Congress Enacts Slave Law – This Day in 1793


On February 12, 1793, Congress passed the first fugitive slave law, requiring all states, including those that did not allow for slavery, to forcibly return slaves who had escaped from other states to their original owners. The law stated that “no person held to service of labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

Several Northern states enacted measures prohibiting state officials from aiding in the capture of runaway slaves or from jailing the fugitives. This disregard of the first fugitive slave law enraged Southern states and led to the passage of a second fugitive slave law as part of the Compromise of 1850 between the North and South. The second fugitive slave law called for the return of slaves “on pain of heavy penalty” but permitted a jury trial under the condition that fugitives be prohibited from testifying in their own defense. Notable fugitive slave trials, such as the Dred Scott case of 1857, stirred up public opinion on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The Bible says we are slaves to sin (Romans 6:20). But someone came to set us free. His name was Jesus. And Scripture proclaims that those who are free from sin are “free indeed” (John 8:36). But an odd thing happened in the old slave days. Some of them returned to their former owners and acted as if they had never been set free.

One day a man captured a monkey. To make sure he never left him, he tied a rope around his neck and attached it to a tree, allowing the monkey the freedom to roam about 100 feet in any direction from the tree. After a few months, he noticed the monkey was no longer even trying to break free, so the man removed the rope. For the rest of the monkey’s life, he stayed within 100 feet of the tree.

The monkey was free, but lived like a slave. If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, you have been released from your sin and your past. You are no longer a slave. You are free – free to enjoy life, live for God, and be victorious in every way. You are no longer a slave. It’s time to act like it!


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