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Background Information on Fugitive Slave Act
In 1793, Congress created the Fugitive Slave Act in response to slave owners’ need to protect their property rights as written into the U. S. Constitution. (Article IV of the Constitution required the federal government to go after runaway slaves.) The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was the legislative mechanism by which the government could pursue runaway slaves in any state or territory, and ensure slave owners of their property rights.
Section 3 of the act is the part that deals with fugitive or runaway slaves, it reads in part:
SEC. 3. …That when a person held to labor in any of the United States, or in either of the Territories on the Northwest or South of the Ohio River … shall escape into any other part of the said States or Territory, the person to whom such labor or service may be due … is hereby empowered to seize or arrest such fugitive from labor … and upon proof … before any Judge … it shall be the duty of such Judge … [to remove] the said fugitive from labor to the State or Territory from which he or she fled.
Section 4 of the act makes assisting runaways and fugitives a crime and outlines the punishment for those who assisted runaway slaves, it reads in part:
SEC. 4. …That any person who shall knowingly and willingly obstruct or hinder such claimant … shall … forfeit and pay the sum of five hundred dollars.
Background Information on Personal Liberty Laws
In the first half of the 19th century, several individual northern states passed personal slave laws to secure for alleged fugitives the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and a trial by jury, which fugitive slave laws had denied them. In 1840, New York and Vermont extended the right of trial by jury to fugitives and provided them with attorneys. But in 1842, the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Prigg v. Pennsylvania declared that state authorities could not be forced to act in fugitive slave cases, but that national authorities must carry out the national law. Consequently in 1843, Massachusetts and Vermont passed laws prohibiting state officers from performing the duties exacted of them by the first fugitive slave law, and forbidding the use of the jails of the state for the detention of fugitives.
See Both Sides of the Issue
Through the efforts of Frederick Douglass and the work of other outspoken abolitionists, the United States reached a tipping point regarding the continuation of slavery in the nation during the 1840’s and 1850’s. People from all across the country were being asked to take a conscious stand on the issue.
So in an effort to relive history and join the struggle, it is now time for YOU to weigh in …..
First Step … Watch the following portion of the PBS series The American Experience … The Abolitionists …. Part 2, Ch. 1 … “Frederick Douglass” …
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/bonus-video/abolitionists-part-2-chapter-1/#.UU-LwHqLeLk.email (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)
If the above link does not open, please copy and paste the link to a simple word document and open it outside of this question box … It works … I just opened it this way myself to be sure ….
Second Step …. Looking at both sides of the argument ….
Present each side of the slavery issue (one that supports the fugitive slave act and one that supports the personal liberty laws) in two separate well-written editorials to the local newspaper. YOUR EDITORIALS MUST INCLUDE SPECIFIC DETAILED INFORMATION THAT IS NOTED IN THE ABOLITIONIST VIDEO (above), YOUR TEXTBOOK (pages 396-397) AND ANY SOURCE OF CREDIBLE BACKGROUND MATERIAL THAT WILL SUPPORT YOUR POSITION. Remember that the nation is at a “tipping point” over this issue, so you are trying to convince the readers why they should support your side of this issue. There are competing issues of private property rights vs. personal liberty rights at issue here. PLACE YOURSELF IN THE SHOES OF A PERSON IN THAT TIME … CONVINCE YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS WHY THEY SHOULD SUPPORT YOUR POSITION ON EACH SIDE OF THIS CRUCIAL ISSUE !!!
Each editorial must be from 150 to 200 words in length with 12 inch type font and double-spaced lines. Please utilize the grammar and spell-check systems that your computer program offers you. This essay assignment is worth 5% of your total grade for the course, so please take your time and produce a quality effort. All of the information that you will need is contained within the video documentary, the textbook, and in the PowerPoint presentation that you can review. You may also utilize other sources to contribute more specific and detailed information. (Citing those sources is NOT required.)
You should produce your essay response in a word document and upon its completion you can place it (drop it) in the Ch. 13 essay assignment section of the course. I would appreciate it if you sent your editorials as a simple WORD document as I may not be able to open some other lesser known text document delivery systems … You can work on this assignment throughout the week as it is not due until Sunday (6/12) at 11:00 PM.

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