Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 8: The Anti-Kidnapping Provision of the 1826 Pennsylvania Statute

Having set forth the procedures that masters and their agents were required to follow when seeking to recover fugitive slaves, the 1826 Pennsylvania statute at issue in Prigg also spelled out the consequences for failure to observe its dictates. A person who used force or pretence to seize “any negro or mulatto” and take him or her out of the state to be placed in slavery was guilty of a felony:
If any person or persons shall . . . by force and violence, take and carry away, or cause to be taken or carried away, and shall, by fraud or false pretence, seduce, or cause to be seduced, or shall attempt so to take, carry away or seduce, any negro or mulatto, from any part or parts of this commonwealth, with a design and intention of selling and disposing of, or of causing to be sold, or of keeping or detaining, or of causing to be kept and detained, such negro or mulatto, as a slave or servant for life, or for any term whatsoever, every such person or persons, his or their aiders or abettors, shall on conviction thereof, in any court of this commonwealth having competent jurisdiction, be deemed guilty of a felony . . ..

The penalty was harsh. A convicted defendant was to be fined “not less than five hundred dollars, nor more two thousand dollars,” and imprisoned for a term of “not less than seven years, nor exceeding twenty-one years.” During his imprisonment, the defendant was to “be confined and kept to hard labor, fed and clothed in the manner as is directed by the penal laws of this commonwealth for persons convicted of robbery.”

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