In a state where race prejudice abounded, it is not surprising that Indiana whites enforced the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, and its own fugitive slave law to the letter. These always authorized slave holders to track down runaway slave believed to be in Indiana and forcibly remove them from the state. The law required only a summary process to prove the validity of a slave owner's claim. Indiana law and the federal fugitive slave law also restrained white citizens who sometimes challenged the claim of slave holders. Abolitionists who participated in rescues were no doubt sincere. Others, however, did not want visiting slave holders trampling upon their free laws. Some whites thought keeping black refugees out of the state would solve the problem of visiting slave catchers working in Indiana. They stood along the Indiana-Kentucky border hoping to intercept any black refugee fleeing across the border. Neither this strategy, federal law, or state law were an effective deterrent to black refugees storming across the Indiana border into a state with at least a prohibition against slavery. In spite of the efforts of whites to discourage runaways, Indiana became a haven for many Africans seeking refuge from captivity.
An act relative to fugitives from labor. Approved, January 22, 1824, Laws of Indiana.
Section 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the state of Indiana, That any person or persons of any state or territory, having any claim to the service of any person or persons within this state, may in person or by