The Rendition of Fugitive Slaves and the Development of the Law and Order President, 1790-1855

Posted: 30 Oct 2017

See all articles by Joshua Miller

Joshua Miller

Catholic University of America (CUA)

Date Written: October 27, 2017


Presidents Nixon and Trump ran on law and order platforms — and Presidents Reagan and Clinton had tough on crime agendas, however, many do not know how presidents became responsible for maintaining law and order. It started in 1787 with a vaguely defined fugitive slave provision in the Constitution but resulted in Presidents Washington, Madison, Monroe, Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan using the military, State Department, and the Attorney General to recover fugitive slaves. This paper then will explain how presidents developed their law and order responsibilities by properly conceptualizing law and order based on how it developed in the colonial era and introducing race as a variable to the development of the presidency. In the colonial era, law and order meant using the criminal justice system to prevent slaves and indentured servants from plotting insurrections and running away. The colonists legitimized this unfair criminal justice system with a white supremacist ideology, which claimed that African’s naturally inferior condition disqualified them from an equal criminal justice process. This dynamic meant that racial ideology and law and order developed symbiotically during the colonial era, was institutionalized in the fugitive slave clause of the Constitution, and then formed the basis for the development of the law and order president starting in the 1790s.

Keywords: President, Law and Order, Race and Social Justice

Suggested Citation

Miller, Joshua, The Rendition of Fugitive Slaves and the Development of the Law and Order President, 1790-1855 (October 27, 2017). 2018 National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS) Annual Meeting. Available at SSRN:

Joshua Miller (Contact Author)

Catholic University of America (CUA) ( email )

116 McMahon Hall
Washington, DC 20064
United States

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