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A nation divided

Fugitive Slave Law

Poster made to recapture a runaway slave.

This law, passed as part of the Compromise of 1850, denied escaped slaves the right to a jury trial and did not allow them to testify in court.

Anyone who helped a slave escape could be fined $1,000 and jailed for six months. Slave catchers even received $10 for every African-American they kidnapped in the North and brought to the South.

Before the new fugitive slave law, slavery had existed far from the North. But now, northerners were in contact with the slave hunters as they came north, seeking escaped slaves.

Even free blacks were sometimes sent to slave owners in the South. The fugitive slave law made things more difficult between the North and South. Northerners were upset with the South due to the cruelty of the law, and the southerners were outraged with the North for breaking the Compromise of 1850. Many people became much more stubborn in their view of slavery.

Related documents, images:
Fugitive Slave Law document

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