The Causes Of The Fugitive Slave Act

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The Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the House of Representatives on February 4, 1793 by a vote of 48–7 with 14 abstaining. Eight days later, the Act was approved by Congress. Although the Article four of the U.S. Constitution granted the slave masters the rights to recapture slaves who fled to free states, “the Fugitive Slave Law included new and harsher provisions mandating the participation of northern states and individuals in the recapture process and curtailing the rights of alleged fugitives to prove they were not runaways” (Kazin 492). Many, either white or black, reacted to this Act, especially in the North. Some states even passed personal-liberty laws to allow fugitive slaves to appeal their case in a court. The “underground railroad” was established in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Act. “The term Underground Railroad can be traced to about 1830, when a slaveholder traveling through Ohio with his slaves saw them all escape their bondage and complained that one of them had “gone off on an underground road” (Mancall et al., 5: 397). It was neither underground nor a railroad; it was, in fact, a system in which African-American slaves from the South escaped to places of safety in the North or in British North America. Those involved with system employed railway vocabulary such as stations and conductors to describe how it worked. It was underground because its activities had to be carried out in secret, using darkness or disguise. The runaway slaves were secretly
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