1791Year in which an amendment is considered (and withdrawn) by the Pennsylvania Assembly to exempt all slave-holding officers of the federal government (including Washington, his Cabinet, and the Supreme Court) from the Gradual Abolition Act. This was an attempt to make the state more hospitable to slave-holders in hopes of having Philadelphia become the permanent capital of the United States. The proposal is withdrawn before debate after heated opposition from the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.
1793Year in which the U.S. Congress passes and Washington signs the Fugitive Slave Act. The U.S. Constitution (Article IV, Section 2) guaranteed the right of a slave-holder to recover a runaway slave. The Fugitive Slave Act establishes the legal mechanism for accomplishing this, makes it a federal crime to assist an escaping slave or interfere with his recapture, and sets severe fines for doing so. The Fugitive Slave Act allows slave-catchers into every U.S. state and territory.
47 to 8Margin by which the U.S. House of Representatives passes the Fugitive Slave Act. The U.S. Senate also passes the Act, but the vote count is not recorded. Washington makes no known comment on the Act, and signs it into law on February 12, 1793 (probably in his private office in the President's House).
1/5Fraction of the American population that is of African descent, all of whom are affected by the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act. There is no safe haven for an escaped slave anywhere in the U.S. because of this law, and even free blacks are in danger of being kidnapped and sold into slavery by unscrupulous slave-catchers.