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Obs. A slave who has escaped from the service of his master.

Before the Civil War, the U.S. Constitution, Art.IV, s.2, directed that 'no person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any laws 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.' In practice summary ministerial proceedings were adopted, and not ordinary judicial investigations, to ascertain whether the claim of ownership was established beyond all legal controversy.

The Dred Scott case which upheld the concept of fugitive slaves being mere property having no human rights is now generally considered one of U.S. Supreme Court's worst decisions, and partially responsible for the events leading to the Civil War.