For decades, Ohio accommodated its policy of freedom with slave holders who use fugitive slave legislation to apprehend runaway slaves. The federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 and Ohio fugitive slave laws enabled slave holders to control alleged runaways in Ohio. Abolitionists in Ohio challenged state policy beginning in during the 1830s. Abolitionist editor and antislavery lawyer James G. Birney played a decisive role in converting skillful attorneys to antislavery reform. Salmon P. Chase was Birney's most eminent convert to reform in Ohio. Attorneys such as Chase produced the legal field of antislavery law. Ultimately, they weakened the ability of slave holders to control enslaved blacks in Ohio. According to their doctrine, any slave who entered Ohio with the knowledge and consent of a master became automatically freed. Moreover, they declared the federal Fugitive Stave Act unconstitutional. This was a futile effort, however. State and federal courts consistently upheld the validity of the Act of 1793. The following documents describe the process whereby the law authorized slave holders to capture and remove runaway slaves.
An act relating to fugitives from labor or service from other states. Approved February 26, 1839, Laws of Ohio.
Whereas, the second section of the fourth article of the constitution of the United States declares, that "no person held to service or labor in another state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be