The Slave Catchers: Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, 1850-1860

By Stanley W. Campbell | Go to book overview

Chapter VIII

The Personal
Liberty Laws
and Enforcement
of the
Fugitive Slave Law

The statutes known as personal liberty laws, passed by some of the northern legislatures in the decade following enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, were considered by Southerners as extremely hostile to their interests, and many felt that the laws were unconstitu‐ tional. 1. But Southerners entertained numerous misconceptions about the personal liberty laws. While the statutes to protect personal liberty in many instances ran counter to the spirit of the Constitution

____________________
1.
For a typical example of the Southern attitude toward the personal liberty laws, see the "Report of the Joint Committee on the Harpers Ferry Outrages," in Virginia Documents, 1858-1859, Document No. 57, pp. 1-40. The appendix to that report contains an incomplete compilation of the personal liberty laws, titled "Hostile Legislation of the North. A Collection of State Laws Unrepealed, and of Legislative Resolves Hostile to Rights of Slave Owners and to the Slaveholding States; Especially to the Recovery of Fugitive Slaves" (pp. 41‐ 102).

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