THE FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW, AND ITS VICTIMS.
The Fugitive Slave Law was enacted by Congress in September, 1850, received the signature of HOWELL COBB, [of Georgia,] as Speaker of the House of Representatives, of WILLIAM R. KING, [of Alabama,] as President of the Senate, and was "approved," September 18th, of that year, by MILLARD FILLMORE, Acting President of the United States.
The authorship of the Bill is generally ascribed to James M. Mason, Senator from Virginia. Before proceeding to the principal object of this tract, it is proper to give a synopsis of the Act itself, which was well called, by the New York Evening Post, "An Act for the Encouragement of Kidnapping." It is in ten sections.
SYNOPSIS OF THE LAW.
SECTION 1. United States Commissioners "authorized and required to exercise and discharge all the powers and duties conferred by this act."
SECT. 2. Commissioners for the Territories to be appointed by the Superior Court of the same.
SECT. 3. United States Circuit Courts, and Superior Courts of Territories, required to enlarge the number of Commissioners, "with a view to afford reasonable facilities to reclaim fugitives from labor," &c.
SECT. 4. Commissioners put on the same footing with Judges of the United States Courts, with regard to enforcing the Law and its penalties.
SECT. 5. United States Marshals and deputy marshals, who may refuse to act under the Law, to be fined One Thousand dollars, to the use of the claimant. If a fugitive escape from the custody of the Marshal, the Marshal to be liable for his full value. Commissioners authorized to appoint special officers, and to call out the posse comitatus, &c.
SECT. 6. The claimant of any fugitive slave, or his attorney, "may pursue and reclaim such fugitive person," either by procuring a warrant from some judge or commissioner, "or by seizing and arresting such fugitive, where the same can be done without process;" to take such fugitive before such judge or commissioner, "whose duty it shall be to hear and determine the case of such claimant in a summary manner," and, if satisfied of the identity of the prisoner, to grant a certificate to said claimant to "remove such fugitive person back to the State or Territory from whence he or she may have escaped,"—using "such reasonable force or restraint as may be necessary under the circumstances of the case." "In no trial or hearing under this act shall the testimony of such alleged fugitive be admitted in evidence." All molestation of the claimant, in the removal of his slave, "by any process issued by any court, judge, magistrate, or other person whomsoever," to be prevented.
SECT. 7. Any person obstructing the arrest of a fugitive, or attempting his or her rescue, or aiding him or her to escape, or harboring and concealing a fugitive, knowing him to be such, shall be subject to a fine of not exceeding one thousand dollars, and to be imprisoned not exceeding six months, and shall also "forfeit and pay the sum of one thousand dollars for each fugitive so lost."
SECT. 8. Marshals, deputies, clerks, and special officers to receive usual fees; Commissioners to receive ten dollars, if fugitive is given up to claimant; otherwise, five dollars; to be paid by claimant....