This short video reviews the controversy over a fugitive slave clause. Northern states were opposed to including a fugitive slave clause in the Constitution. Professor John Kaminski tell the story of Quock Walker, an escaped slave, who was not returned to his owner in 1781 because a Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice ruled that slavery was unconstitutional based upon the MA Constitution. With the inclusion of a fugitive slave clause in the US Constitution, MA was no longer an asylum state.
In 1850, Southerners succeeded in getting a new federal law passed to return fugitive slaves who had escaped to the North. The U.S. government enforced this law, but some Northern states passed laws to resist it. Sometimes, free blacks and sympathetic whites joined to rescue captured fugitive slaves.
Students are guided through a careful reading of Frederick Douglass’ greatest speech in which he both praises the founders and their principles, yet condemns the continued existence of slavery. The Constitution is presented as a “glorious liberty document” which, if properly interpreted, is completely anti-slavery. Douglass delivered this speech on July 5, 1852 at the height of the controversy over the Fugitive Slave law. The speech is generally considered his greatest and one of the greatest speeches of the 19th century. Before you read the speech you can follow links to learn more about Douglass’s life and the evolution of his thought in this period.
The materials in this curriculum are designed to enhance the Institute’s Senate Immersion Module (SIM) experience, but can also be used separately. The SIM program is an educational, role-playing experience, developed to engage new generations of Americans. The Institute encourages classroom preparation for the SIM, active play at the Institute, and debriefing at the end of the experience.