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Fugitives from Labor Provision

The fugitive from labor provision refers to a clause in Article IV, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution that gave slave owners a nearly absolute right to recapture runaway slaves who fled to another state, even if slavery was outlawed in that state. This also meant that state laws in free states intended to protect runaway slaves were unconstitutional because they interfered with the slave owner’s right to the slave’s return. The adoption of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery and prohibited involuntary servitude, nullified this provision.

The United States Constitution, What It Says, What It Means, A Hip Pocket Guide