The Slave Catchers Author:Stanley W. Campbell The Fugitive Slave Law, enacted as part of the Compromise of 1850, was designed to enable slave-owners to reclaim their property, even if the fugitives had escaped to a free state. The law aroused furious opposition in the northern states and has generally been regarded as a failure -- unenforceable and unenforced. In the Slave Catchers, the fir... more »st full treatment of the practical consequences of the Fugitive Slave Law, Stanley W. Campbell offers detailed new evidence that this view is far from accurate.
Mr. Campbell discusses the background and passage of the law and the question of its constitutionality. He shows how public opinion played and crucial role in its prosecution: despite outcries by the abolitionists, the North was generally acquiescent until passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 reawakened hostility to the law. He examines the complex question of the North's attitude toward the slavery issue, the part played by the federal government, the machinery of enforcement, and the statistics of cases brought before the fugitive slave tribunals established by the law, Mr. Campbell finds, the slaves were reclaimed. The slaves who did evade capture were successful for a variety of reasons -- but not because the law was unworkable.
The Slave Catchers is an important contribution to the study of the origins of the Civil War.« less