The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850Daniel Shaker

A Poster Warning Freed Slaves
A Poster Warning Freed Slaves

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was a portion of the set of laws commonly referred to as the "1850 Compromise". It simply stated that citizens of free states must assist in the recovery of fugitive slaves, and that these slaves did not have the right to a jury trial. This effectively nullified earlier jurisdictions that proclaimed that free slaves residing in free slaves granted them the 'free' status. As nobody could argue against the word of a slave owner in matters regarding runaway slaves, there were many negative effects (discussed in the next section). It was put in place partially to placate the South, and to keep the away from the expansion of the already huge rift in the country.

A Poster Requiring the Return of a Runaway Slave
A Poster Requiring the Return of a Runaway Slave

Freed slaves were forced into hiding, as this proclamation allowed white m
en to walk into a free state and argue that a slave was theirs and 'retrieve' them with no comeback. Newly created black families were forced out of so called free states and into Canada. "During the next 10 years, an estimated 20,000 blacks moved to this neighboring country" ( The Fugitive Slave Act also helped to rekindle the fires in the hearts of abolitionists, as many who had settled down in the matters of slavery were outraged by this new (and somewhat lenient) law. Mob activity ran rampant against this rule, and many federal troops were sent to deal with people who harbored slaves or rebelled. Some states even put into place laws that immediately counteracted the Fugitive Slave Act, but they were not recognized by the majority. All in all, this act was a terror for many.

When will it end?!?
The Fugitive Slave Act was repealed on June 28th, 1864

Fun Facts
  • The Fugitive Slave Act was not "fun" by a long shot...
  • Sometimes called the 'Bloodhound Act'
  • There was a fee of up to $1,000, as well as up to six months of jail time if a white male failed to comply with this new law
  • One strong reason (as stated by South Carolina) for the S.C. secession was the failure of some of the Northern States to acknowledge the Fugitive Slave Act
  • A commissioner received a fee of $10 for every 'runaway' slave he recaptured.
  • The 1852 Uncle Tom's Cabin helped to capitalize on many sensitive Northerners

Enjoy the following video from, summing up what has already been said.

TL;DR (Too Long, Didn't Read)
Information At A Glance -
  • Required white men in free territories to help slave owners recover slaves in free states
  • Took away a 'run away' slave's right to having a trial
  • Any southern slave owner could waltz into a free state and claim that a black was their slave
  • Any claimed 'slave' was forced to return to the plantation, and forced to work under their new owner
  • Had a desolating effect on newer free black families
  • Forced many blacks to run to Canada
  • The Underground Railroad became more heavily trafficked, and reached its peak slightly after the Fugitive Slave Act was passed.

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