Talk:Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

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Note that the Slave states had little problem with this violation of state's rights, one of the purported reasons for their succession and the establishment of the Confederate States of America, since it was pro-Slavery.

To say that slave states had no problem with this violation of states rights is not accurate. This was the whole irony of the South's threat of succession, that they couldn't tolerate the North's refusal to follow the Fugitive Slave Act. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Limitsky (talkcontribs) 20:44, 8 July 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Does anyone but me think that some people in the north would have actually helped with the catching of the slaves?

As I once read it elegantly put (by James McPherson): States' Rights was a means to an end, not an end in itself; the South loved Federal power, as long as they controlled it.-- (talk) 17:57, 8 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Two different laws split them[edit]

Split the 18th and 19th century laws. --Rakista 05:39, 18 September 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The legislative history of this law, as well as a rundown on the voting, needs to be included. Until this has been done, then please don't remove the {{expand}} tag. --Zantastik talk 07:29, 30 October 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The slaves were given a mock-trial, its just that the commissioner was given $10 if he sent the slave home and $5 if he declared his freedom. It was because of this that many free blacks were claimed by slave hunters. wburglett 5:55 7 May 2007 GMT -5

Slaves Escaping to Canada[edit]

The text suggests that only a few hundred slaves made it to Canada in the 1850s. This does not match the Underground Railroad article, which suggests several thousand escaped slaves made it to Canada. I took out "Only a few hundred runaways made it to Canada in the 1850s." until the two articles can be reconciled. Agoodall 20:46, 25 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The last line of paragraph one in this section has a gross inaccuracy. it states, "It sought to force the authorities in free states to return fugitive slaves to their masters. In practice, however, the law was rarely enforced." The last segment of "... the law was rarely enforced.", is not true. Not only was the law regularly, and eagerly enforced, it was also profitable by reason anyone returned as a fugitive slave, whether they were fugitive or not, were bought back at $10.00 a person. It became a source of income for low income whites in the north who had racist attitudes of hate toward the Blacks of the time in their city/area, and it also created a new industry of slave bounty hunters. AFRIMERICAN August 28, 2007

Most objectionable features[edit]

Should mention the two features which opponents of the law found most unjust:

1) The federal commissioner was more or less forbidden from factually and evidentially examining the question of whether or not the person was actually a slave. The federal commissioner could basically only decide whether or not the person in custody was the same person who was named in the papers, and whether or not the paperwork was filled out correctly. The person accused of being an escaped slave was not allowed to testify in his own defense, there was no right to a jury, etc. So there was no defense against false accusations (something which the Supreme Court decision Prigg v. Pennsylvania had also not worried too much about).

2) The federal commissioner was paid $5 if he cleared the person accused of being a slave, but $10 if he convicted him -- something which was widely seen as a kind of bribe... AnonMoos (talk) 16:14, 8 October 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Law vs. Act[edit]

Wasn't this (as well as its 18th-century predecessor) more commonly known as the "Fugitive Slave Act"? Until I saw this article today I had never heard it referred to as the "Fugitive Slave Law". Good Ol’factory (talk) 04:30, 16 October 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Lucy Bagby[edit]

There are hundreds if not thousands of instances of fugitive slaves being prosecuted under the act. A few examples are sufficient for this article. I removed this example as it was redundant and had weaker sourcing than the Bruns and Jerry examples. I suggest not reinserting the example unless there is something especially notable about this case which would warrant inclusion.Wkharrisjr (talk) 19:36, 28 June 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I am going to go put more references in -- it is more helpful for scholars to have information than to have editors who delete ideas for them to follow. Vickberg (talk) 11:14, 29 June 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's not necessarily more references, its a matter of undue weight and too many examples of the same idea. Is there something special about the Bagby case that deserves more attention than the Jerry or Burns cases? If the Bagby example is retained, then perhaps one of the other examples should be edited out.Wkharrisjr (talk) 13:17, 29 June 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I see your point about the other two notes, but in this case, it's not just that Bagby is important but also that the beauty of the Web, rather than print, is that there are no space constraints. All of these cases are different and meant different things to different communities. There is no reason to select if there are no space constraints. There are two more important ones I was going to add in addition to Bagby. Vickberg (talk) 15:03, 29 June 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

By the way, I'm not sure that fugitive slaves could be said to be "prosecuted" under the law (if they had been, they would have had more rights)... AnonMoos (talk) 12:00, 10 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Edit (2)[edit]

Could someone please revert this edit? It added content sourced only by a self-published paper, which is not a reliable source. (talk) 03:28, 20 May 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hi, I made the edit. While the paper has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal yet (according to the author's homepage, it's under review), (i) the paper is comprehensive, (ii) has a noteworthy finding, (iii) is authored by a PhD candidate / soon-to-be asst. professor of economics; and (iv) has been spread around and endorsed by my economic historian friends. I consequently found it to be a good contribution to this wiki page, even if it has not been published yet. I would understand if the other editors on the page deem it unreliable and suitable for deletion but I just wanted to give my two cents. Snooganssnoogans (talk) 03:44, 20 May 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
there's no hurry--we can wait until the paper meets Wiki's standard criteria. Rjensen (talk) 06:04, 20 May 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

 Done - by another - Arjayay (talk) 07:10, 20 May 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

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The box on the top right seems to refer to the wrong law, that of 1793. The article is about 1850 legislation. 2A00:23C4:7996:B901:B8C6:6CCE:6642:B426 (talk) 12:52, 8 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Please read the box. Rsk6400 (talk) 18:59, 8 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Businessmen and enslaved people[edit]

@Meleager91: Style changes on WP normally require consensus. While I'm basically sypathetic with the terms "enslaved people" and "enslaver" because "enslaved people" reminds us that they were people, and "enslaver" better catches the brutality of the person (while "master" / "owner" is a euphemism), I don't think we have to avoid the word "slave" whatever it takes. The fugitive slave law was about fugitive / escaped slaves and we can call them so. Regarding "businessmen": We should not blame women for something they could not commit (the crime of supporting slavery), because nearly all businesspeople at the time were male, one reason being the shocking fact that many (or even all ?) states didn't allow married women to own property - all the property was their husband's. Rsk6400 (talk) 11:29, 9 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Rsk6400: Fair enough. I accept that there may not be enough consensus on some of the attempts to utilize more humanizing language for enslaved people in various states of escape/capture. I would still contend that that businessmen is unnecessarily gendered, but accept that "business owners" may give "undue emphasis to tiny minorities", in this case, female business owners. Meleager91 (talk) 14:41, 9 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks for your thoughtful reply. An afterthought: At Talk:List_of_slaves#Requested_move_16_November_2021 there was a related discussion, although with the difference that it was about article titles. Rsk6400 (talk) 17:15, 9 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]