“New York City’s Black population fell by 15 percent in the five years after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. Many went to Canada, but it was African emigration that attracted the largest attention.” -From, “Slavery In New York”
On this day, February 12, in 1793, The United States Congress passed the first fugitive slave law to be added to the Constitution. This law allowed any slave owner to appear before a magistrate and declare that their slave had escaped. The slave owner could make this declaration orally or in writing, and an order would be issued for the arrest of the slave. Upon capture, the “slave” would not be allowed to deny the “owner’s” claims, or attempt to prove that he or she had “earned their freedom.” They would just be punished and enslaved.