The Case Against The Fugitive Slave Law

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Since the spoken word, hundreds of philosophers have defined law in different ways. Philosophy allows people to study the nature of people’s beliefs which can differ over time. Not even laws are exempt from the opinions of philosophers. Seeing law in different ways allows people to come to different conclusions about legal cases. The Fugitive Slave Law was a controversial law in American history which allowed slave-owners to capture their slaves who have fled north to free states. Once, a group of emancipators in Boston were tried for helping an escaped slave flee to Canada. These emancipators challenged the Fugitive Slave Law in United States v Morris. According to the Fugitive Slave Law, helping an escaped slave is in violation of the law. In this case, the jurors let the emancipators free for helping a slave escape slavery to Canada. This leads to the question “Did the jurors in Morris do the right thing?” Philosophy gives us the tools to analyze the legality of the juror 's actions and answer this question. Natural Law theory, Positivism, Legal Realism, Neo-natural law theory, and Paul Butler’s theory of law all provide different outlooks to answering this question. Despite having differing beliefs about the role of morality and law, these philosophies all conclude that the jurors in Morris did the right thing. Thomas Aquinas’ Natural Law theory proves the jurors in Morris did make the right decision. The Natural Law theory discusses our ability to distinguish
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