fugitive slave law

john brown

bleeding kansas

Assessment Plan

Curriculum Goals


Back to The Road to the Civil War Homepage

Contact Me!


Fugitive Slave Law

The Fugitive Slave Act became a law as a part of the Compromise of 1850, and was met with disgust from many abolitionists. Please review the basic facts behind the Fugitive Slave Act, from the Wikipedia entry on the subject, before you continue.

In the response to the weakening of the original fugitive slave act, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 made any Federal marshal or other official who did not arrest an alleged runaway slave liable to a fine of $1,000. Law-enforcement officials everywhere now had a duty to arrest anyone suspected of being a runaway slave on no more evidence than a claimant's sworn testimony of ownership. The suspected slave could not ask for a jury trial or testify on his or her own behalf. In addition, any person aiding a runaway slave by providing food or shelter was subject to six months' imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. Officers who captured a fugitive slave were entitled to a bonus for their work. Slaveowners only needed to supply an affidavit to a Federal marshall to capture an escaped slave. Since any suspected slave was not eligible for a trial this led to many free blacks being conscripted into slavery as they had no rights in court and could not defend themselves against accusations.

Many historians have argued that the Fugitive Slave Act was very helpful to the abolitionist cause, even though abolitionists were opposed to its provisions. It is your responsibility to decide what you think about this issue.

Should Northern abolitionists have supported the Fugitive Slave Act?

You must create a response that has the following elements:

You should complete this activity by doing the following:

1. Review information contained at the following websites:

Reaction to the Fugitive Slave Act

Comments on Fugitive Slave Law

Effects of Fugitive Slave Law in Massachusetts

Text of the Fugitive Slave Act

Each of these websites has information about the responses of the abolitionist movement to the Fugitive Slave Act. Think of the following questions while reviewing the sites:

2. Decide which position you would like to support and write a thesis statement that is appropriate to your position.

3. Choose a Core Democratic Value that supports your argument and explain why it is applicable. Helpful CDV's might include Common Good, Equality, Popular Sovereignty, or Justice.

4. Think of a time in you life, or a time that you have learned about, that dealt with a similar situation about a difficult decision, and explain how it relates to your stated position.

5. Quote text from one of the primary sources contained at the websites above and explain how it supports your position. Be careful, as not all information contained in these websites can be considered a primary source.

Use the rubric below to help you as you complete this activity. You may submit completed essays via the Contact page.




Students create a document that includes:

  • Clearly stated position on the issue.
  • Explanation of an applicable Core Democratic Value.
  • An example from the student’s prior knowledge or experience.
  • A citation of a primary source with explanation.


Students create a document that includes:

  • Clearly stated position on the issue.
  • 2 of the 3 remaining elements.


Students create a document that includes:

  • Clearly stated position on the issue.
  • 1 of the 3 remaining elements.


Students create a document that includes:

  • Clearly stated position on the issue.
  • 0 of the 3 remaining elements.


Continue on to Activity 2 - John Brown