want of a
prison or place of confinement, but still it is not easy to see how the prisoner could have been
safely and conveniently detained during an adjournment of the hearing for some days without
such place of confinement. If it shall appear that no such place has been obtained, directions to
the marshal will be given to lose no time in the discharge of this duty.

I transmit to the Senate the copy of a proclamation issued by me on the 18th instant in relation to
these unexpected and deplorable occurrences in Boston, together with copies of instructions
from the Departments of War and Navy relative to the general subject. And I communicate also
copies of telegraphic dispatches transmitted from the Department of State to the district attorney
and marshal of the United States for the district of Massachusetts and their answers thereto.

In regard to the last branch of the inquiry made by the resolution of the Senate, I have to
observe that the Constitution declares that "the President shall take care that the laws be
faithfully executed, " and that "he shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the
United States, and of the militia of the several States when called into the actual service of the
United States," and that "Congress shall have power to provide for calling forth the militia to
execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions." From which it
appears that the Army and Navy are by the Constitution placed under the control of the
Executive; and probably no legislation of Congress could add to or diminish the power thus given
but by increasing or diminishing or abolishing altogether the Army and Navy. But not so with the
militia. The President can not call the militia into service, even to execute the laws or repel
invasions, but by the authority of acts of Congress passed for that purpose. But when the militia
are called into service in the manner prescribed by law, then the Constitution itself gives the
command to the President. Acting on this principle, Congress, by the act of February 28, 1795,
authorized the President to call forth the militia to repel invasion and "suppress insurrections
against a State government, and to suppress combinations against the laws of the United States,
and cause the laws to be faithfully executed." But the act proceeds to declare that whenever it
may be necessary, in the judgment of the President, to use the military force thereby directed to
be called forth, the President shall forthwith, by proclamation, command such insurgents to
disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within a limited time. These words are
broad enough to require a proclamation in all cases where militia are called out under that act,
whether to repel invasion or suppress an insurrection or to aid in executing the laws. This be
called forth to aid in executing the laws without a previous proclamation. But yet the proclamation
seems to be in words directed only against insurgents, and to require them to disperse, thereby
implying not only an insurrection, but an organized, or at least an embodied, force. Such a
proclamation in aid of the civil authority would often defeat the whole object by giving such notice
to persons intended to be arrested that they would be enabled to fly or secrete themselves. The
force may be wanted sometimes to make the arrest, and also sometimes to protect the officer
after it is made, and to prevent a rescue. I would therefore suggest that this section be modified
by declaring that nothing therein contained shall be construed to require any previous
proclamation when the militia are called forth, either to repel invasion, to execute the laws, or
suppress combinations against them, and that the President may made such call and place such
militia under the control of any civil officer of the United States to aid him in executing the laws or
suppressing such combinations; and while so employed they shall be paid by and subsisted at
the expense of the United States.

Congress, not probably adverting to the difference between the militia and the Regular Army, by
the act of March 3, 1807, authorized the President to use the land and naval forces of the United
States for the same purposes for which he might call forth the militia, and subject to the same
proclamation. But the power of the President under the Constitution, as Commander of the Army
and Navy, is general, and his duty to see the laws faithfully executed is general and positive; and
the act of 1807 ought not to be construed as evincing any disposition in Congress to limit or
restrain this constitutional authority For greater certainty, however, it may be well that Congress
should modify or explain this act in regard to its provisions for the employment of the Army and
Navy of the United States, as well as that in regard to calling forth the militia. It is supposed not to
be doubtful that all citizens, whether enrolled in the militia or not, may be summoned as members
of the
posse comitatus either by the marshal or a commissioner according to law, and that it is
their duty to obey such summons. But perhaps it may be doubted whether the marshal or a
commissioner can summon as the
posse comitatus an organized militia force, acting under its
own appropriate officers, without the consent of such officers. This point may deserve the
consideration of Congress.

I use this occasion to repeat the assurance that so far as depends on me the laws shall be
faithfully executed and all forcible opposition to them suppressed; and to this end I am prepared
to exercise, whenever it may become necessary, the power constitutionally vested in me to the
fullest extent. I am fully persuade that the great majority of the people of this country are warmly
and strongly attached to the Constitution, the maintenance of the authority of law. I am
persuaded that their earnest wishes firmness, moderation, and prudence, strengthened and
animated by the disturbed public peace and reprobated by all good men.

Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore Excerpt from Second Annual Message
December 2, 1851
It is deeply to be regretted that in several instances officers of the Government, in attempting to
execute the law for the return of fugitives from labor, have been openly resisted and their efforts
frustrated and defeated by lawless and violent mobs; that in one case such resistance resulted
in the death of an estimable citizen, and in others serious injury ensued to those officers and to
individuals who were using their endeavors to sustain the law. Prosecutions have been instituted
against the alleged offenders so far as they coul be identified, and are still pending. I have
regarded it as my duty in these cases to give all aid legally in my power to the enforcement of
the laws, and I shall continue to do so wherever and whenever their execution may be resisted.

The act of Congress for the return of fugitives from labor is one required and demanded by the
express words of the Constitution.

The Constitiution declares that---

No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another,
shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor,
but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

The constitutional provision is equally obligatory upon the legislative, the executive, and judicial
departments of the Government, and upon every citizen of the United States.

Congress, however, must from necessity first act upon the subject by proscribing the
proceedings necessary to ascertain that the person is a fugitive and the means to be used for
his restoration to the claimant. This was done by an act passed during the first term of President
Washington, which was amended by that enacted by the last Congress, and it now remains for
the executive and judicial departments to take care that these laws be faithfully executed. The
injunction of the Constitution is as preemptory and as binding as any other; it stands exactly on
the same foundation as that clause which provides for an equality of taxation according to the
census, or the clause declaring that all duties shall be uniform throughout the United States, or
the important provision that the trial of all crimes shall be by jury. These several articles and
clauses of the Constitution, all resting on the same authority, must stand or fall together. Some
objections have been urged against the details of the act for the return of fugitives from labor,
but it is worthy of remark that the main opposition is aimed against the Constitution itself, and
proceeds from persons and classes of persons many of whom declare their wish to see that
Constitution overturned. They avow their hostility to any law which shall give full and practical
effect to this requirement of the Constitution. Fortunately, the number of these persons is
comparatively small, and is believed to be daily diminishing; but the issue which they present is
one which involves the supremacy and even the existence of the Constitution.

Cases have heretofore arisen in which individuals have denied the binding authority of acts of
Congress, and even States have proposed to nullify such acts upon the ground that the
Constitution was the supreme law of the land, and that those acts of Congress were repugnant
to that instrument; but nullification is now aimed not so much against particular laws as being
inconsistent with the Constitution as against the Constitution itself, and it is not to be diguised
that a spirit exists, and has been actively at work, to rend asunder this Union, which is our
cherished inheritance from our Revolutionary fathers.

Abraham Lincoln on Franklin Pierce and the Fugitive Slave Law - ("Speech to the Scott
Club of Springfield, Illinois", August 14, 26, 1852)

The indispensable necessity with the democrats of getting these New York free soil votes, to my
mind, explains why they nominated a man who "loathes the Fugitive Slave Law." In December of
January last Gen. Pierce made a speech, in which, accordng to two different news paper reports,
published at the time in his vicinity and never questioned by him or any one else till after the
nomination, he publicly declared his loathing of the Slave law. Now we shall allow ourselves to be
very green, if we conclude the democratic convention did not know of this when they nominated
him. On the contrary, its supposed efficacy to win free soil votes, was the very thing that secured
his nomination. His Southern allies will continue to bluster and pretend to disbelieve the report,
but they would not, for any consideration, have him to contradict it. And he will not contradict it---
mark me, he will not contradict it. I see by the despatches he has already written a letter on the
subject, but I have not seen the letter, or any quotation from it. When we shall see it. we shall
also see it does not contradict the report---that is, it will not specifically deny the charge that he
declared his loathing for the Fugitive Slave Law. I know it will not, because I know the necessity
of the party will not permit it to be done. The letter will deal in generalities and will be framed with
a view of having it to pass at the South for a denial; but the specific point will not be made and
met.

And this being the necessity of the party, and its action and attitude in relation to it, is it not
particularly bright---in Judge Douglas to stand up before a slave-holding audience, and make
flings at the Whigs about free soil and abolition!  Why Pier's only chance for presidency, is to be
born into it, as a cross between New York old hunkerism, and free soilism, the latter
predominating in the offspring. Marryat, in some one of his books, describes the sailors,
weighing anchor, and singing:

"Sally is a bright Mullatter,
Oh Sally Brown---
Pretty gal, but can't get at her,
Oh, Sally Brown."

Now, should Pierce ever be President, he will, politically speaking, not only be a mulatto; but he
will be a good deal darker one than Sally Brown.

President Franklin Pierce on the Fugitive Slave Law
Inaugural Address (March 4, 1853)
I believe that involuntary servitude, as it exists in different States of this Confederacy is
recognized by the Constitution. I believe that it stands like any other admitted right, and that the
States were it exists are entitled to efficient remedies to enforce the constitutional provisions. I
hold that the laws of 1850, commonly called the "compromise measures," are strictly
constitutional and to be unhesitatingly carried into effect. I believe that the constituted authorities
of this Republic are bound to regard the rights of the South in this respect as they would view
any other legal and constitutional right, and that the laws to enforce them should be respected
and obeyed, not with a reluctance encouraged by abstract opinions as to their propriety in a
different state of society, but cheerfully and according to the decisions of the tribunal to which
their exposition belongs. Such have been, and are, my convictions, and upon them I shall act. I
fervently hope that the question is at rest, and that no sectional or ambitious or fanatical
excitement may again threaten the durability of our institutions or obscure the light of our
prosperity.

But let not the foundation of our hope rest upon man's wisdom. It will not be sufficient that the
rash counsels of human passion are rejected. It must be felt that there is no national security but
in the nation's humble, acknowledged dependence upon God and His overruling providence.

We have been carried in safety through a perilous crisis. Wise counsels, like those which gave
us the Constitution, prevailed to uphold it. Let the period be remembered as an admonition, and
not as an encouragement, in any section of the Union, to make experiments where experiments
are fraught with such fearful hazard. Let it be impressed upon all hearts that, beautiful as our
fabric is, no earthly power or wisdom could ever reunite its broken fragments. Standing , as I do,
almost within view of the green slopes of Monticello, and as it were, within reach of the tomb of
Washington, with all the cherished memories of the past gathering around me like so many
eloquent voices of exhortation from heaven, I can express no better hope for my country than
that the kind Providence which smiled upon our fathers may enable their children to preserve the
blessings they have inherited.

Nullification
1. In Vermont in November 1850 the Vermont legislater approved the "Habeas Corpus Law",
requiring judicial and law enforcement officials to bring captured fugitive slaves to state court.
This law in effect nullified the Federal law. Massachusetts passed a law the provided for
kidnapping charges to anyone trying to use the "indefinite detention" provisions of the fugitive
slave act.

2. In 1854 June term the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the case of Joshua Glover declared the
Fugitive Slave Act unconstitutional because 1: it does not provide for a trial by jury of the fact
that the alleged fugitive owes service to the claimant by the laws of anothe rState, and of his
escape therefrom. 2. It authorizes a hearing and determination of the claim of the master, and
the fact of escape, by commissioners of the United States, who cannot be endowed with judicial
powers under the Constitution of the United States. 3. The judicial power of the United States
can be vested only in courts, or in judges, whose term of office is during good behaviour, and
whose compensation is fixed and certain. 4. The functions with which United States
commissioners are endowed by the act of 1850 are judicial, and therefore repugnant to the
Constitution. 5. By the said act, any person alleged to be a fugitive may be arrested and
deprived of his liberty "without due process of law." Judge J. Crawford dissented from the rulling.
Judge J. Smith further declared that the act of Congress of 1850, commonly called the Fugitive
Slave Act, in relation to fugitives from service or labor, is unconstitutional and void; because
Congress has no constitutional power to legislate upon that subject.

In 1859 the U. S. Supreme Court overruled the state court in
Ableman v. Booth. Chief Justice
Taney  wrote the opinion (small excerpt): But although we think it unnecessary to discuss these
questions, yet, as they have been decided by the State court, and are before us on the record,
and we are not willing to be misunderstood, it is proper to say that, in the judgment of this court,
the act of Congress commonly called the fugitive slave law is, in all of its provisions, fully
authorized by the Constitution of the United States, that the commissioner had lawful authority to
issue the warrant and commit the party, and that his proceedings were regular and conformable
to law. We have already stated the opinion and judgment of the court as to the exclusive
jurisdiction of the District Court and the appellate powers which this court is authorized and
required to exercise. And if any argument was needed to show the wisdom and necessity of this
appellate power, the cases before us sufficiently prove it, and at the same time emphatically call
for its exercise.

The judgment of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin must therefore be reversed in each of the
cases now before the court.

3. Jury nulification took place in states where individuals who tried to hinder inforcement of the
Fugitive Slave Act were brought before state courts. This made it almost impossible to try
anyone who interfered with the Federal process.

When South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860 they named as one of their primary
reasons for leaving as: "The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts,
Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and
Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify [the Fugitive Slave Acts] or render useless any
attempt to execute them..."
Custom Search
President Millard Fillmore
Howell Cobb
Speaker of the House
William Rufus King
President pro tempore of the Senate
Shadrach Minkins
Attorney Robert Morris
Lewis Hayden
Attorney General John Jordan Crittenden
Chief Justice Roger B. Taney
Compromise of 1850
Henry Clay
Daniel Webster
John C. Calhoun
President Franklin Pierce
Benjamin Wade
Charles Sumner
Salmon Chase
Senators who voted Against the
1850 Fugitive Slave Act
Abraham Lincoln
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Fugitive Slave's Apostrophe to
the North Star
by John Pierpont

Star of the North! though night winds drift
The fleccy drapery of the sky
Between thy lamp and me, I lift,
Yea, lift with hope, my sleepless eye
To the blue heights wherein thou dwellest,
And of a land of freedom tellest.

Star of the North! while blazing day
Pours round me ints full tide of light,
And hides thy pale but faithful ray,
I, too, lie hid, and long for night;
For night;---I dare not walk at noon,
Nor dare I trust the faithless moon,---

Nor faithless man, whose burning lust
For gold hath riveted my chain;
Nor other leader can I trust,
But thee, of even the starry train;
For, all the host around thee burning,
Like faithless man, keep turning, turning.

I may not follow where they go;
Star of the North, I look to thee
While on I press; for well I know
Thy light and truth shall set me free;--
Thy light, that no poor slave deceiveth;
Thy truth, that all my soul believeth.

They of the East beheld the star
That over Bethlehem's manger glowed;
With joy they hailed it from afar,
And followed where it marked the road,
Till, where its rays directly fell,
They found the Hope of Israel.

Wise were the men who followed thus
The star that sets man free from sin!
Star of the North! thou art to us,---
Who're slaves because we wear a skin
Dark as is night's protecting wing,--
Thou art to us a holy thing.

And we are wise to follow thee!
I trust thy steady light alone;
Star of the North! thou seem'st to me
To burn before the Almighty's throne,
To guide me, through these forest dim
And vast, to liberty and Him.

Thy beam is on the glassy breast
Of the still spring, upon whose brink
I lay my weary limbs to rest,
And bow my parching lips to drink.
guide of the friendless negro's way,
I bless thee for this quiety ray!

In the dark top of southern pines
I nestled, when the driver's horn
Called to the field, in lengthening lines,
My fellows at the break of morn.
And there I lay, till thy sweet face
Looked in upon "my hiding-place."

The tangled cane-brake,---where I crept
For shelter from the heat of noon,
And where, while others toiled, I slep
Till wakened by the rising moon,---
As its stalks felt the night wind free,
Gave me to catch a glimpse of thee.

Star of the North! in bright array
The constellations round thee sweep,
Each holding on its nightly way,
Rising, or sinking in the dep,
And, as it hangs in mid heaven flaming,
The homage of some nation claiming.

This nation to the Eagle cowers;
Fit ensign! she' a bird of spoil;--
Like worships like! for each devours
The earnings of anothers toil.
I've felt her talons and her beak,
And now the gentler Lion seek.

The Lion, at the Virgin's feet
Crouches, and lays his mighty paw
Into her lap!--an emblem meet
Of England's Queen and English law;--
Queen, that hath made her Islands free!
Law, that holds out its shield to me!

Star of the North! upon that shield
Thou shinest!--O, for ever shine!
The negro, from the cotton-field,
Shall then beneath its orb recline,
And feed the Lion couched before it,
Nor heed the Eagle screaming o'er it!
                Fugitive Slave Oath

District of Columbia
Washington County to writ

On the 15th day of May 1862 personally appeared in
Open court in the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia,
Dr. Charles Duvall a citizen of the United States residing in
Prince Georges County, State of Maryland, and made oath
according to law that he is the lawful owner of three negro
men slaves named respectively Tom Chesley, Lee Chesley
and Wilson that they are slaves for life, and ? other
residence in Prince Georges County; that Tom absconded
last fall; Wilson absconded just after the Easter Holidays
this present year, and Lee about two weeks ago; that the
said slaves absconded without the knowledge or insist, and
against the will of affiant, and are now fugitives from labor
and ? justly and lawfully due to affiant by them in said
Prince Georges County and he has reason to believe and
does believe they are now in the District of Columbia. And
he prays ? ?, and that the said slaves may be surrendered
and delivered up to the order of this court accorting to the
statutes in such case made and provided.

Charles Duvall

Sworn to in open Court
Test: Thomas A. Smith Clerk
For Righteousness' Sake
to "friends under arrest for treason against
the slave power"
John Greenleaf Whittier

The age is dull and mean, Men creep,
Not walk; with blood too pale and tame
To pay the debt they owe to shame;
Buy cheap, sell dear; eat, drink, and sleep
Down-pillowed, deaf to moaning want;
Pay tithes for soul-insurance; keep
Six days to Mammon, one to Cant.

In such a time, give thanks to God,
That somewhat of the holy rage
With which the prophets in their age
On all its decent seemings trod,
Has set your feet upon the lie,
That man and ox and soul and clod
Are market stock to sell and buy!

The hot words from your lips, my own,
To caution trained, might not repeat;
But if some tares among the wheat
Of generous thought and deed were sown,
No common wrong provoked your zeal;
The silken gauntlet that is thrown
In such a quarrel rings like steel.

The brave old strife the fathers saw
For Freedom calls for men again
Like those who battled not in vain
For England's Charter, Alfred's law;
And right of speech and trail just
Wage in your name their ancient war
With venal courts and perjured trust.

God's ways seem dark, but, soon or late,
They touch the shining hills of day;
The evil cannot brok delay,
The good can well afford to wait.
Give ermined knaves their hour of crime;
Ye have the future grand and great,
The safe appeal of Truth to Time!
Table of Contents
Maryland Law
Relations with Other
States
U. S. Fugitive Slave Law
1793
U. S. Fugitive Slave Law
1850
Federal Laws Regarding
Slavery
Slavery in Prince
George's County
Maryland
Maryland Abolition of
Slavery
Free People of Colour
Before the End of Slavery
Dred Scott Decision
Organizations against
Slavery
 
Dr. Bronson Main Page
Assorted Documents of
Prince Georges County
Prince Georges 1861
Map
Author's Introduction
       
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