The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed by Congress on September 18, 1850 and was part of the Compromise of 1850. The law required that slaves be returned to their owners, even if they were in a free state. The law also made the federal government responsible for finding, bringing back, and bringing to justice runaway slaves. The Underground Railroad reached its peak in the 1850s, when many slaves fled to Canada to escape American jurisdiction. By the time of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, many northern states, including Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, had abolished slavery. In addition, federal marshals who refused to enforce the law and those who helped slaves escape were severely punished and fined $1,000 (Ohio History Connection, n.d.). In addition, the special commissioners were given concurrent jurisdiction with the U.S. courts responsible for the application of this law (Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.). This was considered extremely corrupt because these special commissioners were given $10 to rule in favor of the slave owners, but they only received $5 if they sided with the slaves. Between 1850 and 1860, 343 fugitive slaves appeared before this special commission, 332 of whom were enslaved in the South (Ohio History Connection, n.d.).

Southern politicians often exaggerated the number of people fleeing slavery and blamed Northern abolitionists for fleeing, which they saw as an encroachment on Southern property rights. The Missouri Supreme Court has consistently ruled under the laws of neighboring free states that slaves who had been voluntarily transported by their slavers to free states with the intention that the slavers would live there permanently or indefinitely would gain their freedom. [4] The 1793 law dealt with slaves fleeing to free states without the consent of their slaves. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842) that states were not required to offer assistance in hunting or recovering slaves, significantly weakening the 1793 law. The laws governing runaway slaves from the 1640s to the 1850s had always been exercises in compromise. As the differences between the sections hardened, compromise became less possible, so the next challenge to the fugitive slave law was not fought in the courtroom, but on the battlefield.