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Lincoln ApostateThe Matson Slave Case$
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Charles R. McKirdy

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781604739855

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781604739855.001.0001

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date: 22 October 2017

The Law

The Law

Chapter:
(p.57) Chapter 5 The Law
Source:
Lincoln Apostate
Author(s):

Charles R. McKirdy

Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781604739855.003.0006

This chapter discusses the law on runaway slaves. The federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 and the US Supreme Court’s decision in Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842) dominated the legal landscape in 1847. The act of 1793 implemented Section 2(3) of Article IV of the US Constitution by establishing a somewhat summary procedure for recovering runaways. The statute authorized a slave owner or owner’s agent to seize a purported fugitive, take him or her before a federal or state judicial officer, and offer written or oral sworn testimony that the accused was the claimant’s slave “under the laws of the State or Territory from which he or she fled.” If the judge agreed, he had no choice but to provide the claimant with a certificate of ownership of the individual in question. The case of Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842) involved a slave catcher who failed to follow Pennsylvania’s 1826 personal liberty law and was prosecuted, bringing the constitutionality of that law into question.

Keywords:   runaway slaves, slavery, Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, US Constitution, slave owners, Prigg v. Pennsylvania, personal liberty law, Supreme Court

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